Destiny; By Hazel E Moss

Before we begin this review I should be honest with you, my dear readers. I’m not going to sugar coat this because this is one of the industries most anticipated games. Its going to be brutal in places, and it’s going to be honest. Importantly, it’s going to be fair. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we shall begin...

In 2009, Bungie began the arduous, and thankless task of building a massively multiplayer online role play game. Whilst still working for Microsoft to produce Halo:ODST and Reach, the team had already begun to develop the basics of what would become Destiny. The more astute among you may have spotted the posters dotted around in ODST reading ‘Destiny Awaits’ and showing the two ‘planet’ like objects.

Five years later, and the MMO/FPS hybrid finally hits our shelves. With a total development time that would make even Bethesda proud, and to the much frenzied excitement of Bungie’s fan base and the media, September 9, 2014 finally saw the launch date of the multi platform, Destiny.

I bought the game on launch day, after eagerly lapping up as much as I could in the Open Beta test, I was excited to play the whole game. Surely, if anyone could piece FPS and RPG together in a brand new MMO experience, it would be the guys at Bungie. The people who are renowned for their FPS and online development skills. I’m not going to pull any punches here. I am thoroughly enjoying the game, yet I am also balefully disappointed in it.

Considering the size of this game, and the multiple consoles it plays on, the launch went very smoothly. There was little to no down time, and so far, since purchasing the game and writing this article, I have only had a network error occur once, and the load times are more than acceptable. The game also sports a full PvP arena, with a variety of game types, as well as a ‘co-op matchmaking’ option for joining strike teams to take on a spread of uber boss missions.

The game makes up of 4 planets to visit, and each planet has its own story arc, contributing to the main story, as well as strikes, and ‘patrol’ missions. In Patrol, you’re let loose on the world to explore, explode, and destroy the enemy as much or as little as you like, with the added option of picking up mini missions on your way. Tied into this, and the story missions in general are a number of ‘bounty’ notices that can be obtained and completed for bonus XP. (Those who have played any of the later games will notice the objective similarities to the later Halo online daily/weekly/monthly challenges). The patrol option, whilst the mini missions can become repetitive and tiresome, are in general very enjoyable especially when you team up with friends.

The story missions are generally very well tuned to progressive leveling as you play through, though there does appear be to be a sharp incline in difficulty at around the halfway point of the story line. Having the option to jump back to orbit is a handy feature, and means players who may be struggling can escape to grind out a few more levels or find better equips before coming back. The exp gains in game are also well planned for an MMO, allowing any kill in your associated area to add to your xp level, whether or not you made the kill. This helps immensely in areas where higher level players maybe farming targets, not giving the player much chance to get a shot off. In addition to this the strike missions make for a super hard boss battle mission, with lots of fighting and need for a well balanced fire team.

The game itself looks stunning. Each new planet reveals a new look, and Bungie have done an excellent job to keep away from the oft used brown and grey scale pallets of recent FPS games. The character and enemy designs are also worthy of a mention, despite the very obvious Halo influences in armor types for the player, there are some beautiful examples of character design to be found amongst the enemy character board.

Then we come to the player classes, and this is where the game starts to show weakness. The three basic classes all come with a secondary subclass, unlocked at level 15. Each has its own set of ‘individual’ skills and buffs, that level up with use, rather than as a skill tree format. Once subclasses are unlocked, you can swap in and out of them as you please via the games inventory menu. Even, if you’re brave enough to risk ‘pausing,’ during battle. Each class also comes with its own armor style, and each looks and moves beautifully. The problem is, there isn’t enough difference between each class to make anything stand out as beneficial, with the exception of perhaps the Hunter (Rogue) class.

The Titan appears to be designed for maximum damage, maximum armor, at close range. It is, in my opinion, the closest thing the game has to a tank. The two classes, Striker and Defender, balance nicely between all out in your face battle, and a more protective, ‘stay in ranks’ with the group, shielding class.

Warlocks enjoy the Voidwalker and Sunsinger classes, one designed for all out battle, hurling void light at their enemies, and the other as a buff class to use the sun's light to improve the players learnt skills.

The Hunters can choose to hang back and snipe from a distance, with improved accuracy and a deadly pistol superpower that allows for one shot kills, or they can choose to sneaking into the heart of the fight, ready to unleash a blade dance super power that sees them destroy their enemies with a knife imbued with light.

