Destiny Review

Richard Walker

Ever since first gazing up to the skies, man has dreamed of voyaging beyond the stars. That, and getting with sexy aliens like William Shatner. Destiny is sadly light on extra-terrestrial lovin'. Rather travelling to the far reaches of space in order to kill things is the crux of Destiny's narrative thrust, as you must seek out and destroy an ancient evil lurking in a garden somewhere. Bungie's game has a deep lore and universe, but scant actual story or impetus to explore the corners of Destiny's world. The promise displayed in the beta falls somewhere short in the full version of Destiny, unfortunately.

Destiny sees you taking up the mantle of mankind's last hope or something, which means visiting various planets in the solar system and shooting evil things in the face until they die. Sandwiched in between all of the shooting things in the face, there's something that almost resembles a story, but on a narrative level, Destiny fails to really engage at all. You'll also discover that there's very little in the way of genuine variation in the gameplay too, with the action switching between shooting enemy A, enemy B or enemy C in location X, Y and Z, as your Peter Dinklage-voiced Ghost scans a contraption while you wait.


"Presenting: Dinklage-bot 5000".

Of course, you could argue that every shooter fits this same well-worn template (minus the Ghost scanning nonsense), and while Destiny doesn't do a whole lot to really shake things up, it's still all kinds of fun. As anyone who's already played the beta – and indeed the full game – will know, you start out by creating your own Guardian, choosing either Titan, Warlock or Hunter class, before choosing your race, hairstyle and so forth. Purveyors of the beard, like myself, will be upset by the lack of facial hair for male characters, however. We can only assume that Bungie is pogonophobic. That's afraid of beards, in case you're wondering.

The class you choose determines what abilities, skill trees and armour you'll be presented with, and like any RPG system worth its salt, your actions result in earning XP, which in turn enables you to level up and access better weapons and armour. So far, so obvious. Destiny's main draw is in its planet-hopping exploration, as you travel from Earth to the Moon, to Venus and beyond. 'Beyond' being Mars and an asteroid belt called the Reef, where a couple of cut-scenes take place. And that's it.

For a game promising an epic tale of becoming a legend, Destiny is surprisingly short and light on story. Given the mountains of cash thrown at the game, we'd have expected a lot more. There's a lot more to Destiny than its central narrative, but that doesn't really excuse such a bare boned, damp squib of a storyline. By the time you reach Mars, you'll have likely lost interest in the story altogether, and decide to simply press on, looking for the next thing to shoot. Who is The Stranger? What it the Black Garden? You'll be past caring by the time you get to Venus.

It's worth remembering that as an always online experience, you can never pause Destiny either. The only respite comes when you retreat into Orbit, setting your next destination or stopping to fiddle around in your menus as your ship quietly glides through space. Sit for too long in the Tower too, and you'll eventually get kicked off the servers too. If you're playing Destiny, you'll ideally need to settle in for the long haul.

There's no criticising Bungie's attention to detail in Destiny's world building, its core gameplay mechanics and wonderfully polished gunplay, but there's something severely lacking from a content standpoint. While those willing to persevere and wring every last ounce out of the game will be faced with countless hours of grinding, those less willing to endure such a thankless chore will find that their experience with Destiny will begin with the story, a few Strike missions, a dalliance with multiplayer, and then a consignment to the shelf where it'll gather dust.

It's incredibly frustrating given the promise of such an expansive world consisting of planet surfaces to comb, that there aren't more secrets to unearth. Exploration is often completely fruitless, as you'll often find nothing in a seemingly pointless cave or crevice, despite it being off the beaten track. Conventional wisdom would normally dictate that a player be rewarded for venturing into hidden nooks, but you'll find no such thing here. Push at the envelope in Destiny, and you'll be greeted with an invisible wall more often than not.

What you're left with then, is an incredibly robust and enjoyable shooter that fails to deliver an engaging narrative, a character you care about or grow attached to, meaningful customisation or any real reason to explore its expansive world beyond soaking up the view and lovely skies. And while Destiny is undeniably gorgeous, its a textbook case of style over substance.

Playing alone can also prove to be a test of patience, as boredom and repetition rapidly creeps in, demonstrating that Destiny really is a game best played with friends. Strikes provide the lion's share of the social fun, as you battle hordes of Fallen, Hive, Vex or Cabal, before facing imposing bosses that end each mission with a drawn-out war of attrition that demands teamwork. It's co-operative moments like these where Destiny really shines.


"Can't we just talk about this?"

Completing objectives and vanquishing enemies brings with it loot in the form of better weapons and armour, as well as Glimmer to spend at the Tower. Loot can't be traded or sold, however; only dismantled for materials and bonus currency. There's a wealth of desirable items to acquire for your Guardian, should you have the inclination to put in the time and effort to grind for Vanguard and Crucible Marks, and the majority of the best gear only becomes available at level 20.

