Destiny review (Raid update 8/11/14)

It’s been here for a few weeks and I’ve put clocked up more hours than i’d care to admit into ‘Destiny’. The most expensive game ever made and the biggest release of the year…question is this a game that will last the full ten years that Activision have signed up for? Or is it just a $500,000,000 disappointment?

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This is the part of the review that tradition dictates I give you an overview into what ‘Destiny; actually is…in this case it feels superfluous, you’ve undoubtedly heard of ‘Destiny’, saw the television adverts and perhaps played the BETA. In case you’ve been under a rock for the past year ‘Destiny’ is basically a MMO shooter with dungeon crawler elements (think Borderlands meets Phantasy Star online).

The Good.

Let’s start with what ‘Destiny’ does well. Mechanically speaking ‘Destiny’ is a triumph. The locomotion of the guardians is heavy giving the impression of power; and yet when you upgrade it becomes something more; nimble, adding grace to your established killing machine.

The gun play is utterly superb, the weapons all feel different, all them pack their own punch and the weight of the guns is apparent in the recoil. You know when you fire a ‘hand cannon’ that it will act very differently from a ‘plasma rifle’ – as it should. In my opinion the gun play in ‘Destiny’ is better than any other game out there…each gun changes the player and the levels; in PVP a gun can be devastating in one players hands and incompetent in another’s. Every gun can be an asset – the best example of this is the plasma rifles, they can devastate you & be devastating for you…if you can anticipate your opponents movements. In ‘Destiny’ a great player is seldom the difference; a good team is the difference, and a good team has all the classes of guardians in them.

The three classes of Guardian are also incredibly different. The ‘Titan’ class is your traditional tank class, they are big, lumbering, powerful characters that should be respected. The ‘Warlock’ class is the mage whose skills can turn a well oiled team to a successful one, when used right they can be truly devastating. Finally the ‘hunter’ class; the all-rounder, and also the most popular (judging by servers), their skills are killing; and boy can they kill.

Each class has two sub-classes one for defense the other for attack; within each sub-class are various upgrades; this leads to a lot of freedom with your guardian, your ‘hunter ‘ can be very different to someone else’s depending on your upgrade path. Don’t panic yourself fair reader, none of the upgrade paths are set in stone, you can rearrange your character should you choose…nothing is permanent.

To Bungies’ credit they have balanced all this incredibly well; to succeed in battle (both PVP & PVE) you’ll have to adjust your character and your play-style…the game is very good at keeping you on your toes and demanding you are at the top of your game; every game.

‘Destiny’ is also a visual triumph; the levels are beautifully realised, expansive and detailed. Your hunter’s cape will flutter as you move, your grenades leave a trail through the air (as do your bullets) enemies shields have a convincing translucency. And all at 1080p 30FPS with FXAA; no matter which console you play on. Beautiful.

The sound is another area of strength for ‘Destiny’ from the warming hum of your sparrow to the heavy blows from a heavy machine gun…everything sounds great; you’ll hear enemies talk to one another and all of this is accompanied by a rousing, fitting score. Like ‘Halo’ before it the score is a superb addition to the game and it is used expertly to heighten the action on screen…the less said about Paul McCartney’s credits song though the better.

Bungie have used everything they learnt during the ‘Halo’ series to create a shooter that is confident, balanced and; above all else, incredibly fun to play. With friends.

The Bad.

While ‘Destiny’ does a lot of things incredibly well it also does a number of things atrociously. Point the first. The story is non-existent – I have no idea why I was running around the solar system laying waste to four different species of foe (the fallen, the vex, the hive and the cabal). Beyond the fact that a sphere called the ‘Traveler’  has told a bloke called the ‘Speaker’ that a ‘darkness’ is coming (not the band may i add) and we must stop it.

Point the second. Some design decisions are beyond comprehension – ‘Destiny’ is a game that is full of lore. Lore that is told exclusively through ‘Grimoire cards’. Cards that you cannot read in game. At all. Instead you must go to http://www.bungie.net or download the companion app to view and read them. Why was this green-lit? It is a ridiculous choice that has alienated some players. I have been asked by several high level players what these cards were…they were shocked when I told them and explained that they felt as though they had missed much of what this game has to offer through simple non-communication of ideas. Frankly they had.

