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Game review 16 September 2014, 15:23

author: Kacper Pitala

Destiny Review: Bungie's great come back?

Bungie spared no expense to create a great looking mix of shooter and MMO, but high production value and pretty nice gameplay can’t hide that Destiny is just shallow, and it can’t live up to the hype.

The review is based on the PS4 version. You can check also XONE, X360 version.

PROS:
  • great shooting and movement mechanics, allowing awe worthy stunts;
  • dynamic and engaging PvP;
  • legible equipment screen, with more useful and nice tools than junk;
  • a diverse and constantly stunning soundtrack;
  • elegant interface and spectacular locations...
CONS:
  • ...that apart from looks have nothing else to offer;
  • plot weak in every aspect;
  • map structure favoring routine;
  • artificially prolonged and boring boss battles;
  • endgame, not much more entertaining than the rest.

Destiny is a title of amazing quality of execution. Every single note of the soundtrack, every location and every single element of the interface emphasizes that neither expense, nor artists, were spared. When we take control of our character, evidence of that is even more apparent, as getting into the game is surprisingly easy and Destiny offers a ton of fun right out of the box. There is precision, elegance and with great scope. One can even be fooled that it is going to be a great game.

Bungie has prepared a shooter similar to a MMO. Accordingly, collecting various equipment, missions for several players and a process of collecting various points and currencies, which never gets old, could not have been left out of the experience. Firstly however, one must get through the process of leveling up, which in Destiny, is mainly connected to the tasks regarding the plot. The story takes us to Earth, Mars, Venus and to the moon, with each of those offering one lonely medium-sized area relevant to a few missions.

Quest structure is one of the game’s nail in the coffin. While feeling a certain level of excitement in entering a new location for the first time, with every next landing in the same location, the game reveals its shallowness. The maps are gorgeous, but empty – inhabited only by groups of enemies, who always appear in a same configuration, hanging about the same areas. The charm of mysterious places full of secrets, fades quickly, and every next visit is more irritating, than inspirational.

After completing a few quests on a certain planet, the entirety of the map is unlocked in a Patrol mode. Theoretically it is intended to encourage exploration and give player a sense of freedom, but in practice, ends up offering nothing of interest. Instead, locations get littered with quests stereotypical of a MMO, sending us on errands with a goal of, for example, killing a set amount of opponents. Sadly, such tasks devoid of any atmosphere, needlessly exploit a location, which was already visited numerous times when pursuing the main story.

Another issue of the story missions is… well, the plot itself! Forgive me the spoiler, but from the beginning, till the end, nothing interesting happens. The fact that the game universe itself is failing, is not helping a bit. Bungie sweeps trivia regarding the setting under the rug, allowing only to access it from the official website, which is not even a loss at this point. The stiffness of the dialogues is unbelievable and the pacing of the story is dreadful. Every map is in fact accompanied by a single event pushing the story forward and the rest are in a fashion of not learning anything useful, but ‘at least’ slaying a fierce enemy.

The Tower doesn't disappoint, when it comes to building right mood.

Luckily, there are two things that make it better. The first, is the aforementioned core of the gameplay - the shooting mechanic and traversing the game world. Even the dire disappointment with the story cannot take the fun out of exterminating the opponents. Thanks to a few weapon types, an ability to double jump and special skills, the players have wide range of possibilities when it comes to pulling of spectacular stunts. Another one, being the fact that the story-based missions are not exclusive to awarding experience points. Certainly, the story missions make up most of the content, but quickly one can diversify the game with other modes. And that is a true absolution for Destiny.

Three is company

Instances, dungeons – such missions are a standard for many MMO enthusiasts and Bungie decided to name their own variation as Strike. It is the first game mode that reminds one that Destiny is not supposed to only by a singleplayer shooter, despite meeting other players in several quests, they usually don’t mind us at all. Strike missions by default mix us with two other players and in such company we are tasked with a location to clear – both of regular baddies and special bosses. As they say: the more, the merrier. Such an escapade is much more interesting than a regular task, where it is difficult to invite others to play together. The problem arises when it comes to bosses. Final encounters in a Strike are a 15-20 minute chore. In order to finish off an opponent, player must undergo a truly mundane task of shooting a weak point and occasionally avoiding deathly blows that are signalized by all means available. A boss’s life bar is truly an impressive one and the course of a battle barely changes, so it is hard to feel any satisfaction at all. The icing on the cake being the fact that, the so-called special enemies are mostly just enlarged models of standard units. All of the bouts seem to be done after one fashion, when Strike could have been the most interesting game mode.

