Destiny is an incredibly difficult game to review for a variety of reasons. Currently there is no true endgame, although Bungie has opened up the first 6-player raid, expanding upon the content at release. The game is an easy one to talk about, but a difficult one to truly capture within a limited number of words. As Bungie’s first title since Halo: Reach, they have branched out with a new publisher, new major consoles (including Sony platforms for the first time), and a slew of updated gameplay mechanics that are a far cry from the company’s Halo heyday. Ultimately though, does Destiny live up to the hype it garnered over the past couple of years?
Destiny at its core is styled after one of gaming’s most addictive genres: the MMO. Similar in scope to 2K’s Borderlands series (although less of an open-world),Destiny follows suit creating a world where loot is king and players may (see: will) go rabid over it. Word of Warcraft players will immediately see a number of similarities with the colored rareness distinction in loot drops: white, green, blue, purple, and yellow. This above all else becomes perhaps the core element within the game, even more so than actual quests, daily missions, or weekly heroic missions. Early on, the loot system offers players the ability to kick ass a bit more than they were the level before. Upon reaching level 20, however, Destiny changes the leveling system completely, removing the need of experience, except for item experience.
Loot itself becomes the leveling system, as in order to continue leveling, you’ll collect armor that comes with a “Light” statistic in order to continue leveling. Equipping items with extra Light points will advance you further, while losing Light will cost you levels. At times you’ll have to unequip upgraded pieces, leveling a level or two in the process, in order to equip a newly acquired piece that will upgrade further. Already gamers are finding the quickest and easiest way to farm items within the game, either through odd cave spawning areas or with the game’s checkpoint system within specific missions.
Coming in a variety of forms, loot is tied to some of the better game mechanics. Another lifted MMO gameplay mechanic is the vendor system and the different faction reputation. Players can gain reputation for a number of factions within the game through completing missions or wearing specific class items, leading to an increase in reputation. Better rep allows players to purchase better items and equipment. The same can also be said for collecting and handing over rare items, such as Motes of Light, which can also be used in purchase better equipment.
Why do I focus so much on the loot aspects of the game? Because I feel that Destiny quickly evolves from a somewhat story-driven game, where I’m running around and trying to push back the Darkness to a game solely about finding Rare or Legendary items.
Don’t get me wrong here – Destiny is fun and I have been quite addicted since its release. But I am also feeling that something is missing from the game when the loot aspect is removed. One major lacking piece has been the overall plot of the game. There’s an intricate backstory of the Traveler and the encroaching Darkness and how this is humanity’s last stand, but I honestly don’t know many other details. Yes, it’s cool to have Peter Dinklage give me a synopsis on the upcoming mission, but there’s little other exposition to anything going on.
Yes, I can log into my Bungie account and read through grimoire cards and get extra details, but that’s not always an option when I’m strapped for time. Also, telling me to stop playing the game, and check out a website is ridiculous for something that should have been included in-game. I’d like to have some of my story delivered via cut-scenes or character dialogue. I have zero clue about why I’m doing what exactly I’m doing in the game at any given second other than mowing down aliens and robots. A running theme in the game, revolves around various alien species fighting each other, and the Guardians (you) always end up in the middle of the fight.
Aside from the lack of narrative, the actual run and gun gameplay of Destiny is fantastic. It’s Halo on the next-gen consoles (it’s on PS3 and Xbox 360 for you holdouts as well) with much of the same feel. From expansive single-player maps and instances for boss fights to the game’s PVP Crucible mode, it’s a solid affair overall. FPS fans will certainly enjoy the return to an arcade-styled shooter with the in-depth RPG elements it offers. And I definitely recommend players check out the Crucible – Bungie is throwing up additional modes for it every so often, and it’s a great way to test your skills while also earning loot and XP for your class and equipment on top of faction reputation.
Back to my original question though – does Destinylive up to the hype? The verdict is still out. There are a lot of great deliverables in the game, but there are some missing aspects still. Bungie even nixed some mechanics, like player trading, to attempt to create a situation where players feel attached to their items. Frankly though, each item is as disposable as the last. Aside from some of the missing elements, Destiny is made to be both addicting and fun to play which it hits on both accounts. And even now, there are things I have not yet seen within the game. For instance, the Vault of Glass raid was released this past week. It is a 6-man, level 26 dungeon that is supposed to be incredibly difficult and there are plans for similar, future releases. Unlike the Strike missions, Bungie has decided to not allow matchmaking for the raid, requiring you to group up with friends in advance. Ultimately though, the game feels short and seems to be focused on the idea of loot and loot only.
Bungie and Activision has opted to partner with Sony to release exclusive in-game content that you’ll only find in the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of the game. An additional 3-person Strike mission that takes place on Mars is missing in the Xbox versions of the game, as well as an additional competitive Crucible map taking place on the Moon. Along with the maps, two exotic weapons and a unique armor set for each class round out the exclusive content. There are also three unique ships, but those are cosmetic only and don’t have any bearing on the game
One advantage is the use of Remote Play with a PlayStation Vita. Unlike many games that try and use the default control scheme, Destiny customizes the touch screen to avoid using the finicky back touch pad. The sensitivity of the sticks need to be adjusted, as they are much looser than the DS4, but I have successfully completed multiple Strikes and PvP matches on the Vita.
Destiny feels like integral pieces were overlooked in favor of some serious MMO elements, and when you remove those mechanics, what is left? Other than that issue, the game is an excellent follow-up to their previous games and I look forward to seeing what future additions make it into the game.
Note: The Destiny review was written based on a retail Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 version of the game. Both of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 copies were played extensively, with the PlayStation 3 tested to ensure content parity.