It has been exactly one week since the much-hyped Destiny was released into the world, and I wanted to really give it a fair shake before writing anything about it. At this point, I’m a level 17 Exo Warlock, currently on the starting point of Mars, have had my fair share of time in the Crucible, and I’ve participated in a handful of Strikes on the Earth and Moon.
If you understood none of that, it basically means I’ve played a good chunk of the single player game, I’ve participated in the multiplayer matches, but I have not had a chance to get into the end-game content, which would be Raids.
To complete my disclosure, I played through a good amount of content on the public beta. I got right up to the level cap. I knew how to play the game the minute it was released on launch day, so I’m not sure if that changes this review. However, I will say I walked into the game with very low expectations, given that I was quite bored in the beta, and the whispers were telling me that not much would change between the beta and the launch.
Destiny, as a shooter at its core, is near perfect.
The controls are smooth and responsive, the guns feel impactful, and it’s extremely satisfying to blow up a huge chunk of enemies with a super. Enemies dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge whenever I’m around, and the variety of skills and weapons give you enough variety in build paths to really spice things up.
It’s a shooter with RPG elements, including level progression, but also weapon and armour progression. Both really add to the game, especially loot progression, but more on that later. The feeling of growth and progression are really well done in Destiny, and I’d like to continue playing to get a sense of what happens at the level cap and also what end game content feels like.
Graphics and Art
Destiny is a beautiful game. Absolutely gorgeous graphics, really showing you what a next-gen title can do.
There’s something about zipping along the coastline on your speed-bike, as the sun is shining behind your character causing some lens flares, that makes you appreciate the care that went into building the world and making it look great. Crawling through alien tunnel systems or underground temples really made me want to explore the entire planet, and running into packs of enemies or treasure only sweetened the deal.
Seriously, the planets and areas that Bungie has created are absolutely stunning, and your first time touching down on a new planet always feels like an incredibly new experience.
Now, The Problems
Now that I’ve gotten my favourite parts of the game out of the way, we can start talking about the issues that are absolutely dogging this game. There’s quite a few complaints, so buckle in.
Your Shooter is Boring
The controls and shooter mechanics? Awesome. Fantastic. I would use them for every shooter going forward if I could. You took the best aspects of Halo’s controls and gameplay and made them better.
Everything wrapped around your shooter? Boring as hell.
Every mission on each planet drops you into the same place, and you have to make your way to the progressively further objective. You’ll invariably fight through a few dozen of the planet’s enemies du jour, and you’ll reach your objective, where you deploy Ghost, who will tell you he will need time to hack into the system / steal data / mess with your enemies. But oh no, the jerks who we fought on the way in have discovered where we are and are sending a few soldiers to get you, whom are mandatory to kill before Ghost can complete his actions.
Save for a few missions, the variety of objectives is almost non-existent. You’re always going to have to fight your way to the objective, then you either deploy Ghost and defend him, or kill the big baddie that shows up.
Never mind the poor presentation of the story, the need to constantly go back to your ship, the long load times for going back to your ship or flying to a destination, and each planet being one large map that you will see over and over again through that planet’s missions.
The Community Sucks Because of You
I’ve run into plenty of people at the social hub, on planets during missions, and in multiplayer matches. However, there’s no easy way to communicate with any of them, except for doing the wave and dancing emoticons.
If you have no friends on PSN or XBL who play Destiny, you’re probably not going to have an easy time finding a Fireteam who you are able to effectively (voice) communicate with. There are ways around this, with subreddits like /r/fireteams, but that sort of defeats the purpose of being able to just jump in and play with the randoms that you’ll run into. Not that I’d want Destiny to become Warframe or anything, but being able to wave to people you run into and then being able to invite them to a fireteam, and being able to voice chat on that fireteam easily would be great additions.
A basic chat, easy fireteam creation, and fireteam chat. Any of those three would help facilitate the feeling of community and working for a common good that should exist in Destiny. The sense of community does not exist in Destiny simply because no one can easily communicate with each other, except when I express myself through dance.
Matchmaking and Multiplayer is … Odd
I don’t fully understand it yet, but I’ve played at least a dozen multiplayer matches, mostly on Control. If you aren’t familiar, Control is where you and your team control three points on the map and defend them from the other team who are trying to do the same.
Perhaps it was just my first couple of matches, but when I jumped on at level 6 (the minimum to play multiplayer!) it felt like I was getting curb stomped into the ground by much higher levelled people who had far better gear. The game says that level advantages are disabled, but I’m not entirely sure what that meant, or if that’s true. It just felt like I was getting wrecked by people who had better guns and armour, and better familiarity of the maps.
Skip forward to when I turned level 15 and I jumped back on Control maps: I was holding my own and often throwing down a 1.00+ K/D ratio, while usually leading my team in captures. I doubt I had become significantly better in my two additional hours of cumulative play time, and the only difference was that I had far better gear and skills for my Warlock.
It’s not a huge problem, but quite a horrible experience for anyone just dipping their toes into multiplayer, to get matched up with a bunch of level 20+ players who just splatter your face into the walls as often as they can.