The distinctive element of the main missions is meeting other players. We mostly share a map with few others who, like us, are minding their own business. Certainly, it is one way to go about the empty areas, but it is a shame that Destiny rarely gives us any reason to spontaneously group. One of the supporting systems is that of random events, to which we can easily join and together complete a missions, such as taking on a strong adversary. Unfortunately, during a few dozen of hours spent with the game, I have been a part of such a thing only once – which is certainly not enough for such an intriguing mechanism.

Human outpost on the moon.

Damage in PvP

In a default PvP mode, the damage is brought down to a single value, as to lower the level difference. That however does not affect abilities developed with time, which can truly matter in a duel.

Okay, maybe Strike is not Destiny’s salvation, but the PvP mode definitely seems to be it. Duels with other players are an element that Bungie has done exceptionally well. I will not lie by saying that those are diverse – as they are not. We are left with classic team battles and all out deathmatches, with a variation of 3v3, instead of 6v6 and Control which only adds taking over zones. Each of those basically focuses on mutual destruction, yet this is the best part of it. All weapons, abilities and the way of movement are greatly adjusted to such a type of confrontation. Players surprise one another, do close and long-range combat, occasionally unleashing hell by the means of special attacks. The fun is truly there, and best of all, PvP is an effective way to obtain experience points and equipment which is randomly drawn after every match.

Occasionally we may find a impressive underground location.

Bungie also did not disappoint when it comes to maps, which are decisive in all multiplayer struggles. Every mode is accompanied by a few arenas, amongst which are narrow labyrinths, corridors crossing vertically and horizontally and more spacious areas perfect for snipers and vehicles. Even though the game does not involve much tactics, the maps support dynamic movement and allow one to surprise enemies in various ways.

Checking new loot is always exciting.

A game in good taste

All those mentioned modes crossover in the game’s hub – The Tower. It is here where we will be able to meet most of the players, calmly go through all of our equipment, collect prizes and barter. It is also here where an element, especially to my liking, reveals itself. The new work of Bungie is amazingly elegant and modern in its looks, giving one a feeling as if the game itself was co-created by the likes of Apple. A lucid net with abilities, a minimalistic interface and easy on the eye armours, make it, despite all the shortcomings, a game enjoyable to experience. A significant part of this is the music, that accompanies us almost all the time, and successfully builds up the atmosphere.

Ruins on Mars. They may bring up memories of Spec Ops: The Line.

I have mentioned the net of abilities, so how does the character development actually work? Quite interestingly, as gaining a level does not actually mean getting a new ability. Those acquire their own experience points, which is that much more relevant, as every class gets two development trees. To fill them up, we must simply play with a certain tree being active, as the most of all differ in abilities. In all of the three classes, each sub-tree we will find an alternative functioning of a grenade, a melee attack, a special ability and on top of that different variations of the aforementioned and a few modifiers of stats. Of course, simplicity and minimalism are present in even this aspect of Destiny. Though most of skills develop downward on the tree (vertically only one at a time can be active) it is hard to make a bad choice. Even if – it is easy to back out.

Legendary equipment awaits.

When it comes to loot in Destiny, it looks overall different than Borderlands or Diablo. Most of all, gear is not as quantitative, and several variations seem to have been manually prepared, rather than randomly generated. That can be enjoyed, as there is much less ‘junk’ and it is easier to keep Your equipment nice and clean. Even though the smaller quantity of loot is a plus, one can complain regarding the form in which it appears. Loot usually appears in our backpack like a ninja out of the shadows – we have no clue when or where did we get it, as in-game loot exists in a form of generic shinny bricks. Randomly tossed bricks are nothing compared to epic chests from Borderlands, and one can find there only money.

And so it ends, and begins anew

The level cap goes up to 20, and the developers have stated that this level is the true beginning of the game. How does it look? The first thing You will notice is the Light attribute, which on this stage decorates most of the dropped equipment. It is an extension of leveling up, as depending on how much of it we gather, we are able to gain another levels: 21, 22 and so on. In a way, they represent the quality of our current equipment, that is why the Light points amount from the gear we are currently wearing. Getting the highest number becomes our new objective, because the higher the ‘level’, the bigger chance we have of dealing serious damage.

