The wait is finally over. Bungie’s highly anticipated game, Destiny, has been available for almost one full week. The game reportedly pulled in $500 million on it’s first day available, and I myself have spent countless hours playing the game since launch day. But does Destiny live up to the hype? Can Bungie deliver a great game that isn’t Halo? The short answer: yes. They absolutely can. Destiny is a fantastic experience that you won’t want to miss.
To give you an idea, when Destiny launched, I was third in line at midnight. I got home and put my copy in the PS4, got my fireteam organised and set out to explore the vast world that Bungie has created. I played close to 17 hours straight, with a one hour power nap thrown in the middle. Destiny is fun, and addictive as hell.
If you visit our site, you are most likely a fan of your single player experiences. With Destiny being so heavily touted as a multiplayer game, you’re probably wondering if Destiny is worth it for those who dislike playing online with others. Luckily, it is. You can explore the Tower (the central hub of the game), accumulate great gear and level up your character, and of course play through the story missions, all without interacting with another person. Because Destiny is all a shared world, you will have to be signed in to the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live to play, and you will run in to other players, but whether or not you interact with them is 100 percent up to you.
With that said, the definitive Destiny experience is found while playing with others. Some missions, especially the strike missions and even some campaign missions, are hard. I mean really hard. You will save yourself hours of frustration if you coordinate your attacks with a team, and the feeling of success when your team successfully completes a strike and earns some great gear is amazing. The upcoming “raid” missions are also built for cooperative gameplay. You have to do them with five people on your PSN or Xbox Live friends lists, you cannot do them alone or be matched up with random players. Destiny was designed to be a social experience, so the more time you spend playing with friends is the more time you will sped having fun.
The story is, without a doubt, the weakest part of Destiny. There aren’t characters you’ll care about or grow attached to, nor is there a compelling narrative to follow. The story really just seems like it’s there to give you a reason to go and kill more stuff. If you are interested in story-driven games such as The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, or even Bungie’s previous franchise Halo, you’ll be disappointed here. The story is only 6-12 hours long, so you wont be busy for too long if that is your only interest with Destiny.
A few of the characters are interesting and there are some engaging interactions between them, but most of the story is relayed to you by your Ghost as he explains why you’ll be killing everything in sight at your next destination. Nothing ground-breaking here.
If you want to know more about the various races and locations in Destiny, you can access “Grimoire Cards” that you have unlocked that provide some interesting lore for Bungie’s world, similar to codex and journal entries that you find in other RPG’s. They’re interesting to read and add context to what you’re doing, so they’re a welcome addition. If you aren’t into reading, a lot of this is information that you’ll miss however.
I played Destiny on PlayStation 4, and it is drop-dead gorgeous. The draw distances are huge, the environments are detailed and gorgeous, and the character models look great. The amount of time that Bungie spent developing their first foray into current-gen consoles shows clearly. If you’re a sucker for pretty particle effects, realistic lighting and graphics astound you, Destiny is already a game for you.
From the lush forests on Venus, to the cratered surface of the Moon, to the vast deserts on Mars, all of the environments are stunning, especially when you set foot on the respective planet for the first time. I can’t begin to imagine how much time and effort goes into making a game look this truly stunning.
On current-gen consoles, Destiny runs at a stable 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best looking games on current-gen consoles, and Bungie should be commended for the attention-to-detail and effort that obviously went into making Destiny a great looking game.
The gameplay is, without any ounce of doubt, where Destiny truly excels. The gunplay is fast, frantic, and tight. I can’t remember the last time I played a first person shooter that handled this well, and Bungie’s commitment to the gameplay should be commended. It’s to be expected from the studio that brought us Halo, and it’s good to say that Bungie brought their A-Game in this regard.
Most of the game is played in first person as you fight off waves of enemies and bosses on your way to objectives, just like nearly every first person shooter, but it manages to, for the most part, feel fresh by throwing new enemy types at you and giving you a few special gameplay elements in some missions (I won’t spoil those here). You can also free-roam each planet to search for hidden locations such as cave networks for loot.
