Aristotle once said that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Never has this been more true than with Bungie’s first game in a post Halo world.
Destiny is a game absolutely dripping with potential but with its fair share of faults as well. From the beginning you can see Destiny wants to do a lot of things and it’s at its best when Bungie does what Bungie does best. The moment-to-moment gameplay is second to none and the social aspect of meeting a stranger on the same objective and teaming up for a while or even just waving to someone as you run by and having them wave back is where the game really excels. For all its highs, however, Destiny does have it’s flaws; the voice acting sounds uninterested, the story is almost non-existent and the loot system was frustrating (though this has since been patched and is now more consistent).
• Developer: Bungie
• Publisher: Activision
• Reviewed on: Xbox One
• Also Available On: Xbox 360 / PS3 / PS4
• Release Date: Available now
When you boot up Destiny for the first time you pick your class, race and gender and get to personalizing your character. You can choose between Hunter, Titan, and Warlock before moving onto your race, of which there are three; Human, Awoken, and Exo.
There is little to differentiate between the classes in terms of stats other than Titans having a slightly higher base armor, Hunters being more agile, and Warlocks recovering health faster. The real differences lie in their sub-classes. Each class has two sub-classes with their own upgradable perk system that give you abilities like increased stats, a better double jump or new grenade types along with a ton of other stuff.
Each sub-class also has its own Super – an ability you can activate when a meter fills that grants the player a single use power move – for example, the Titan gets a move called Fist of Havoc which is essentially a ground pound that sends out a shock wave damaging surrounding enemies, the Hunter gets Golden Gun which equips an ultra powerful pistol with three shots and the Warlock gets Nova Bomb which hurls a bolt of energy from the players hand that causes an explosion.
The main thing you’ll be spending your time doing while on the various planets in Destiny is (of course) shooting. Halo always had a so-called “golden triangle” of gameplay; guns, grenades, and melee, and I was happy to see they have carried this triad over to Destiny. It’s difficult not to compare Destiny to Halo at every turn but if I was to compare the movement to any game it would have to be that. The grounded yet almost floaty feeling of running and jumping feels just wonderful and that’s before you even fire a gun.
Once you do start firing guns, and it doesn’t take long, you’ll realise that it has one of the tightest most enjoyable gun play experiences in recent memory. There are three different types of weapon in Destiny; primary (Scout, Auto, Pulse, Hand Cannon), special (Sniper, Shotgun, Fusion Rifle), and heavy (Rockets, LMG). Each type of weapon also has a huge number of weapons within its group, all told there is a staggering number of different guns in the game Every gun serves its purpose, be it long-, mid-, or short-range and almost without exception, they all feel great to shoot. The Hand Cannon gives a meaty thump with every shot, while the Scout rifle cracks with every bullet as you pick off enemies from distance.
It’s not all Halo of course and one of the most obvious gameplay departures is your grenade. No longer a battlefield pickup, your grenade is now a recharging ability that empties and has to refill every time you use it. This makes for a big change as they are no longer so common and it forces you to use it more tactically and, thanks to the perks handed out when upgrading your subclass, there’s enough different types of grenades to suit every play style.
The last member of Bungie’s ‘Golden Triangle’ is the melee, another ability that varies by class and sub-class. All classes have a standard melee with small class-specifc differences. It’s when you start to unlock melee abilities that you realise how different the melee system is from other shooters. Accompanying the movement and weapons you have your
speeder bike trust Sparrow hover bike to get from area to area much quicker than running.
When you’rer not busy shooting stuff you’ll likely spend your time in The Tower. The Tower is the hub world for Destiny, it’s the place where you’ll find other Guardians shopping at the various vendors scattered about or getting engrams – weapon/armor blueprints – decrypted. You can also take on bounties here which are challenges that reward you with with experience, marks, and reputation or, if none of that suits you, you can engage in a friendly dance-off with other Guardians using the various emotes attached to the d-pad.
Off in the distance you’ll spy the Traveler. This mysterious entity appeared hundreds of years ago and is what heralded the ‘golden age’ of humanity, where we expanded beyond the borders of Earth and colonised other planets. The Traveler is also credited with the survival of the human race after the mysterious Darkness, the enemy of the traveler, descended on our solar system. It sacrificed itself to save humans and now hangs in low orbit over the last safe city on Earth. It is what grants power to the Guardians of the Tower and it created the Ghosts, the Guardians floating robot-like companions, in it’s dying moments.
Destiny is designed from the ground up to be a co-op game and this shows in the mission structure of both the story missions and the longer Strike missions, if you just want to explore and fight enemies you can also go into Patrol mode on each planet which drops you into an area with no objective and allows you to do whatever you like.
