There is not one singular thing that Destiny does exceptionally well. In fact, one might argue that Bungie’s attempts at making something groundbreaking fall short and undefined. But what makes Destiny survive these shortcomings is that it’s an amalgam of little things that come together in seamless unison to deliver an experience rivaled only by Borderlands. It’s a love letter to loot-lovers, dungeon-lovers, RPG-lovers and even FPS enthusiasts. Destiny is a tightly-wound package, slightly dented but strong enough to endure the years to come.
Destiny will live and die by its community, as it is always-online so it needs a population to keep it going. This persistent always-online model makes for a great in-game universe that feels alive and lived-in but it also opens up a few issues. I was once booted off the server while soloing a boss and my first reaction was not anger or frustration but confusion. As it turns out, you can get disconnected even while playing on your own. I lost about 5-8 minutes of progress so it wasn’t all that bad but if this continues, Bungie may have a huge problem that needs immediate attention. I haven’t encountered a boot-off since.
Customization is a double-edged sword in Destiny. When you first start the game, you’re greeted with a wonderful character customizer menu that lets you toggle hair styles, gender, race, eye color, and even the tribal markings on your face; should you want one. There are 3 possible classes to choose from; Titan, Warlock and Hunter and each have their own upgrade paths and special power ups. You can’t choose body type or voice styles so it’s fairly limited when comparing it to a game like Dragon’s Dogma where character customization is almost a meta-game. The real problem with Destiny’s character customization is that once you finalize and complete your creation, there’s no way to go back and change things. Your hair, eyes, and everything else is locked in. As of the time of this writing, Bungie has not offered a way to re-customize your character so choose wisely, Guardians.
Destiny has a huge world with multiple planets to explore like Venus and Mars. All distinct locales beautifully rendered with scrupulous detail. It’s almost a challenge not to stop in mid-battle and gaze into the cosmos above as you watch aimless comets dart by. I’ve been killed many times in PVP because the scenery just consumed my attention. Bungie has had a long history of creating great visual backdrops and cultivating worlds that feel organic yet whimsical in scope.
The main hub world of Destiny is located in the Tower. The Tower is a social hub where other players can interact with each other as well as shop and maintain their gear. But there isn’t much else to do at the Tower. You can dance all night if you’d like or sit at the center of the docking station and admire the Traveler but it all becomes redundant and tiring after just a few minutes. Bungie should add extracurricular activities like maybe throw in a Ping-Pong table or a bowling alley. Maybe a night club so that we can put our dancing moves to the test. The Tower is usually packed with players running around but most of the time it’s errand-running and mindless dancing which is funny at first but gets old fairly quickly. The game is barely a month old so it wouldn’t surprise me if Bungie has already considered these ideas. More dancing moves wouldn’t hurt either Bungie, just saying.
The visuals are a sight to behold and eloquently complimented by a sweeping score that I just can’t get out of my head. Destiny’s polish is quite remarkable and it exudes confidence in its storytelling. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where the last of humanity is facing a fatal threat that will undoubtedly extinct them and it’s up to the Guardians to stop them. It’s a story we’ve all seen before and played many times.
What makes Destiny pop for me is those moments when you play with a fireteam of friends as you band together to take down a menacing boss. The sense of desperation and sheer exhilaration is worth the price of admission alone. There’s nothing like being the last one alive on your team and strategically cowering away so that they can respawn before you get killed and fail the mission for everyone else. It is tense moments like these that really define Destiny to me and its interconnected world. When we finally hunker down and beat a boss together, there is a sense of unison and satisfaction that reminds me of those hard-fought battles in Dark Souls.
Destiny reuses a lot of the same tropes we’re used to seeing. There’s a lot of defending your little robot named Ghost, (voiced by the venerable Peter Dinklage) while he takes ages to hack a computer. Rinse and repeat. It’s easy to see how some players may feel that it’s repetitive and lazy. The countermeasure to when things start to get repetitive or boring is to check out some of the other game modes Destiny has to offer and it’s a robust set. The Crucible is Destiny’s fancy word for competitive multiplayer and you’ll find your standard Team deathmatch and free-for-all modes as well as others. My personal favorite is Skirmish, a 3v3 deathmatch which allows players to heal one another. It’s tight and fast-paced and you absolutely have to be with your teammates at all times in order to be successful.
A lot of Destiny’s issues are fixable. For example, not having voice chat with players who are not in your fireteam or the low level-cap, are things that can easily be patched in with future updates. There also seems to be no match-making for competitive matches as I remember being thrown in the fire with level 20s when I was a mere level 12 Warlock. Loading times are also a problem and can really dampen the momentum and continuity. I managed to fill most of the waiting by talking to my fireteam. Destiny is an odd game to review because the game may look and play different 6-months to a year down the line and beyond with new additions and fixes. The future and promise of Destiny is not an excuse however for shortcomings and everyone is entitled to dislike it for what it is right now. I feel like Bungie has laid the groundwork for something spectacular and we have yet to see the best of Destiny.
Destiny succeeds in the little things. The shiny loot bursting out of enemies causing you to toss caution to the wind and collect your prized treasure, the tight shooting mechanics and fairly-balanced deathmatches, the great score by Paul McCartney and Martin O’Donnell, Bungie’s attention to detail and how it all comes together in a tasteful feast of Sci-Fi goodness. Oh and no one seems to mention that many of the vendors in Destiny have a timed stock system that refreshes every now and then with different items each time; a really nice detail that just adds to the organic quality of the game. Destiny is one of the year’s best video games and another solid entry into the Bungie portfolio. The best of Destiny is yet to come.
Updated Review Verdict:
Destiny continues to excel in terms of fluid and responsive gameplay but after a crippling run of over 80 hours into the shared-world shooter, Destiny is starting to feel staggeringly barren. Vault of Glass has proven to be the best part of Destiny but it’s just one raid that resets week after week so there really is no incentive to do it more than once a week since the rewards are refreshed weekly. Still, there is no denying the fun of Vault of Glass and helping out new people can also be fun if not painfully stressful. Destiny’s biggest problem is its sense of progression. Once you’re in the high level 29-30, there is not much for you to do until Bungie releases more content. It’s a game that halts your progress due to lack of content and not by design. It’s a good thing we’re getting a new expansion pack this December that promises at least another Raid as well as a myriad of other content but for how long can Destiny players in the high-levels hold out for? I’ll be sticking with it for the long haul but it’s no question that Destiny has lost quite a bit of its luster since launch and it did so rather quickly. It’s still a good game, just not the great game we all thought it was.