I’ve been having trouble formulating a proper review of Bungie’s Destiny. I’m of two minds concerning this big budget spectacle. I don’t know whether I should review the game that is, or review the game with Bungie’s future promises in mind. If the former, then I would have to say Destiny is a disappointing mess that I can’t stop playing. However, thinking on the latter (Destiny‘s ten year plan) has left me in rapt attention for what the company has next. I’m not enjoying the game that I’m playing now, but I continue to play in hopes of being on the ground floor of Destiny‘s next big content leap.
Destiny, like the Halo series before it, is set in a familiar universe with unfamiliar events threatening the safety of all its inhabitants. Once humanity made contact with a strange sphere known as The Traveler, we experienced a golden age of technology and expansion across our solar system. This golden age wouldn’t last, unfortunately, as The Traveler’s ancient enemy eventually caught up to it and began the systematic destruction of the human race. Now all that is left of our species is a single city filled with those willing to fight for an injured Traveler. You will join the ranks of the warriors known as Guardians to revive the Traveler and reclaim what is rightfully man’s.
Unfortunately, that is all the story, or rather, backstory, you are going to get. The moment-to-moment storytelling is either abysmal, irrelevant, or nonexistent. There will be several moments where you will come across something interesting to the universe of Destiny, but if you desire to learn more about it, you’ll have to download the Destiny companion app. It’s baffling to play a game that forces a floating encyclopedia to accompany you, yet he never answers your burning questions about this (seemingly) interesting universe. Speaking of your Ghost (i.e. Cortana), this companion is voiced by Peter Dinklage who delivers his lines like a floating hunk of metal would, monotone and disinterested. And it’s not just Dinklage at fault here; the content of his and every other voice actor’s lines are either filled with sci-fi nonsense. What brings your Guardian to the various locales on offer should be understood as irrelevant by the player from the beginning. It’s all about the core gameplay that should keep you coming back for more, not the mediocre narrative.
The basic gameplay loop is as follows: shoot, loot, decode, repeat. This is the extent of your activities until all of the story missions are completed and you are left with the cooperative strikes and Raids. This is fine, for a while, but once a majority of the content has been completed, the rest of the game devolves into repeating content to grind for hours to gain enough of any one of the game’s many currency types to purchase a single gun or armor upgrade. In short, the amount of grinding Bungie expects of its players is steep, and it’s a real deterrent from any feelings of elation as the loot system prioritizes upgrading already claimed loot instead of new pieces of loot as upgrades. Even when you snag that new piece of loot, you’re only really going from one auto rifle to another with slightly higher stats. Nothing changes except how quickly you can kill the game’s enemies. This severe lack of meaningful loot is disappointing to say the least and a major oversight of what makes a loot game a good loot game.
This lack of loot is indicative of the entire game’s lack of, well, everything. The missions include objectives like reach this area, defend this area, kill this boss. Your quest will take you to only four different planets — Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars — and only within a very small portion of that planet. You will be pressing the activate button on your respective console’s controller a lot, and you will kill dozens of any one of four enemy factions in each mission. Even with a friend the whole thing becomes rote as each member devotes half-an-hour to a single mission only to end up with one or two pieces of loot, of which only one is actually valuable to the player. The insane amount of time you will spend hunting for better gear is far too much to ask when playing the same few missions over and again for so little payoff. How does a game with such a massive budget accomplish something this meandering? Is it a lack of creativity? Time? Did Bungie bite off more than they could chew? It could be any combination of those things, or none of them. The latter is the scarier of the two prospects, of course.
“Well,” you may be asking, “what of the PVP mode called The Crucible? Surely that is a dynamic piece of content that scratches the itch for something unique?” Well, in one sense you’re right, but I (Donovan) was never a fan of multiplayer shooters, and this one certainly won’t engage me in the future. The mode, like the rest of the game, lacks anything interesting, especially the multiplayer game-types a la Halo. I would have loved to see some sort of Oddball mode or Sparrow (your trusty hoverbike) races, but all we get are deathmatch variants and a capture-the-zone type that we’ve seen copied and pasted a hundred times over. However, it is interesting to note that Bungie does a great job at leveling the playing field by allowing a level two character take on a level thirty character in a match of pure skill instead of a myriad of stats dictating each character. It’s also nice to see your Guardian gain experience and loot through the Crucible.
This review may seem like a long diatribe against Destiny which was one of my most anticipated games of 2014, but please don’t misunderstand me; I harshly criticize because I care, and I know Bungie is listening and slowly adjusting the game to hit the bar they set so many years ago when they announced the new title. The additional content that is slated to release promises to add just enough (even though the price for said content is egregious) to satisfy fans and extend an olive branch to detractors. Let’s hope it does just that. Also, if I had to say just one nice thing about the game, it would be the look of the game. The artistry here is top notch as each planet looks like it would in my imagination, only with the ruins of human colonies littered throughout each environment.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m being entirely too harsh on a game that has still retained a large portion of its player-base (including me). Destiny is serviceable as a social shooter, but falls flat on every other front. If every other front, however, were to receive a major content boost then maybe, just maybe, Destiny would become the multi-planet spanning epic I wanted in the first place. It’s just too bad this initial impression soured me against investing any more money into the series.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5
This review is based on a retail version of Destiny for the PlayStation 4.
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