Destiny Reviews

AuthorReview
Hurball
420,186 (192,175)
Hurball
TA Score for this game: 1,881
Posted on 25 September 14 at 17:48, Edited on 31 October 14 at 20:49
This review has 108 positive votes and 33 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
As is usual for big releases, I purposely avoided all the pre-release Destiny marketing. I watched no gameplay clips, no trailers, no teasers, read no press releases. I did play the Beta for a tiny period (up to gaining your first ship), but other than that I wanted the game to be as fresh as possible to me. And having played it a good amount since launch day, I've finally decided to review this divisive beast.



Storyline & Characters

Whilst reviews for Destiny are all over the place (sidetracking slightly here, this is a good thing, and I hope it happens more in the future. All too often every single reviewer seems to centre around a specific score, with apparently not one person feeling differently. But I digress...), one thing everyone is in agreement on is that the storyline is terrible.

Having played the game through once, and again helping friends through the missions (including all the side-quests), I still have very little idea of what Destiny is actually about. The opening cinematic explains a little, and from then on you're left to figure it out, if you want to. There's a lot going on in the background, but the game focuses on none of it, giving none of it character, none of it any real purpose. There's humanity, aided (?) by a sphere called the Traveler, fighting forces collectively known as the Darkness. But that's about all we know.

I understand the game aims for subtlety, but there comes a point at which a story needs an event, a purpose, characters... Something to keep a player's attention. Something that makes them want to drive through to the end, a purpose to their missions. ICO and Shadow of the Colossus are prime examples of how to tell a story with minimal dialogue or cutscenes. Half Life and BioShock are prime examples of how to tell a story through in-game dialogue rather than cutscenes. Destiny comes nowhere close to those games, and its story goes absolutely nowhere.

With very little ever seeming to actually occur, the next port of call to give the game some atmosphere would be its characters. With its create a character system, your own avatar is out of the question here, simply being a blank slate impacted upon by people and events around them. You do speak, sparingly, in the all-too-few cutscenes, but with Orlando Bloom levels of woodenness, which begs the question as to why you even have any lines at all. Gordon Freeman manages just fine, after all.

Your companion, a hovering robot voiced (as everyone already knows) by Peter Dinklage, offers nothing. He sounds bored by events, essentially telling you what's happening whilst giving no real insight into anything. He draws obvious comparisons to Halo's Cortana, but brings none of the emotion she does; and 343 Guilty Spark, but has none of his quirky personality.

And that's essentially it. There are a couple of brief clips involving a female robot known as The Stranger, but whilst these hint at something to follow, they go nowhere. And there are a couple of scenes involving the Awoken race, but once again these go nowhere. You're left to fill in the gaps. And there are many.

The lazy storytelling carries over to the Darkness, the collective term for the four different enemy factions present in the game. The Hive, a mutant race (?), the Fallen (ex-Guardians?), the Vex (robots), and the Cabal (power-armour wearing aliens?). The game tells you nothing about them. They shoot you, so you shoot back. Think of Halo's Covenant and the Flood, and the background to them. The reasons for their actions, why they needed to be fought. Destiny doesn't bother with such trivialities.

It has been rumoured (and this appears to have some truth to it) that Destiny underwent massive changes over the last year of its development. There are a few cutscenes floating around the internet that are no longer in the game, suggesting that these were removed at some stage. But to what avail? For what purpose? It's possible that Bungie playtested the game to oblivion, hammering out anything contentious or confusing in the aim of getting players through the story and into the "endgame" with minimal effort, but it's inconceivable that they thought the end product was anything other than a forgettable mess...



Graphics & Sound

Destiny does have its strengths, however. In terms of looks, it's breathtaking. In the city in Venus, staring up at the skybox, with raindrops falling on the screen; clouds rolling in the atmosphere; the Earth in the sky above the Moon, rotating slowly; the destroyed space station... This is the next generation we were promised, graphically at least. The different planets all have a unique feel to them, from Russia's rusted Cosmodrome to the red sands of Mars and the bleak greyness of our natural satellite.

Another clear success in Destiny is its soundtrack. I've read elsewhere that the soundtrack does a far better job of conveying any atmosphere or storyline than the actual script, and that statement is bang on. A number of boss fights stand out more so for the score than for the enemies themselves, and it's in these rare moments that the game shows that it could've been so much more...



