If there’s a real magic to Destiny, it’s in how the post-apocalyptic setting makes the familiar backyard of our solar system as disturbing and mysterious far-flung or fictional corner of the universe.
For a game characterised by belligerent scale in everything from the size of its budget – publisher Activision has described the series as a $500m investment – to the extraordinary sweep of its environments, there’s something refreshingly parochial, and imaginatively compelling, about this self-imposed limitation.
It’s a return to the old-fashioned science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs and beyond, mysticism and nobility. While Destiny features plenty of the Aliens-influenced hardware typical of blockbuster shooters, it also has swords and knights, wizards and ogres. It’s a sideways step from pervasive future war militarism – even though, yes, the game is almost entirely about shooting things – that gives it a sense of wonder.
Or at least tries to. Destiny is ambitious, and not all these ambitions are perfectly met. While the game’s presentation is striding and confident, its attempt to expand the social possibilities of a historically lonely, linear genre can leave the world feeling strangely empty. Players can team up for co-op missions, explore the semi-open world together, or meet strangers purging fallen Earth of unwanted enemies. But the flexible structure enabling this social freedom prevents the game from feeling tightly curated – the lush, colourful landscapes slightly detached from the action they host.
Still, Destiny carries the grace and weight of Bungie’s previous hit, Halo, and is a joy to simply hold and play. As a result the strongest part of the game is its multiplayer, which is a considered compromise on Halo’s steady basics and the subsequent Call of Duty-led fashion for loadouts and speed. Lots of deathmatch, on this evidence, is what the future holds for Destiny.
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