And here we have it, the single biggest hyped game of 2014, and for my brothers, it was the reason they both bought Xbox Ones. I promised them I would play with them, starting with this game, so of course reserved and picked it up myself. And now I’ve finally put my controller down as I have finished playing. So what did I think? Well, to be quite honest had I known what this game was going to be like, we would likely not all have Xbox Ones yet. This was simply not worth it.
Story: Mankind has become far more then we would hope for in our wildest dreams. In a few short decades, we traveled the stars, lived centuries, and began a new galactic civilization of peace and prosperity. This golden age was achieved with the assistance of something called “the Traveler” which one day flew to Earth and got everything in motion, earning it a home and a place of respect and gratitude from the human race.
Sadly, however, it’s work was not to last, as before it met mankind, the Traveler had made enemies among the stars, and the Darkness followed it to Earth. After the heights, there was the fall as mankind barely managed to survive the onslaught. Now all that remains of the entire civilization is a single spot on the Earth, directly beneath the now damaged Traveler, the only thing it can continue to protect.
But that is not to say the broken pieces are gone forever. In fact, it is believed that the Gaurdians exist because they contain pieces of the Traveler’s light, and as such, can help protect mankind where the Traveler no longer can. You are one of these Guardians, just found and lead back to the tower in the center of that last megacity the Traveler is protecting. Once there, you will find yourself traveling from Earth, to the Moon, and ultimately to Mars in your mission to help protect the Earth from alien threats who want nothing more then to wipe out the Traveller and all it’s allies (read you and the people of Earth) from the face of the Universe, claiming it in the name of Darkness forever more. I wish I had more to say about the story, but there are no real plot-twists and what’s there is exceptionally barebones. It is basically an opening to introduce you to the universe of Destiny with a small story to let you be a savior of the world before they start selling the rest of their design in the form of DLC expansions (the first two of which are already planned).
Simply put, if you came here for a fulfilling story, you came to the wrong game. Sorry.
Graphics: Destiny is an FPS game that was designed to run on both this and previous generation consoles. As a result, most players will probably not expect the game to take full advantage of what the XBox One can do. Still, I have to say this is one of the high-points of this game. Bungie flexes their technical knowhow in how to make a console game pretty and just enough of an other-worldly touch to impress you.
Nor does the game remain unvaried as you play. Each of the four worlds you will travel in your adventure carries it’s own feel in the form of abandoned cities, enemy bases, mines, and underground temples. Each of these themes will carry for about 5 story missions and a few side ones before you move on to the next location, allowing the theme to hold together, but be finished before it starts to feel detrimental for getting boring.
The enemies you will encounter, are sadly a bit less inspired. Throughout your journey, you will face off with 4 races of enemy, ranging from four armed aliens to robots to bulky space-marines. everything you face off with in this game feels like it is a little phoned in. They work for enemies, but they will at best fit the description of enemies to shoot at, while at worst clearly show they were inspired by other very well known science fiction franchises. Add to this there are at best four variants in any of these given “armies” which basically interchange between them and you have a rather lazy feeling set of villains for target-fodder.
Nor do the characters do too much better, yours or NPCs. When you start, you will all be given the choice to be one of three species: Humans, Exos, or Awakened, and depending on your choice, your head will either be human, blue-humans, or like it might look right one a Micheal Bay Transformers, but always it will be on the same generic human-looking bodies. The result of this design choice immediately makes your choice of species feel meaningless, ESPECIALLY as while in battle, you are wearing a helmet, removing even that minute element of choice in building your character at the beginning of the game. As for the NPCs, there are a few cool looking ones, but they are few and far between. In fact outside of the tower, you will literally have three NPCs you will encounter in total, none of which will spend enough time on screen or in game at all to have a chance to be memorable.
The end result are some rather great looking scenes, but very generic looking action you will quickly forget after you finish with the game.
Sound: Be ready for an orchestrated score designed to perfectly fit the moment the game is in, at least when it is in. This game does not always use background music, instead choosing to leave you to the silence of the world you are in, listening for the sounds of another’s footsteps or the garbled talking of one of the four enemy races you will encounter while playing.
That is not to say that there is no music, but most of it is reserved for when the fight is already on, complimenting the combat and setting the tone for the encounter, be it a random group of enemies you are attacking on the surface of whichever planet you are on or a battle scripted to occur for your current mission, or even as an audio clue as to how close you are to the end of it all. It won’t win any awards or stand out as amazing, but Bungie has certainly taken the lessons of “epic background” they learned while they made Halo games and put it to use here.
And actually, the sound effects are about impressive as the music is. Your guns sound about as to be expected, but things with a boom, tend to have a very nice meaty boom, be it enemy projectiles flying at you and exploding with enough base drown out everything else to your own machine gun’s “chunk-chunk-chunk” sound as you unload the full chain of ammo into some boss’ skull. It all fits together perfectly.
