Destiny (PS4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360)
Genre(s): First Person Shooter, RPG, Shared World Shooter
Release Date: September 9, 2014
ESRB Rating: T – Teen
It’s been three weeks since Destiny released, and after over 85 hours of gameplay, I’m finally ready to deliver my verdict on the game as it stands now.
This review is based on a purchased digital copy for PS4 with over 85 hours logged in my main character (I also have two other low level characters going). As of this writing, I’m level 28 with a maxed out Gunslinger well on my way to finally maxing out Bladedancer while grinding to level 29. I’ve done everything the game has to offer at the moment except the raid, and that’s a continuous playing time issue for me as of now. I will get to it though, soon.
If you’ve followed this site for a while you’d know that I was as excited for Destiny as I think one could possibly have been. It had been my most anticipated game since E3 2013. I loved the alpha and I loved the beta even more. As someone who was super excited for Destiny and loved the time spent with the game in its alpha/beta state, am I happy with my $60 purchase and time spent thus far? Absolutely.
I’ve read other reviews, and I’m kinda at a loss. Destiny personally met my expectations. The alpha I thought gave a good small taste of the experience, while the beta opened up the entirety of the early game by giving away Earth and the story missions on it (even one mission on the moon for a few hours). I’m really not sure what folks were expecting, or why the were expecting it if they played the beta, but Destiny has delivered in every way I expected it to.
One of the biggest complaints leveled at the game is the story, and with that I can agree. The story is a barely held together mess of a narrative that I can’t honestly remember much of at all despite seeing/hearing the same cut-scenes and narrative plenty of times. It doesn’t make much sense at all and is short enough to beat in much less than a day. Having seen the entirety of the Earth stories in the beta, I’m really not sure why anyone would have been expecting some grand campaign out of this game going into it. It’s a co-op shooter where you can replay any mission at will with large public spaces where other folks are running around shooting things. Nothing about its premise screamed “great campaign.” Mass Effect it isn’t.
Another widespread complaint online about Destiny is that its repetitive. Okay, it absolutely is. What game that does super well isn’t? Call of Duty is repetitive. Grand Theft Auto is repetitive. Uncharted is repetitive. Assassin’s Creed is repetitive. Super Mario is repetitive. The majority of games are. It is a shooter… you shoot things. When you’re not shooting things, you can joyride on your sparrow or dance with a stranger.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen people complain about shooting the same enemies in the same spot over and over again. Okay? It is a shared world shooter. Enemies respawn in the same area pretty quickly if you kill all of the ones in the area and get just a little bit away from it. I don’t really see how that’s a bad thing. After all, if enemies didn’t re-spawn as quick as they do, low level players would have a hard time finding grunts to kill to level up on their way to a mission… The higher level players would be running around killing them all trying to complete a bounty or a patrol mission to gain faction reputation. It’s the MMO aspect of the game; there always has to be enemies in the same area otherwise it doesn’t really work as well. And those who complain about this like it is a bad thing would be complaining if it were the opposite and they had to travel to find a few enemies to complete a patrol or bounty.
Bungie has said that Destiny doesn’t begin until you hit level 20, and then it becomes a different game. That’s not really true. It never becomes a different game (and why/how would it?). It becomes a grind; you’re still going to be doing the same stuff. Sure, you’ll open up harder strike playlists, harder daily and weekly missions/strikes, and of course the raid at level 26 (which does offer up some different gameplay mechanics than what is seen anywhere else in the game). But largely, you’re just going to be playing a mission or strike you’ve already played on a harder difficulty to try and grind for gear or material. You’ll shoot at a cave to farm engrams. You’ll run loops around various zones on planets farming material you need to upgrade gear. You’ll do bounties and lots of patrol missions. The game doesn’t magically transform into anything else though. All it does is become a quest for Ascendant Shards to upgrade your legendary/exotic gear so you can get more light to increase your level.
I can see why some folks have issues with it; it’s the kind of game you have to really get into in order to keeping doing the same things over and over. It borrows heavily from MMO’s in that regard, despite not being an MMO. It was the same in the beta, so I don’t know why anyone who played the beta would have expected anything other than what it is.
Since you spend a lot of time shooting things, it’s a great thing that Destiny really is a fantastic shooter. The shooting feels great. I prefer an Assault Rifle (for both PVE and PVP), but I also enjoy using my Scout Rifle and a Hand Cannon. Pretty much all of the guns are satisfying to use in their own way. It’s important to look at them too, because they have different damage elements and different mods/abilities. I’m jealous of everyone who has the exotic sniper rifle that regenerates ammo… I want that so bad. Some enemies are shielded, and to more effectively take them out (at higher difficulties without wasting your ammo) you’ll need a weapon that has a specific element damage type (if an enemy has a purple shield, you’ll want to use a weapon that deals Void, purple icon on the gun screen, damage… It’s all very simple to understand).
Destiny also incorporates verticality with cool jump abilities for all three classes (and subclasses). I prefer the Gunslinger Hunter’s triple jump; I can’t even count the number of times bunny hoping around has saved my life or allowed a teammate to be able to respawn when I couldn’t make it to them to revive them. Each subclass also has a unique special ability, and each have their strong suits as well as times where you don’t want to use them. Again, I prefer the Hunter’s Golden Gun, although it appears most Hunter’s in PVP prefer the Arc Blade.