Gameplay

Similarly to the graphics, the controls and the handling in Destiny are polished to perfection. It's as smooth-handling a game that you'll likely ever see. Menu's are reactive, jumping feels just right, the mêlée attacks are perfect. Shooting is crisp. Nothing at all feels clunky here - it's all honed to absolute perfection, and is a solid base on which to build upon.

Unlike Halo, there aren't a whole lot of vehicles here, and players spend the majority of their time on-board their Sparrows - essentially hover-bikes. I've yet to see anyone who doesn't love them, but their relegation to simply commuter devices is a shame. There's the potential here for far more, such as PVP racing, or even PVE racing (reach an area in a set time, chase the Fallen, etc), but the game never attempts this.

Mission wise, on the face of it there's a lot to do here. You can run missions solo or co-op, run longer strikes co-op, go on patrol on any of the planets and complete various missions, check out the central hub (the Tower), or jump into PVP.

The storyline missions essentially consist of going to a location, pressing X, fighting hordes of enemies, then repeat, then level ends. Minimal dialogue, and no memorable moments whatsoever.

Patrols, which promised so much, are essentially a free roam on a planet with a choice of bland missions to choose from. These can be categorised as "go here", "kill anything", "kill a big mob", "kill specific mobs", and "click on something". There's no challenge and nothing memorable about anything in Patrol mode, other than the initial thrill of seeing the planets' environments. The same enemies respawn at the same points, and simply mill around. Those expecting a Fallout-style world will be disappointed.

Strikes are the most impressive things Destiny offers. Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, each one takes 3 co-op players through a number of normal enemies interspersed with harder boss battles. Bosses typically have vast amounts of health and take a while to bring down, which can be a challenge, especially when players have to keep the spawning smaller mobs at bay as well. In these moments Destiny is a lot of fun, and it's satisfying to finally fell the final bosses after a hard-fought battle.

There's also a single Raid available at present. I've heard it has some brilliant mechanics, is great fun, and is insanely hard. But it requires six highly-levelled players to complete, and it does not matchmake. Whilst I can understand this requirement, why Bungie decided to wall off what is apparently the best content in the game to a small section of players is beyond me. The majority of players will never complete the Vault of Glass, and the rest of the game offers no comparable experience...

The game starts with a levelling system, wherein killing enemies gives you experience. More experience leads to more abilities, improvements for guns, new armour to wear, and the ability to run harder missions. Whilst this is ongoing, progression is satisfying. However, once level 20 is reached, the levelling up stops, and is replaced by a loot grind. Your only chance of progression now is to improve your armour and guns, which can either be purchased at great expense, or are random and rare drops from enemies.

And this sets up what is the "endgame" of Destiny. You can repeat any of the missions, or do any of the strikes (of which there are only 5-6 in the game, all with similar mechanics), again and again, in the search of a lucky loot drop that improves your character's stats. And after repeating the same strike mission for the fifth time, you may ask yourself "Where is that large automobile?" "Is this it?"

There is PVP, of course. And though I've played it a little, it hasn't gripped me at all. Compared to Battlefield 4's huge battles, tanks, collapsing buildings, skydiving, and overall chaos, Destiny feels stale. Granted, I haven't played a whole lot, but from someone who's played nearly 3000 games of Halo 3, Reach, and Halo 4 combined, I fully expected to be addicted to the mode right now. The integration with gamers' PVE characters makes the mode a super-power haven, and it feels entirely unbalanced. Quite often it boils down to who sees who first, who has a special power or special ammo, or who has more teammates around them. Once I play the mode more (and hopefully don't destroy a controller in the process), I'll update this section accordingly, but at present I see very little to recommend.



Conclusions

The answer to the "Is this it?" question, right now, is "Yes." For all it promised, the four races of enemies and the four planets (well, three planets and the moon) on which to fight, after around 8 hours of storyline, the game descends into "grind for loot".

