‘Destiny’ Review

If you listen to our podcast at all, you know that at one point I was skeptical of ‘Destiny’, and then bought it and remained confused by the product package. Let’s list what we’re looking at here. Sci-fi, Bungie, shooter, MMO, RPG, everything you ever dreamed of, and the best game of 2014 award it was probably given by multiple news outlets in January. It’s kind of all of those things (except for the last two), but never really a pure expression of any of them. ‘Destiny’ could be described as many things, but most of all it is a business man’s effort to appeal to all markets and that fact infects an otherwise brilliant idea.

So I came to ‘Destiny’ with open arms. While many times I desire games to be bad, often for reasons I couldn’t explain except for with mild chemical imbalance and poor dietary habits, I was truly hoping ‘Destiny’ would surprise me. ‘Destiny’ has plenty of features I enjoy as I love loot-driven games (‘Torchlight’, ‘Diablo’, ‘Borderlands’), certain shooters (‘Fallout’, ,Mass Effect’, ‘Team Fortress’), and MMOs (‘EVE’, ‘Guild Wars 2’). Combining elements of those games into one experience doesn’t seem like a bad idea on the surface, especially when you’re talking about a major developer like Bungie.

Unfortunately Bungie missed the mark on this one. Combining elements from complex and disparate genres while keeping something consumable for the mass market is difficult. I understand what they were going for. They sat in a room and discussed what people like. They figured out shooters, progression, social elements, and multiplayer are important because the graph the analytics department brought into the meeting room said so. So ‘Destiny’ is a weird amalgamation of mediocre elements from those games. Unfortunately, it makes for a sub-par package that’s far from compelling. It’s like George Carlin and Larry “The Cable Guy” combine to make one comedian that isn’t particularly appealing to any audience.

 

Everything in ‘Destiny’ feels half-baked. None of the systems are impressive on their own and when combining so many disparate and mediocre systems, it makes for a poor game. Let’s forget the story, because I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what Bungie wanted us to do and I’m sure you’ve already read how much of a throwaway story it is. They aren’t lying. It truly is that bad. Let’s forget Peter Dinkledge’s abhorrently bored take on the Ghost companion, where he seems to want to be doing anything else but reading such brilliant lines as “They’re Coming!” or “I have to work on this here Kajigger, so you’ll have to fight off waves of enemies again and although you’ve done this in the past five missions, I have to ask you to do it again.” Instead let’s look at the MMO and Mission elements.

The missions are really where ‘Destiny’ fell short. A mission-driven MMO needs to be riveting in one way or another. I kid you not when I say every single mission in ‘Destiny’ might as well have been the exact same mission. Here’s the structure:

  1. Go to location
  2. Shoot guys
  3. Find MacGuffin
  4. Shoot more guys
  5. Find other part of MacGuffin
  6. Hold off enemies while Ghost hacks system
  7. Boss Appears
  8. Mission End

Missions differed from that, but only inso far as they may just have you fight the enemies before you find that second Mcguffin. Pepper that in with a total lack of intriguing story and you have a boring loot grind. I don’t think the fact that the shooting is solid means that horrendously trite mission structure should be forgiven. Any effort to mix up the type of mission would have been welcome, but the first 20 hours of ‘Destiny’ are a totally lifeless slog.

The only thing that kept me going through the boredom and repetition were some minor incentives to keep playing. The bounty system is rewarding if you’re not in the mood to grind through the meaningless side missions. Upgrading individual guns can also be a nice way of cutting up ‘Destiny’. Unfortunately, character progression and loot drops are underwhelming. Character progression especially feels like it missed the mark the most.

[youtube http://youtu.be/jv7vqCmt6wY]

In ‘Destiny’ you level your character as the game progresses and gain more powerful abilities. I played the Titan class and could ground pound my enemies with my special and tank up more damage than normal. Unfortunately, so can every other Titan, because there is no ownership in the leveling system. Bungie made an effort to streamline every system in ‘Destiny’, but with that streamlining all sense of character building is gone. You will find yourself wondering why the only changes to your character that you can make are small changes to grenade type, punching guys differently, or a minor adjustment that will either increase one stat to decrease another or vice-versa. I was not an individual in the world of ‘Destiny’, I was just a throwaway Titan who could easily be mistaken for any other Titan. Bungie may have been trying to streamline ‘Destiny’, but they took away one of the best aspects of an RPG. My character needs to be my character.

In all fairness the shooting feels really good. Guns fire nicely and recoil and general power levels are nice. The act of running around and gunning down enemies is probably the best aspect of the game. Likely, because that’s what Bungie does well and always has done well. The shooting is one of the better aspects of the game and as far as actual mechanics go Bungie has a fine basis for a fun game in ‘Destiny’. Bungie nailed it on the smaller elements of control. The jump jets are pretty cool and a variety of guns and grenades all have a relatively good feel to them. Finally, when I run and press  the duck button my character slides into cover. These small details make for fluid movements and enjoyable controls.

For full disclosure I did play this game over 20 hours and made sure to hit the level cap of 20. I then re-entered the universe to see what else ‘Destiny’ had to offer. There are daily “heroic” strikes and missions which allow the player to collect additional types of currency to pick up advanced gear. Unfortunately, these are just carbon copies of missions and strikes you probably already completed and there is little to no new content in any of these missions other than new drops and higher rewards. But I feel no motivation to go back and do these because the multiplayer in ‘Destiny’ is seriously disappointing.

I’ve never been much of an online shooter fan unless we’re talking ‘Socom 2’, ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’, or ‘Battlefield 3’. I found great enjoyment in those games. I do not even remotely enjoy the set-up of ‘Destiny’s’ online multiplayer. The maps are weirdly designed with little room for inventiveness or strategy. I just got really bored regardless of what map or what mode I was playing. I think I would have had more fun if I felt as though my character was something I created, but, as I stated before, that was not the case. I think people could easily enjoy the ‘Destiny’ multiplayer modes, but I’ve been over online shooters like this for far too long.

Let’s say, however, that you are way into ‘Destiny’ as a multiplayer game. If that’s true, then by all means this may be something you get hopelessly addicted to. I can imagine wanting better gear because I want to get better at killing dudes in the Crucible. If that was the case, I’d probably spend mindless hours loot grinding through the same horrible missions over and over again. You can unconsciously do this with little to no effort and that may make ‘Destiny’ totally viable to a certain crowd. Me upgrading my gear however, would be like me working in a coal mill for a year so I could buy and enjoy an Ouya. Perhaps if these daily tasks weren’t obscenely droll then I would be happy to take part. But they aren’t and I am not happy to take part.

In My Opinion ‘Destiny’ is a fine shooter with a bunch of systems which simply missed the mark. I don’t often find myself disappointed by a game in the way I was disappointed by ‘Destiny’ and Bungie. If this was just another shooter, with a no name developer backing it, and without the immense potential of ‘Destiny’, it would have just been another bad game. Instead ‘Destiny’ feels like a game with poorly thought out systems that fell short at just about every single step. If Bungie had gone further, taken more risks, and fully developed these systems we may have been looking at the next iteration of the first person shooter. This could have been what ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’ was, but it just ends up being a blip on the radar, a player who never realized his full potential, a game that yearns to be interesting.

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