Hey wow! A new-ish game I’m reviewing! How crazy is that?
So Destiny was released in September for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4. I was, unfortunately, unable to get my hands on a copy until very late in September. I also missed the beta. During the time between the beta’s release to when I finally got the game, I heard a large variety of mixed reviews. It’s mediocre, it’s amazing, it’s got its moments, it’s really lackluster, blah blah blah blah blah.
And that’s when I remembered why I try not to read reviews of a game I really really want to play; my opinions get sullied and I wind up hesitating to buy them, and then I potentially miss out on a lot of fun because the game may not be for everyone.
So I finally picked up the game. And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy it. But now I’ve got to review it, so let’s talk about what works, and what doesn’t.
One of the big arguments surrounding Destiny is whether or not it can be considered an MMO. For the sake of this article, I’m going to say that yes, it is in fact an MMO. Destiny is an online-only game, which means if you don’t have internet access, you’re pretty much SOL (also how are you reading this article?). The good news is that you don’t need to have an Xbox Live Gold account to play the game. With a silver account, you can play through all the story missions and access the Tower, which is the player hub. The bad news is that that’s really about all you can access. Other functions of the game like the multiplayer matches (the Crucible), Strike missions (co-operative boss hunts that pay out pretty good rewards), instances, and the legended Raids are all gold access-only.
Now, the story arc that plays out across the missions is probably the most underwhelming part of this game. There really isn’t a story to speak of. Without spoiling anything, it essentially boils down to “You are light, now go kill the dark”. Sadly, Bungie sets up plenty of really interesting plot points and characters, but the story fails to capitalize on those things. For me, I was left with too many questions to be satisfied in calling it a “story mode”. Bungie probably would have been more successful if they hadn’t tried to maintain a true story and instead approached the game with a more traditional MMO style in mind. Or, if they had abandoned more of the traditional MMO functions and paid more attention to developing their plot. They tried to have it both ways butin this case it just didn’t pan out well.
The game features a large cast of big-name actors to voice their characters including Bill Nighy, Peter Stormare, Lauren Cohan, Gina Torres, and Peter Dinklage, who plays the part of your trusty AI sidekick. Some of them really nail their performances while others struggle to negotiate the difficulties of voice acting compared to screen or stage acting. Dinklage is the most notable to offer a substandard performance. His character (Ghost) always sounds slightly disinterested and even in moments of urgency lacks the sincerity to really sell it. One could argue that this is a result of him playing a robotic AI character, but I think that’s just an excuse. Not to say that Dinklage doesn’t HAVE an excuse; voice acting is hard. It takes a different method than a physical performance, which those of us who watch Game of Thrones know Dinklage can definitely master. Still, hearing Dinklage pretending like he understands some of the terminology and jargon he uses is pretty funny.
Multiplayer is chaotic and fun as hell. The game modes include Control (capture points that increase your team’s score until the limit is reached), Clash (team deathmatch), Rumble (free-for-all), Salvage (small-team objective game), and Skirmish (small-team deathmatch). It plays just as well as any Halo game did in the past. You bring your own looted gear into the matches against players of all levels, but the gear-level does not affect your success in the game. Thankfully, Bungie had the foresight to normalize damage output for all weapons within the Crucible.
If you’ve ever played any of the Halo games, then you know that when it comes to gunplay, Bungie is one of the best developers out there. They really know how to work an FPS. The mechanics are intuitive, and there’s a decent variety of weapons. Auto rifles, Scout rifles (like the DMR from Reach), Pulse Rifles (Battle Rifle), Hand Cannons (really big revolvers), Sniper rifles, Shotguns, Fusion Rifles (that function similarly to the Spartan Laser), Heavy machine guns, and Rocket launchers all come together to make one big, happy family of lead-spitting chaos.
The maximum player level in Destiny is 30, but players only linearly progress until they hit level 20. After that, level is increased by finding armor that has a stat called “Light”. By finding better armor with higher Light values, you are able to increase your level all the way up to 30. To complete the story mode, you only need to get up to level 18. But to take on other challenges and earn better rewards, you need to be a higher level to even access them. The Raids in particular require you to be level 22 to even see it on the map. But the truth is that you should really be level 26 before even attempting it. If any enemy is a certain amount of levels higher than you (I don’t know the exact number, though I believe it’s 3 or 4 levels higher), then you won’t be able to damage them. The game offers story missions on a variety of level difficulties that help scale to you, but it’s not always necessarily more fun to play the harder versions. Know your limits as a player, and play at a level that challenges you comfortably. Or doesn’t. I know that I prefer to go into a mission at least one or two levels higher than the recommended level.
Destiny suffers from a poor narrative and, arguably, repetitive gameplay. But if you’ve played Bungie before, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into, and you know if you’ll enjoy the game or not. And despite all the mixed reviews I’ve read about the game, it’s a game that still has my attention and my enjoyment.
For all of these things, I give Destiny a B+.
All screenshots courtesy of GamesRadar [http://www.gamesradar.com/destiny/screenshots/]