Destiny marks a change in the way games will be presented to us. Good or bad, its popularity and profitability have assured that more games like it are to come, and this style of persistent online experience will likely define the console generation we find ourselves curiously embroiled in. While it’s perfectly fine to take a first glance at Destiny close to its launch and make initial judgements, these thoughts will likely grow obsolete with time. This paints an ugly picture for reviewers in the near future, as more products will be released under a shadow of future promise instead of the light of initial substance. Considering that note, take these words with the timestamp (October 17th, 2014), and anticipate that the further away from this date you get, the more Destiny’s offering will change and evolve until perhaps little will resemble what I played.
Having had little to no positive experiences with either genre, I’d think myself an unlikely target for Destiny’s mishmash of the MMO and FPS genres. Yet the two genres, and all of their accompanying baggage, mix together wonderfully. Destiny’s format and presentation are lovingly crafted to allow for rich player experience to a point. Of course, with these two descriptors comes certain expectations on quality. Some of those expectations are absolutely met, while others have ample room for improvement. Yet in most cases the strengths of this title outweigh its weaknesses, and the overall sum of parts is legitimate fun, though not for everyone.
Mechanically, Destiny has much of the shooting finesse one would expect from genre-veteran Bungie. Not all weapons are balanced to perfection, however, and Bungie has sadly had to resort to a fair amount adjusting post launch to level the playing field a bit. That being said, Destiny remains accommodating to a solid number of play-styles, which is further enhanced by the game’s varying classes. While most of your time in the campaign will likely be spent shooting and little else, these classes show their unique traits in colorful ways. Warlocks excel in magic defenses and attacks, Hunters enhance their natural skills to devastate enemies with powerful shots and deadly blades, and Titans obliterate fields of foes with ground-pound blasts (much the dismay of everyone in multiplayer matches, it should be noted).
Destiny’s utilitarian play experience is broken up into campaign missions on various planets in the solar system. The spaces in-between are filled with free-roams, multiplayer matches, and strike missions, which pace battles and boss fights in arcade-ish fashion. In truth, the campaign missions represent the weakest area in the Destiny package. Story-telling in a game such as this is completely unnecessary, as you’ll be repeating story missions for various reasons to the point that the story fudge gets in the way of fluidity. Besides, the story you’ll be more concerned with is the never-ending loot competition you’ll inevitably have with your friends, which, to be fair, is a wholeheartedly compelling reason to keep playing.
First word of warning: the package is likely a hollow experience sans consistent fire team members. Much of the game’s driving force came from this tight race to the best gear with friends, and the constant thrill of fighting through difficult situations with each other. The game certainly does play a few other tricks to lure you in for late nights, many of which may be unfortunately familiar from seedy free-to-play models and traditional MMO’s, but without friends the rewards given for consistency and dedication wouldn’t have the same value.
Matchmaking multiplayer is also quite a bit of fun that’s made better with friends. By default, Destiny disallows players from different fire teams from communicating, even in team matchmaking. But once you have a full team able to communicate, you can run strategies far more effectively, and my win-to-lose ratio improved dramatically with buddies by my side. In general, matchmaking is a satisfying affair, made unique with the abundance of player powers that can decimate whole teams in a single instant. While there are few multiplayer modes to choose from, those that are there feel fleshed out and balanced, which seem to allow little cheese.
Now I mentioned that this game employs some devious ploys to keep its players playing. And while the gameplay itself is tight enough to bring you in on its own, the real pull in most cases are its daily and weekly events which give bonuses and upgrade material in return for slavish repetition. And believe me, you want those materials, since once you’re leveled up in the high 20s, large amounts of those materials are necessary for every inch of experience progression. Random loot drops are another evil trick, as even once kill xp stops helping you much, you’ll always know that rare and valuable gear could be just one kill away. Unfortunately, Destiny‘s loot seems a little to random at times, as it’s given out in multiplayer matches regardless of player accomplishment. It can be frustrating to make it to the top of the ranks in a match and watch in horror as far worse players get better rewards.
The longer events have proven to be fun, adding extra incentive to the mix, but so far their purchasable rewards have mostly been aesthetic, granting pretty emblems, ships, and cloaks for your hard work instead of anything with true strategic value. And the events have required a huge amount of work for even the lowest of rewards. Certainly Bungie will adjust this in future events, but for now they’ve been less than stellar, especially considering that their missions tend to be normal campaign or multiplayer matches with special modifiers, instead of anything truly unique.
In general, Destiny is one of those experiences that rewards you the more you’re willing to give to its feasting appetite, hungry for your precious time. If you expect it to enthrall you with an epic tale of space-faring exploration and wonder, you will be amongst the legions of disappointed players. If you feel like getting a constant stream of dungeon-crawler style rewards, crafting a unique story of your own with some friends, and working for a true feeling of intense player progression, Destiny will not disappoint. Most of the time.
–Nails team-based loot competition.
–Mechanically sound, presented beautifully.
–There’s always something to do to help your progress.
–The ploys and tricks are more compelling than the gameplay or story.
–A weak experience for those who’d rather play alone.
–Needs a little balancing, and a whole heap of extra content.
–Lacks the feeling of exploration we came to expect.