The next chapter.
Destiny is the first game I felt like I knew everything and nothing about upon release. After spending ample time with both the “Beta” and “Alpha” of the game, I came in knowing the basics of how it worked, but still confused about some of its systems. That didn’t change much once I dove into the final version. Bungie’s latest series meshes elements of MMOs, shooters and loot-driven games while never seeming to focus on any one in particular. This creates a mixture of new elements and ideas that, while interesting in concept, can prove deterrent at first. Still, it is hard to deny the sheer amount of fun to be had when playing the game with a group of friends.
Bungie’s latest lives and dies with its co-op structure. In Destiny players can form Fireteams that consist of up to three players to tackle the various missions in the world. There are story missions, Strikes and Patrol, as well as competitive multiplayer for up to teams of six called The Crucible. Bungie also hosts regular content much like an MMO. There are public events within the world that any player can participate in as well as scheduled Raids, which are designed for players at max level.
Playing with friends is what kept me coming back. The game is designed to be played with others. There is a reason it is online-only. Teaming up and taking down massive bosses, collecting loot, and of course starting dance parties at the Tower Plaza is a blast. The experiences are memorable. The Share button has never been more useful, and keeping teammates revived during the Strike mission on the moon is one of the most enjoyable and intense experiences I have had in ages. This is where Destiny shines.
Wrapped around that are some truly odd design choices. For example, the MMO style of having players constantly running around feels forced. I never felt their necessity. In fact, all they did was kill enemies I needed to take down to collect mission items. I understand that other players are necessary, but Bungie could have limited them to the Plaza. Granted that removes public events, but to be fair, those are usually just massive boss enemies to take down. That could have easily been accomplished by the three main players if scaled properly.
One of the bigger problems with Destiny is its lack of explanation. There are a myriad of systems in play here, and none of them explained relatively well. The game has a leveling system similar to most RPGs. Players gain XP that in turn increments a progressive number. However, there are only three traits, and those are leveled by gear. Leveling up grants access to a power tree to unlock new attacks such as melee and a grenade. Once I hit level 15 I was offered the ability to unlock a subclass, which stripped all my powers away and started me over.
This was confusing at first. Why would I give up all my powers for similar ones? After going down that path with my Warlock for a few levels I switched back. The new powers weren’t much better than what I had, and the missions were getting harder so I wanted to have the best stuff available to fight through the Fallen.
The story is…well it is there. Bungie can do amazing things with their universe, but Destiny feels awkward at best. Some of the best actors lent their voices to the game, but the delivery falls flat. I never cared about the characters, or even what was going on in the world. I do wish they let me skip cut scenes on subsequent play throughs though. Watching some of them again is downright painful.
The mission design also feels lackluster. Go to spot, let Dinklebot scan something while we fought off waves of enemies, rinse and repeat. Patrol missions are no better. These are go here, scan or collect items, and done. Environments are also recycled. Going back to the same spot over and over again doing the same mission style gets old quick. Considering how much grinding the game includes to max out all the skills, this gets old quick.
Still, we kept on playing.
This obviously speaks volumes about what Destiny does right. A good co-op shooter, or any genre for that matter, is a rare find. There is a reason why people put another 50 hours into Diablo III on PS4 and XB1. Playing the same boring missions over and over is much more fun with friends. Also, Destiny does a good job of giving just enough loot to keep me caring. Just when I get bored, I tend to find a rare blue item or another Legendary.
I wish the competitive multiplayer was as addictive as the developer’s previous efforts, but after a series of matches I realized that is not why I am playing Destiny.
Destiny is a new direction for Bungie in many ways, yet familiar ground in others. The similar storytelling is only accented by the phenomenal gunplay. The boring mission structure is forgivable due to the cooperative nature of the game. It seems for everything the game does wrong, it makes up for it with something else. I am excited to see where this franchise goes. I have my Season Pass, and I will be playing more and more Destiny as time goes on. Those craving a solid shooter to enjoy with friends and have no interest in taking on the Fallen alone should definitely give Destiny a shot.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.