Publisher: Activision & Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre: First-person shooter, Adventure, RPG
Platform: Playstation 3 & 4, XBox 360, XBox One
Rating: T (Teen) – Although online play may change rating
Release Date: September 9, 2014
(Although the game is out for all four systems, I am presently playing it only on the PlayStation 4)
Bungie is infamous for the best selling series HALO and all it’s first-person shooter madness. Not only was the story fairly deep and engaging, but the action was fun and interesting. Multi-player thrust the HALO franchise through the roof, making it one of the most successful series on the X-Box platform. Eventually, Bungie decided to depart from Microsoft to pursue another game they had been working on for over 10 years. It would carry over the familiar first-person shooter, only this time with more of an MMORPG feel to it.
That game is Destiny.
Destiny is the story of humanity’s future, when a mysterious spherical being known only as “the Traveler” is found terraforming the surface of Mars. It pushes from planet to planet, helping Mankind reach out from Earth to the stars – although it’s not quite clear if they left their solar system or not, so it may be reaching out towards the stars, in this case. However, as with all great things, darkness follows the Traveler to Earth, and the light of humanity is all but snuffed out. The last remnants of Man are contained inside the confines of the Last City, protected by the shell of the Traveler hanging above it.
The players take on the role of Guardians – special characters with the Light of the Traveler that gives them special abilities. These translate into three classes – Titan, Hunter and Warlock – which have their own subclasses. Players slowly unlock skills to use during battles, as well as improvements to their Armor, their Regeneration and their Agility. This allows you to play the game the way you want, adjusting to your play style. As you level up, you also unlock the possibility to do many other things in the game, although the normal level is 20 (I say “normal” because there is a way to go above the level cap, see later).
There are a multitude of things that make Destiny different from HALO. The first being the character skills and traits. The second being that you can customize your character’s appearance – their gender, their race (Human, Awoken, Exo), and their face. Awoken are cool, evolved versions of humans. Exos are androids. This really has no bearing on the game other than when you are in a social space – otherwise you’re wearing a helmet when you are out killing things. But it is nice to have a character you can identify as your own, and not a faceless, preset character put together by the designers.
The third thing that sets Destiny apart from HALO, and makes it a bit more like Borderlands, are the customizable weapons and armor. There are a wide variety of guns – everything from a pulse rifle, to a shotgun, to a sniper rifle, to a rocket launcher. Armor covers the head, the arms, the body and the feet. Finally, there is a signature piece of “armor” that your character can wear called class armor, although it doesn’t really do anything but add to the character’s “cool” factor. You can either buy all this stuff, or you can pick it up as loot. Enemies drop loot (although not as much as they do in Borderlands), or you can find it in chests. Loot ranges from regular stuff, to uncommon, to rare, to epic/legendary, almost exactly like an MMORPG.
Gameplay, however, does not diverge much from HALO. It’s the same first-person shooter in the same vein as every other first-person shooter. You move with one thumb stick while looking around with the opposite. You’ll pull the right trigger to shoot, and the left trigger to sight aim. D-pad keys are your emotes – wave, point, dance and sit down. The right top bumper key is a melee attack, while pressing the top left one throws grenades (or grenade-like powers). Pressing both bumper buttons activates whatever your super-power is (Titans, for example, use Fist of Fury, slamming their fist into the ground to disintegrate nearby enemies).
Your powers and equipment level up through earning orbs of light. These happen when you do certain things – kill enemies in one shot to the head, using your special powers, getting through boss fights. They don’t necessarily level up with your overall level – you can have half the powers in your subclass unlocked and make it to level 20. Only through repetition and pushing your abilities can you actually max out your subclass abilities/skills. Pretty much like certain MMORPGs. Furthermore, uncommon+ equipment will start to really push up three traits – Intellect, Discipline and/or Strength. Having increases in these traits will lower the cool down times of your skills, so you’ll want to equip armor that bumps up these stats regularly. Guns will level up to gain more damage, have less recoil, etc. Armor will level up to hold more ammo or reload guns faster.
Since outdoor maps are rather large, you’ll unlock a jet bike called a Sparrow to speed around rather quickly. That saves time, and you can bypass enemies you want to ignore later on (and you’ll want to ignore low level ones later on). While the maps are gorgeous and highly detailed enough that you feel like you’re actually there, they can get tedious after awhile. This is perhaps Destiny’s biggest downfall – every new zone (Earth, moon, Venus, etc.) starts you basically in the same place, meaning you’ll have to rehash a lot of territory to get to a specific spot for the mission. If you have to crawl around indoors, it takes a long time to do that. There’s no end to enemies – they respawn often in the same places, so you can’t stand around in a vacated area too long before they show up again. It’s not a bad flaw, but on the moon, there’s very little too look at before you feel the monotony of being there creep up on you. Luckily, you don’t have to stay there very long.