While the game can be played solo you lose some of the experience in doing so. Strike missions – longer thirty to sixty minute missions, usually with both a boss and sub boss – have a matchmaking system so that you’ll always have other people to play with. However, the main story missions don’t have matchmaking and this omission can make for a slightly less enjoyable experience. I played about half of the story missions solo and, whilst they were still enjoyable, going it alone means you miss the camaraderie of working together to beat a boss and – most importantly – dancing in celebration.
The story is almost non-existent with most of the plot being delivered in pre- and post-mission monologues delivered by your Ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage. This is where one of Destiny’s biggest flaws rears its ugly head. Dinklage’s voice acting is sub-par at best – he often sounds confused about what he is saying, at other times disinterested and it leads to a certain apathy among players towards an already lacklustre plot. The few cutscenes in the game are also unskippable which can be pretty frustrating if you’ve done a particular mission multiple times while grinding for loot.
This leads onto another of Destiny’s issues; the grind. Up to level twenty, Destiny progresses like any other game, with you gaining experience through killing enemies and completing missions, but once you reach level twenty everything changes. To rank up after twenty you need to get armour with a ‘light’ stat; there’s certain thresholds of light you need to reach, based on the combined light of your equipped armour, to level up further. It’s at this point you realise the bounties that you may not have taken much notice of before are actually very important.
There are various factions around the Tower that sell legendary gear, all of which have a decent light rating. However, to buy this gear you need to raise your reputation level with that faction as well as earn marks (which come in Vanguard and Crucible varieties) and one of the easiest ways to raise your faction rep is – you guessed it – bounties.
Faction armour unlocks at reputation level two and weapons at level three but reputation does not carry over between factions. This means that if you want armour from the Vanguard but a weapon from the Future War Cult, you have two sets of rep to grind out – and gear from the various factions requires Crucible, not Vanguard, marks.
You can of course get legendary engram drops from enemies and missions but which, until the 1.02 patch landed, gave no guarantee of turning into a decent item (and were more likely to turn into a rubbish one). Since the patch, legendary engrams now always decrypt to legendary (or higher) items, but there’s still a chance that the bit of equipment you get won’t be for your class, meaning that purchasing your gear from the factions might the most reliable way to go.
If you get tired of the PvE you can always jump into Destiny’s PvP mode, The Crucible. The Crucible contains four standard game modes; Control, Rumble, Clash, and Skirmish along with various rotating gametypes. In terms of map design it is very reminiscent of Halo, with lots of verticality and a good mix of tight indoor spaces and wide open outdoor areas.
There are also some larger maps with different vehicles which add a whole new dynamic to gameplay and make the PvP much more like what we’re used to seeing from Bungie. Level advantages are disabled in all but one game mode which becomes available some time in October. This means that everyone has the same base health and guns cause the same base damage.
The variety of class abilities also creates some fantastic dynamic gameplay for example, while playing Control myself (Hunter) and a teammate (Titan) were capturing a control point and he dropped his dome shield, which is the Titan’s defensive sub-class Super, over the control point and I stood inside and activated my Arc Blade Super, a one hit melee kill weapon, which more or less guaranteed the capture. It’s this sort of experience that can make the Crucible really enjoyable.
However the Crucible like the rest of Destiny is not without its flaws. The core gameplay and maps are rock solid delivering an enjoyable and fast paced multiplayer, however with the huge assortment of weapons and sub-class abilities it becomes very hard to balance it all out. Also, while Destiny levels the stats of all players, lower-level characters will always be at a disadvantage thanks to not having fully levelled their sub-class and unlocking the most powerful skills.
Auto-rifles are the clear favourite among players right now as they can cause the most damage and are good at almost any distance except extreme long range. Special weapon ammo is so common that pretty much everybody on the map has sniper, shotgun, or fusion ammo at all times and, while heavy ammo and Supers are a bit less common, they still occur often enough that a few minutes into every match most people have one hit kill weapons. I’m no designer so I’m not going to say exactly what to change to make the Crucible more balanced but I can say for sure that it only requires a few tweaks to make it truly great and not a complete overhaul.
To refer back to the quote I made at the start, Destiny when broken down into it’s individual components has its ups and its downs, for every aspect that it excels in, there’s somewhere it misses its mark. But when viewed as a whole it becomes so much more. It is by no means perfect and some things definitely need to be tweaked and changed but what Bungie has created here has real potential – in fact, it already is one of the best games I’ve played so far this year. And I think it’s only going to get better.