Bungie's hotly anticipated Destiny reached retail shelves at the beginning of September, the fulfillment of a $500,000,000 adventure to home consoles. Guardians logged more than a hundred million hours in the first week after release, but the numbers only tell a fraction of the story. Destiny serves as Bungie's first chapter in the studio's life after Halo, but the game remains deeply influenced by Halo in both aesthetic design and mechanics.
Destiny's imagery remains its strongest asset, boasting some of the best use visual design seen on this generation of consoles. The landscape views are breathtaking, begging the player to take a break and stare into the horizon. Bungie has an uncanny ability to spin a tale through an epic score and Destiny does not fail to deliver on that front. Destiny's successful score, visual superiority and marketing brilliance only highlight the failures in nearly every other category. The game's emotionally stirring tunes and high profile voice acting serve as a mask for its pathetically lacking narrative, whose meager 8 hour experience can be best described as a â€œTour de Flopé as it ultimately falls flat.
The unrewarding story becomes even more exasperated as bounties force the player to replay those missions without the option to skip the cut-scenes. All of the bounties, from Daily Vanguard and Daily Heroic to the Queen's Wrath event, simply ask the player to replay those story missions with minor alterations in level, added damage multiplier and dubbed a â€œchallenge.é
Bungie built tenuous links between three of its four playable story locations and the enemies at each of those locations within the game. A common thread throughout this game is Bungie's ability to sabotage players by erecting a hedge maze around its content. The player must go out of their way to experience everything this game has to offer, a non-issue if that only meant exploring the world from within the game. For example, players can find a moderate amount of lore in the Grimoire cards that unlock throughout the game, but access to those cards are restricted to the Bungie's website. Many will argue that most did not temper expectations, but it is not as if the world expected Bungie to create a Space Opera whose writing can outshine the likes of Isaac Asimov or Shakespeare. A complete, competent story arc would have sufficed. Instead, we received a hodgepodge of missions requiring an inordinate amount of backtracking.
To top it all off Bungie went so far as to lock away its most engaging content in the Vault of Glass, which includes challenging battles, interesting battle designs and a stealth section that may have you feeling like a character in the Hobbit. The instance is certainly difficult and requires good communication, but the healthy checkpoints after each leg of the journey alleviates a lot of frustration when dealing with competent teammates. The lack of a chat, which may be fixed with future patches, and inability to recruit a â€œpick-up groupé of like-minded individuals without the painstaking process of sending out random Xbox Live and Playstation Network (trial-and-error) invites makes the Vault of Glass even more difficult to tackle.
One would think that the easiest method to obtain a group would seem to be joining a large clan, but the absence of a Clan portal within the game is just one more hurdle for players. In order to join a clan, the player must visit Bungie's â€œClané subsection on their website, apply for membership and then await for the Founder (not just any founding member) to approve the application. The player, once approved, must then revisit the Clan subsection and set that clan as their affiliation. Unfortunately, joining a clan does not unlock a clan member list within the game and puts the player in a similar position as they were in prior to joining the clan.
The loot system garners some true contempt.
Destiny characters have a soft level cap of 20, but some armor grants a bonus to â€œLighté and can bring those Guardians up to level 30. Legendary (purple) items unlock at level 20, but they drop in â€œengramé form. An engram is a mysterious item that requires decryption from the Cryptarch located in the tower, but while the random number generator may have dropped a legendary-quality engram the Cyptarch plays by its own rules. Double jeopardy does not apply in the world of Destiny as legendary-quality engrams have a high likelihood of receiving a gut wrenching downgrade into a Rare (blue) quality item or being for a different class. This downgrade, while being addressed in a future patch, only highlights the pathetic choices in gear.
The Legendary Engrams can yield the exact same gear which can be purchased for crucible or vanguard marks from the various reputation vendors. The raid gear is uniquely named, but the gear's modifiers have a negligible difference to the gear obtained through other methods. Some raid gear will add bonus damage to raid-specific enemies like Oracles, but the armor and modifiers to Strength, Intelligence or Discipline are essentially the same. Bungie touted the amount of loot, but in reality the designs and variety are found wanting.
