A New Universe; A New Venture | Destiny Review
I am a huge Bungie fan, but I didn't enjoy Destiny. Sorry. The single player campaign was horrible. There’s no personal investment in the hero, his sidekick "Ghost", or his involvement in the world around him. The narrative is stretched thin, and not once did I really care about anything going on in the game. The characters only served as a gateway to experience the world, and no danger or turmoil made me feel for them. Even the tension in the scenes during the Reef came out dull. I cared more about the motives of the Arisen Queen, a seemingly minor character than I did for the main character.
Having said all this, Bungie still does what it does best: building fantastic, immersive worlds. The world of Destiny is a mysterious one, and one of great lore. No detail is spared in flushing out the history of the world, sprung unto you the minute you press start. This world feels unbelievably real, and each race is anthropologically unique. They each have their own culture, mannerisms, look and feel, so much so that you can almost immediately tell them apart. It’s a lot to parse through, to a point they decided to put it in a tome of readable cards outside the game. (Poor game design if you ask me.)
Basically, the plot is that the massive sphere called “The Traveler” lands on the moon. It’s attempting to escape a plague like infection called “The Darkness”, and machines called “Ghosts” revive humans, which are called “Guardians” who wield something only referred to as “The Light” to fight “The Darkness” and save “The Traveler”.
Confused? Don’t worry, it gets worse.
You find yourself in a war with “The Darkness”, which after experiencing the game, seems to comprise of two alien races, “The Fallen”, and “The Hive”. Later joins a robotic murdering race called “The Vex”, and finally to add to all the bulk of lore you get to meet “The Cabal”. Other than cosmetic and weapon differences, they’re just things that get in your way you have to kill, with no real discernible interests or motives or personal objectives.
So it’s up to you, Guardian, to save “The Traveler” and all its people. Travel through warp holes that take way too long to travel to places within the same solar system, land on the same spawn point every mission even though you have a spaceship that flies you anywhere, and fight through impossible yet predictable objectives (usually defend points) to become all mighty and powerful. (While killing thousands of enemies for no particular reason.)
You can understand why I don’t like the story. It’s convoluted, there’s no intrinsic motivation to kill people other than that they’re trying to kill me, there are too many “the-s” in everything that’s titled, and it’s just way too much and too arbitrary for me to take in, or even want to absorb.
It’s undeniable. The graphics in this game is top notch and nothing short of breathtaking. The new consoles help push the boundaries of the graphics, and it’s about as close to photorealism as you can get in today’s games. Bungie doesn’t sell itself short in the graphics department and puts in the effort to beautify boring exposition screens and load times.
Everything in the game is highly textured, from the grass to your guns to the damn moon! It’s just incredible. Your eyes will be treated to new scenes and colors and pretty sights with every turn in the game, and whenever you’re not stuck in a firefight somewhere, you could just look up and marvel at the gorgeous world you’re in.
Cutscenes are done with in-game graphics, which help with the consistency of the overall presentation. Although slightly sporadic, the cutscenes do serve to push the weak story forward, and as I’ve mentioned, really needed the help with.
The cutscenes brought about character development that was completely absent in the game, and many times brought more tension to the missions than the actual gunplay while playing. In short, the cutscenes really helped.
The soundtrack is stunning, if not a little too familiar. The entry music was something akin to Halo and it felt creepily similar. Undoubtedly written by the same composer, but perhaps a deviation from a Halo-esque feel would have been preferable. John Williams did not compose his greatest hits in a similar fashion, yet created iconic masterpieces in themselves.
As a side note, EC did a very good episode about music in games:
Along with the same problems I had, the soundtrack felt too strong for the gameplay. This is not a bad thing, mind you. The music thematically brought out the tension and mood of the fights, but the actual fights themselves were lackluster and boring. It might not be a music issue as much as a gameplay issue. Honestly, though, the track is really good.
The sound effects and foley are pristine. I’ve come to expect this level of detail from Bungie games, and they are still impressive nonetheless. The guns shoot well, the explosions sound off well according to the space of your environment, and everything feels right at home, even sci-fi elements we’re unfamiliar with. Grunts of aliens and the weird sounds of their spaceships, the buzzing and beeping of technology, and the organic sound of nature are all well done.
The controls are responsive and the button layout is nothing out of the ordinary. We have a wide smattering of First Player Shooters (FPS) today, and controls couldn’t be more different. Call of Duty VS Legacy Halo VS New Halo VS Borderlands VS Battlefield VS all those other smaller AA FPSes, our memory muscle rarely retains over a single game, let alone 2 games with very similar button layouts.
Apart from the trigger buttons used to aim down your sight and shoot, while the bottom button (X, A or spacebar) is to jump, there is still no consensus where melee, grenades, switching weapons, crouching and all those peripheral skills should go. Bungie knows this and, like Halo allows you to customize your controller layout so that it blends more comfortably to your personal playstyle. Some shooters do not allow you to change your button layout, so that’s appreciated.
On to difficulty. Holy hell is this game difficult. The enemies don’t pull their punches. Fallen come at you right off the bat, even in the tutorial level, with their homing bullets and tough as nails armor. At the same time, enemy AI is fluid and intelligent. They dodge with good timing and use cover and terrain well to their advantage. In packs, you’ll get enemies flanking you, and feel them bearing down on you, sometimes overwhelmingly.