The better the gear, the more Light points. To get to the legendary loot however, we must be patient. ‘The true beginning’ comes down to extremely repetitive and prolonged play, which focuses on getting enough reputation and currency to buy the best gear. Sadly, when it comes to PvE, the only mode to get rich is horrid Strike. Well-known multiplayer missions are upped to a chosen level – be it 20, or for example 24 – and still remain as mundane as initially. One can take solace in the fact, that getting to the ending we can focus on PvP, which has its analogical reputation system and as much impressive weapon collection.

Enemy in the crosshairs.

The problem of the so-called endgame is, in my opinion, a lack of any perspectives for the gamer. In this moment we repeat 22nd level missions, only to obtain gear allowing us to do those particular missions, but only in a harder version. Greater challenges seem to be on their way, and someday might be completed (by, for example, raids for six people and PvP taking into account the gear, which as of now, is absent from the game). Whatever works, I guess. The Borderlands community is full of players, who spent months clearing certain areas for the sole idea of having the best loot. Diablo works the same way. However, for me personally, Destiny with its Strikes isn’t interesting enough to fill a few dozens of hours on the highest level.

There's always a lot going on the screen.

Destiny is the same as its credits track done by sir Paul McCartney. The phenomenal orchestra, resounding vocals of the former Beatle, and the idea of such a song in a video game, don’t allow us to look over the fact that it simply isn’t catchy and lacks imaginativeness. Destiny is a fun and one of a kind idea, which was coated with tremendous production value, but founded on unstable grounds and hollow basics. The new Bungie game can be enjoyed, but it all depends on an individual’s resistance to routine. Certainly there is a chance that the entirety will be expanded and filled with upcoming extensions, but as of now, it is merely a fantasy. In the meanwhile, even though I hold the game in high regard, I will only stick around for few more hours. More time spent with the game will certainly prove unbearable.

We can call in our vehicle at any moment.

HALO FAN OPINION

Dumbing it down, Destiny is essentially a much slower, less dynamic Halo. Almost around every corner one gets an impression that the game was made by Bungie. Our character moves and jumps just like in Halo. In combat we will even use the good old melee, which leads up to multiplayer constantly reminding us of Halo. More than often we will come by a habit of depleting the opponent’s shields, just to finish it off with a close-range attack. Those experienced with the previous works of Bungie, will feel right at home, and instantly will rule the leaderboards. The way vehicles interact is also similar. Deadly trips on the basic vehicle in Destiny, beyond good taste remind offensive trips on the Ghost from Halo. Even certain weapon types act the same. Like Destiny’s Scout Rifle, which is basically the good old DMR – one of Master Chief’s basic tools of the trade. Even using the abilities works the same way. The camera identically goes into TPP, which means we can watch the outcome of our merciless destruction first hand. An alien race called: The Fallen is vaguely similar to Protheans from Halo 4 (which itself is quite interesting, considering that 343 Industries were the one responsible for the latest Halo). And if that wasn’t enough, the Titan class looks just like Master Chief, but after a slight makeover.

One can effortlessly deduct that Halo fans will be over the moon with Destiny. Sadly, that statement is not quite true. Just like the multiplayer is seemingly identical to Halo, and as much fun mind You, the campaign and all of the PvE elements, are a far cry from what we were accustomed to by Bungie. Destiny is sort of a hybrid focusing on MMO elements. Clearly Bungie is not good with such a thing. The loot system, the grind, raids, side quests and gathering resources are executed poorly. Additionally, they were thrown into smaller areas, which absolutely do not fit MMO-style gameplay.

This all amounts to Destiny being a somewhat of a paradox. On one hand, we have an amazing gameplay, which will make the Halo fans proud, on the other, extremely boring and badly executed MMO elements, which will successfully dishearten further playing. The only place which will always be the trusted provider of emotions and challenge, is simply the multiplayer – taking over, deathmatch, team deathmatch. The rest of the game gets boring quickly. Bungie has a lot to learn when it comes to creating gigantic worlds filled to the brim with entertainment on the verge of MMO and action. Lucky for them, they are on the right track.

Kacper Pitala | Gamepressure.com

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