DESTINY Fashionably Late Video Game Review (pre DLC)
Now that I’ve sacrificed countless hours towards playing Bungie’s newest franchise (with a little help from Doritos and Mountain Dew…NOT!), I can safely say that I can give DESTINY a proper and full review. Some would even argue a more fair review seeing how the game is only accessible online and requires a lot of time to fully explore and play each mode. I can’t imagine anyone who reviewed this during its first week of release (of before) would have the same opinion about it all right now for better or for worse. It’s also worth noting that this review does not take into account any of the downloadable expansion packs released since launch; one of which (The Dark Below) is available at the time of this writing. Here, we’re just reviewing the good old fashion game fresh out of the box.
Ah DESTINY. Upon first learning about this new franchise from the developers of the HALO franchise, I often found myself eagerly anticipating any new details surrounding its development. I often caught myself telling people that DESTINY was going to be something truly special and awesome. And in a lot of ways I was right, but I fear my desire for a brand spanking new next gen game and my affinity for anything science fiction could have juiced up the old hype machine a little too much. So yeah, my expectations for this game were sky high and I even ordered the Special Edition online to secure my commitment.
DESTINY is a lot like Frankenstein’s monster. There are a plethora of game modes that for the most part are very different from the last creating a whole that will make a lot of people scratch their head in confusion. A good place to start (if there is any) would be the Story Mode where players traverse Earth, The Moon, Mars, and Venus after creating their custom (yet limiting) character. Players can choose between 3 different classes (Hunter, Warlock, and Titan) before hitting the trail. Each class varies slightly with their ability list and it’s mostly just a cosmetic choices with no real weight. Once your new avatar is crafted, you hit the ground on Earth in Old Russia where you are greeted by your trusty robo-companion called a “Ghost” who helps guide you through the world. Nothing is really over explained and you jump right into the action. Some may feel lost with this approach, but I appreciated the vagueness of it all because it kick started a sense of wonder that made me want to discover what was around the next corner. What follows is a roughly 12-14 hour experience that tasks you with destroying some type of evil. Honestly, even after beating the Story Mode Missions over and over (more on that later), I had no idea what the hell was going on in DESTINY. In short, the story is not that engaging and I never came across anything I really cared about or felt any kind of emotional tie towards. Sure there are short cutscenes every once in awhile, and various messages and landmarks allude to the possibility that something is going on, but for me, it was just a bunch of cool science fiction imagery mixed in with confusing cutscenes and vague hints at a story. And even saying all this now, I didn’t really mind. I did not buy DESTINY for a grand story. Sure it would have been welcomed to have a little more investment, but I can’t recall a time when I docked points from a SUPER MARIO BROS. game for its poor storytelling. Some games are just compelling and fun and that’s all you need. DESTINY is one such game.
When not romping around in the games story missions, one can relax in a small town-like area called The Tower where you run around in third-person. Here players can meet up, hang out, buy new items, take on new bounties (side objectives that earn you unique experience), sell and trade stuff (not weapons or armor tho), cash in mysterious pick-ups, store items in a vault, and really it just acts as a small hub-world where you can decide your next move safely. There are even special visitors from time to time that can offer special missions, bounties, and items to those looking for some variety. It’s a cool little space, but feels a bit limiting in a lot of ways making me think there should have been more towns such as these in the game (possibly one for each class?), but instead it’s just a shared space for all to bounce off one another and get their chores done. Anyone who has played a Massive Multiplayer Role Playing game will feel at home, while the less experienced may feel lost since nothing in this hub-world is really explained to the player and they must figure out how it all works on their own. This definitely can be confusing and frustrating at first considering DESTINY has way too many forms of currency, way too many ways to earn different kinds of “reputation points”, and way too many unexplained elements (such as how to properly upgrade) that it may turn off a lot of casual gamers who don’t scour the web to figure stuff out. But, once the dust settles, it’s not as complicated as you may think, but it does all feel a bit unnecessary at times. A more streamlined and clear cut model would have been appreciated.
If Story Mode isn’t your cup of Earl Grey tea, fear not because there are a lot of other ways to play that will likely fit your style. Of these modes, The Crucible is likely where you will spend the most time. Think of it as an arena where you can gear up your avatar and kick some ass. There are many deathmatch and capture modes that are all fun for the most part and offer up a really fast and fluid battle mode that can be considered an entirely different game. Of all the modes in The Crucible, I found that I enjoyed one called Control the most. There are 2 teams of 6 battling it out tasked with holding out (controlling) a small circular space until it is taken over. You still get points for killing your opponents, but also get huge points for controlling each of the 3 areas scattered about. I found that some days I would spend my entire time with DESTINY in The Crucible to rank up my reputation and buy new armor and weapons.
