Just Played: Destiny Review

So, one of the most hyped titles in recent memory released earlier this month. In the past two weeks I’ve beat everything Destiny currently has to offer. Let’s take a look at what Bungie gets right with Destiny and where they stumble.

Bungie Knows How to Shoot Stuff

Gunplay is Destiny’s strongest area. Fans of Halo will feel right at home as you blast away at various alien species that represent ‘The Darkness.’ Popping heads off is as fun as ever in Destiny.

The added weight when running can throw you off, though. Turning is much slower while running compared to walking, and definitely takes some getting used to. Luckily, this weight goes away when the shooting starts.

Weapon slots made popular in Halo make their way to Destiny. This go around, you have three weapon slots. Auto rifles, scout rifles, hand cannons and others make up your ‘primary’ slot. Sniper rifles, shotguns and fusion rifles make up your ‘secondary’ slot, and rocket launchers and heavy machine guns round out the ‘heavy’ slot.

Giving ‘power’ weapons to players from the outset in multiplayer isn’t a good idea. Maybe this is the Halo fan in me, but secondary ammo should not be available at the beginning of the match. It leads to players camping in tight areas with shotguns and snipers posting up from the beginning of each match. Players should start with zero secondary ammo and pick up ammo around the map, just like heavy ammo.

Destiny may lack in several areas, but gunplay isn’t one of them.

Hulk Smash

Special abilities give each class a little something extra. Titans get a hulk smash that never gets old. The Titan class can also use a bubble shield in their other specialization. Warlocks start with a Nova Bomb, a big ball of void energy that decimates anything in its path. Radiance is the Warlock’s second specialization, dubbed Sunsinger. It dramatically reduces the cooldown on grenades and melee attacks. Hunters use gunslinger (a gold gun that one shots enemies) and bladedancer (fast, one hit melees).

Titan smash

All of the abilities are incredibly fun to use. They might ruin PvP balance, but taking out 3 or 4 people with the Titan hulk smash never gets old.

It’s Pretty to Look At

Another plus for Destiny is presentation. Graphics and music suck you into the world Bungie tries to create. The music in particular. Rousing scores as you shoot at bullet sponge strike bosses were a highlight for me.

Destiny’s planets are beautiful, especially Venus. Oh, and Bungie’s trademark skyboxes return. More games should put an emphasis on how their skies look. Bungie knocks it out of the park again with Destiny.

The beautiful worlds do come with a major drawback.

Can’t Go That Way

Nothing breaks immersion more than a timer telling you to go back. Invisible walls suck any potential exploring right out of Destiny. Nothing is worse than trying to jump a sand dune on Mars only to be greeted with an invisible brick wall. Or, a timer on the Moon telling you to you can’t be in a specific area. Why didn’t Bungie just put their worlds in canyons or surround them with mountains?

Either let us explore, or don’t build environments that look explorable. It’s a slap in the face to players to encounter invisible walls or timed kill zones. For a game touting exploration, there’s a distinct lack of it in Destiny.

Where’s the Story?

I thought Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition would win the worst story crown this year. Boy, was I wrong. Destiny’s story makes Diablo’s look downright compelling. Nothing is explained. The Speaker teases you with lines like ‘I could explain blah, blah, blah,’ but never says anything outside of some darkness enemy you have to kill and returning the light to the Traveler.

Grimoire cards gathered as you play seem to flesh out the story a bit more. But, you have to go to Bungie’s website to read about them. A codex, a la Mass Effect, would have been handy.

Towards the latter half of the game there starts to be an inkling of a story when talking to the Queen of the Reef, but that doesn’t last long. Destiny’s utter lack of story is probably one of the biggest next-gen disappointments for me so far. Bungie’s storytelling is usually solid, but they completely dropped the ball with Destiny. Oh, and Peter Dinklage as Ghost is just bad. No other way to put it.

Press X for Mission

The title says it all. Nearly every single mission boils down to pressing ‘X’ to deploy Ghost to scan something. There is zero mission variety. There’s no heavy use of vehicles, no co-op vehicles and no epic boss battles. Press ‘X’, defend waves, shoot bullet sponge enemies. That’s what Destiny’s missions are.

Oh, and last week Bungie added Queen’s Wrath missions. New content, right? Nope. Just regurgitated story missions with legendary rewards. Then Bungie hotfixes them so you can’t dismantle them for ascendant materials. Nice job, Bungie. Now, there’s no reason for high levels to even play them.

Exotics Only

Early weapon variety is lacking big time. Outside of a seeking rocket launcher, you won’t see anything cool until you hit level 20. Even then, you’ll have to pray to the RNG gods to give you something interesting.

There are a handful of ways to get legendary loot. The best way to get guaranteed legendaries is leveling up one of the factions, Crucible or Vanguard to level 2. Once there, you can use Crucible or Vanguard marks to purchase gear. It’s a bit of a grind, but it takes out the RNG from farming. Plus, you might just snag a few legendaries along the way playing strikes or Crucible.

