Watch out for FLUDD.
Destiny does not live up to its hype. Bungie’s latest game was supposed to be the chosen one; the game that would unite the clans and bring peace to the realm. The game we were promised would have both excellent shooting and a rich, open world for players to explore. It sounded too good to be true. Now that Destiny is finally out, it turns out the cautious amongst us were absolutely correct in their apprehension. Its universe seems like one worth exploring, especially with these mechanics, but we may have to wait for a future release to make good on that promise.
At first, Destiny’s unique blend of science fiction and high fantasy works. Terms are bandied about that are never quite explained, but there’s a consistency to everything that carries some of the more obtuse concepts. Unfortunately, this mindset starts bleeding out into the actual story. I finished Destiny’s main story about 45 minutes ago. Even if you put a gun to my head, I don’t think I could tell you what happened at the end or why it mattered. Sure, I understand the basics: a little robot called a ‘Ghost’ resurrects your dead body and conscripts you in a war between a giant ball and some nebulous “Darkness.” You are on the giant ball’s side.
Factions appear and disappear, existing only to provide fetch quests or be enemies in fetch quests. About halfway through, a group called the ‘Awoken’ appears. You get two cutscenes with them, a single quest on their behalf, and that’s it. This is the first act of a superior game, stretched across 20-odd hours.
The quests aren’t very compelling, either. You spend so much time having your little robot buddy scan various items that, eventually, what these items are or why they must be scanned becomes nothing more than background noise…along with everything else. There’s no variety to the encounters or the enemies. What happened to the Bungie that would turn every fight into a tightly designed combat puzzle?
You’ll be going up against four enemy factions. I could not tell you why they don’t like you, or who works for whom, or what’s going on. There’s the Fallen, the Hive, the Vex, and the Cabal. Although each group has a handful of unique enemy types, you’ll mostly be facing off against some very similar enemies. There are grunts, slightly tougher grunts, snipers, the big one with the extra health bar. This seems reductive, but after enough time, the small differences start fading away. Yeah, the robotic Vex teleport a lot and the Cabal are a little tougher, but your foes aren’t varied enough to be interesting nor similar enough to be consistent.
The core shooting mechanics work, in fairness. From the floatiness of the jump to the power of the pistols, this feels like a signature Bungie product. It’s a real shame that all this quality combat doesn’t have anything to play off. There’s no design in the combat; no human touch. Destiny feels like an action game designed in Minecraft; it makes for an impressive YouTube video, but do you really want to play that for 20+ hours?
Destiny may not work as a shooter, but does it work as an MMO? Not only do the raids suffer from the gameplay issues I mentioned above, but the final encounters are teeth-powderingly frustrating. Imagine endless waves of the same enemies you’ve been fighting. Now throw a huge, nigh-invulnerable boss that deals huge amounts of damage per attack in the middle of everything. Plus, if your whole team dies (and they will), you have to start from the very beginning of the boss fight!
If — by some miracle — you manage to push through the encounter, you’re treated to maybe a few crafting materials. In a game like Diablo III, defeating a boss results in an explosive cornucopia of colored goodies. That’s how you do loot right. A few days after release, Destiny was patched to include random drops, but all the drops are just a notch above garbage. If you want any decent loot, be ready to grind the competitive multiplayer or the aforementioned raids.
The whole ‘multiplayer’ part of ‘massive multiplayer online game’ is also a bit of a mess. There’s matchmaking in the raids, but if you want to group up for a story mission, you’ll have to grab some friends. Considering how difficult some of those late-game bosses can get, that may be mandatory for certain players. There’s also no matchmaking in the extra hard endgame content. Mandatory matchmaking would be less than ideal, but the option would be nice. If I have to make concrete plans just so I can play any part of a multiplayer game with any other people, that’s a major design failure.
At the very least, Destiny is a pretty game. On the PlayStation 4, everything looks great and I never saw any framerate dips. If you find yourself grinding through all that Destiny has to offer, at least you’ll never want for visual splendor.
But looks alone can’t help Destiny. It’s just a husk; a solid blueprint, but ultimately little more than a high-end proof of concept. For all the tightening and balance that must have gone into the shooting, the fights are boring. For all the hard work that must have gone into the art, the environments aren’t worth exploring. Maybe the inevitable sequel will capitalize on the framework established here, but for now, this game isn’t worth your money or your time.
(Also, if it turns out the expansions are better than the core game, I am retroactively deducting a whole star from this review)