Destiny - Review
From the huge budget to the record-breaking pre-order sales, everyone, at this point, knows what Destiny is, or rather, what it advertises itself to be. It's a money-making juggernaut, having been developed to last over a decade and sporting a developer who, regardless of what you think of their games, already mean business, and a publisher with the financial clout to see it through.
Perhaps the shortest way to describe Destiny is as Borderlands mixed with Halo, along with a dash of World of Warcraft in there too. That's the most common description you'll see of Destiny's gameplay and for the most part it's an appropriate one. It's a hybrid game, one which borrows most of its disparate elements from a variety of different sources. It's what, in theory, makes the game stand out. It's also part of the reason it's so incredibly forgettable.
Playing as a Guardian, one of the last surviving soldiers on Earth, the game has you hopping planet to planet in order to somehow save The Traveller, a piece of super-tech that has allowed humanity to spread across the galaxy. Classes are divided into three types: Titan, Hunter and Warlock, and roughly translate to the Fighter, Rogue and Mage you'd find in any RPG. Each comes with their own unique skills and abilities that can be tweaked and altered as you see fit. Want to make your Warlock faster? You can do that, but it'll come at the cost of their armour and recovery speed.
On the whole however, it's a shallow level up system, not a bad one per se, but one without a shred of originality or depth. Abilities essentially consist of two powers mapped to your shoulder buttons and a bunch of "skills" that improve one of your three stats, usually at the expense of the others. Hardly all that exciting.
This could have been saved with the shooter elements but they lack any real spark. It's a combat system that has Bungie written all over it; areas are vast and wide open, encouraging the exchange of long range gunfire. Enemies will scuttle to cover and poke around corners to shoot back if you try to pin them down. It's the kind of shooter that rewards sniper rifle fans and people that get giddy at scoring a headshot. It's by far the most successful element of Bungie's gaming chimera but it sadly goes nowhere. There's no breakout moment, no game-defining set-piece, not even a Michael Bay-style orgy of explosions.
Instead there's swarms of enemies and Peter Dinklage as a dull robot.
What starts off as acceptable quickly descends into a grind. Each mission of the game's story, essentially a loose collection of objectives, has you going from A to B to C in order to activate machinery, press switches or trigger traps that, in some way, will conjure up the next wave of enemies. For the first several hours it's an exhilarating rush, mowing down swarms of aliens feels mighty satisfying as that constant filling up of your experience bar encourages you to do it all over again. Bungie are certainly talented at their particular craft. They know how to make a first-person shooter, with Destiny encouraging players to duck and weave about cover whenever they're health gets low, before breaking out and flanking their adversaries moments later, creating an effective ebb and flow to the game's combat.
Yet, that can only get a game so far and Destiny never builds upon its core design. What you do at the beginning of the game is exactly what you'll be doing by the time you finish it; whether that be with one last story mission, a co-op challenge or a deathmatch.
The game quickly falls into a pattern and boasts a shocking lack of creativity. Even the enemy types begin to get overly familiar as the game progresses. Giant lumbering space marine types pop up in the game's final area on Mars, hopping from point to point as they blast away at you. They are a highlight, but many other enemies fail to separate themselves from one another. The robotic Vex, effectively this games equivalent of Mass Effect's Geth, are underwhelming as they simply trundle towards you in huge numbers, and the aliens you encounter seem as if they've been lifted straight from a Halo title.
Elite enemies don't change the way they behave either. Boasting nothing more than bucket loads of health and a regenerating shield, turning many of the later fire fights into tiresome battles of attrition as you whittle away at their health bars.
So there's the shooter and RPG aspects, but then there's also the game's peculiar MMO elements. To describe Destiny as an MMO is perhaps slightly misleading considering that one of the core hallmarks of the genre; the socialising/strategizing with other players, is virtually non-existent. Sure, you can chat with players on your friends list, and in general the game's multiplayer ensures that those who communicate will win the vast majority of missions, but the "seamless universe" aspect of Destiny doesn't really seem to be there.
Play a mission and there's a chance you'll encounter another player, but given that there's no way to interact with them, you just have to shrug your shoulders and carry on. Perhaps they'll be on the same mission as you (which does seem to occur often), yet there's no communication, so you're ability to cooperate with them just isn't there.
The knock-on effect of all this is that, despite showcasing a vast open world to explore, there's a sense that it's completely hollow; you can see other players but their impact on your experience is minimal. The world implies an epic space opera but delivers dull lines of dialogue by Peter Dinklage who genuinely sounds bored to be there. It's incredibly bizarre line direction, this is the actor with enough charisma to bring to life Tyrion Lannister, and yet here he's left to spout out exposition and plot information with zero enthusiasm. A bad story is not necessarily a huge deal in this kind of game, where loot drops and exploration generally take precedence, but Bungie seem so keen on bigging up the epic space opera angle, only for it to be vague and nebulous with no memorable characters.
Some people have argued that some of the negativity aimed at Destiny is a product of its hype: it was always going to fail to live up to the "advertorialism" heaped upon it by the mainstream gaming press, and the heavy handed marketing dealt out by Activision. Others have said that it's impossible to evaluate the game yet, since many people haven't played the higher level endgame encounters. This is a silly argument, quite frankly, it's like saying someone couldn't review Skyrim without playing every single side quest.
These arguments, largely however, miss the key critique of Destiny. In some respects it ends up being worse than a bad game, by simply being a painfully average one. Its gunplay is solid but lacks anything unique, no unique gimmick that it can play with. It's an RPG yet one that won't scare away anyone that's never rolled a d20, with a level-up system that's just about serviceable, but very little else. Worst of all it tries to emulate an MMO but doesn't capture the main draw of the genre: the social aspect. It's a multiplayer shooter but one with only a handful of maps and modes that have all been seen before. It even wants to be a dramatic space opera by bringing in the top-quality voice cast and gorgeous visuals, only to squander it on meaningless dialogue, a nonsensical script, and bland locations.
In its attempt to draw in everyone Destiny effectively appeals to no one. It's neither good nor terrible instead being smack dab in the middle; functional but very little else. A jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Destiny was released on September 9th for PS4, PS3, Xbox One and 360.
This review is based on the PS4 version.
© 2014 LudoLogic