Destiny (PS4) Review
Kalvin Martinez / Sep 16th, 2014 1 Comment
When Bungie announced Destiny and its ambitious 10-year plan, it was difficult to see where exactly the former Halo developer was going with its new game. Like Halo, we knew it was a sci-fi first-person shooter, but it was also going to have a heavy online social component that is like an MMO but not like an MMO. It was hard to get a grasp on what it would be.
The scale and scope Bungie spoke about when introducing Destiny was grand–it seemed too grand Destiny is not that grandiose, but the game is just a small chunk of what’s to come; an introduction for gamers to get their feet wet in the new world.
Destiny sucks players into its world with a slick presentation. The story has all the excitement and spectacle of a great blockbuster movie, and the sound design helps immerse players in the danger and immediacy of space travel, but what the game does best is mix its competitive, story and co-op shooting with light RPG elements that produce a whole new level of immersion.
Earth People, I Was Born on Jupiter
The Collapse took everything from humanity. The stars that were theirs to explore and colonize were snatched away due to the darkness. It was only thanks to The Traveler that mankind survived, but the Traveler was never the same. Humanity was forced to be content with Earth, which was a stark change from the Golden Age, when the entire solar system was theirs to explore. The darkness is coming back though.
Agents of the darkness creep ever closer with aims to wipe out the Light. Armed with the power to wield the Light, Guardians are sent out with their helpful ghosts to ensure the agents of the darkness are not successful. Tasked with protecting humanity, Guardians slowly uncover the true nature of the threat posed by the Fallen, the Hive, the Vex and the Cabal. A mysterious stranger aides you on the journey, pushing you closer to the truth. Without the help of you and other Guardians, the Traveler, Earth and humanity won’t survive.
Building a universe is not easy, but Destiny manages to pull it off. The story moves briskly and the game knows how to put on a show. The major story beats, at their best, completely draw players into the plight of Earth and the Traveler. Discovering the plans of the Hive is one of the highlights of the story, and the fun and crazy Sword of Crota story mission are some of the best moments in the game.
Cutscenes offer dynamic camera angles and provide a good visual style to the story moments. The interplay between the score and the camera angels creates engaging story moments. The best example of this are the Reef “missions” where players meet the Awoken, who also happen to be the most realized characters in the game.
There are some wonky MMO logic pits that created by having dozens of Guardians running around. However, the game addresses that immediately by informing players that they the only hope. Unfortunately, the game never really develops the characters in a meaningful way. It seems like Vanguards, merchants and even the Speaker are simply ways to cash in mission rewards. Despite “the Guardian” and Ghost having a fun bantering relationship, most of the time it just seems like Peter Dinkelage is talking at you.
Colonize the Moon
Many have characterized Destiny as a blend of Halo and Borderlands, which is not completely inaccurate. It cultivates the special abilities style of first-person gunplay and emphasizes loot and character progression as a reward. There are obvious parallels between Halo and Destiny in how shooting mechanics work, but the weapon, character and power upgrades change how shooting functions.
Rather than going down after a set number of shots, enemies have health and level buffs, and weapons do specific damage. Destiny places stock in its RPG mechanics, but it never changes the core shooter reality. Headshots and smart shooting are always more important than anything else.
The game is split up into several different parts, starting with story missions. New story missions are unlocked once players complete the preceding missions. Completing all story missions opens up exploration and strike missions. Strike missions, which contain light story elements, set a fireteam on a mission to take out a dangerous enemy of the Tower. Tackling them requires a smart team, patience and good coordination.
Exploration missions give gamers the freedom to explore Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars and take on Patrols to earn experience. Patrols mostly involve killing a set number of enemies, scanning something or collecting drops. They aren’t exciting, but the shooting is so fun that it makes the grindy MMO type quest bearable. Patrols also are a good way to earn experience and Vanguard rewards.
At level five, players gain the ability to play in The Crucible, which is the competitive aspect of Destiny. It features a range of mission types, usually pitting first sets of fireteams against each other with specific goals to achieve. Playing through The Crucible unlocks additional modes, and players earn Crucible Marks to buy rare gear. There are also Crucible specific bounties to earn bonus experience. For some, it will be the key draw, but for others who were sold on the PVE elements of Destiny, it will leave them feeling cold.
There is a ton of stuff to do in Destiny, and more things open up as you progress in the game. Hitting the soft level cap of 20 is only the beginning. Heroic missions unlock at level 20 and the toughest strikes and story missions reward players with rare gear. Players will need to play these missions in order to equip armor imbued with Light, which is the only way to continue leveling up. Even without leveling up, players can earn experience and progress abilities and weapons beyond level 20. The grind to earn Light armor through Vanguard and Crucible Marks is where much time will be spent in Destiny.
Space Age Pimpin
There may be some concern over the MMO aspects of Destiny. While there are distinct borrowed elements from MMOs, it never gets too deep into the pitfalls that come with MMOs. Much of this is due to the core shooting gameplay, which grounds the experience and makes everything fluid, even when grinding out fluff patrol missions. It uses MMO hooks to integrate co-op play and character progression in a meaningful way. Whether you want to play with other people or not, the game gives you options to engage with the social aspect, but doesn’t force you to.
It is easy to get too eager to put a fine point on a game too quickly, especially something like Destiny. The story missions are a ton of fun, and have some fantastic moments, but playing through the story is only a small part of Destiny and it is not where the game shines brightest.
The true test for Destiny is if you can get lost playing it; if you can drop an entire day completing strikes, cashing bounties, and getting a posse together to make run in The Crucible. Destiny has that intangible quality that makes it addicting and keeps players coming back for more.
tags: Activison , bungie , destiny , Destiny Review , ps4 , review , sony