Each class can use any weapon, though hunters are recommended to stick to sniping, due to their short armor and long recovery levels. With that one exception, there really is no restriction on what class can use what weapons. Whilst Titan’s are designed for heavy arms and light machine guns, they can use whatever they like. Same goes for the Warlock, the magic skills given to the class are no where near enough to use alone to survive, especially considering the wait to recharge the classes superpower. Simply put, there isn’t enough difference to make each class feel unique and special in some way. They feel rushed and unfinished, and are definitely lacking in areas that frankly, I see no reason shouldn’t have been included.

It makes no sense to have the Warlock wait for their magic to charge as long as they have to. Especially since they only have a single ‘trick’ up their sleeves in offensive magic. The addition of more ‘spells’ to cast at the loss of the ability handle more than say, a pistol, would have been a vast improvement to the class. Throw in the idea of perhaps allowing Warlocks to buff and heal other team mates and the class becomes invaluable. The titan suffers the same issues. I have no reason to use the tank aspects of the class when I can just as easily stand back with a sniper rifle and pick off enemies. Surely a class designed to be burly and with such a high armor rating should find it harder to wield more finessed weapons, like sniper rifles, for example? But there is no hint of this happening at all. The classes are far too interchangeable and similar, and this was the first thing that alerted me to my fear that perhaps destiny wasn’t all I was hoping it would be.

In addition to issues with the class differences, (or lack there of,) the social aspect of the game is not set up for easily finding groups. Veteran RPG and MMO players of any type will tell you how important it is, to be able to find groups to play with on the fly. So far, there is no way to set ‘looking for group’ flags. The only way I have found some days has been to open my fire team to public, and just hang around the games social area, The Tower, until people join me. Because I can’t set parameters for the groups I am looking to team with, I have several times ended up a level 18, with two level 4 companions playing with me. Making progression in my own actual story arc difficult, and resulting in monotonous replaying of previous missions.

The lack of any ‘hot swap’ ability also causes some issues, especially in the heat of battle. There’s no way to quickly switch in and out of classes as suited to your needs in battle, without retreating to a (hopefully) safe distance and entering the games inventory screens.

Then there is the storyline itself. If it wasn’t so appallingly short it would run the risk of becoming disastrously repetitive. The missions are laughably short, especially when teamed in an accomplished three man fire team. They all follow a basic pattern, fight to  point A, hold off the enemy, fight to point B, kill a mid boss, fight to point C, kill the big boss, or if you’re lucky, hold off the enemy again. Theres little to no variation, and frankly, I find them insulting as a gaming veteran. The one thing that keeps me playing is the online functions, and playing with my friends. I don’t understand, personally, how we allow this kind of mockery to occur in online games, when we as gamers wouldn’t stand for it in a single player story.

The biggest problem is the story line has opportunity to become a very rich, deep, and absorbing storyline, yet for whatever reason Bungie have made it so short it never gets chance to fully bloom. Of course, there are two expansion packs due out in the next 12 months, already announced at the launch of the game. These should serve to expand the universe and the story some, one hopes at least. Yet this is also disappointing in that, when I have spent $65.00 on a game, I expect it to be of decent length, and not to have to rely on a $35.00 expansion kit to make my game worth while.

As I have stated before, the game isn’t bad. I am enjoying playing it for the most part. There are a great variation in armors and weapons to find and use, and the online multiplayer, both PVE and PVP, are great fun. After the soft level cap of 20 is hit, the game becomes more bout the social aspects than the story, and has some, if not much, longevity added. But there is something distinctly lacking from Bungie’s latest outing. Perhaps my being a huge RPG fan has spoilt me somewhat, and driven my expectations too high, but for all it’s merits, Destiny was built for FPS fans first, and everyone else second. As a gamer who loves Bungie, FPS and RPG, that hurts.

A sound gaming experience, with lots of online fun for friends to enjoy together, but all too short and all too simplistic in its RPG elements. 7/10

Destiny was developed by Bungie, and published by Activision.
It launched on the 9th of September, 2014.
The game is available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox ONE.
This review was written based on gameplay in the Xbox 360 version.
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