Sadly, the voice acting simply doesn’t match up to the rest, not so much because it’s bad as because it’s just about missing. For the most part the only voice you will hear is your ghost, a small floating intelligent machine that you will use to hack and to navigate to the next check-point while playing. He will basically talk to you at the beginning and the end of each mission with a few quips while investigating whatever he is looking into for good measure. Beyond that, you will have other characters talk in most of the cutscenes, the number of which you can count on one hand… for the ENTIRE GAME. And even then, their lines are few and time on screen relatively brief. You never really get to know or care about anyone in this game, making any skill in the voice work pretty much a waste.
Gameplay: Destiny is an odd hybridization of the FPS and MMORPG genres that somehow manages to flow together. You will spend your time in game alternating between the various missions available to you to play and going to town to collect rewards, buy weapons and armor, or picking bounties to take on/trade in once finished for extra experience points.
While in town, you will have access to a weapons shop, an armor shop, and a few other side shops that will open up or not depending on what you currently have available. This is also one of the times you will see anyone not in your party (or your fireteam as the game calls it) running around. Despite the MMO elements at this point, your ability to interact outside your party is exceptionally limited. You will be able to point to, wave at, dance with, or sit down with random people, but I have not found any ability to actually communicate or even trade be available to the players, pretty much eliminating the social side of these encounters. In fact, trading is not even available among the members of your party… ever, so even looking forward to this ability among complete strangers will leave you exceptionally disappointed.
When you and your team are suited up, it’s time to go to orbit, where you will be able to see your team’s ships and the leader of the team will pick your mission by selecting it on a map, and then it’s go-time and you will launch for one of several mission types.
If you are playing a story mission, you will get an opening description of the mission as you fly to the world it will take place in, after which you will land with your team in the public arena of the place. Here you will run through whatever is going on among your and any other teams running around until you reach the destination the locator pointed you to. At this point the game becomes a map only for your team as you complete the story mission, which usually involves travelling a distance through waves of enemies, one of you sending your ghost to investigate or activate a device while fighting off waves of enemies, and ultimately a boss encounter to end it and take you back to orbit.
If you choose a patrol mission, you will follow the formula described in the story mission up to the point where you are in the public arena. However once there you will now have several indicators pointing you to beacons around the map. When you get to one, they will give you mini-missions which will take place here and be designed to finish in 10-30 minutes for an experience boost. Once the mission is finished, you will also remain on the map with the option to go to orbit if you desire, or to find another to get more extra experience.
If you choose to go on a strike mission, the game will fill out any missing ranks to get a total of 3 players in the game before playing exactly like a story mission, complete with unique bosses to that story.
And finally there are vs missions which will set you in a team of 3 (filling out team by match-making like strike missions) against other players in several classic PvP modes for those who want to take on their friends and random strangers.
For all of these modes the actual combat is very smooth and practiced, as you would expect from the team who created one of the top franchises for the Xbox of all time. However, that is not to say it’s perfect. In all cases, the game can get repetitive pretty quick as the number of maps you will play on are fairly limited. It also has problems with balance, as you can not stand a chance in the games that adjust levels for balance without having a specific gun, and not even that matters if you are not one of the top levels in the modes like Scavenge where levels and gear do matter. But PvE especially hurts here.
The enemies are all generally the same with the ranks of each army being basically interchangeable with each other, and making matters worse it takes no length of time to being picking out paths enemies are programmed to travel, allowing you to fully exploit them to a point I haven’t really seen since playing F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate. It is actually so bad that I was able to beat the last boss encounters in the entire game by hiding in a corner his walk-paths would never go to, shoot up the wave of minions who would find me in a predictable pattern every time, go around the corner to where he would walk by, throw a grenade in his path, and return to my hidy-hole to rinse and repeat. The minions surprised me twice over the entire encounter and victory was basically assured.
And before that for most of boss and enemy wave encounters I was able to find a place where the enemy simply would not come, allowing me to once again take advantage of paths programmed into my enemies to basically walk through them unscarred.
Bugs: For the most part, this game ran well. However, the game has a nasty habit of disconnecting at random times. For me, this occurred several times the first day I played (the day after launch), but happened a few times over the next few weeks as well. When these disconnects occur, your session ends as the game must be online to play, so you need to be aware of this possibility of it happening.
Overall: While Destiny clearly has solid shooting mechanics working through the game as well as some absolutely stunning visuals from time to time, that is about all this game has going for it. It tries to be an MMO but completely abandons the social elements an MMO needs to survive. It also tries to be an FPS, but relies too heavily on a few basic personality types for the enemies and blatant paths in the maps for the enemies to follow, making for an incredibly predictable combat experience. This leaves only the vs game, which can be quickly become pointless due to terrible level matching. In short, the game has the makings of something amazing, but there is just way too much done wrong for the game to live up to it. I would not recommend picking this game up until it either improves via updates or at the very least drops to $20 in a sale or the bargain bin.