I’m going to preface this with one thing: I love grindy games. Love them. I enjoy Monster Hunter because every time I fight the same monster many, many times over just in order to get that one special item in order to make that special armor or weapon, it feels worth it. Many of my friends, unsurprisingly, dislike this.
Enter Destiny. Back when it was first announced, I was excited. Any time I saw it brought up, though, I kept hearing gross comparisons. “It’s the next Halo!” “It’s Bungie’s ultimate take on the MMO!” “It will become the game all other shooters work towards becoming!” Time for a reality check, though. It isn’t all that, but it’s still a great time for a person like me who enjoys a long-winded grind.
Destiny is a First-Person Shooter, RPG, and MMO. In that particular order of relevance to the actual gameplay. Destiny focuses more on being a shooter and less on every other definitive aspect it has. More on that later.
The controls are tight and firm, much like Bungie’s other works. As it stands so far, you actually feel like you have complete control over where you aim and how freely you can aim at specific parts of an enemy, although you might have to fight the oddly unchangable aim assist. You’ll have various other control schemes, along with the ability to switch your aiming and firing buttons from the triggers to the shoulder buttons. You can even peek out from cover automatically when near a low-wall.
The gunplay is similar to that of modern shooters. You have a sight aim (ADS) button in Destiny, which is actually necessary to fully utilize your wide span of varying weapon stats. You’ll have four types of primary weapons, three types of special weapons, and two heavy weapons. In the primary weapon slot, you’ll be able to use things like single-shot (Scout Rifles), automatic (Auto Rifles), and burst rifles (Pulse Rifles). You also have Hand Cannons, a revolver-type weapon. Among the rest of the list are sniper rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, machine guns, and Fusion Rifles, a new weapon type that charges and blasts a spray of energy at your target.
Each weapon has a different feel and use in different situations; but it all depends on your preference of gameplay. However, this usually changes in the PvP, but more on that later. Along with weapon types, you also have damage types. Kinetic, Arc, Void, and Solar. The damage types don’t change anything except dealing more damage to a shield type of the same color, as well as being important for mission modifiers.
The character customization is decent fare for an RPG, although not to the scale of a Bethesda RPG. The character you build will not affect your overall stats, but will have a specific voice based on race and gender, and will be represented in the game’s hub area and in story cutscenes.
The RPG elements of Destiny are lackluster, at best. More often than not, all you unlock are versatility options for your character and weapon upgrades with the experience you obtain through completing challenges and Bounties. You don’t necessarily upgrade your stats, like Diablo, but you can improve various stats through the equipment you wear and the weapons you have. From improved reload speed for various weapons or increased grenade throw distance, the options are there, hidden behind random drop elements.
The RNG of Destiny is one of the stranger notes of the game. Currently, some of these random things have been fixed, like improved rate of Engram drops matching the color of the Engram you got. Engrams are basically encrypted blueprints for weapons; like a grab bag, you send them into the Cryptarch and get a random item based on the engram type. Rarity of items range from common (white) to Exotic (yellow). The higher level you are, the more rare your items can get and what items you can obtain from them.
Along with this, you can gain ranks in various groups to obtain special gear, including weapons and armor. The Bounties, as mentioned before, give both experience and “reputation,” an experience type meant for increasing these ranks. Each group gives different gear, an can even sell other things besides weapons and armor, like Sparrows.
Sparrows are one of the only three vehicles available in the game. However, Sparrows are player-specific and can be upgraded or customized in various ways, although you sadly won’t get much in the form of customization. The other vehicles, Pikes and Interceptors, are only found primarily in-mission or in the PvP.
To elaborate on PvP more, there are over a dozen maps available for various game modes in the Crucible. From Control (a Domination-like mode), to Skirmish (a deathmatch mode), you’ll be satisfied with the competitive multiplayer. As it stands right now, however, you will always need an Auto Rifle or a Pulse Rifle. Since all weapons deal the same damage, those two weapons are the most reliable.
I was sadly disappointed in the variety of weapon styles. Although there are nine weapon types, you’ll always reliably know what all of them do. It would be nice if there was just a generalized weapon class, which would allow a more expanded weapon roster. We get revolvers, but curiously we don’t get handguns, for a brief example. Instead, we just get the same weapon with a slightly different look.
Moving onto the overall length of game, it will take about 12 hours to beat the game. However, the story is not anything you should write home about. It’s good, but not excellent. As it is represented in the game, it’s almost baseless, but combined with the various Grimoire Cards you collect in the game, you’ll find a world with rich lore. Sadly, you cannot find these Grimoire Cards in the game; you have to read them on the website, or on the Companion App.
Yes, Destiny is always online. Which is perfectly fine in my books, but you should expect connectivity issues based on your connection. As you progress through the game, you can track it on Bungie’s website with very well-kept stats varying in different ways. This also means that stores in the Tower will constantly rotate what stock they have, and in some instances, will have events occur.
These events are things called “Public Events.” Whenever these events happen, you have the option to join in or keep going on your way. If you choose to join, you’ll join with a few other players who also joined the event, and together you will do various objectives like defending an object, defeating a specific enemy, or killing waves of enemies to prevent a Glimmer mine.
