A Promising Start
Let’s face the facts — Bungie was extremely successful with the Halo series on Xbox platforms for a decade, which only added to the hype and anticipation for their new multiplatform IP, Destiny. However, as usual in this industry, Destiny doesn’t quite live up to the level of hype that we all once had. Even with that said, Destiny is still a damn fine game, and one you should give a chance. We assembled five writers who spent a combined 200 hours with the game during the past week so that we could give Destiny the fairest review possible. This review takes a very in depth look at each component of the game.
Story and Presentation
– Jake Dekker –
One of Destiny’s biggest successes is its presentation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who are familiar with Bungie’s previous work, but Destiny raises the bar to new heights. The open maps are beautifully rendered and painstakingly detailed. Every planet has deep lore waiting to be uncovered, and every environment has a story to tell. To add more depth to universe, Destiny also boasts stunning visuals. While some of the character models and animations are a bit bland, the diverse environments and gear all look top notch on PlayStation 4.
Throughout the course of the game you will travel to different planets and locations all with their own color palette and ecosystem. This is one of the places where Destiny truly shines. The adventure begins on Earth years after an alien race, simply called The Fallen, have taken over. The only city left is just called The City, and is home to the last of mankind and a location known as The Tower. The Tower acts as a central hub for players to purchase weapons, gear, and ships. After completing a series of story missions the player is able to venture to the Moon, Venus, and Mars. It is easy to get lost in these worlds, and even though the game has the player backtracking and revisiting old locations, often the areas always feel fresh and interesting.
Bungie is also known for their iconic music in Halo, and Destiny is no different. The opening track is immediately noticeable when the game starts up, and the score rarely lets up until the credits roll. Another aspect that people may overlook is the sound design. Whether you are in a boisterous firefight or exploring the lush forests of Venus, it is hard not get swept up in the ambiance of Destiny, especially with the right sound setup.
Unfortunately, Destiny’s story is not handled with the same care as its presentation. Despite all the intrigue, there isn’t much substance to the plot. Your Guardian’s Ghost pulls you from one objective to another with little to no exposition prior to each mission. Most of the missions have the player traveling to a location, killing a few enemies, and then letting your Ghost scan the area. Every now and then Bungie will throw in an oddly placed and unskippable cut-scene, but these quickly become background noise. It doesn’t take long to lose interest in the story altogether, and once you do, the settings will keep you progressing through the campaign.
The writing is also a disaster. Almost every bit of spoken dialogue lacks substance. Though the Halo trilogy isn’t exactly the pinnacle of video game storytelling, it feels like Shakespeare could have written it when compared to Destiny. It is almost as if the writers tried to avoid any form of subtext and metaphor at all costs. This wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Bungie had not hyped the story as much as they did and backed it with a star-studded cast. With talent like Peter Dinklage, Nathan Fillion, and Bill Nighy, it is hard not to expect a better story with high quality writing.
Throughout the game you will also have the option to partake in “Patrols”. Patrols allow you and your fireteam (team consisting of you and two friends/random people) to explore areas without objectives directing you around the map. Scattered across the maps during these Patrols are beacons that allow the player to initiate small side quests. These quests range from killing enemies to collecting items for the hub city. These side quests start to feel repetitive very quickly; however, it can be fun to explore with your fireteam and meet other Guardians along the way. After a few hours of Patrols, there is little to draw players back in.
Another feature of Destiny that players can stumble on while exploring are the public events. Public events happen somewhat randomly throughout an area and allow nearby players to complete objectives together. The group of Guardians are timed and rated with either a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how well the group performs, which in turn rewards them with experience, loot, and glimmer. While most of these public events follow a similar mission structure, they can be a good change of pace, despite the fact that they may be difficult to find at times.
– Alex DeLaPena –
Despite its drawbacks and repetitive nature, Bungie has created a game in which gameplay shines above all else. Plain and simple, Destiny is fun.
The mechanics of this game are sublime. Literally everything is exceptionally intuitive: shooting, gliding, throwing, to simply maneuvering around all feel great. Where gun-types should feel too similar, they don’t. Where gliding should feel uncoordinated or floaty, it doesn’t. Movement and combat is crisp and controlled. Gameplay is fun and fluid, and it has everything to do with mechanics.
