Destiny - Review

http://invisiblekidreviews.blogspot.de/2014/09/destiny-review.html

Alongside Titanfall, Bungie's new IP Destiny has quickly gained a whole lot of hype. Presented as a giant first person shooter MMO for consoles, Bungie, the developer responsible for the highly influential Halo series, claims that this is the game they always wanted to make. Now, backed up by publisher Activision, Destiny's budget with about 500 Mio dollars makes it the most expensively produced game to date, beating GTA 5's previous record.
With so much hype and promises having been fed to the gamer community, there's a lot of resulting pressure and expectations put on this huge game.
After all the waiting, is this the game that will inevitably keep you hooked to your TV? Or is this a destiny you could've easily passed on?


Story

The plot:
Destiny is set seven hundred years into the future in a post-apocalyptic setting following a prosperous period of exploration, peace, and technological advancement known as the Golden Age. In a universe where humans have spread out and colonized planets in the Solar System, an event known as "the Collapse" saw the mysterious dissolution of these colonies, the end of the Golden Age, and mankind teetering on the brink of extinction. The only known survivors of the Collapse are those living on Earth, who were saved by "the Traveler," a white, spherical celestial body whose appearance centuries before had enabled humans to reach the stars. The Traveler now hovers above the last safe city on Earth, and its presence allows the Guardians - the defenders of the City - the ability to wield an unknown power, only referred to as "The Light."
Upon mankind's first attempt to repopulate and reconstruct after the Collapse, it is discovered that hostile alien races have occupied mankind's former colonies and civilizations and are now encroaching upon the City. The player takes on the role of one such Guardian, and is tasked with reviving the Traveler while investigating and destroying the alien threats before humanity is completely wiped out.
(source: Wikipedia)


Presented as a stylish mix of many of Halo's gameplay mechanics and Mass Effect-oriented visual style, Destiny's main storyline surrounding your own individual character sadly is a very thin, underdeveloped and resultingly very underwhelming affair.
With so much praise and attention having been given to the gameplay during the past gaming conventions and expos, it truely shows that Bungie put all their bets on the game's gameplay mechanics seeing that Destiny unfortunately only boasts a very shallow universe.
Though the game kicks off with a prophecy-esque introduction, after which it basically throws you right into the action as a Guardian, who has to fullfill...well...his destiny, the game's story sadly never picks up.
Playing through the game's story up until the final missions on Mars, the player is left continuously waiting for the story to "wow" him or to show him anything interesting that would amaze him and pull him right into Destiny's universe. However, this unfortunately never happens.
With that said, the admittedly great visual style of Destiny happens to serve only as a stylish facade, behind which there isn't anything remotely as interesting or fleshed out as in other sci-fi games like most notably Mass Effect. Weapon- and armory vendors all look like very interesting extra-terrestrial beings, which sure must have very interesting stories to tell, yet you are never able to ask them anything but only buy and sell things.
Thus, it's also worth mentioning that Destiny's story only features very little actual characters aside from you and your bot-sidekick "Ghost". It's only towards the game's final missions that actually other story relevant characters appear, which seem to liven up the dragging story quite a bit only for said story to end shortly after with one of the most disappointingly underwhelming and flatout easy final stages of a game in recent memory.

There was a story here once...it's gone now.

Boasted and promoted additionally through voice acting work of popular actors like Peter Dinklage and Nathan Fillion, they nevertheless don't make Destiny's story a tad bit more interesting.
Peter Dinklage as Ghost tries to make Destiny's universe feel a bit more detailed and grand than it actually is, but his additional info about the happenings quickly disappear during the chaos in battle or through the never-ending tech talk he utters.
However, for people who want to dig as deep into Destiny's universe as it gets, they can read into it by unlocking Grimoire Cards through achievements. Only then through additional use of the Destiny mobile App or going on the Destiny website you can squeeze out a couple of more info.
It's all a nice try to involve Destiny's mobile- and web appearances into the game, but seeing that so many crucial details about Destiny's universe are kept elsewhere other than the game only comes down to a very misguided design decision. Why go somewhere else to read about it when you could've easily just as well placed interesting characters into your game to actively talk about it?

Summed up, Destiny's story and universe are sadly nowhere near as grand and fleshed out as Bungie promised and obviously would've liked it to be. Wrapped in an appealing visual style, Destiny's shallow story will only keep you busy by levelling up and getting into the game's mechanics but really not much else.

We all liked you a whole lot more in Game of Thrones, Mr. Dinklage.


Gameplay
 

Character Classes - "The Thief, The Wizard and The Knight"

Being an MMO, Destiny lets you chose to sign up as one of three classes: a Hunter, a Warlock or a Titan.
Hunters are of the sneakier kind and more like snipers who prefer to be at long range. Warlocks on the other hand are great in performing great deals of damage in larger areas like wizards, while Titans are straight up juggernauts focussed on heavy firepower and very offensive battling techniques.
As one might already guess, each of the classes has its very own special abilities that further distinguish them form each other:
Hunters are given a special gun with devastating three shots that deal a lot of damage at once, Warlocks (being of the wizard-esque kind) can throw big energy balls that cause electric damage, and Titans can perform a very effective ground pound that practically guarantees one-hit-kills during competitive multiplayer.
Of course each class only serves as a foundation to build your very own character upon. With that said, each character can be individually customized with bought or achieved gear, weapons and upgraded skills. Unlocked at level 15, players can also explore a subclass of specific abilities, which focus and boost specific stats like strength, mobility, etc. at a time and can be flexibly activated or de-activated to the player's liking.

"HULK SMASH!"

Although Destiny's three classes do a solid job of differentiating themselves from each other through their special abilities, playing as either one of them doesn't feel too different...for better and for worse.
Therefore, the three classes are well balanced and don't overpower another particular class. Each of the classes is equally effective and able to unock high level content in the same way as the other. Sure, play sessions with a team on your side that consists out of members of all three classes makes experiences and missions far more varied and joyful to play, yet missions never depend on you having all three classes on your side. Thus, three skilled players of the same class can just as easily take down a large boss. While this might be a great testament to the game's class balance, it simultaneously shows that Destiny's three classes don't essentially differ too much in crucial ways that necessarily make a specific class stick out as very useful in a specific field. This most notably shows when Hunter-, Warlock and Titan players all tackle and attack bosses in mostly the exact same strategies.

However, your very own individual character can further be defined by race. There are three races to choose from: Human, Exo and Awoken.
Though these three races give a nice new layer of personalizing your character, it is a bit of a letdown however that Destiny only gives very little options in actually designing your character's appearance. With a very limited palette of faces, hairstyles, etc. to choose from, which can only be applied to your face and no option to alter your character's actual body, the character design options particularly could've been handled better with more freedom for players (especially when looking at other RPGs like Skyrim).
Regardless of your chosen class or race however, you will begin your journey always at the same spot in Old Russia, making especially the "race choice" somewhat of a missed opportunity in Destiny for potential multiple stories to actually flesh out the universe quite a bit more. 

Choose wisely...not really.


PvE (Person vs. Enemy) Missions - "Mind Your Own Business!"

Starting at the Cosmodrome, which is set in the remains of post-apocalyptic Russia, Destiny is not a linear journey, but one, which gives you the opportunity to tackle and select missions in the order of your liking on large maps set on four different planets: Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars.
Additionally players can also gather in the game's social hub, The Tower, where they can purchase gear, weapons and ships.

Your objectives on each of the four planets or areas depend on the mission type you select, of which there are four types (of PvE missions): Stories, Strikes, Raids and Patrols:
 
Stories are the most straight forward missions types, giving you a clear set of objectives that drive the game's narrative forward. Sadly, alongside the thin storyline, story objectives are largely very repetitive by mostly having you to make your way to a certain computer and let your sidekick Ghost work on it while you defend him against oncoming waves of enemies. Furthermore, story missions can all be tackled and completed without necessarily having a team of other players on your side, making story missions feel very much like you are playing a straight up singleplayer game that didn't really need to be online.

Strikes are quite a bit more challenging and act like dungeons from standard MMO RPGs. Strikes have to be completed with two other players in order to make your way to a boss and take him down. Destiny's Strike missions are easily among the game's greatest highlights, mostly due to the fact that the bosses are very challenging to take down and take up a whole lot of bullets to do so. These boss battles put skills and tactical thinking of the three players well to the test and resultingly make beating a boss an immensely satisfying accomplishment.

Strike missions are very challenging and as good as co-op gets in Destiny.

Raid missions follow the concept of Strike missions on a bigger scale with a larger team of players (6 total) to complete. This mode however will only go live on September 16th. Due to their difficulty, Raid missions can also only be played by players with a minimum level of 26.

Patrol missions are more of a free roaming kind. Selecting a Patrol mission has you roam free around the selected planet's large map to randomly kill alien enemies there to gain XP or to activate light beacons randomly placed in the environment to get small mission objectives like scanning a special object at a specific location or to kill a certain amount of a specific enemy type. Light beacon missions quickly become a very monotone and repetitive means for grinding XP though and only further emphasize that Patrol missions or free roaming on the map has you mostly encounter other players who all simply follow their own individual objectives and goals and only rarely actually cooperate with one another. Therefore, the great MMO aspect of many players simultaneously roaming around on one large map often feels more like window dressing than actual cooperative interaction in Destiny's supposedly "very cooperative" MMO architecture.