The main story of Destiny – told through a series of cut scenes and voice-overs – is involved and has you going to five main areas to accomplish missions. The music score is great, the graphics are out-of-this-world (pun intended). The only problem that some people have is the voice acting. Peter Dinklage as your personal Ghost seems to be the most disappointing, although he’s voice-acting a freaking floating A.I. Others include Bill Nighy, Claudia Black, Nate Fillion and Lance Reddick. They don’t have as much screen time, which is sad when you think about it. Dinklage is your primary compatriot throughout the entire game, and as some have said, he sounds like he’s furiously chewing the dialogue to pieces.
As you play, many things unlock for you, leaving you with no end to getting experience, Glimmer (the main currency) or loot. You’ll need to gain reputation with various factions to unlock new gear – for example, you’ll need to build up your reputation with the Vanguard (the head of the Guardians) to buy legendary weapons/armor. You’ll unlock the ability to take on bounties for additional experience and get those Vanguard points/marks. You’ll be able to participate in the Crucible, or player vs player. You can go on unlimited zone patrols, random missions given to you through green markers on the map.You can participate in Strike missions – long, stretched out missions through reserved areas to fight strong boss enemies for tons of loot, Glimmer and experience.
One fun thing you’ll notice is as you run around in each zone, you’ll see other players’ characters running around. You are only alone if you are doing a special mission area. Other than that, if you are running outside doing a patrol or if you go on a Strike mission, you will always have other players hanging around. Strike missions require a fire team (a group of three warriors), so if you aren’t in one, the game pairs you up with two random Guardians. If you feel nice, you can help kill enemies. Most of the time, other players help you, so it’s a nice touch to be able to interact.
** As of the weekend of September 13, Bungie has introduced weekly story and Strike missions, which boast higher loot drops but extremely high enemy levels. More of these kind of updates to come, possibly every week. **
Remember that level cap I spoke of? Well, the game doesn’t exactly end right there. The game continues, only now you’ll want to have your faction levels high enough to buy weapons with the Light aspect. With these weapons, you’ll gain Light experience, which will bump your Light level up, pushing above the normal level cap. Your level indicator will now be displayed to others in gold, so they know you’ve pushed past the regular limits of the game. You’ll unlock new epic and legendary equipment, and you’ll be able to play missions on Hard difficulty. It’s the ONLY way to participate in Weekly missions, so you’ll want to wait to get one or four Light levels before you go.
There’s also collectables. There’s one type for every zone, and when you collect 50, turn the material in for reputation (depending on who you give the material to). Remember reputation? Yeah, that’s one way to get it, although it takes A LOT of collectables. They don’t get any easier to collect, either, since they randomly spawn in a zone and you have to look around to find them.
You can also buy a lot of flashy things. New space ships, new Sparrow bikes, armor shaders, class armor, name plates. You just have to save up enough Glimmer, reach the right levels and have the reputation with certain factions. Customization up the wazoo, in other words. I think it makes the game more interesting, and it appeals to those who like to show off.
So is the game any good?
If you like HALO, first-person shooters, and/or MMORPGs, you’ll probably appreciate Destiny. There’s a lot to like – guns, special powers, cool equipment, beautiful scenery, wonderful music. You also have the customization aspect and the game adapts to your style of play. There’s plenty to do, with optional missions, patrols and Strikes. You’ll fight boss enemies and their minions.
However, if you don’t like first-person shooters or games like HALO in general, you will probably want to pass on Destiny. If you don’t like to play with other people, or do short grinds for reputation, or anything MMORPG, Destiny is not for you. You might appreciate the story and the graphics, but you’ll be frustrated by the need to aim and go for precision shots.
I can easily see Destiny being the Game of the Year, since it is immensely popular and meets the needs of a lot of action/FPS gamers. I can see a lot of people playing this game for a long, long time. If Bungie keeps updating it and giving us content, Destiny will push the boundaries of MMOs for years to come.
It’s also a HALO killer, in my opinion.
Here’s a few screen shots to close the review:
And, of course, SPOILERS!!!
May the Traveler be with you, always.
Nathan is a 40-ish year-old gamer, father and programmer. His hobbies are board games, video games and watching his son. He wrote for http://www.ironmanmode.com/ for the years of 2012 and 2013 to make money for Child’s Play. He has been basically playing games since the 1980’s in one form or another. His very first favorite video game was actually an arcade game called Dig Dug. He has played every generation of video game console (including the Magnavox Odyssey)