You’ll be sweating to pick off those headshots, but all shooting their heads do is critical damage and not a one hit kill. Besides your rechargeable shield, which bosses have as well, enemies are as equally powerful as you in about every way and the only way you can get out of firefights alive is with skill alone. It was immensely challenging, and although I feel the baseline difficulty might be torturous for the newer players, I loved the excitement and bloodlust I got from such a tough challenge.
Saying that, I need to emphasize why I enjoyed the challenge, and why the AI played an integral part of it and is something to be applauded for. The algorithms for the AI is not gimmicky. It appears they have a range of vision, and do not actively know where you are, so it doesn’t feel cheat-ish. They actively look for you, search the last place you were spotted at, and really throw everything at you when they do.
Some AI are trigger-happy while others camp out and wait for a good shot. This gives them a great sense of realism. It’s the flaws and gaps in their AI knowledge of the world that integrates them so well and make them so perfectly real. Their jittery behavior and sometimes murderous intent gives me the illusion of the AI’s desire to really take my life, which makes me all the more invested in the game, and even now, make me tingle with excitement to go back playing.
There’s a huge replay value for this game. Players will soon reach the level cap before the end of the main campaign, and will still have so much more to do. Adding the loot element of modern RPGs into Destiny creates a primal urge to grind and improve our characters. Playing ‘Patrol’ mode puts us in the world with smatterings of objectives and random global community events. The world is alive, and with a myriad of open-ended objectives; unobtrusive controls; alongside this expansive, carefully constructed world with its beautiful graphics and sounds to lure us in, we’re more than willing to throw in sleepless nights to live and breathe the world of Destiny just a bit longer.
‘Crucible’ is Destiny’s online multiplayer. This was one of the first times I put time into a game’s PVP other than Halo, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Entering PVP at level 5 while everyone else was nearly at the cap of 30, one would think with the difference in levels, I would not stand a chance. But I did. And despite the lack of unlocked skills and weaker weapons, the game balanced itself fairly, and I found that on a skill VS skill basis, I managed to get kills often. I didn’t have to resort to camping or underhanded assassination methods, none of the opponent’s larger arsenal of abilities mattered as long as they were in my sights, and I made the shot. This is a testament to how balanced they made the PVP. The fact that players who’ve newly joined could fight on a level with players who’ve spent weeks playing the game is great.
When I lost, and I have multiple times, I found myself saying it was from my inexperience of the map or weapon choice that ushered my defeat. It wasn’t anything game related, and simply player related. The ability to strip down and remove the scaling issues from gear is commendable, although, don’t expect to top every match going in fresh. I’ve never gotten higher than 3rd on my team at level 5. Even still, I always came out thinking that the fight was fair, and lost simply from my inexperience as a player.
I have to dedicate a section to address flaws because I feel it necessary. I am unsure if it is bias from previous game Halos and the expectations for a Bungie game, or this game is genuinely bad.
I hate the missions. There is no flow. There is a bucket load of traveling, and after the first few missions, you realize you can skip straight to the final portion, essentially rushing through 70% of any mission at any given time. End goals are ALWAYS, and I repeat, ALWAYS defend a point. You end up discovering a relic or finding some ancient artifact or recover some data, and hordes of enemies will come at you, and you have to kill them to end the mission. It is a horrible game flaw and something that kills campaign replayability.
I hate the loot. There’re only so many guns available. Judging from my current arsenal and repeats I’ve been getting, the variety of guns is nothing over 5 for each weapon type, every model disguised with slightly different stats and minor abilities. In a world with Borderlands, Bungie cannot market themselves with the “massive arsenal of random weapons” without being compared to Borderlands. And falling short to such a massive extent is even more detrimental for their rapport.
I’m a loot drop defender. People say loot drop is horrible. But personally, RNG is RNG. Anyone who plays Diablo will get sick of RNG, and the sea of shitty loot to get to the good stuff. I am willing to play for an extended period of time to get good loot, assuming there is any (refer to the previous point). If it was worth it, I will spend my time on it. Destiny is not primarily about loot. It’s about the world and its rich lore and deep history. Sell that. Not loot.
There are some minor flaws in the gameplay which piss me off, but not as much as I have mentioned. Vandals bullets home, which is ridiculously imbar, even though the damage is minor, and you spawn in the SAME DAMN SPOT at every map. Ridiculous. At least, give us the option to spawn at several places in each map, or make waypoints unlockable if you want us to explore Bungie. Boo on you.
Please change or do something about Destiny in future patches? kthnxbai.
I was originally upset that Bungie dropped Halo, but I see why they did now. A beautiful open world GALAXY for us to explore, with mysteries and wonders to uncover, danger lurking in every corner, Destiny, despite its flaws, is nothing short of a masterpiece. I marvel at the dedication and work put to create such deep lore for a galaxy that rivals the Halo franchise. The graphics are stunning, and what we’ve come to expect from a modern game and more; while the sound creates a great atmosphere and aids in immersion. The emphasis of the game is not in its story or plot, but the immense world with its deeply constructed anthropology. Understanding and appreciating that softens the flaws and cracks in the game.
Controls feel tight, and gameplay is fast paced. The campaign is slightly repetitive, but it is sizable and will take up a chunk of your time; but the meat of the game lies in its other features like ‘Strike’ and ‘Patrol’, along with its multiplayer ‘Crucible’. Spending hours relentlessly grinding for better gear is none short of fun with open-ended objectives and plenty of intelligent enemies to kill. You’ll definitely have fun with the game, but it’s not mind-blowing. Yet.
Destiny is a diamond in the rough, and with Bungie’s 10-year plan with it, I’m definitely expecting great things in the coming decade.