Only on very special occasions like the Strike missions (that can only be done and started with other players anyway) or during rare random public events during Patrols, in which players have to defend a teleporter for a specific amount of time, shows definitive cooperation and interaction with other players. With Destiny having you repeatedly visit the same zones of the map and redo the same monotone Light Beacon missions again and again, it shows that the game actually artificially tries to make you cross paths with other players in order to cooperate yet often without any success.
The gamebreaker here however is that other players have no motivation of helping you with your own goal. If another player was going to help you to shoot your way through an area in order for you to be able to scan a specific object and therefore gain a large amount of XP for completing the mission, the assisting other player wouldn't obtain any of said rewarded XP and therefore would have aboslutely no benefit of actually helping you to complete the mission. This lack of having other players actually take part and profit through helping you with your mission sadly diminishes Bungie's original cooperative vision substantially during Patrol missions.
Now, roaming around planets therefore has each player mostly just follow his own individual goals and mostly just ignore other players. Actual cooperative play only very rarely takes place there.

"Could anyone help me for a second?!"


Competitive PvP (Person vs. Person) Multiplayer - "Halo Flashbacks Incoming!" 

No Activision FPS game would be complete without a competitive multiplayer.
Players who prefer competition over cooperation can take part in The Crucible, Destiny's hub for competitive PvP multiplayer, and even exclusively rank up their characters there if they wish.
 
The Crucible offers players three competitive match types: Control, Clash, Rumble and Skirmish.

Control is the game's King of the Hill mode, Clash is straight up Team Deathmatch, Rumble serves as a 6 player Free-for-All, and Skirmish is an altered Team Deathmatch version, in which 3 vs. 3 players fight each other while downed teammates can be revived during a limited amount of time.

Though surely not boasting any new revolutionary multiplayer ideas, Destiny's PvP multiplayer is another obvious strength of the game's entire package. Featuring Bungie's expertise in rock solid shooting mechanics along with surprisingly fluent and very flexible double-jump jetpacks, Crucible matches play a whole lot like a mix of Halo's and Titanfall's online matches.
Very remarkable in Destiny, is that the PvP modes seem to have almost no balancing issues despite mixing players from different ranks. Though higher level weapons of course do have an edge over weapons from lower level players, no weapons feel annoyingly overpowered, making PvP matches in Destiny very enjoyable despite their lack of truely innovative maps or modes. Especially the individual tactics of the double-jump use of players gives matches a healthy dose of variety.
Additionally, further boosting the synergy of PvE- and PvP missions, succesfully won PvP matches grant you further XP and items to level up your character with.  

The Crucible is where you will probably spend most of your time.


PvE-PvP Synergy & Post-Story Levelling - "Grind-Chore"

All activities in Destiny, both PvE as well as PvP levels and matches grant the player XP to rank up and resultingly achieve better gear and weapons. Finishing every PvE mission and battling in every PvP map that Destiny has to offer will take you anywhere from 12 to 16 hours depending on where you like to spend your time the most.
With the player hitting a (supposedly) maximum level as soon as rank 20 is achieved, one might quickly get to the question "Well, and what now?".
This is where Destiny's remaining value basically consists out of seemingly endless grinding and levelling up, that will most definitely polarize players' opinions extremely.

In order to effectively rank up in Destiny and become stronger and stronger you will inevitably have to backtrack and repeat several activities and missions multiple times. Even though you can always choose in what way you want to achieve the necessary XP to level up (either through doing PvE missions or straight up PvP matches), even reaching level 26 to access the Raid missions will take quite some repetition to accomplish.
As soon as players hit rank 20 though, they will think less about XP and more about "Light" to level up. To level up above rank 20, players need to achieve and wear specific armor that possesses specific amounts of Light, which therefore replaces XP regarding the levelling currency, and which will lead your way to the endgame activities (like Raid missions).
However, alongside a missing introduction or explanation on what to do with or how to use materials like metal or weapon parts, Destiny is very stingy on explaining some of its crucial customizing and levelling mechanics. Especially seeing that the game blatenedly tells you that you reached "Maximum Level 20" rather comes off as a full-on lie revealed at the latest when you see other players with level 26 and higher running around.

Do you have anymore of them Light?