The first week of the Queen's Wrath missions yielded helmets and chest pieces that were comparable to almost any legendary quality helmet or chest piece available through other means for a fraction of the effort. Bungie followed this up by placing yet another barrier on players that let them dismantle the Queen's Wrath gear, but removed the ability to receive upgrade materials from those rewards. Bungie's attempt to extend the life of this game by placing more artificially created hurdles in front of players has become well documented since launch. A future patch, while removing the issue of downgrading, will also downgrade all existing unidentified legendary engrams.
Fight in the Crucible for Glory, Nothing Else.
Destiny brings guardians together in the Crucible to fight for glory and, as expected, this is strongest aspect of the game. The standard Free-For-All (Rumble), Clash (Team Deathmatch) and Control (King of the Hill/Domination) all make an appearance as a staple, with other modes like Salvage (Small Team Objective Mode) alternating on the weekend playlists. Players are awarded random items that range from Legendary Engrams to Armor Shaders, but do not count on completing your gear with those drops as they are also subject to Ye Olde RNG. The post-game rewards are not indicative of how well you have performed as a person with a .08 Kill-Death-Ratio on Team Deathmatch is just as likely to receive something as the team leader.
How does it handle? Shotguns, Fusion Rifles and Assault Rifles account for the majority of player deaths, leaving weapons like the Scout Rifle, Pulse Rifle and Hand Canon in the wind. A future patch may help balance the weaponry for the modes with capped armor, standardized weapon damage and disabled level advantages. The Crucible, at this point in time, may require you to conform to the norms or spend your time being frustrated. One of the biggest problems with the Crucible lies with Postmortem kills. Grenades, rockets and moves with areas of effects are some of the most common forms of postmortem kills, but latency related gun and melee kills are becoming a bigger nuisance. Guardians will often find themselves dying anywhere from 1-3 seconds after killing their opponent. Obnoxious, but not game breaking. Overall, the competitive multiplayer mode remains the game's strongest selling point.
My experiences with Destiny have run the end entire gamut of quality and leveled three separate characters in distinctly different manners. My first class, Titan, was leveled through the story and instances that are called Vanguard Strikes. My second class, Warlock, was leveled primarily in the Crucible with very little dabbling in the story. I leveled my third class, Hunter, at the infamous â€œLoot Cave.é Character leveling through level 20, regardless of method, is one of the least rewarding experiences of the entire game, a chore on the same level as the grind for moderately better gear or upgrade materials.
Destiny is beginning its path in life in the same vein as a Call of Duty game, breaking sales records and garnering intense criticism as people continue to play it. One might argue that Destiny is simply a game that is benefiting from the lack of quality releases on the current generation of systems. Destiny is the embodiment of poor execution. There is no question that the visual design, music and avatar handling deserve every accolade thrown their way. The high profile voice acting felt stale, bargain bin story and an unrewarding â€œlooté system remain the most notable low points that are hard to overlook.
Destiny may be the most visually appealing game in its class, but an objective look last year's television-based game Defiance only highlights Destiny's shortcomings. If you're looking for games that offer a more well-rounded story experience and a better understanding of how to reward players then you might explore the worlds of Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition and Borderlands 2. Holding out on Destiny? The world of Destiny will be one of those experiences that will always be changing through patches, but this game simply fails to deliver the quality one has come to expect from the company that brought us Halo 2 and Halo 3.
There may be too many unknown variables for this title, from quality of future content to balance.
The story is little more than a time sink with very little pay-off.
If you don't plan on raiding, you're missing out on the most interesting dungeon/mission designs in the entire game.
If you do plan on raiding, be prepared for an even less rewarding grind than we see in most MMORPGs. You grind for marks, reputation and event missions to obtain new items. Then you grind for more experience to level those items (WARNING: Levels beyond 20 will fluctuate when switching out armor, like removing a legendary helmet fully that is leveled to wear a new exotic helmet that is not)