Destinty (PS4) Review
So, this little game called Destiny came out a few weeks ago. It’s a real small scale indy game from a no-name developer… wait, no…
Just to cover the basics, Destiny is actually the new FPS/RPG hybrid from Bungie, creators of the Halo series of games. The gameplay follows standard FPS tropes with smatterings of RPG-like stats and upgrades to augment your damage and defense ratings. Killing enemies rewards experience and loot that consists of new gear, money, and materials for upgrading your equipment, again, standard fare for a typical RPG.
The graphics on PS4 are well engineered and very consistent. They show off breathtaking vistas that often take on the look of a nature themed oil painting as well as dark, fear inducing sci-fi catacombs.
In general, the combat is fairly standard and easily recognizable to fans of the Halo series: Floaty jumps, limited weapon types, and a handful of repetitive enemy classes and species will quickly drum up allusions to the Covenant of yore. In this universe, your ‘Guardian’ can be one of three classes: a tank-like ‘Titan’, strategic rogue ‘Hunter’, or mystical ‘Warlock’. Each class offers unique special abilities and statistical advantages that can be leveraged to a limited degree to diversify and strengthen a group of players. This leads in to the deeply rooted multiplayer aspects of the game.
When you drop in to one of the available battle zones of the Milky Way, the game world is inhabited by a handful of other human players that can see and battle the same enemies that appear in your game. This main world is not PVP, so there’s no Guardian-on-Guardian crime. That’s reserved for the Crucible deathmatch modes. Any damage you land on enemies in these public areas will count as a kill when they are defeated, even if another person does more damage or gets the killshot before you. That means it’s a little harder for any trolls to horde all of the goodies, though the open-world segments aren’t where you will typically find the hot loot.
The main game is broken up in to multiple missions and ‘strikes’ that you can take on alone, or with a few buddies. Some use matchmaking to team you up with strangers or you can invite your friends to join a ‘fireteam’ that will keep you all linked up until you drop out of the group. Most missions allow 1-3 teammates, but the higher level raids up the limit to 6 due to the insane level of difficulty therein. Embarking on missions, strikes, and raids pays out progressively more valuable rewards in the form of weapons and armor, and the raids are CRAZY. The first team to complete the very first available raid racked up thousands of kills, and deaths, in the multiple hour massacre. These raids are most likely beyond my commitment level for this game. I’ve never been huge on any MMOs, especially when it comes to forced team situations like this. That’s unfortunate for me as I’ll never truly experience the ‘whole’ game, which brings up one of the first glaring shortcomings of this game…
There is no end game, no climax, no final boss. There is no possible way to ‘finish’ the game as it stands today. The story is broad and boring, with little in the way of a narrative to drive the action. As it stands, all you do is run around and kill aliens to try to scrounge up better gear, then go back to through the same missions over and over to get more gear. Sadly, the missions don’t even have much variety either. Most all of the missions send you after something important to the ‘story’, so you run a gauntlet of bad guys to get to said object, then survive a few increasingly challenging waves of baddies, and finish off one last bigger, more powerful enemy to complete the quest. That’s literally the whole game; just rinse and repeat that same scenario over and over.
The strangest thing is, I had no problem doing it in the beta for over 20 hours, and now another 20 plus in the full game. It’s completely bizarre, but the game really is crazy addictive. I could never recommend playing it for hours, days, and weeks straight, but I’ve found the most joy just dropping in from time to time for a few hours at a time. It can be greatly satisfying to jump in, complete a few bounties, upgrade your gear or find a bunch of new fun stuff to build up your guardian.
This is, however, another sad component of the game; the lack of personalization. The gear you collect through your first 10 or so levels is an ugly hodgepodge. Nothing matches, you can’t re-color any of it, and the items you may actually like quickly become obsolete because of the next piece of gear you find laying around on a dead alien. The upgrades that are unlocked for the weapons are strictly limited to a handful of tweaks to accuracy and damage, but each weapon only offers a couple. It’s not until you reach level 20 and beyond that you start to see guns within your reach that might stick for a while. And that level 20 bit is yet another sticking point in Destiny. The consensus was that the game would completely change once you achieve level 20, that it completely changes how everything works. In a lot of ways it does, but none of it makes it any better or more entertaining.
At level 20 you stop earning experience to directly level up. Instead you have to hunt for, purchase, and upgrade ‘legendary’ and ‘epic’ gear. Each of these types of weapons and armor have a separate ‘light’ rating that contributes to your new overall level in the game. The highest level mission as of now is the sole raid which requires a minimum of level 24, anything less and you can’t even attempt the mission. In fact, there are at least a few missions in the game that I can’t even attempt as I’m only level 22. Not only that, but I tried to join a fireteam with my buddies who were a couple levels higher than I, and we couldn’t even start a mission because I alone was two levels too low to access it. This literally means I cannot play the game with my friends. In a perfect world there would be a solution to this. Let me die five hundred times because my defense is too low, or run it all on a sliding scale that averages out the difficulty and drop rates to match our collective level. Instead, they chose to completely lock us out.
Overall I really enjoy Destiny and will continue to play it now and then to see what kind of cool new toys I come across, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to play it with my friends. I also hope that they add some diversity in the missions by adding some different structure and quest types as the game is far too repetitive today.
Bungie has been extremely committed to keeping the players involved as the game is tweaked and rebalanced based on real world gameplay and feedback from the community. There are already a couple of DLC quest packs on the way and there have been numerous updates and hotfixes applied to the game to streamline the experience. In the end, I’m confident that Bungie will eventually deliver on their promises and live up to their historical performance by delivering some truly memorable, story based, experiences, but you may just want to wait and check in with Destiny in another month or two to get a more complete experience…
Is Destiny a bad game? No. Is it a great game? Not yet. There are some great core elements in place that should be a great foundation for things to come. Hopefully it's part of Bungie's plan to expand on the venues you can explore and the missions you undertake while there. As it stands, the game feels unfinished and the reward/customization components are unbalanced. If they keep pace with the updates they've already released, it could be a great game come 2015. Something to definitely keep your eyes on.