Bungie's new sci-fi shooter has been put to the test, but does it live up to the hype?
The hype of a game can do a few things to you as someone taking in the latest E3 trailer, or the tidbits of information released by developers along the journey until their next game’s release, but it all depends if you’re paying attention, and what kind of gamer you are. Me, for example, ‘I knew’ what Destiny was - ‘it’s another FPS from the folks that made Halo, that game I never got into which everyone else seems to love’. I spoke about how I was never really hyped for Destiny in my beta impressions, mainly due to my disillusionment with the Halo series, but the beta in July made me open my eyes and take note. This was a fun game that looks gorgeous, the story is mysterious, the gameplay’s solid, and I’m into the whole art style and concept – I was ready for more.
First starting up the game on release day I was met with familiar surroundings – the intuitive and crisp-looking character creator, intro, and initial mission etc. - I was basically playing through all the content I’d come across in the game’s beta back in July. One difference I did notice early on, which I talked about in my first impressions, was the speed at which I was levelling – it was noticeably slower than the beta, for reasons I can only put down to the devs wanting the beta to give a broader experience in a shorter time period.
Yes, levelling is slow and steady, but I feel it’s paced just right. You take on missions, first across the Russian Cosmodrome of Earth, with your Ghost companion – a small robot-like AI that first resurrects you from the dead and sets you on your path as a Guardian, a defender of the last city on Earth and the Traveler; the mysterious floating orb that propelled humanity into a Golden Age centuries earlier. Eventually you’ll travel to other planets such as Mars and Venus, meeting different alien enemies, and exploring the gorgeous landscapes.
The environments in Destiny are great to look at and ride around on your Sparrow.
As you progress through the missions you start to notice a pattern in their layout – go to point ‘A’, listen to your Ghost explain some initially-puzzling story points, then survive a wave of alien enemies whilst he trys to open a door or hack a terminal. Yes, the missions can all seem pretty similar with their theme of ‘go here, kill those’, but it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful blanket of clear and crisp landscapes, distinctive weapons and gear, and perfectly-executed musical scores.
Speaking of the game’s music, it can be heroic at times, shifting to tense and foreboding at others, affecting my take on different situtations. It kept me calling out expletives during those tense moments where that one Vex Goblin almost killed me before I could complete my mission, and had me letting out a sigh of relief when I’d finally killed that damned Hive abomination on the Moon. For all its emptiness at times, Destiny did give me those feelings of true dread at the imminence of defeat, or elation at the sign of victory, and I think it speaks wonders for the game that it can bring out those feelings.
As you level and progress you will unlock new abilities for your chosen class of Guardian. I initially went with a Warlock, who uses the Traveler’s Light as a kind of ‘magic’ to wield arcane power. I could fire a huge ball of arcane energy once I’d become ‘Supercharged’, which is a special attack you can perform that disintegrates enemies it hits within the blast radius. Other abilities allowed me to glide through the air, and throw different kinds of grenades. In all, the Warlock is a kind of caster class, if you want to put it in those terms, that’s high on burst damage with its abilities, but low on armour – a ‘glass cannon’, if you will. Each class has their own two subclasses they can switch between and level up at any time too, and the same goes for any weapons and gear – switching things up on the fly allows you to alter tactics in a pinch.
Working through Destiny you’ll eventually end up with your first Strike mission, an instance-like challenge for parties of three, that generally takes around 20-30 minutes to complete. The game will automatically match you with two other players if you haven’t formed your own party, and you’ll set off to complete whatever objective you’ve been tasked with – usually destroying some large alien creature or construct. Strike missions take from the regular missions, using waves of enemies at times. Sometimes you need to stop in an area to defend against a certain number of waves before progressing, until you eventually get to the boss. The bosses can feel similar to one another too, tasking players to essentially ‘kite’ (one player distracts the boss, or leads it around the area) them whilst the two other members attack. However, other smaller enemies can sometimes spawn into the area to offer up an extra challenge. I would have liked to have seen a little more creativity with some of the boss encounters and missions as a whole, as they’re mostly just a kiting, or cover, shoot, cover, shoot experience in-between defending against waves of enemies.
The character creation screen is simple, but you can create some lovely looking pixels there.