These bad decisions go right through ‘Destiny’. You’ll go right through to the level cap collecting things such as ‘spin metal’ & ‘helium filaments’ through habit – the game will NOT tell you what these are for, until you reach the level in which they become relevant. This is fine, except it’ll flash a message up that is easily skipped over. At times I wished ‘Destiny’ would take some time to explain it’s contents to me…I learned a lot through my brothers in arms (in party chat; more on that in a sec) which they had learned from the ‘Destiny’ wikia…this is not the way for a game to explain it’s contents and critical features.

My last big criticism is the party function. ‘Destiny’ has been billed as a ‘shared world’ shooter; and it is, albeit an incredibly silent world in which no-one can speak to one another unless they go through an unwieldy and awkward menu system. Want to join a players fireteam? Sure thing, line them up in your reticle, press R2 & L2 (probably throw a grenade by accident) click on join fireteam. Phew. Easy. Especially when your fending off enemies from all angles. I took to just waving at folk and following them to help them out. In silence. Hoping they were doing the same mission.

For a social game Bungie have made some decidedly anti-social design choices. This is a shame as when played alone ‘Destiny’ is not much fun, it feels as though you are missing something; and because it is very straight laced it’s not very captivating alone. It feels soulless and empty.

The overall.

This may sound like I haven’t enjoyed ‘Destiny’; but i have…immensely. Over the past few weeks I’ve lost over 30 hours to this game and have enjoyed most of it. The design choices stand to infuriate and confuse players but once you know what you are doing it works incredibly well.

The story criticism is the only one I can understand. ‘Destiny’ is not like ‘Halo’ and it’s story cannot be about ‘the hero’; fact is your Guardian is one of thousands, if the story ended with you saving the planet it would cheapen every other Guardian you will meet (and need to succeed). You are only ‘A Hero’. ‘Destiny’ as released on the 9/9/14 is merely the prologue; the real story will come in the months and years following this base game…it is a story that I await with baited breath…bring it on Bungie.

I feel that ‘Destiny’ like a wine, will get better with age, as Bungie rectify the issues with regular updates and add story via expansions we should have the ‘Destiny’ we all envisaged and hoped for. As it stands it is a technically great and immensely fun dungeon crawler with a lot of potential. It is a game that is worth both your time and dedication.

8/10

At the time of writing I have not tried the only Raid in the game so far…I will update this review when I do.

8/11/14 –  Update 

I completed the raid ‘Vault of Glass’ and it is superb! The raid takes everything you think you know about ‘Destiny’ and it completely subverts it. Bungie have taken a number of different different play-styles including platforming, stealth and puzzle solving and blended them into a game mode that is unique and completely memorable!

Teamwork is the order of the day, if even one of your team is the ‘lone wolf’ type, you will fail in your attempt to topple Atheon, everyone needs to know their role and play it flawlessly. I can understand the decision to remove matchmaking from this game mode; but to be honest one of the guys I did the raid with was not a friend (he is now) but he was a team player and a bond was formed between us all.

‘Vault of Glass’ is undoubtedly shows ‘Destiny’ at it’s finest and puts on full display the potential that this game has! unfortunately it comes as a double edged sword. On one hand it is an experience that is better than any I’ve had while sat in front of a console. On the other it is potentially locked to a high proportion of players and it creates a ‘what if’ scenario. I can’t help but feel that this was the game that Bungie wanted to ship, but due to time constraints/pressure from above it somehow became diluted. The rest of the game feels hollow and water-down. As a result, after completing the raid I haven’t felt any desire to play the rest of the game…that’s a damning statement! I had the most fun i’ve ever had and I don’t want to experience the  rest of ‘Destiny’ anymore because it is unfulfilling grind that is unfair and dull.

Don’t get me wrong, i will keep a hold of my copy and buy the DLC to experience other raids, but i will not be drawn into a time sink of running strikes to get motes of light for the “chance” of getting gear that is of any use.

I wanted to give ‘Destiny’ a higher score straight after playing the raid, I would’ve given it a 9. However in the days following I was less and less interested and wanted to give it a 7…the fair thing is to keep the score at 8.

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