As is the trend in modern, super-cool reviews, I will be reviewing Destiny in stages. As it’s essentially an MMO, it would be a bit silly to try and give an opinion on the game after playing it for only a few levels. I have a feel for the game, but I’m fully aware that the gameplay can change and expand as classes and equipment advance.
In this review I’ll be talking about the general feel of the game in terms of approach and how it plays. I’ve played up to level 5, and have also played the Beta to it’s level cap of 8, so I feel that I currently have a fairly decent understanding of the game. In subsequent reviews I’ll be tackling the variety of levels, the content available and the high-end stages of the game. Right, excuses over! Let’s get down to business!
As you’re going to be shooting people for pretty much your entire time, the gunplay is pretty important. Everything they’ve learnt from Halo has been improved upon and changed for the better. I like Halo, but unloading clip after clip into covenant warriors got pretty old pretty fast. This isn’t in that vein, and although enemies don’t go down straight away, it’s a lot easier. They focus on swarming you with a mass of enemies, rather than a couple of unfairly-shielded ones. Every gun I’ve used so far has felt effective, with the heavy weapons and their limited ammo making for a fun meta-game of conserving ammo to use at the right time. I usually hate the ‘only 2 weapons at any time’ rule, but here it makes total sense. I became really attached to each gun I’d worked hard for, and so using them with minimal distractions allowed me to master them.
This kind of game was hinted at last generation. To draw comparisons to Borderlands are wholly appropriate, as at it’s core, Destiny is taking the FPS/RPG approach and running with it. The difference here is the execution, and creating a better, more encapsulating experience. Where Borderlands felt empty due to technology constraints, Destiny feels empty through a sense of desolation and forgotten worlds. When I was exploring the temple ruins on the moon, it felt like it’d been abandoned for centuries. The whole narrative of the game is perfectly pitched to push this further, the whole watcher/humanity on the brink of destruction storyline is so well conceived that all technological limitations seem to only help the game get it’s point across better.
The only time this atmosphere is broken somewhat is in multiplayer, where a flimsy attempt to try and explain why the guardians are fighting each other is given. If humanity really is on it’s last legs, it seems a bit daft that their last hope would spend their time beating each other up for a laugh. Still, the multiplayer is more than competent. The maps are well-designed, although it’s in the multiplayer that the Halo DNA lingers most. Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s certainly something we’ve seen before. The idea of gear and equipment unique to Deathmatch or Campaigns is a really nice touch, and will push players into playing all aspects of the game, as loot and rare items are the driving force behind Destiny.
As they’re so important, it’s great to see how much work has been put into customisation and gear. The eternal struggle for better gear and cooler-looking equipment is the driving force behind most MMO’s, and here it’s no different. The levelling system is well-balanced and offers strategic benefits to players, but it’s in the gear that Bungie have pretty much nailed it. That feeling of accomplishment when a tough boss drops a rare piece of armour is alive and well here, and throughout my time in the tower I often ran into players whose equipment put mine to shame, pushing me further to improve my stuff.
For someone who likes to mainly play alone, Destiny is really great for accommodating this style of play. The drop-in/drop-out system is well-built and robust, and means that I’m never waiting around to start a strike mission, or waiting on people I don’t even know to press a button. It’s levels are cleverly designed so communication with other players is largely visual. the narrative is driven by the game, so strangers who’ve only just met on the battlefield don’t spend large portions of time wondering where to go, but instead feel like they’re part of a story, of something bigger.
My main problem with MMO’s is a lack of story, and a lack of engaging gameplay. Destiny has addressed both of these, and has gone past the realms of a simple MMO, and into something different. As technology is increasing, it’s not just graphical fidelity and the number of enemies on-screen that is improving. Games are evolving, and becoming more interesting. They’re more encapsulating in their approach to providing players with a space to explore and enjoy.
In Destiny we have a game that has the potential levels of content depth and social elements, mixed with solid FPS mechanics and an engaging story. Destiny certainly doesn’t have it all, but it’s pretty close. If the story ramps up as the levels continue, I can see this game flourishing into a truly epic tale.
Score: Incoming With Updates