Destiny, the new, massive online shooter from Bungie (Halo, Marathon) went live in the US Tuesday. Since then, I’ve gone on about 4 hours of sleep, while still doing my normal job and roommate duties (though gym time has pretty much fallen off). So far I’ve spent roughly 12-15 hours with the game, a mix of the campaign and PVP (the Crucible) combat, done some group missions, grabbed some loot, and tasted what the game has to offer. While the game isn’t without its shortcomings, so far, I love it.
First things first, I’m playing on PS4, I don’t know if the game plays the same on XB1 (though I assume they’re pretty much the same). Second, this is a Bungie game, and with that, comes some similarities to Halo.
How Destiny looks: It looks FANTASTIC. The level of detail on a game this big is staggering. Exploring old burned out cars, buildings that have been ravaged by nature over centuries, the detail on every enemy. The game looks gorgeous, especially considering how much stuff there is. I’ve found myself just wandering around, taking in the sites, driving my sparrow to wherever the game lets me. Bungie has done a fantastic job at building a new world. While some will argue that the world feels empty, I do agree with them to an extent. Empty buildings, cars, trailers, over grown foliage everywhere builds a stellar atmosphere that you’re one of the last few in this world, but a bit of wildlife apart from enemies would have gone a long way. Along with this, the game sounds amazing. I’m a huge sucker for excellent sound design, and this game delivers. Gun shots are incredibly satisfying, enemy dialogue is great, voice acting (for the most part) is on point. There are a few lines that come off a bit cheesy or phoned in, particularly with your ghost, but those moments are few and far between. Those low points are also balanced with some exemplary bits of voice work, again, particularly with your ghost. For example, there are certain points on the Moon or Old Russia where Peter Dinklage’s voice acting really brings you into the game and adds to greatly to the suspense. As always, the music is awesome. Marty O’Donnell crafted another great soundtrack that perfect suits everything in the game, from frantic shoot outs to heroic anthems.
How Destiny plays: As expected from Bungie, the shooting mechanics are spot on. While anyone that’s played Halo knows what to expect, Bungie has changed enough to make the game feel like its own. The auto aim doesn’t assist as heavily as it did in Halo, which is for the better. You feel more in control of your weapon, and precision shots are more rewarding. Destiny also finds a sweet spot between the floaty mechanics of Halo and crisp mechanics of twitch shooters. Double jumps, glides and your super powers definitely add to the game, but I’ve found they really come into their own in the PVP combat. The loot system is incredibly addictive, but also a lot deeper than I had anticipated. Any fans of RPG’s will feel right at home with the loot system. One of the best features of Destiny’s loot system is that the loot you pick up is pretty much always geared toward your character. In other RPG’s, its common to pick up items that aren’t suited for your class, meaning if you pick them up, they’re taking up inventory space until you’re able to sell. In my time with Destiny, I haven’t come across one piece of gear that my character couldn’t use, provided he was leveled up. Also, Destiny introduces a new mechanic to upgrade equipment, meaning you can add specific perks or buffs to your equipment. This forces you to really consider your armor and weapon load out before heading out of the Tower. The RPG elements are deep but never daunting, and RPG novices should feel right at home pretty quickly. Along with equipment loot, the ammo looting system brings another dynamic game play feature. You’ll start off with your primary weapon, generally a rifle or pistol (hand-cannon), and ammo for those is almost everywhere. You can carry up to two more weapons, though ammo for those is a bit different. You’ll have your “special” ammo, for shotguns and snipers, which isn’t as plentiful in the game, forcing you to carefully consider how and when you’ll use it. Then you have your “heavy” ammo for rockets and machine guns, which is pretty rare. This same system pops up in the PVP combat, but ammo caches provide some relief, though you’ll lose “heavy” ammo when you die. There are also bounties, or special achievements to do both in the campaign and PVP combat, which encourage you to use special abilities, weapons or explore the world, and reward you with experience boosts. Overall, the shooter mechanics feel great, the looting and RPG elements are deep and addictive, but never daunting, and supporting game play elements add depth and a breath of fresh air to the shooter landscape.
