Review: Destiny (Xbox One)

Steel Yourself, Guardian

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Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: First Person Shooter
ESRB: T
Price: 59.99, Available Here

Content Warning
I actually have very little issue with anything in Destiny. Yes, you’re running around shooting enemies. If that gives you pause, you should avoid the entire first-person shooter genre, though.

There is little to no vulgar language, no gore, and nothing sensual. If you would be comfortable with your children playing a Halo title, you’ll be safe with Destiny – maybe even moreso.

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Opening
It’s been years in the making. Many of us even got access to Bungie’s Alpha and Beta tests. Now Destiny, my most anticipated game of 2014, has made it into the hands of the public. After purchasing three Digital Guardian copies of the game (two for me and one for my brother), I wrote my initial impressions after a day with the game. Now I’ve had a chance to temper my expectations and, after two level 20 guardians and about 40 hours with the title, I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts.

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Story
Seven hundred years in the future, life as we know it is far different. After a celestial body known as “the Traveler” came to earth, we experienced a golden age of technology and exploration. The average life span tripled and humanity pushed its reaches ever further into the galaxy. Ultimately, civilization fell to “The Darkness,” the malicious ancient enemy of the Traveler. Now, the last bastion of humanity is in danger and only warriors known as Guardians can save fight back the forces of the Darkness and save it.

The story written to support the world around Destiny feels deep and ancient. There’s a sense of reverence given to it. Over the course of your travels from Earth to the Moon, Venus, and Mars, however, things become muddled. Your robot companion, voiced by Peter Dinklage, continually uncovers information to help conquer your foes. Unfortunately, it creates a narrative that looks like an ocean but is only ankle deep.

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Gameplay
At its heart, Destiny is a first-person shooter. Just like Halo and Marathon before it, you’ll run around firing your guns at a variety of alien enemies. When it comes to that, Bungie is a master of its craft. The gun play and controls feel fantastic and weapons pack a satisfying punch.

Bungie is trying to set Destiny apart by the addition of its RPG and MMO mechanics. Like the Borderlands franchise, you’ll take on quests, get experience, gain levels, find new gear, and earn new skills. There’s much more to it than that, though.

The game’s basic level cap is set at 20 (though it can be raised by end-game gear). Most players will likely be able to reach that in 10-15 hours of play. It’s what lies beyond level 20 that should keep perk folks’ interest, though. As with many MMOs, Destiny aims to keep players occupied with three man strike missions, six man raids, and competitive play with the Crucible.

Strike design so far feels great. Players will have to communicate and work together to conquer some difficult missions that lead to sweet rewards. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, no Raid content has been released, though the first (entitled The Vault of Glass) is set to drop September 16.

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Crucible play is fast and intense. With only four stock modes, the selection is currently a bit limited, but Bungie is slowly working other modes in to shake things up. The modes that are there are fun, but they’re not without flaws. One of my biggest complaints with the Crucible is the mixing of big and small maps. This is notable because the inclusion of vehicles in big maps can drastically alter (and frustrate) the gameplay experience you may be going for. It feels like Bungie knew they didn’t have enough maps, so they tossed them all together. This needs to be remedied.

The story mission design feels largely lacking. Right now, most missions consist of the same gameplay loop ad nauseam. Go here, deploy your robot buddy and fight off waves of enemies. Move forward, rinse, and repeat. I wish I were joking, but in four zones, that will be virtually everything you need to do (with the exception of boss battles). Coming from the company that constructed the lauded Halo franchise, it feels sorely lacking.

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There are a couple other issues I have with Destiny right now. With the exception of raids and Crucible, missions are restricted to three players. Virtually every other cooperative shooter on the market allows four. The load times are also downright abysmal, often taking 30-60 seconds or longer to get from orbit to a location or vice versa.

Even with the complaints I have, I feel like Destiny is a great gameplay experience. With a group of friends, you’ll stay busy playing through strikes, raids, and the Crucible, earning new gear and skills along the way. It’s a solid foundation I look forward to seeing fleshed out more completely.

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Presentation
Few games on the market will be able to rival Destiny‘s presentation. This game looks incredible. The environments are colorful and varied, enemy design constantly feels fresh, draw distances are impressive, and the variety of gear and customization helps wrap it all up nicely. When you tie that together with one of the most epic game soundtracks in years (despite Marty O’Donnell’s departure from the studio), it’s hard to deny your eyes and ears will enjoy the experience.

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Conclusion
There’s no doubt that Destiny has been over-hyped. The game looks beautiful, sounds incredible, and plays fluidly, but it’s not without flaws. With Bungie promising to deliver new content and keep players occupied, there’ll be plenty to keep you and your buddies dancing in the Tower for a while. Bungie’s delivered a solid game to build their new franchise on. Let’s just hope they remember how to handle mission design and story next time.

The Bottom Line

Over-hyped beyond reason, Destiny is a fun shooter with some serious flaws. Despite those flaws, there's still a ton of fun to be had. Temper your expectations, grab some friends, and settle in for a good time.

 

7.7

Joe Morgan

Gamer, software developer, dog lover. When he's not writing for GeeksUnderGrace or CrossConsoleGamers, you can find him streaming at Twitch.tv/JoeKnowethGames

5 Comments

  1. BlackAceZero777 on September 22, 2014 at 7:22 am

    About the lacking part of the story: Wouldn’t this be because it is an MMO? Most MMOs I’ve played tell the story through the gameplay, not actually handing the information as a player goes along. Something like how Dark Souls uses its lore….

    • Joe Morgan on September 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      I wish I could agree with the idea. I really enjoy the way Dark Souls unveils its world through discovery and gameplay. Unfortunately that doesn’t feel like the case here.

      The closest thing I’ve seen to that would be a bounty I just lucked into thats going to put me on a wild goose chase for an exotic weapon. Again, that’s unfortunate because I already have an exotic weapon and you can only have one equipped at a time.

  2. Harry on September 22, 2014 at 4:53 am

    I love this game, if only the story was a tad more in depth. It seems like the Limited Edition “Arms and Armaments” book added a lot to the story for me. If they could have included the things in that book into the game, you would have a mysterious and half decent plot

    • Joe Morgan on September 22, 2014 at 5:41 am

      I don’t know if there’s any validity to it, but I’ve heard rumblings of significant chunks of story being removed. I’m still loving it. A 26 titan and a 24 warlock!

  3. Michael M. on September 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Two words.

    Great.
    Job.

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