There are roughly 20 missions in Destiny, spanning four main planets. Each planet has story missions, a Patrol mission, and a Strike mission. Patrol missions are free-roaming missions without any primary objective. You can explore the area of the world as much as you please without a time limit, occasionally picking up beacons that give you simple, easy missions like scouting an area (standing in a specific spot) or killing ‘X’ amount of enemies.
Strike missions are co-op driven missions that are similar to story missions, except that each mission has a boss at the end. I use the term ‘boss’ loosely, but they’re more challenging than the occasional super enemy you fight in the story missions themselves. Every mission is replayable at any time after unlocking and beating it, but be warned, cutscenes are unskippable at the time of this review.
The worlds are beautifully crafted and designed in unique and creative ways. The land feels natural and real, like the places we see in the game could very well be real places. There are plenty of nooks and crannies that you can explore that can occasionally lead to hidden secrets and collectables, and once you’re done exploring, you can easily find your way back out.
With that, each planet has a specific race devoted to their land. Fallen dominate Earth, while the Hive dominates the Moon. The Vex rule over Venus, and the Cabal-militarized Mars. Each enemy has a specific way to defeat them. Most will go down easily with headshots, but the more you progress, the more they’ll start having extra equipment, like shields or weapons that deal extreme damage. You can quickly learn how each enemy works, but there’s enough variety in the enemy types that you won’t feel bored killing them by the hundreds.
After you’ve beaten the game, you’ll probably ask yourself “now what?” Well, now you’ve begun the true focus of this game: The post-game. From here, you get your character setup in as much of the best gear as you possibly can. This, naturally, means you will be grinding for a very long time. As of this review, I’ve put 80+ hours into the game, and roughly 75% of that is devoted to the post-game. You will grind a lot, you will play the same missions repeatedly like a broken record, and you will love it; that is, if you love grinding.
That’s where the main point of this game is. It’s a game where you will need to devote most of your time grinding. If you don’t like grindy games, like Monster Hunter, then avoid this game at all costs. The story alone is not going to save this game for anyone, but to the devoted out there, don’t let the story deter you from an outright enjoyable and great game.
The graphics are excellent, from current-gen (PS3/Xbox 360) to next-gen (PS4/Xbox One). The worlds are gorgeous and filled with their own life. Earth is filled with desolate facilities and rocky landscapes, filled with wreckage of destroyed airplanes and rockets. While the Moon is mostly untamed with uneven terrain and deep crevasses that lead to the Hellmouth, a massive, almost dungeon-like area that the Hive rule over.
The lighting is beautifully done (even though this causes a bit of issue with the shadows on current-gen consoles, keep in mind that this game was developed for next-gen consoles), and perfectly sets the mood for each area. Dimly lit monitors and glowsticks faintly light a small room, while the sun shines shafts of light through the fine details of your rifle as you reload it.
The detail in the levels is brought to an insane amount. There was never a time where I thought some place felt exactly the same as another, and that is an accomplishment. Even the weapons (although lackluster in overall design) are beautifully crafted. They even put minute details into things that people may only notice once or twice in their time playing (like weapon lowering). Most of the details you see are actually almost matched to the concept art; high detail, without losing most of the major landmarks.
Sadly, one of my biggest negatives to this is that the amount of diversity in overall armor and design is lackluster, at best. The moment you leave the opening mission and have your Khvostov in hand, you’ll trade it in to get one of the many similar-looking weapons, only having a few different traits ranging from ammo indicators to chinrests and grips, instead of having different designs over different weapon manufacturers.
The same weight sadly falls on the armor pieces, which change very slightly in design, but still have an overall default style. This is, of course, omitting the Exotic weapons and armor, which have very distinct designs. It’s just a shame they couldn’t have perhaps randomized the designs for each drop, so you’ll never get the exact same helmet every time you pick up a Chroma Vow III.
The music is intense and beautiful, while keeping a solid theme unique to the planets and enemies you will face. It mixes various themes including rock, techno, and even orchestral, to a fine degree that merges incredibly well on all dynamics. Martin ‘O Donnell did a fine job writing the music, along with the other composers for this project. The song played in the credits was made by Paul McCartney, and is a fine treat.
The sound quality is really great, as well. Every weapon has an identity in their sounds, from the sound of a gunshot to the beeps and “tweens” you hear whenever you insert a new magazine into the weapon. Even the atmospheric sounds you occasionally hear are finely tuned for the environments; including the blast echo from a weapon being fired has a delay at a distance.
The voice acting, although ridiculed by many, is fine. The famous cast of actors is not something I focused on while playing Destiny, although the quality of how they spoke and really emerged from the character’s personality is akin to that of Halo: Combat Evolved; baseless, almost muted in comparison to traditional speaking. It’s passable enough that it sounds like they weren’t just reading down the script, but it’s almost restricted like they weren’t given much direction over how they should act.
This is apparent in the few characters you’ll meet, where you can clearly tell they were talking just naturally; almost like a commentator would speak. Understandable, yet undefinable; that’s what I believe draws the voice acting back. The characters weren’t given enough screen time to be given a personality, and the overall quality of the voices suffers due to this. If there were more scenes where they were able to better shape themselves, then this wouldn’t be a negative, but sadly that’s where the voice acting falls; it suffers from the status of a first-game cast in a world that isn’t yet fully established with characters that didn’t get a chance to establish themselves as characters, and that’s a shame.