While perhaps initially generic, Destiny slowly reveals its more unique aspects of gameplay as your character progresses. As you level up, new abilities are acquired at a pace that avoids overwhelming you. This isn’t a game that provides you with a plethora of abilities and expects you to figure out how to use them through agonizing trial and error. At the same time, Destiny doesn’t withhold your ability to customize and develop a character that fits your preferred play-style. In addition to discovering new abilities, you can also unlock modifiers for those abilities, and the same thing can be done for your weapons and armor.
Leveling is not the central focus of the game. Rather than forcing players to go through a gruelingly lengthy level grind, your character’s progression to level cap (20) is rather quick and serves as a learning experience for endgame. Your progression to level 20 is guided by roughly twenty story missions. Complete these, and you will most likely reach the level cap. You aren’t limited to these missions; however, as you have the option to gain experience through Patrol missions, participating in Strikes, and competing in the Crucible.
Utilizing bounties is also a convenient way to shorten your progression to level 20. Acquired from The Tower beginning at level 4, five bounties may be active at one time. These serve as on-going side missions that can be accomplished while progressing through story missions, Patrols, Strikes, and Crucible matches. Examples include defeating a desired number of specific enemies, completing specific Strikes, and participating in specific Crucible match types. Completing bounties result in a gain of experience and reputation with either the Vanguard or Crucible depending on which type of bounty is completed.
Earning high enough reputation with either the Vanguard or the Crucible will eventually unlock the ability to purchase legendary items from vendors inside The Tower when the appropriate reputation rank is reached. In addition, reputation with three additional factions (Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, and New Monarchy) can be earned as well if a bounty is completed while wearing that faction’s corresponding class item.
Beginning at level 18, bounties also reward corresponding Vanguard and Crucible marks. These marks are used as currency to purchase legendary items if your reputation rank is high enough. A limit of 100 Vanguard and Crucible marks each can be earned per week. Gear can also be obtained by participating in Strikes, Raids, and Crucible matches, and is distributed during a match summary screen after completion.
It is interesting that the loot system is not better explained within the game. For a player who has experience with MMO currency and loot systems, this may not be a hard concept to grasp, but for those who have none, it may be easy to get confused. We live in an age where clarification is just a click away, but it is strange why Bungie would not better explain their system.
Class Specific Gameplay
– Jake Dekker –
The Hunter class is all about speed and precision. Unlike the Warlock or Titan class, the Hunter relies more on conventional firepower and technology. Precision weapons such as snipers and hand cannons feel right at home in a Hunter’s arsenal. The Hunter subclass that players start as is called the Gunslinger. Gunslingers have a devastating supercharged ability called “The Golden Gun.” If used correctly, a player can score one-shot kills. However, I found the second subclass, called Bladedancer, to be a lot more interesting. Instead of the Golden Gun, players get a blade designed for up close and personal encounters. Even though the Bladedancer subclass is supposed to focus more on close encounters and the Gunslinger subclass is designed for long range combat, I didn’t feel much variation between the two other than their special abilities. While they do unlock different equipment and slightly different abilities, both play largely the same.
– Courtney Osborn –
If you want to feel like a tank, go with the Titan class. It has two awesome subclasses that completely change up how you play, but both still make you feel like Superman. The first subclass is called Striker, and it gives you a super move called the Fist of Havoc. This move is perfect in both PvE and PvP for taking out large mobs of enemies that are close together. All of Striker’s upgrades are focused on enabling you to take more hits and deal more damage with your melee attacks. The other subclass is called Defender. This subclass gives your Titan the ability to bring out a large bubble shield called the Ward of Dawn that protects you from any incoming bullets or grenades. After upgrading it, you will be nearly impossible to kill while inside, and it can even boost allies defenses if they are inside with you. The Titan class is all about making you be able to take more damage, but both subclasses will require some strategy to use properly. The only problem with Titans is that most of the time you have to be close to enemies to take advantage of their abilities. This isn’t necessarily a problem unless you are in the Crucible against skilled Hunters and Warlocks who can take you out from a distance. So if you are good at close combat and want to feel like a badass tank, go with Titan.