Although Destiny gives players the freedom to choose how they want to level up, either through PvE or PvP, the game as of now simply lacks enough content to withstand the inevitable extreme monotony that will hit players after they finished the story.
Destiny artificially tries to give the illusion of new content by introducing playlists though.
For once, there is the Vanguard Strike playlist, which has four tiers of level based difficulty and rewards from level 18 to 24. Nevertheless, each of those randomly chosen Strikes has you tackling the same Strike missions that you played before just with a higher difficulty and better gear as a reward. Another attempt for PvE lovers comes in the form of daily randomly chosen Story missions with higher difficulty that follow the same formula.

The Crucible is probably your best bet on levelling up past rank 20 since PvP matches tend to dish out valuable rewards and gear more frequently than the extremely tiresome and repetitive PvE mission playlists. Trying to further lighten up the somewhat dragging grind of Destiny is a feature that offers players to sign up into one of three factions at The Tower that grant you signature gear and weapons if you do well enough in The Crucible and gain reputation.

Despite the fact that grinding and levelling itself is a crucial and important part of MMOs and RPGs, Destiny only to a very limited extent gives players enough variety to keep being motivated during their grinding quest.
Even though Strike missions are great challenging fun at first, the amazement and satisfaction quickly drops when you have to fight the same boss over and over again for the hundredth time. With the best option being the PvP matches in Destiny, even the 10 maps on 4 planets will eventually dry out after some time.
With that said, most players should (and will) most probably try out and level up the other two classes of the game or take a complete break from Destiny until Bungie releases more of the promised content for the game in the form of more missions and probably planets in the coming weeks/months.

Here we go...again.


Graphics
 

It's a no-brainer that a game coming from Bungie with such a big budget would be a marvel of presentation - and Destiny completely proves that.
Despite some long load times often tending to hamper the fun a bit, Destiny is a stellar looking game with a consistent artstyle, great sharp graphics and a very smooth framerate (even on last-gen consoles).
With such a great presentation and visuals that heavily remind us of the immersive worlds of Mass Effect and Halo, it's just a shame that such a gorgeous looking game like Destiny doesn't take nearly enough advantage of its potential to tell fascinating stories that would've definitely enriched its world substantially. 


Sound
 

Accompanying Destiny's visuals is a great and emotional orchestral score. While the voice acting leaves quite some room for improvement, and weapon- and alien sounds are nothing too noteworthy to speak of, it's especially Destiny's score that happens to be so professionally and beautifully made that the music in the game often tends to very well cover up the fact that you are playing an extremely forgettable story. With that said, Destiny's score somewhat does well in giving the illusion of an emotional and epic story, even though the game's actual story is lightyears away from even remotely being so.
Destiny's great score is only another indicator that the game's presentation is an impressive shell around a mostly average game.     

How can such a beautiful looking world be so boring?


The Verdict

Sure, a lot of money doesn't guarantee a great game, but given the fact that a 500 Mio dollar budget and such a long development time for Destiny would open up so many possibilties with such a ridiculous resulting hype, Destiny has enough going for it to hold up as an okay game, yet, right now as of launch, it has quite some troubles justifying its hype and visions among all its mediocrity and monotone design choices.

Wrapped in an excellent presentation through slick visuals and a great score, Destiny is a game that will most notably appeal to shooter fans that aren't afraid of grinding their way through the game by seemingly endless repetition through a good looking yet shallow world.
Though the fact that earning new gear and ranking up is actually a quite satisfying core feature in Destiny, the game's entirety (at least as of now) boasts only very little actual content to make grinding your way up the ranks a varied and consistently fun experience. And seeing what a forgettable and short story Destiny boasts, grinding and levelling is probably THE main key concept of the game.
Though cooperative play has its great moments during the first times you successfully take down one of the challenging bosses with great teamwork in a Strike mission, cooperation in Destiny is only truely present when players are directly assigned to the same specific objective, which is only rarely the case.
Competition against other players though fares much better in Destiny's pretty standard yet very fun competitive PvP multiplayer matches, which will undeniably be the most played part of the game after players beat the story missions.

Destiny is an undeniably very ambitious game that partially succeeds in combining PvE- and PvP gameplay into one big MMO structure, yet even after such a long development time the game still feels like it's missing a lot and resultingly feels kind of shallow and unfinished.
After so many big promises, Destiny as of now just barely boasts enough to make it an overall okay to good gaming experience that certainly has its fun moments but nevertheless comes off as sort of disappointing regarding the wasted potential and design choices that mostly rely on mindless and dragging repetition in a visually stunning yet ultimately boring world.
With Bungie having already promised a lot more content to come to Destiny in the near future, here's hoping that said content will have the means to elevate Destiny to a more varied gaming experience to support its otherwise solid shooting mechanics and ideas.

          
  
 Final Verdict: 6 out of 10 

Status: Okay




Big thanks goes out to Activision and BiteGlobal for providing us with a review copy of the game.

No comments:

Post a Comment