Speaking of armor and weapons, a unique element to DESTINY is that after you level up to Level 20, you cannot progress any higher without upgrading your armor. More specifically, you need armor with a special property called “Light”. Upgrading your armor using experience points and elements found within the game world will increase your attributes and your “light” eventually causing your overall Level to reach higher numbers. If this all sounds too complicated it’s because it is. I’m not sure what the advantage of doing it this way is, but I sure know that it overcomplicates things more than needed and I’ve heard a lot of players complain about it all. But much like every other nonsensical thing in DESTINY, once you figure out how it works (since it’s never really explained), it all just kinda makes sense and is not a problem at all. An unnecessary learning curve? Sure, but it’s not a deal breaker. Just annoying. And the whole time you are upgrading you armor and weapons your class skills are slowly being upgraded giving you more gameplay options such as jumping higher, gaining an extra grenade slot, or busting out a more powerful special move to name a few. Needless to say, every single thing you do in DESTINY seemingly upgrades something which I believe to be one of the reasons it’s so damn addicting. Constant small rewards often leading to rare (but appreciated) bigger rewards…video games.
If Story Mode and battling it out in The Crucible grow tiresome, DESTINY also offers up some unique ways to play in the form of Strikes, Patrol Missions, and Raids. Strikes see 3 people (with matchmaking support) dive into one of the 4 worlds and eventually follow a path towards a boss fight. I appreciate this mode because it has the formula of a classic video game and busts out some big experience and loot to players who see each level all the way through. The bosses are large and in charge, but very easy to defeat once you realize you just have to plug away at them from a safe distance util their life runs out. Patrol Mission are just a chance to explore each planet, find treasure, farm elements to upgrade armor and weapons, and take on small missions that can earn extra experience. And last but no least is the infamous Raid mode where Bungie has crafted a hugely complicated mission for up to 6 people to tackle. The biggest complaint here is that there is no matchmaking attached to this mode meaning that you need to track down 5 friends (who has that many!?) and coordinate the session praying that everyone’s internet connection works well. Another issue with this mode is that Raids are potentially very long, you really do need a team of 6 to properly beat it, and you all need to be pretty high level to stand a chance. Raids are a real tough pill to swallow, but if the moons align and you do get to have the proper experience, it really is a shining moment in the game. I can easily admit that the first time I beat a Raid with a team of 6 (without cheating) it was a very fun and memorable experience. Arguably the best DESTINY has to offer. In the end, I’m sure there is a mode in DESTINY that you will take a liking to no matter what kind of gamer you are.
Really what it all boils down to is the gameplay. This IS a video game after all, not a movie. And if there is one word that sums it all up with DESTINY it’s “fun“. DESTINY is a damn fun game to play. Thanks to tight controls, a fun leveling up system constantly giving you new options, and the overall fast and fluid movement of your character you will be running and gunning like no other and forgetting what time it is in the wee hours of the night. Yeah, It’s that fun. I’ve almost never played a game where the saying “just one more round” was any truer. There is just something about how everything comes together here that makes it a joy to play. People with addictive personalities tread lightly. Your lives can be drastically changed by a game of this ilk. If you see things like food, exercise, and loved ones vanishing in front of your eyes throw this game in the trash because it HAS YOU! Joking aside, DESTINY is fun and addictive in all the right ways and is full of pure gameplay moments. And the cherry on top is that the landscapes and environments you are playing in are absolutely gorgeous (on Playstation 4 at least) and are complimented by a beautiful score that really helps set the tone for this game.
So with all the praise and compliments above, why do I kind of want to stop playing DESTINY? I can recognize it’s a truly unique experience full of fun moments and awesome gameplay. But something just seems amiss after logging the amount of hours I have logged. It all kind of stopped meaning anything to me as I thirst for a new game to dive into. I think the biggest issue here is repetition. DESTINY has a lot of things to do, but once you have done them, you just do them over and over again whilst you slowly level up and grind your way to the top spot. So I have strong armor and cool weapons. But who cares!? The amount of time it took me to get to where I am with DESTINY has worn me out. By no means does this say it’s a bad game, because it’s not, but I think I just played it way too much and need a break. I suppose you can liken it to playing a winning game in The World Series or Superbowl only to have someone say “Wanna do that again…right now!?”. Sure it was a great experience, but I feel I just need to give it a rest. I even downloaded the expansion pack that recently released but just can’t bring myself to do it all over again. Maybe sometime soon, but just not now. After all there is FAR CRY 4, MARIO KART 8, SUPER SMASH BROS. Wii U, SHADOW OF MORDOR, and so on and so forth out there just waiting to be played. DESTINY assumes we play (or do) nothing else.
Minor ranting aside, I can’t say DESTINY is a bad game, it’s just…we need some time apart after our glorious relationship. Sure the story blows, there is way too much repetition, a lot of nonsensical leveling/currency/reputation systems in place, and DESTINY definitely suffers from an identity crisis when it comes to game modes and ways to play. Buuuuuuut, at the end of the day DESTINY has what I want most out of a video game…great gameplay that is both fun and addicting in all the right ways. Not to mention it’s a gorgeous game set in a compelling science fiction universe complimented by a stellar musical score that really helps set the mood. You will hear a lot of people bitch and moan about what DESTINY isn’t, but I’d rather focus a bit more on what it IS…A fun game set in a compelling universe creating fun ways to play with your friends. And while I’m taking a break at the moment…I have no doubt in my mind that it will eventually pull me back in someday soon.
Final Score: 8 out of 10