This *could* be okay, were it not for the aforementioned dreadful storytelling and the distinct lack of endgame content. With only 5-6 strikes available, players are essentially expected to repeat the same missions (at higher difficulties) over and over again, and hope their luck holds out on the rewards. Had the game launched with 20 strikes, all with different mechanics and feels to them, then this grind would've been alleviated massively. As it stands, get ready to kill the same monsters over and over and over and over and over and over again. And then repeat.

The loot system itself is utterly broken too. How well you do has no bearing on loot, nor does the enemies you fight. Every enemy has a chance of dropping loot, which has a chance of turning into something good, or something terrible. You have just as much chance of getting Legendary loot from level 5 monsters in free roam than you do against a level 24 behemoth in a strike. This has led to the famous "Loot Cave" exploit - it doesn't matter what you kill, only the speed at which you can kill enemies. And Destiny brought this upon itself, by not implementing a skill-based time-based enemy-based thoughtful system for loot.

The whole game feels lazy. It explains nothing, and expects players to read up on the story via the Bungie website. Enemies have no motivations. Characters have no personality. The Moon and Mars have the same gravity as Earth (I'm excusing Venus, since its gravity is somewhat similar). The central hub has no real social intractability - aside from dancing and waving you may as well be playing alone. There's no proximity chat, no in-game clan system, no Sparrow races, no custom shaders or icons, no trade system. The list goes on.

Destiny does have an encyclopaedia of sorts, the "Grimoire", which contains a great deal of information about the game universe and its inhabitants, but this isn't even accessible within the game. Nor does the game really try to reveal anything to you, or even hint at something. Characters literally say they "don't have time to explain." It's astounding how lazy everything is.

Putting aside the obvious differences, the game I liken Destiny to the most is Final Fantasy XIV, in that it replaced a levelling grind with an easy story followed by a loot grind thereafter. However, whereas levelling-up brings about ability changes, new weapons, and new areas to see, loot grinding simply changes your appearance, and numbers go up. Once I saw this Sisyphean task ahead of me, and that I was grinding to get better gear, to continue grinding to get better gear, to continue grinding, my desire to play the game waned. Destiny has a similar feel at present, and after a few weeks of solid play, I no longer see the point.



Post-Scriptum

Of course, Bungie has always maintained that Destiny will be a long-term project, and that judging it on the first few weeks isn't ideal. However, there's such a dearth of content available right now that I feel the criticism levelled at it is completely justified. As it stands, I feel Destiny requires another 10+ strike missions as a bare minimum, in addition to raids of varying lengths and difficulties, just to bring it up to an acceptable level of content.

With the addition of the "Queen's Wrath" missions a few days prior to this review, it seemed like the game was finally adding this new content. However, these missions were simply ones from the campaign with added difficulty modifiers. Furthermore, upon playing a couple of missions two days in a row, my entire party realised that we'd done the same bounties to unlock the same missions, with the same modifiers, for the same rewards. Déjà vu, all over again.

From here, the game can go one of two routes. Bungie could move straight on to the preplanned expansion packs, walling off sections of the game only to those who pay even more... Or, they could add a whole host of non-regurgitated/non-reskinned content for free, to get the game up to an acceptable level and to reward those who bought the game at launch, to prove they care about the universe the have created, to show they want this to be a long-term experience rather than a simple cash cow. Time will show which direction they chose.

Brief edit:
The first bit of DLC for the game is out soon. It brings a number of things that the game desperately needed to begin with and fleshes out the content and universe a little more. And did Bungie give anything away for free? Nope! You'll be paying £20 for a few extra missions, a single raid, and a couple of strikes. Half the price of the game again, for a minor amount of content that still barely brings the entire game up to scratch.
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IronWolf42
101,532 (62,851)
IronWolf42
TA Score for this game: 961
Posted on 08 January 15 at 20:54
This review has 9 positive votes and 49 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Some people complain that this MMO requires farming. I am a level 30 and I have never done anything that felt like farming. Nothing hard or time consuming was required of me to become level 30 or to get any of my exotics. Some people I know choose to "farm" and it's degrades the game for them personally.

I personally find Destiny to be entirely fun from beginning to end. I never felt like I needed to farm or was required to farm to get anything I have. I'm not saying the game is easy and hands stuff out to people, but it certainly doesn't require farming to be fun. In my opinion, a game isn't fun or well made if I have to consume that much time to quote on quote, "farm" for anything.
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