Then there is the Cryptarch. I thought Kadala from Diablo 3 hated me. I managed to snag about 12 legendary engrams during my time with Destiny. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them turned into a blue. At least, Bungie acknowledges that was a terrible design decision and will be patching the game this week. Once the patch releases, legendary engrams will turn into legendary gear.

The exotic weapons is where Destiny’s loot system shines. Invective, Ice Breaker, Pocket Infinity are some of the great weapons Destiny offers if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one. Pocket Infinity is a fusion rifle with a full-auto capability once it’s upgraded. Sounds awesome. Looks even cooler. Granted these weapons are starting to wreak havoc with PvP balance, but Bungie has been quick with hotfixes so that shouldn’t last too long.

Bungie needs to take a page out of Diablo 3’s book. If you’re going to make a loot game, you need to shower the player with cool loot. Right now, Destiny’s loot system is bad. Legendaries don’t drop nowhere near fast enough, and I still haven’t received the exotic bounty everyone is talking about.

A Social Game?

Destiny wants to be a social game, but doesn’t let you be social. Voice chat is limited to fire teams, and interactions with other players is limited to pointing, waving and dancing. I won’t harp on this too much since Bungie says it will address it in a future patch.

Decent Multiplayer With a Few Flaws

I had a good time with Crucible since launch. Balance is a crapshoot, but Destiny was never going to have a hyper-competitive multiplayer. Players are balanced no matter the level, but weapon upgrades do play a major factor in Destiny. That, and exotics. Check out what the Vex Mythoclast can do in multiplayer. It’s a fusion rifle, but uses a primary slot versus a secondary.

Game modes are the usual. Control is domination from Call of Duty. Clash is team deathmatch. Rumble is free for all. Iron Banner is expected to come later. This mode will let you take full advantage of your character in a multiplayer setting. Low level characters best stay away from this one.

Destiny’s maps are decent. Most of the maps generally have short to medium range sight lines which makes auto rifles feel overpowered compared to the other primary guns. Bungie has said they will address auto rifle balance in a future patch. Right now, there’s really no reason to use anything else in your primary slot.

Will Crucible hold up to the Halo and Call of Duty onslaught? I seriously doubt it.

Vault of Glass is Destiny’s Biggest Accomplishment

I may not like many things with Destiny, but it’s definitely not Vault of Glass. Destiny’s raid offers the most compelling content in the game. Fights are varied with several different mechanics. There’s a cool little jumping sequence. Hell, there’s even a stealth section.

Vault of Glass is the best part of Destiny. But, why weren’t some of these mechanics introduced in earlier strikes? The raid isn’t even that difficult once people know what to do. Bungie could have added a small jumping section to one strike and a cleanse mechanic on another. Adding these mechanics to strikes would have solved many of Destiny’s problems.

One, strikes would have replay value. Two, it teaches the player base how to play Vault of Glass. Three, you could then add matchmaking to Vault of Glass. Gathering 5 more high level friends is a pain right now.

Vault of Glass was the most fun I had in Destiny. Try it, if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Expectations Versus Reality

This is where many people have a problem with Destiny, including me. My expectations for Destiny came nowhere near the reality of what Destiny is.

If you told me during the Destiny beta that I played half the game’s areas (Earth and Moon were available), or that mission variety would be non-existent or the story would be pathetic, I wouldn’t have believed you. Why? Denial, I guess. I played the Alpha. I played the Beta. The warning signs were there. But all we heard was how great the final game would be.

That’s probably my problem. I played the Beta too much. Once the full game came out, it’s shortcomings became even more obvious.

But, I Still Had Fun

It sounds like I hate Destiny. I don’t. Am I disappointed? Absolutely. Probably the most disappointed I’ve been in years. I let the hype get to me, and came away underwhelmed.

Destiny’s gunplay is fantastic, the multiplayer is competent and Vault of Glass is incredible. On the flip side – the story is trash, mission design is pathetic and strikes get old quickly.

I had a lot of fun with Destiny, but Bungie has their work cut out for them. Build on Vault of Glass. It’s the strongest area. Start introducing mechanics in new strikes and eventually add matchmaking to raids.

Bungie is responding to player feedback quickly. They have to. The holiday gauntlet of games is about to begin and players will return to their old favorites quickly. I just hope Destiny’s DLC adds some much-needed variety to the game.

Destiny has an incredible destination (Vault of Glass) muddled by a tumultuous journey (story, leveling past 20). Bungie has created a base for a special game. We will see if Destiny can become that special game as Bungie supports the title over the coming months and years.

Despite it’s glaring and numerous flaws, I still put more than 2 gameplay days in Destiny. Bungie did something right. But right now, I’m done with Destiny.

I played the Xbox One version of Destiny.


Destiny score