Destiny set out and tried to accomplish something a little different when it came to console games, and that is to create a somewhat MMO (massive multiplayer online) game with RPG elements and on top of that all being in first-person perspective.
The game centers on you, a Guardian given a second chance, as mankind’s last hope to restore order and defeat “The Darkness”. The main story is somewhat lackluster as it’s loosely thrown together with the various missions you’re tasked to complete, which don’t seem like they fit together to make one cohesive story. Although the lore behind the game is quite interesting and vast, it is locked away in the Grimoire that isn’t available to read in-game. The story that was told to us was very lackluster from what was to be expected from Bungie and the game’s ending leaves you feeling “what is really going on” and that you haven’t played a full story.
Even the missions themselves have very little narrative and cutscenes to try and give you an idea of what is going on in the game and what your purpose as a player in this world is. At most you get a couple dialogue lines from your Ghost giving out your orders, but nothing to piece together a real sense of purpose. Characters have very little depth and you just end up jumping from story mission to mission with it all feeling like it is not connected at all.
A game’s story need some kind of event, a purpose and even compelling characters to keep you entertained and wanting to know what happens next, all the way to the end. You don’t even need to rely on cutscenes to tell all that for you either. In-game dialogue could help with letting you know what is going on, but the dialogue that is in the game does little in that regard. At the very least Destiny should have had an in-game center or option in the menu to read the Grimoire so it at least gives the player an opportunity to learn more about this world, somewhat like the Codex in Mass Effect.
Even the enemies are bland. You know you need to fight “The Darkness” and the four enemy factions. You’ll face off against The Hive, The Fallen, The Vex and The Cabal with all of the major bosses for each of these just being larger versions of themselves with no character variation. What’s worse is you have no knowledge or background about these enemies, unlike when you think back to Halo’s Covenant and The Flood whom you knew about and their reasoning for their attacks. Once again if you read the Grimoire you’ll have a much greater knowledge about these enemies, but the game still gets a fault for not being able to actually tell you while playing.
As far as your Guardian is concerned, you’ll have three classes to choose from; Warlock, Titan and Hunter with each class having two subclasses to choose from as well. The character creation is somewhat sparse in comparison to other games, but it suffices seeing how you won’t see them all that much aside from trips to the Tower.
Although, as expected from Bungie is top-notch gameplay. While the story might not pull you in, the gameplay and shooting mechanics are sure to keep you going. You’ll have plenty of weapons and weapon archetypes to choose from that fit your liking and play-style. With weapons becoming stronger as you progress in the form of different rarities; Common, Uncommon, Rare, Legendary and Exotic. The same goes for armor as well, all in an effort to raise your character’s Light Level.
Once your character reaches level 20 you stop leveling up from XP earned from killing enemies, bounties, missions etc and you switch to the loot grind of the game and the search for better gear. You can purchase gear from vendors in the tower, or from engrams that will drop from general play, rewards from end of activities to then be decrypted into hopefully better higher level loot. In terms of character progression, this is endgame in the constant grind to reach max Light level.
On top of the quick and thin in content story missions, there are plenty of other objectives to complete to give a chance at experience and new gear. On each planet there are “patrol” missions to complete, these being simple tasks like “kill x amount of enemies”, “go scan this item”, “go survey this area”. Strikes are lengthier missions and are completed with a fireteam of 3 people. These are probably one of the more entertaining things to do in the game, with more enemies and actual boss fights spreaded throughout. Bosses have some fight mechanics to them and are generally bullet sponges that you’ll have to take down while more enemies spawn in for you to deal with, but can still provide some enjoyment.
The last part of Destiny’s endgame is the Raid, which is a six-man activity and requires the most teamwork and coordination with for more mechanics in them than anything else in the game. This activity also provides no matchmaking, so you’ll need to form your own fireteam of Guardians.
While strikes are fun, raids are the most fun I’ve had in my time with Destiny. Giving you a satisfying experience of finally clearing a boss after trying over and over to end up with some sweet loot leaves you with a small sense of pride. At their core, Destiny raids can be seen as lengthy strikes with multiple bosses and checkpoints. Destiny’s first raid, Vault of Glass, has you going up against the Vex and ultimately stopping Aethon, the final boss. There are multiple stages in the raid with two major bosses and plenty of stages that require team mechanics to progress forward.
This is what Destiny’s endgame content entails. You’re constantly replaying missions, strikes and even the raid in hopes to get better gear to reach the max Light Level. Although if you truly want to reach max level in Destiny you’ll need to complete the raid, since that is the only place that will drop high-end max level gear. If you’re stuck doing everything else but the raid, you’ll fall short of that goal.
The main problem with the loot system in the game though is there is no say or way to improve your chances on what loot you end up getting. It’s all based on RNG and totally random. Being the best on your team does not automatically mean you’ll get the better loot. You could end up with nothing or something subpar. That is Bungie’s way of having you coming back to constantly grind out higher-level strikes and the raid, that are time-gated by week, in hopes of getting what you want.
All of that aside, Destiny’s other strengths are its graphics and sound design. The skyboxes in this game are something you could just stare at all day while in patrol. The planets are for the most part open-world and all feel very different from each other. Textures look nice and detailed, although when there is too much going on on-screen like explosions, the framerate can take a dip. Even details down to your armor and weapons look crisp, especially in the first-person viewpoint.
The soundtrack is amazing! At the right moments the music knows when to kick up and make you feel the tension of the situation at hand. All of the sound effects throughout the game are great as well, from the sound of the guns, to your guardians abilities, even down to how creepy the enemies can sound at times. The one downside is the voice acting, while at times it’s okay other times it’s just bad, and part of that could be the writing. Peter Dinklage as your Ghost just doesn’t work for me, he sounds as if he’s bored and uninspired. Again, that could all be because of the writing though. I feel like some of the best voice acting in the game though is through NPCs in the Tower. Just standing next to a vendor or faction leader, you’ll end up hearing some interesting lines that can go from weird to hilarious.
Destiny has many things that it does right and also many things that it does wrong, but still manages to be addicting and keeps me coming back for more. Looting your gear and seeing what you get is what drives you back to always reaching for that max goal. In its vanilla form Destiny is more lacking than anything else, always leaving you with a feeling that there should have been more. While I do love the game, it is far from a “great” game, but has plenty of potential to be the game we all know Bungie is capable of making.