Speaking of PVP, I don’t usually care for competitive multiplayer in first person shooters, but Destiny’s “Crucible” won me over during the alpha and I’ve been enjoying immensely in the final product. There are four always active game modes: Control (Capture the Zone), Clash (Team Deathmatch), Rumble (Free For All), and Skirmish (3v3 with revives). Other modes come in during “event weekends,” such as objective based 3v3 mode Salvage and Combined Arms (essentially Control on the two maps that spawn vehicles). In October the Iron Banner event will happen, which unlike regular Crucible action will have level advantage enabled meaning you’ll want high defense and high attack since they’ll actually matter.
I really like the PVP aspect, because it’s simply fun which is the main thing I look for in a game. However, as fun as it can be there are some frustrating issues with PVP. Some of the supers are absurd, although sure there are counters to all of them. It’s also a bit ridiculous that special weapons like the fusion rifle can disintegrate someone at pretty good distance. And let’s be real here, PVP is almost nothing but special weapons. Almost every time I die its because of a super, shotgun, or fusion rifle. As far as primaries go, assault rifles are the go to choice for most (myself included; and I love my upgraded Shadow Price with almost no recoil whatsoever). All of that can be annoying, and makes it so that even good players can have incredibly bad games, but the biggest frustration with the PVP is the lag.
It existed in the alpha and the beta, and it’s still an occasional problem. Kills can take a while to register, a guy can be warping around, and most frustrating of all for those of us who use Golden Gun, we can waste shots because of the delayed kill count when using it. It’s extremely frustrating to shoot someone with one of your three Golden Gun rounds, only to see him/her continue running around shooting only to die the second you fire another shot. We already have the easiest super ability to be countered and possibly get no kills without the game making us waste a shot because of its netcode. Fix the lag issues Bungie, and the PVP will be golden (although it wouldn’t hurt for special ammo crates to give less ammo and appear much less often). The way it is now with special weapons, it’s virtually impossible to run out of special ammo. That shouldn’t be the case.
Prior to and even after its release, all we heard was that Destiny was meant to be played cooperatively. I played through the entirety of the games campaign solo. I’ve Daily Heroic Story missions solo. I’ve done Weekly Strike’s solo. The game is fun solo. You don’t have to have a friend around to make the game enjoyable. Would it be nice if there were a matchmaking option turned off by default for campaign missions, Daily Heroic, and Weekly Strike/Nightfall? Absolutely, that needs to happen. The Vault of Glass should have matchmaking as well. As much fun as I’ve had solo though, I’ve also a ton of fun playing strikes with friends and strangers alike, as well as just out in explore mode doing public events and dancing with strangers.
For a game that was hyped up as “social” though, Destiny does leave a lot to be desired. The social hub that is the Tower is nothing more than a safe area where you can bounties, buy gear, and leave in disappointment as the Cryptarch decrypts your legendary engrams into worthless rare items that you promptly dismantle. I’m fine with Destiny not having proximity chat, because I’d honestly mute most folks most of the time anyway. But there’s no interacting with other players in the social hub other than dancing, waving, and kicking a ball around. The game should at the very least have text chat so that players can easily look for people willing to group up. There’s so much more that could be done with the Tower to make it feel actually like a social area than what it is now.
My biggest complaint with Destiny though is the unnecessary loading times. You start the game in Orbit, even though the first place most folks will want to go is to the Tower. So you watch a loading screen of your ship flying to the Tower. Once you finish doing what you have to do there, you have to go back to Orbit, then select somewhere to go, and watch the loading screen all over again. Rinse and repeat (or Eat, Sleep, Orbit, Repeat if your prefer). It’s completely unnecessary. You should start in the Tower, and be able to view a map while there to select your next destination. The only time you should have to go to orbit is when you’re leaving a planet. It makes no sense to have to leave the Tower, go to orbit, and then select a destination. They need to address that at some point in the future. And while you’re fixing that Bungie, let us skip cutscenes too. If I’m going to have to play these missions repeatedly, at least make it so I don’t have to watch the cutscenes over and over.
Destiny was always an ambitious title, pulling threads from a number of genres. It never commits to any one thing other than first person shooter, so the MMO aspects are as defined as they are in MMO’s and the RPG aspect isn’t as refined as actual RPG’s. Even the loot is almost always worthless and quickly dismantled. Destiny borrows from others but is its own thing; it doesn’t have the story of a Halo, but it provides enough incentive to spend probably hundreds of hours playing in the games PVE world.
Yes, Destiny has its flaws and disappointments from what was originally envisioned (just go back and rewatch the E3 2013 reveal and you’ll notice quite a few changes), but at the same time I’ve found it to be an insanely fun and addictive shooter. I can’t remember the last game I play 85 hours of in three weeks (maybe Red Dead Redemption, which I ended up putting in over 400 hours into one single player save file alone), so Destiny is obviously doing a lot right as far as I’m concerned. After all, I don’t see a day going by anytime soon where I won’t be spending some time with my Guardian and grinding away for better gear.
Destiny has been called a “platform,” a game that will continuously evolve over time with paid content, free content, and special events. We’ll see if that’s truly the case and how much content (and what type) gets added when the first expansion pack releases later this year. As is, Destiny is an extremely solid foundation and I have no doubts that the game will just continue to get bigger and better as time goes on.
Your mileage my vary with Destiny as it currently is, but if you’re like me and really loved the beta, the main game isn’t likely to bore you anytime soon despite repeating the same things over and over again. The PVE is great both solo and with a friend/friends/strangers, and the PVP is pretty fun as well. Even if I never played another minute, I’m extremely happy with my $60 purchase and feel that I have more than gotten my money’s worth out of the game. Fortunately though, I’ll continue to get more out of it with many, many more hours.
The expansion pack seriously can’t come fast enough; I’m hooked!