Roaming about the planets in the ‘Patrol’ mode is for the true explorers, it allowed me to go wherever I wanted on my chosen planet and pick up beacon missions, whilst riding around on my Sparrow hover bike – they need to create a racing mode in the game for those things, they’re great fun to use. These missions could be to reach a certain point to survey it, or to kill certain enemies, but it opened me up to really appreciate the environments and search every nook and cranny for secrets, and those hidden chests filled with loot. Alas, the planets can seem a little barren at times, save for pockets of enemies scattered here and there.
I finished the main story in about 13 hours, and that's with doing the odd Crucible PVP match here and there, and taking time to explore. By then I had reached level 19 and began to join the Strike Playlist to repeat the missions I had been through previously, but at a harder difficulty setting with the promise of better rewards. Destiny opens up further beyond level 20, tasking you with better gearing your Guardian in order to level them, as experience points only count towards leveling weapons and gear now. In order to level up I had to equip gear with the ‘Light’ attribute, which increases your level the more you gather of that stat, meaning you can tackle harder difficulty missions with a chance at better gear and so on.
After playing through some of the missions again the story did start to take shape in my mind, whereas initially it’s all a little confusing and scattered. However, this is a story that will be told over many years, so I didn’t really expect to have even a fraction of the full picture by this point. Saying that, Bungie have built a solid foundation with Destiny, on which they will be able to build and tell their story for years to come – I just hope it’s as good as it promises to be.
Unfortunately I have yet to try the only Raid in the game, the Vault of Glass, for the simple reason I don’t know 5 other people with the game on Xbox One. I am looking to join a clan or group soon to give that a go, so I’ll let you know how I get on if it happens. The Raid is supposed to be a brutal challenge for a pre-formed Fireteam of 6, and can be completed over a period of time before it resets. So, a group can reach various checkpoints in the Raid, take a break, and come back the next day, to then continue where they left off. It’s supposed to be the ultimate challenge in the game.
Teaming up with other players for Strike missions is fun, but more social options need to be added.
The story of Destiny isn’t all contained within the actual game itself, I had to go to Bungie.net to read those Grimoires I kept unlocking, which give a further depth to it all, but you have to do a little research if the story is what you’re interest in. You can use the Destiny companion app too, which is pretty handy.
The Vex, Fallen, Hive, Engrams, Traveler, Awoken – all the terminology, mythology, and lore that Bungie have come up with for Destiny feels solid and real. The names of the enemies have a fantasy vibe to them, and you’ll often find yourself battling enemies referred to as Knights, Wizards, Goblins and Minotaurs, although they'll be some hulking great robot instead of a man with a bull's head.
PVP in the Crucible is fun, and offers a welcome break to the story and mission-based gameplay. Familiar game modes are there like free for all, team deathmatch, and CoD-style domination, but they’re given names like Rumble, Clash, and Control. In PVP you use all the weapons and gear you have elsewhere, although everyone’s levels are disabled to give a more even playing field.
I must admit I’ve spent more time completing missions and Strikes than playing PVP, but from what I have played its solid, rivalling Halo and Call of Duty in its diversity, competitiveness, and pure fun. Like the mission-based mode, you can take part in the Crucible to earn gear and rewards specific to that mode.
The social aspect of the game is somewhat disappointing, as you’re unable to voice chat with players close to you. The only way to communicate is if you’re in a Fireteam or a party you’ve created via your console’s party chat. Hopefully this is something Bungie can address in future updates, as at the moment it’s a little bit of a lonely experience for a game that can feel like an MMO at times, unless you’re always grouping with friends.
Destiny, for all its sometimes empty, yet beautiful, landscapes, and its repetitive missions, is still a great game. The gameplay mechanics are refined and sturdy, and my whole time playing it I haven’t once really wanted to just stop. I associate it with the feeling I get when playing Diablo 3 – there’s a story there, but I really just want to blast my way through more and more waves of enemies for the promise of tons of epic loot and renown. Destiny scratches that itch of levelling up a character the way you see fit, making them look awesome, and finding rare weapons to improve and customise. Its undeniably-pretty environments caused me to find myself just stopping and looking around, taking in the scenery. The Tower's city below for instance begs be explored, and hopefully future DLC will allow for that, but that’s where we have to look, to the future. Destiny has taken its first steps in a ten year plan, and whilst there isn’t much there in terms of story and answers at the moment, I guess we have to forge our own stories and speculate our own answers as we all discover new things within the game as time goes on.