Release Date: September 9, 2014 Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox 360, PS4, PS3Developer: BungiePublisher: ActivisionGenre: MMOFPS
Editor’s Note: In reality, this is the 3rd part of our long review of Destiny. You should also read our early impressions and our analysis of one of Destiny‘s biggest problems to get our complete thoughts on the game.
I feel like my life has been consumed by Destiny for the past two weeks, because a) I’ve spent countles hours analyzing every aspect of the game for this review, and b) it is a really fun and addictive shooter. I’m not sure I’ve felt such a big need to blow up aliens and take on PvP since Halo 3. The combat flows smoothly, as you switch between guns, grenades, and melee — a formula Bungie mastered for consoles back in 2001 — and the varied enemies are interesting, even if they do turn out to be bullet sponges by the end.
In terms of presentation, Destiny is probably the most beautiful game I’ve played on next-gen consoles so far. The locations are incredibly detailed, with not even a hint of pop-in. The worlds, for the most part, are full of green and red and yellow and purplish shades that really bring places like terraformed Venus to life. Mars doesn’t look too shabby, either. And when you’re on the Moon, things look gray on the surface, but the tunnels below that lead to The Hive are easily the most memorable in the game.
Destiny does have a couple of problems that, while not crippling, do affect the overall experience. I’ve outlined pretty much all of my issues with the game in the articles linked above, so I won’t reiterate too much. I’ll just summarize them by saying that Bungie didn’t quite succeed in communicating the experience to gamers. The story, the way the leveling system works, the inventory, how to proceed to get better items from the cryptarch or various other leaders in the game…It is all sort of left to the player to fill in the blanks. After leveling and finishing the main story, I’m still not sure what the game is about or why I followed Peter Dinklage around to Russia, the Moon, Mars, and Venus. Or what all that business with Queen Lady Gaga in The Reef was about. I kind of just followed the Ghost around and let it scan things whenever it felt like doing so. But again, at least the shooting is a lot of fun.
The MMO component doesn’t quite click with me, even though it feels like the component that was meant to make this game innovative. Besides being an always co-op game — really, this just means that it’s super easy for your friends to jump into your game and help you out — I’m not sure where the MMO went. I mean, wasn’t Halo a completely co-op exerpience?
Players can’t really do much with other players in the Tower, what might as well be Destiny‘s overworld, besides dance with each other, wave, and point. You can’t trade or sell items to each other, or really do anything else. Maybe you can find a nice lad who will join your fireteam, though. That’s something.
Luckily, this is also an MMO with a 10-year planned lifespan. With what I’ve played so far, my elation with the things that do work in Destiny, I expect to be singing praises about the game in the next few months/years. And so far, Bungie is right in saying that the REAL game doesn’t start until you level cap and unlock all there is to do in Destiny. After you’ve spent some time on the (admittedly bogus) story, which shouldn’t really take you more than 10 hours, start playing the Strikes, Vanguard and Heroic missions, and PvP.
After playing through the aforementioned modes, it’s clear to me that Destiny is at its best when it makes you team up with others. Even the story missions, which seem to suggest an intimate experience, are kind of boring when tried solo. The Strikes and Vanguard missions are exciting, filled with explosive moments of action, boss fights, and little need for exposition. This is one time when you don’t really have to focus on what’s going on. “There’s a thing shooting at you. Shoot it back! There’s an even BIGGER thing shooting at you. Shoot it some more!” That’s basically it. With little to no interaction with the plot, these are the game’s best PvE moments.
You’ll need to complete the Vanguard and Heroic missions to really have a standing chance to get the legendary equipment necessary to level past 20 — this is a whole other business that I can barely really get into because it’s so convoluted that it takes several FAQs to figure out. Basically, once you rank up to 20, you can acquire special legendary armor that contain “light points.” The more light you acquire, the more super duper leveled up you get. If you want to try that fancy new raid that took 14 hours for the first team to beat, you’ll definitely need to focus on getting those light points. I wouldn’t even bother trying the raid until you’re at least level 26. Again, Bungie doesn’t really communicate all this very well, so you’re pretty much left to piece it together yourself. Once you get the hang of it, though, you’re in a whole other ball game. This is really where Destiny‘s big looting component comes in. It opens up HOURS of grinding.
But to move past all that technical mumbo jumbo that I don’t really like about MMOs — am I playing a game or am I filling out my taxes — let’s talk about PvP. Destiny‘s PvP makes me cry nostalgia for the days of Halo 3. It was the last time I felt that a FPS multiplayer mode really clicked for me. This was before killstreaks and drone strikes and wager matches and jetpacks and all that other fancy stuff took over the scene. Halo 3 offered the basics: guns, grenades, and melee on interesting maps with diverse weapons. Sure, there was the occasional bubble shield, but even that felt dynamic and didn’t really create the feeling that multiplayer was getting too overwhelmed with new and unnecessary features. That was the last time I really felt passionate about FPS PvP.
Until right f***ing now. Destiny‘s PvP mode is excellent. Its simplistic approach to shooting other players in the face is refreshing. No mechs, barely any vehicles — although that will change with the upcoming Combined Arms multiplayer playlist — or killstreaks to really distract you from the task at hand. The PvP feels exciting and dynamic. The ability to double jump, glide in the air, slide into cover, and throw knives at people on the run during a firefight lends the game the fast-paced rhythm you might remember from earlier Halo games.
My only qualm with the multiplayer is the lack of more diversified maps. If you’re into sniping, there are really only one or two maps where that really even is an option, unless you want to be turned into swiss cheese, of course. Not that there are many maps to begin with. Made up of mostly small to medium maps, Bungie could do more to diversify the playing field. Or at least give players a chance to tweak them a little.
Honestly, I do really miss Forge mode. It seemed like the bread and butter of Bungie’s past multiplayer modes, and I can’t help but feel that there is a gaping hole left in its absence. It was the closest consoles got to giving PC modders the finger. Of course, Bungie might still add in the map editor at a later date.
You might notice that I keep comparing the game to Halo, a topic I’ve discussed at length in the pieces linked above. Whether you think it unfair or not, so much of what works in Destiny is due to its predecessor. The shooting beckons Halo as its forefather and champion. And that’s not terrible.
Yes, Destiny is absolutely lacking in the identity department. I’m pretty sure it’s still trying to figure itself out; and no, it isn’t the game-changing, show-stopping, innovative FPS experience so many of us fans were expecting, but it is a solid shooter for those who love Bungie’s past games. I’m not going to kick and scream because Destiny didn’t completely reinvent the wheel. If it’s anywhere as close to good as the original Halo, I’ll take it. Bungie’s newest is not far off. And I think things will only get better.
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