Upon reaching level 20, levelling up beyond the cap revolves around obtaining 'Light' gear, which comes with its own Light statistic. Equip enough armour with Light and you'll be able to level up beyond 20, readying your Guardian for Destiny's tougher challenges, like Raids, to be added to the game at a later date. Motes of Light can then be used to buy Legendary items (like lovely billowing capes) and such from The Speaker, but the number required to purchase anything is insane, and will likely take you up until Destiny 2 before you're able to buy anything. Bounties provide constant challenges that are rewarded, but again, the number you'll need to complete in order to make any significant gains is madness.

These systems are also poorly explained, meaning you'll be forced into making regular sojourns to Google (or your search engine of choice) to figure out what the hell everything does. It's another head-scratching omission that makes you wonder just what Bungie has done with its $500 million budget. Destiny's visual delights, soaring soundtrack, stellar audio design and robust gunplay are marred by repetitious objectives, a lacklustre story and a dearth of information on some of the game's more complex systems. I still have numerous mystery items in my inventory and have no idea what to do with them.


Getting Vex-xed on Mars.

At least it's obvious what The Crucible offers, with four multiplayer modes that cover all of the usual bases. It's all good fun, if hardly groundbreaking stuff. Zone capture (Control), team deathmatch (Clash), free-for-all (Rumble) and 3v3 close-quarters Fireteam battles (Skirmish) are all catered for, with a selection of decent maps to run around. Weekend events like Salvage will add new challenges to multiplayer, but overall, what you're given with the vanilla game is pretty basic.

Multiplayer does seem nicely balanced for the most part, although lower level Guardians may still find themselves being destroyed by the higher level players; but then that's a perennial multiplayer problem that's not exclusive to Destiny. There are vehicles to whizz around in, turret emplacements to sit in and you'll have all of your Guardian abilities to draw upon in multiplayer, helping to keep things fresh. Those used to the chaos of Call of Duty and Battlefield might find something to like here, but for most, The Crucible's appeal will soon wear off.

You'll need to play every component of Destiny if you want to unlock every achievement from the rather uninspired list. Again, grinding factors in to the majority of achievements and nothing unlocks for milestones like completing the story or reaching level 20 or above. Instead, you'll have to max out one of the Titan, Warlock and Hunter's subclasses, which will take you forever. Destiny's achievement list is great at spinning out the grind to even greater heights, making the journey to reach 1000G something that will take far longer than it should.

With a story that fails to convey any sense of drama or urgency, it's difficult to really care about what happens in Destiny. The game has little capacity to deliver any genuine surprise beyond what's presented to you, and while the promise of events and more content to come is enticing, that the core game feels so lacking is almost criminal. It might fail as an MMO, succeed as a fun co-op shooter and have a crap, flimsy story, but bearing in mind that Destiny is a new IP, there's the foundations here for a truly great sequel. As it stands, however, Destiny feels like a bitter disappointment, and one that might leave you feeling somewhat shortchanged. Nonetheless, it's still an immensely enjoyable disappointment.

Destiny

Destiny is fun, despite an utterly disposable story and a lack of content in a number of departments. For now, the fun factor is enough to keep us coming back for more, but Destiny's long-term prospects once the initial shine has worn off altogether, don't seem particularly inspiring. It's not quite the epic space-faring journey we were expecting, but for the time being, we'll sit back and enjoy the ride.

Form widget
75%
Audio
95%

Marty O'Donnell's wondrous score is both memorable and easy on the ears, while the audio design in general is superlative. There's no faulting Destiny's majestic aural landscape.

Visuals
90%

A rich and sumptuous open-world that's wonderfully detailed and beautiful to behold. It's let down by invisible walls, some poor design choices and empty areas bereft of secrets waiting to be discovered, but on the whole, it's pretty.

Playability
85%

Bungie's extensive FPS experience on the Halo series shines through in Destiny, providing meaty and gratifying gunplay that provides the game with its inherent fun factor. Vehicles are enjoyable and the controls are tight. Great stuff.

Delivery
65%

Severely lacking for an MMO, Destiny is more successful as a co-op shooter. The story is forgettable, disjointed arse of the highest order that falls well short in communicating any sense of imminent danger or peril facing mankind. There's a surprising dearth of overall content to boot. For an open-world game that promised so much, Destiny actually delivers far too little.

Achievements
50%

An achievement list that adds an extra emphasis on grinding. Thought there was a lot of grind already in the game? Going for the full 1000G will add more grind to the grind. That's a lot of grinding, by the way. Urgh.

Game navigation