There are multiple vehicles you can commandeer in the game, all of which are driven in third person view. These vehicles provide an advantage against advancing enemies, and handle fantastically. There were a few times I nudged a rock while speeding around a corner and rolled off my speeder bike, but for the most part the vehicles handle like a dream.
While you are exploring the Tower, the social hub of the game where you buy new weapons, armour and bounties, you are entirely in third person. This is a welcome addition as you can see the armour you have acquired through you hard work out in the universe, as well as find other players to get a dance party started. The random encounters on the Tower are actually a lot of fun and a random distraction. Playing a game of soccer with the ball or starting a dance party gives you a break from exploring while also providing some hilarity.
Among all of this, is the leveling system. From levels 1-20, you will level up by earning experience from kills, missions and bounties. Once you hit level 20, the only way to level further is by earning gear that contains “light.” This rare gear will give you added defense as well as leveling you up, but can also be quite hard to find. This means that if you want to keep leveling up, you should be prepared for some serious grinding.
One gripe with the gameplay is noticeable, however. While some missions give you some great variety, too many rely on running to a point, deploying your Ghost to hack a door open, and defending said Ghost’s decryption attempt. These missions are still fun, but noticeably repetitive.
You may have seen the controversy on the internet some months ago about Martin O’Donnel’s firing from Bungie. He was the man who composed the music for the Halo series, and now Destiny. While we don’t, and likely never will, know the full details behind his firing, we do know one thing. His music remained in the game and it is outstanding. The man is truly one of the most talented composers around, and Destiny is all the better for it.
The fast-paced guitar riffs while you defend yourself against a horde of enemies adds to the tension, and the slower-paced music pieces add to the sense of wonder and immersion when you discover a new environment. Even riding your Sparrow (your speeder-bike) through the environments while listening to the beautiful music play in the background is a joy. In games, movies, and TV shows, good music adds to the experience in a positive way, and often evokes a sense of feeling from the player/watcher. Destiny excels in this regard. O’Donnel and the rest of the composing team and Bungie hit this one right out of the park.
For those of you who enjoy dabbling in the world of competitive multiplayer, stop reading this review and buy Destiny right now. I play Call of Duty and a bit of Battlefield and other FPS multiplayer games, but none of them have ever stood out to me like “The Crucible” in Destiny. There are five game modes, which range from team deathmatch to domination to free-for-all and more. I’ve spent a lot of time in The Crucible and, other than the occasional game where I get destroyed, I’ve had a blast. The maps are varied and provide a lot of opportunity for close and long range encounters, as well as ample opportunity for flanking and other team tactics.
However, there is a certain question that needs to be answered, because in the past few weeks I’m sure you’ve seen discussions about a supposed lack of content in Destiny. The good news is that Destiny is packed full with content, with more to come in the near future. If you’re just in it for the story, then you will definitely have a much shorter experience. The story is only between 6-12 hours long.
However, if you beat the story, play all of the strikes, patrol the planets and explore hidden areas for loot, play in The Crucible and participate in the upcoming raids, you will absolutely be spoiled for content to delve into. For the price, Destiny provides a serious amount of content, and Bungie have said that free and paid extra content will be incoming, starting this week with the first raid. I can’t overstate it – players are spoiled for things to do in Destiny.
It took me a long time to articulate my feelings about this game into a review, mainly because Destiny is a game that is going to continue to evolve over time. Content will be added, new players will join the world, and Bungie will continue to tweak the game to make the user experience better. I decided to score based on how the game is right now, because a review reflects a the quality of a game at the time of writing. As excited as I am for raids and expansions, I can’t take into account what I think will be good.
What you need to take away from this review is that Destiny is a game that requires your time and attention. If you have the means, go out and buy this game. Yes, it has shortcomings in terms of the story and occasional repetitiveness, but these do little to hamper the fun when you are taking out waves of challenging enemies to a killer soundtrack, exploring gorgeous planets and destroying other players in The Crucible. Bungie have laid the foundation for what could become a game-changing shooter experience. The future of Bungie, and Destiny, is a bright one. Now get out there, and Become Legend.
PS4 review copy provided by Activision for review.