(This review may contain some minor spoilers concerning the plot of Destiny. As more content is released, this review’s content may be updated.)
The anticipation for Destiny’s release has been overwhelming since the IP’s reveal back in 2012. Its presence at trade shows and within the game industry sphere, winning multiple awards and garnering a huge following, have spurred on a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the game’s development, especially in relation to its close association with Sony’s PS4 campaign. Developed by Bungie, makers of the acclaimed Halo series, and produced by Activision, a publisher well versed in the FPS genre, Destiny became the interstellar epic to own even before its release date. Now that it’s finally been released and I’ve gotten to experience the entire Destiny package, I can say this is one stellar game, though maybe not the epic we hoped for.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Destiny’s story is without a doubt the game’s greatest fault. Certain elements are amazing, for example the writing is spectacular and the voice acting, which includes many talented actors such as Peter Dinklage, Nathan Fillion, Lauren Cohan, Bill Nighy and so on, is exquisite. Where the story fails, however, is in the narrative’s multiple subplots and the abundance of loose ends and non-endings. Multiple conflicts are presented to the player with some extrapolation but then receive no closure as the game draws to a conclusion; by the end of the main plot, one threat out of the many encountered is vanquished and that is all. The subplots involving Rasputin, the Fallen and the Cabal’s fate, who the Exo Stranger was talking to are all introduced and alluded to in various missions but are never fully explored or resolved. I understand that they may be planning to feature them in subsequent expansions, but the amount of questions left unanswered or ignored is staggering. The game’s short story is definitely a factor in this, which could have easily been lengthened by an hour or two just to at least address a few of these unresolved subplots. There’s so much potential for the Destiny universe and yet so little is offered in the initial package.
Destiny is a gorgeous game in regards to both graphics and art style, especially when it comes to establishing the universe. Each setting visually describes a cosmic sense of mystery and wonder, whether it be the rust colored surface of Mars or the sunken futuristic cities of Venus. Everything is crisp about the title’s looks as Destiny introduces you to each alien race and environment. I will admit in some of the larger spaces on each planet, the scenery becomes a desert of bland, monotone landscapes, but the speed with which you travel through them barely makes them a hindrance. Similarly, the soundtrack for Destiny is of the usual Bungie flair with sweeping orchestras and some intense tracks here and there. One or two particular pieces stood out but on the whole, the game’s soundtrack is standard.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
I’ve said it before in my first impressions of Destiny and it still holds up in the finished product: Destiny feels a lot like Halo. Seeing as the game was developed by Bungie, there’s no surprise there would be some similarities, but the physics and haptic feedback of the movement and guns are nearly identical. However, this comparison isn’t a strike against Destiny at all. The level of polish in the game, a quality Bungie prides itself on, is outstanding; the balanced FPS combat, whether it is PvE (Player vs. Environment) or PvP (Player vs. Player), delivers an incredibly enjoyable experience that doesn’t wear with each mission. To nail down an effective and exhilarating gameplay that remains fresh throughout the game’s cycle is one of the hardest challenges of the genre and Destiny pulls it off. The game has an interesting sense of fluidity in its combat and its objectives — an attribute that shows through in its marvelous core gameplay design.
On the RPG side of Destiny, the basic elements of the genre are all present — level-up a character, collect gear and loot, invest in skills, perform quests, progress through high levels of character customization — and to a degree, they are executed pretty well. The title boasts an impressive amount of content to keep players grinding and collecting through their journey, yet Destiny showcases a broad variety as opposed to a unique variety. Broad variety refers to having as many different equipment and skill options as possible, but each upgrade or new piece of gear does not substantially differ from the last. On the other hand, unique variety means that each next step in character progression is unique from the previous tier and in its own tier, giving a wider scope of gameplay and aesthetic options. While the RPG aspects of Destiny are far from poor, it’s a bit dissatisfying when each new chest piece or helmet is slightly altered from the last as the game adds a pauldron or bullet casing here or there. For example, most blue ranked weapons I have come across are all blue in color with slight variations. This, coupled with a horrendous UI that does not explain any of the endgame elements and becomes oddly confusing, are dents on the title’s polished surface. It’s far from the best system I’ve seen in an RPG, such a Borderlands, but it still accomplishes scratching that RPG itch of strengthening and leveling a character.
One of the core systems of Destiny is its multiplayer drop-in, drop-out functionality and its emphasis on cooperative and competitive gameplay. Destiny is not technically an MMORPG, at least not by the standard definition of the genre, but it definitely acts like one. The RPG elements, as discussed above, are woven into a system of team-based instances and firefights seamlessly as players can go from solo to teammates in an instant. It’s a fantastic system that lets the player choose how they wish to proceed through the game’s missions. In particular, strike teams and The Crucible PvP play a major role in Destiny’s endgame; these two form the main source of multiplayer interaction in the game. They are both executed extremely well as players forage or fight and give the game a needed boost in variety, especially in the endgame content which can get repetitive for a time.
Where Destiny slacks in regards to its storyline, it redeems itself with a breathtaking universe, a fantastic visual aesthetic and a brilliantly polished gameplay. Though not the masterpiece many expected it to be, it is a marvelous game nonetheless filled with hours upon hours of content and entertainment that is sure to satisfy most gamers. I would recommend this game to really any gamer out there who’s looking for a great gaming experience; it’s a versatile title that is highly accessible even to casual gamers.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood