Destiny Review - Featuring Special Guest Rob Man

What’s Your Destiny?

The hype train for Bungie and Activision’s latest undertaking had been thundering along for 10 years prior to its release. It was the most anticipated game of 2014. After the quick glimpse everyone got during E3 2013 the hype train sprouted wings and went straight through the stratosphere.

Upon its release Destiny became the most polarizing game I’ve seen since Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. People seem to either Love it or Hate it. To find out why, lets leap down the rabbit hole and take a look at what makes this game tick, and sometimes tick people off.

In a basic overview Destiny is an amalgamation of 2 big genres: First Person Shooter and Lootfest MMO.

The FPS side of Destiny is excellent, coming from co-developers Bungie (renowned for the stellar HALO series) and Activision (Call of Duty). You have all the main components: multiple weapons, varied enemies with varying weak spots to target, grenades and melee attacks. Likewise, the MMO side has brought familiar fare to the table: Upgradeable and replaceable armour and weapons that alter the appearance of your Guardian), collectable resources to be used in upgrading, experience points that accumulate to help you level up, and large maps to explore and look for secret stashes of loot.

This is all fairly standard fare for each of these genres. The magic happens when you mix these two together. Suddenly you have a whole new beast. This is great for a lot of folks, but for some it can be a little off putting. To that end let’s discuss the parts that some dislike first.

For FPS fans (and fans of Bungie’s amazing HALO series) the fetch questing, the laborious grind to upgrade armor and weapons and the more brief story are quite the turn off. HALO had such a deep, rich and intricate story that kept people involved and excited with every new installment. From inter-faction friction to religious doctrine to intergalactic politics, there was a lot of story going on. Destiny’s story is much less present in the actual play experience.

The Traveler (a mysterious entity of unknown origin) came to our solar system and contacted humanity. It gave us much longer life spans, accelerated scientific knowledge, and helped us spread out and colonize Venus, Mars and the Moon. It was humanity’s Golden Age. Then the Traveler’s eternal enemy came; The Darkness. Our Golden Age was shattered and spread to the winds. The Traveler used the last of its “Light” to push back the darkness and create the Ghosts. Now it hovers, catatonic, over the earth. In the Traveler’s protective shadow the remnants of humanity built the last safe city on earth, and with it The Tower. The Ghosts used their power to find and revive Humans, Awoken (humanoid species from beyond our system) and Exos (Sentient machines of war) to defend the City and try to restore the Traveler.

This is where you come in. As a Guardian you choose your race, gender and appearance, then you walk through a narrative about stopping the enemies of the Light. That’s about it.
Each story mission has a required minimum level to undertake it. If you aren’t the right level for it, you have to replay the other missions until you level up enough to continue. This has made the game feel repetitive and slow for some players.

Add to this the fact that after level 20 your experience is no longer involved in gaining more levels and things start to get a bit rough. You see, throughout the game you can find soccer ball shaped items dropped by slain enemies. These are either new weapons and armor or they are Engrams (Data with the designs and blueprints for new weapons or armor).

These mystery Engrams must be taken to the Cryptarch in the Tower to be decoded and give you your item. After level 20 you are at the mercy of the gear you have or can find to gain higher levels. Add to this the fact that after level 20 the item drops become markedly less frequent and you have a recipe for disgruntled gamers.

Despite its flaws, however, Destiny has retained a large and very devoted fan base. “How can this be with such an obviously flawed game?” you inquire.
I thought you’d never ask.

Destiny is a visually stunning game. Bungie is known for great designs, but not necessarily for making the prettiest games around. Destiny changes that. The planetary environments, the enemy designs, the gear, the vehicles and weapons. All are amazingly well rendered and a feast for the eyes. But graphics alone do not make a game. The music is also so wonderfully atmospheric and changes subtly in the background to fit what you’re seeing.

The controls are tight and responsive. I have yet to experience a problem where I felt the controller or game didn’t respond to my input. My reaction time on the other hand has let me down more than a few times. It’s the same precision and accuracy you expect from Bungie.

The lootfest aspect of the game does add to the up side as well. Every time you get some new armour or weapons and strap them on it changes the appearance of your Guardian. It’s so awesome to hit the Tower and wander around checking out all the cool gear everyone has. It’s even better when you meet up with friends and establish bragging rights for the cool stuff you found, or bubble with envy over a rare or legendary piece a team mate has picked up.

And you won’t find yourself fighting tooth and nail for every scrap of loot either. The developers have made sure that loot is console specific, meaning that loot and ammo I see on my screen do not appear on other players’ screens and vice versa. This avoids in team conflict and lets people focus on the game.

And it’s here that Destiny really shines. Playing online with your friends is about the most fun you can have with this game. Running around blowing stuff up, or trying to tackle enemies that are FAR too high a level for you to fight solo, create some excellent and hilarious moments. For those who prefer PVP you can head to the Crucible (only after reaching level 5 though) and pit your team’s skills against others from all over the world. If you’re really lucky you may even get a chance to butt heads with some of Bungie’s own staff members. Victory against them can lead to epic loot and major bragging rights.

Bungie has always been about community, so to take things to the next level you can join the forums and download the Destiny Companion App for your tablet or SmartPhone. The stat tracking is insane. From kill / death ratios to types of kills, with what weapons, precision or standard damage, gear information, you name it. It’s all there and you can compare with friends, find ways to tweak your play style, and chat in the forums. Bungie takes community feedback VERY seriously. If you have concerns about certain dynamics of the game, chat it up in the forums. The mods are listening and will report back to the dev team. They already overhauled some issues with the Cryptarch and the Engram system, all based on player feedback in the forums.

And as for the Post Level 20 blues, there are plenty of ways around it. As soon as bounties are available to you at level 4 *start doing them*. By completing bounties you accrue Vanguard reputation and marks. The reputation points let you gain Vanguard levels which unlock Legendary gear in the Vanguard shop (Your team leader in the center of the Tower).
The Vanguard marks are the currency you use to buy the gear. By taking part in community events and completing bounties you can start saving up for that Legenday Gear at level 4. Any random item drops after that are just a bonus.

So there you have it. The Bad, The Good, all the information I can give you about Destiny.
For what it’s worth, I love this game. I can’t get enough of it to be perfectly honest.
To push back the darkness, fight battles on 4 different planets and restore the Light to the Traveler. Is that your Destiny too?

Rob Man

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