Strikes are Awful, and Unsatisfying
Strikes are basically big bosses that exist as special missions on each planet, where you’re forced to be matched with other players to help you take on the challenge ahead. It helps to be over-levelled for these, trust me on that one.
The notion of being grouped with two other people is actually pretty great, and I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to communicate with them at all!
Regardless, you’re once again dropped off on the same point, and you fight your way into the farthest part of the planet. Once there, you’ll run into a large boss of some sort that you’ll have to kill. It’s not particularly challenging, or engaging, or fun, to kill this boss. They are pretty much just a damage sponge with some sort of high-damage attack and/or minions to throw you off and give you ammo.
I played the Strikes on Earth and the Moon, and after both, I immediately said “Well, that was no fun.” out loud. They’re pretty cool bosses, as far as I am concerned, just far too predictable, boring, and completely unsatisfying wastes of time.
But There’s Potential
I didn’t want to end my review off on a negative note, because while Destiny has many, many, many issues that are present, I don’t doubt that Bungie will work the game into better shape given enough time. In addition, there’s a few things that have great potential and/or make the game enjoyable for me now.
Loot Drops Keep Me Going
Perhaps just my love of ARPGs is propelling this forward, but I absolutely love the item system in Destiny. I love getting new items to compare side-by-side with my existing item in that slot, and min-maxing myself forward.
I enjoy watching my attack numbers spike as I make the right choices, as well as attacking faster, throwing grenades farther, or even the simple quick reload. I wish some of the cooler characteristics show up earlier on, to really draw you in, but it does force you to grind through some of the more boring parts of the game before you get to the fun guns and armour.
There’s an NPC in the Tower called the Cryptarch, and he levels up as you interact with him more and more and you receive items in your mailbox as well as discovering better items through Engrams, which is the Destiny equivalent of the “unidentified item.” Really enjoyable system, though I haven’t spent much time figuring out all of the benefits of levelling him up, nor have I received anything for levelling him up yet.
Multiplayer is Still Fun
I’m not huge on competitive multiplayer games, so I initially shied away from it in Destiny because I really just wanted to do some co-op missions and blast through alien jerks with friends by my side. However, once I tried multiplayer, I was pretty hooked. As simple as it can be, or even as unfair as it can be, you’re still able to kill people and contribute to your team’s success, and those actions are thrilling when you do pull them off.
On one control map, I single-handedly defended a point just by having well-placed shots and grenades, and anticipating room invasions well. It also helps that a Warlock’s super ability can clear a room quite easily, but finishing that map with that many kills and defends was a huge rush, and it made me keep going.
Playing With a Friend (or Two) Makes it Better
I had been playing solo until about level 9, because no friends of mine were ever online or even close to my level (they were usually further) so I never had the chance. However, one night, a buddy popped on and had a bit of time to kill, so we started up a PSN party, made a fireteam, and off we went on a few missions on the moon.
It was a far, far better experience playing with someone else doing the same missions as you. You’re able to tell each other enemy positions, you can chirp each other for missing shots, and you can have friendly competition on who can snipe the most guys from afar. It’s a completely different dynamic, being able to speak and verbalize as you play, compared to playing solo.
I mean, this is a “duh” moment, but it really shouldn’t need friends to make it more fun. However, given that it does, that’s a huge level of potential if Bungie were ever to fix fireteam creation and communication.
Public Events are Amazing
Public Events are completely randomized events that occur on the planet that you’re on. I’m not sure if you have to be on the same mission as everyone else, but they appear and everyone in the area is alerted. You simply run in and start performing the objective (usually kill something or protect something) and you’re automatically included.
They’ve been tremendous fun because the entire area bands together to complete this event, and it’s always a good time seeing 5-15 other guardians shooting at one big baddie or protecting something important. I wish that’s how missions worked, or Strikes, or Raids, but I will settle for these fantastic and delightful random public events to get my fix of social and community interaction.
The Real Question: Is Destiny Worth Buying?
Initially, this would have been a resounding no. The game was boring from the outset, and repetitive to a fault, despite great shooter mechanics and an absolutely beautiful game. There are a myriad of issues with regards to being social, the lack of mission variety, and boss fights being just a lengthy session of “press the right trigger.”
However, Destiny has started growing on me. I’ve enjoyed the variety of planetary settings (despite having to run through the same set pieces for every mission,) the multiplayer can be thrilling and addicting, the loot system is pretty compelling, and public events are delightful.
If I had to give you a definite answer, I’d say: yes, Destiny is worth buying. But I’d probably wait until it went on sale a few months down the line, or pick it up used. It’s a fantastic shooter at the core, with tons of room for improvement. Hopefully, down the line, improvements do come because it’s an enjoyable game, but definitely not for everyone.
Sept 16, 2014, 8:57PM EDT – UPDATE: After watching a bunch of people try to take on the Vault of Glass, the newly released Raid, I retract any desire I had for matchmaking for Raids. It looks impossibly hard even with a well coordinated group of people, and doing that with a bunch of strangers would probably be an exercise in frustration. Looks fun though!