The Crucible aka PVP combat: This is Destiny’s 6v6 arena. While there are multiple game modes, I haven’t unlocked all of them yet. So far, I’ve only played Control (control 3 points on the map), a deathmatch mode, and a free for all mode. My favorite by far is Control, as it feels tailor made for the game. While free for all and deathmatch are fun, occasionally the match making doesn’t get it right. And considering you’re bringing in your specific gear (armor, weapons, loadouts, and class), the games don’t always feel even. Case in point, a level 20 weapon absolutely tears through a level 15, and a 15 will have to empty entire clips into a 20 to get a kill. On game modes wear kills are the only way to score, the balance of a match can be thrown off incredibly quick. Control on the other hand, forces team work. While I’ve never been a fan of these game modes, the map balance and weapon systems make Control infinitely addictive. Really, its the weapons and super ability that change up this game mode. While your double jump and glide mesh with the map design like peanut butter and chocolate, its the super abilities that really have a chance to shine here. Three separate classes means three separate abilities. Hunters have that fantastic teleport ability, making them incredibly slippery but open to melee’s and shotguns. Titans have an up close and personal AoE, but leaves them vulnerable right after, and Warlocks, who have a projectile blast that clears an area, but moves slowly and leaves the Warlock vulnerable right before the attack. Each ability is powerful, but uniquely balanced, and each has a role to play in Control. There are few things more satisfying than taking out 3 enemies that are in the middle of capturing a territory with a well timed Warlock blast. Perhaps the best part is that these are one time use abilities, and you have to either get kills, assists, or aid in capturing territories in order to charge them. While I’ve played a fair amount of each game mode, Control is by far my favorite. In classic Bungie form, map design is fantastic, though some maps seem a little too big for 6v6.
The Bad: Destiny is by no means a perfect game. For starters, while the world is beautiful, the story hasn’t engaged me. So far, I know I’m a guardian fighting against an enemy called the Darkness, after Humanity experiences a golden age of space travel. The story hasn’t gripped me like I had hoped, and this is probably by design. Normally, great or engaging campaigns focus on you, the player. But in a massively shared world, that focus has to shift to many, which probably limits what kind of story can be told. That being said, the story telling is mostly atmospheric, meaning you’re left to find out what happened through bits of exposition or cards/items picked up during the campaign. While this isn’t a game breaker, it is a bit disappointing that the campaign doesn’t do more with the incredible foundation it set.
The Bad Part 2: Second, and probably the biggest fault is the enemy AI. Its hard to not compare Destiny to Bungie’s previous work, and perhaps its not even fair to, but to anyone that’s played Halo, enemy AI was one of the pillars of that franchise. The tension between you and a group of Elites or Hunters, or the formations of enemies, each with their own specific role and class that worked as a unit to take you down is what made Halo a standout among shooters where enemies were basically bullet sponges that ran straight down hallways at you. While I wouldn’t say Destiny’s enemies are dumb to that extent, the main difficulty comes from enemies being able to either take more damage, or that they outnumber you. There have been only one or two times where I had to try and outsmart my enemy. That being said, I haven’t played any of the strike or raid missions, and perhaps those will change. I imagine that the easy AI is for the masses, and that the strike missions will feature formations that you and a team will have to work together to take down (I hope).
Overall: I dig the game. I’m addicted to the combat, the mechanics, the look, the feel, the sounds, the world. I love the MP, the shared campaign is pretty fun. I do wish the enemy AI would change it up a bit, maybe pull some different formations or pose more of a challenge or than just being stronger.As first impressions go, Destiny has made me into a fan. Perhaps some DLC or Destiny 2 will address a more character focused campaign, but until then, Destiny has its hooks in me and I’ll keep playing.
Feel free to hit me up on the PSN; KingReyes34