– Tyler Bartlemus & Alex DeLaPena –
Many have probably heard that Bungie fondly refers to the Warlock as a “glass cannon”. I have found that it is an accurate description, as the Warlock specializes in dealing a strong offense but in turn leaves the Warlock fairly weak in defense. The Warlock’s first subclass, Voidwalker, focuses on speed and the use of abilities; this allows the player to rush opponents and overwhelm them before the opposing force can retaliate. An ability unlocked later into the class called “Blink” allows the player to teleport short distances. This allows Warlock players to close the gap even faster, which I have found is very helpful for turning fights around in my favor in close 1 vs. 1 situations. This subclass’s super move is called “Nova Bomb”, and is similar to the Titan’s Fist of Havoc, which is great for taking out groups of players when needed. The Warlock’s second subclass, Sunsinger, is geared towards more of a supportive approach. Many of the abilities for this are designed with allies in mind. The super move, Radiance, even allows the player to resurrect themselves after they are killed. In short, if you are looking to be the sci-fi equivalent of a Jedi Master that wields bad-ass guns, then the Warlock is the choice to go with.
– Myles Farrington –
Strikes can be best compared to “instances” in other MMOs. For all intents and purposes, they’re dungeons that you get dropped into with your fireteam of up to three people (help from matchmaking provided), and you can normally clear them out in about 30 – 40 minutes with proper gear and levels. However, if you’re missing those last two things, they can also be grueling, masochistic, and horrendous experiences that can last upward of hours.
Strikes unlock as you complete the planet they’re on. Currently there are six available on the PlayStation consoles (with the exclusive Dust Palace strike) and five on the Xbox consoles. When you jump into a Strike, you’re transported to a certain area of the normal map and given a heading. Sometimes said headings will take you into areas normally locked off (like The Summoning Pits Strike) or will simply have a new set Darkness area (a place where your respawn time is 30 seconds instead of the normal five) specifically for the Strike.
The enemies are normally harder, and each Strike has a little storyline of it’s own, though each one can be aptly described as a “there’s a big bad guy here, go wreck its day.” That’s not a bad thing however, as Strikes can be fun with a good team and intelligent strategic play. They’re also great for getting loot if you’re planning to go the distance and get serious with a character.
Though the Strikes don’t scale, as you progress in the game, more difficulties unlock for them. Once you hit level 18, the first Strike playlist opens, which ramps the enemy levels up to 18. The following playlists feature level bumps up to: 20, 22, and 24. There’s also a weekly Strike set to level 22, which can feel like level 28 if you’re unprepared. At the very top of the difficulty chart is something called a Nightfall Strike, where Bungie wants you to experience unspeakable pain and stress.
Nightfall is a Strike that changes weekly and has amazing rewards (we’re talking exotic gear and Ascendent materials amazing) but it will put you through what I assume is the closest thing to hell in Destiny. I have not yet had the chance to go hands-on with the Nightfall Strike, but I’ve read the modifiers (such as a certain elemental type having buffed damage, or giving every enemy a shield and making them more aggressive), and they make me feel tired just looking at them.
All in all, the Strikes are best used for getting endgame gear and could also be used as practice for fireteams in preparation for Raids. They’re much more fun with proper gear and a good team. If you go in without leveled gear, it will feel like a run through Nutella-quicksand, but in truth they’re all quite manageable. They’re also all very fun and replayable. Considering that some bounties require you to complete Strikes (I have a bounty that demands that I play through 25 of them), they kind of have to be.
– Courtney Osborn –
My time in the Crucible has been amazing. Just as a little background, I put in over 30 hours of Crucible matches as a Titan over the past week. The best way I can describe it is to say that it is a mix between Halo and Call of Duty competitive multiplayer modes. It is full of super fast paced action, extremely tight shooter mechanics, and awesome powers for each class that make every match a different experience.
Destiny has a wide variety of maps, each unique and well laid out in design, which is not surprising from Bungie. However, the matchmaking could be improved. Players aren’t given the choice on which map they play, which leaves the possibility of being placed on a certain map several times in a row. This actually resulted in me not seeing a few of the maps for the first 10-15 hours of playing Crucible. This needs to be fixed to allow players to experience the awesome variety of landscapes a little faster.
There are four main match types that can be played from the start (you have to play one of each, starting with Control, in order to unlock the rest). The matches types are Control, Clash, Rumble, and Skirmish.
- Control is a base-capturing match and can be extremely fun when you have a team that understands strategy and works together. You gain points by capturing bases, holding them, and for getting kills. Obviously since this match is about capturing bases, it is far more beneficial to capture and hold them than to try and just kill the enemies. So, if you have a team that likes to wildly run around on their own, not caring about capturing and holding bases, you will suffer defeat almost every time.
- Clash is simply a 6v6 Team Deathmatch. First team to 10,000 points or whoever has the most points at the end of the match wins. It feels the exact same as Control, except you no longer have to worry about holding bases.
- Rumble is a Free For All match type. This one is for players who don’t want to share their success or defeat with teammates.
- Skirmish is a 3v3 Team Deathmatch, but you can also revive your teammates. Reviving teammates actually adds points to your teams total, putting you closer to victory than if you just let them auto-revive. This match is extremely fun when you are with two friends that are around your skill level and understand how to work as a team.
There are actually two other match types that are not readily available when you start the game, and so far one of them was used for a special event during the first weekend. They are Salvage and Combined Arms.
- Salvage is a Team Deathmatch/Capture the Flag type match. An ancient relic spawns randomly on the map, and the teams must compete to capture it and hold it for 45 seconds to get a point bonus. Kills also add to each teams total, but its more beneficial to capture the relics. This is another match that is fun when you have a team that knows what they are doing and can communicate well.
- Combined Arms has not been made available yet so I can’t comment on it.
After playing several matches of each type, I like Skirmish the most. That doesn’t mean that any of them are bad, unbalanced, or unfun by any means. However, when you have two friends that are both good at PvP with you in a party and know how to work together really well, it is so much more fun to stomp opposing teams. You run into an extraordinary amount of teams who are randoms and don’t know each other and aren’t communicating, thus giving your team a HUGE advantage.
Something that is really cool about most normal Crucible matches is that level advantages are disabled; meaning that a level 6 Pulse Rifle is just as strong as a level 20 Pulse Rifle. Though saying that level advantages are disabled isn’t completely true because a level 20 Titan has far more abilities and upgrades unlocked that they can use to their advantage against a level 6 Titan. I never found this to be much of an issue. If you are good at FPS games, that will transfer to how good you are at Destiny’s Crucible and can offset other players higher level abilities/upgrades.
A common complaint is that everyone feels like every class other than their own is over powered. However, it is not that they are overpowered, it is that they are using their skills/upgrades to their potential. You will almost always see a different person with a different class on top of the leaderboard after each match. Many times it also has to do with the map they are on or the match type they are playing as well.
Example: While playing the match type called Control, enemies normally gather together in a small group to capture a base. This is ideal for enemy Titans to destroy the entire team by using Fist of Havoc. However, on a more open map in the Clash match type, it is much harder to find groups of enemies close together, thus making the Fist of Havoc less useful.
The Verdict: 8.4 out of 10
Destiny does many things right, and is a promising start for what is supposed to be a 10 year series. Even though the story feels like there wasn’t much effort put into it, and the voice acting and writing felt uninspired, the presentation and gameplay make it immensely fun to play. Game modes like Strikes and the Crucible make the replayability incredibly high, and that doesn’t even count the deep loot and upgrade systems. With the promise of end-game raids and more content coming in the near future, Destiny is a must buy for all first-person shooter fans.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Myles K Farrington is one of the MONG Senior Editors and has recently been losing a lot of sleep due to Destiny. There looks to be no end to the fatigue in sight and he’s not too broken up about it. Keep up with him over on IGN, Twitch, and Twitter as well!
Alex DeLaPena is an Associate Writer for MONG. He is a man of many interests, and you can chat with him about those interests on Twitter, if you’re interested…
Jacob Dekker is an Associate Writer for MONG. For sporadic, yet infrequent updates about nothing follow him on Twitter.