*Editor’s Note: This Review is from the Destiny base game and NOT the Taken King Edition.
Saying that Destiny had an enormous amount of hype to try and live up to is probably one of the biggest understatements I have ever made (and that is really saying something). The fact that it is developed by Bungie, the studio behind the uber successful Halo franchise, put an enormous amount of pressure to succeed right out of the gate. Then you add in the usual media and gamer antics feeding the hype machine and by that point it almost seems unfair. So, the obvious question first. Does Destiny live up to the hype? In my personal opinion, if it doesn’t then it comes damn close. Now, to be fair, I think most games with this much hype behind it wouldn’t have come this close to reaching their goals. Destiny’s claim to fame and most anticipated game-play mechanic was it’s multiplayer and cooperative component. And on that front, Bungie hit the nail right on the head. It is so seamless to transition from roaming around solo to joining a friends Fireteam. Destiny blends FPS and MMORPG game-play mechanics just as seamless. You can have up to three players in a Fireteam at a time when you are doing Patrols, Raids, and Strike missions. In the games competitive multiplayer mode, The Crucible, you can have teams of up to 6 guardians in addictive PvP combat. I have only played about 5-6 hours in The Crucible so I haven’t spent a ton of time on PvP combat. But, if you are a fan of Halo’s multiplayer, then you will feel right at home here with Destiny’s. Its fast, frantic, and one hell of a good time to get a few buddies together and take on other human players. One complaint that I’d like to throw at The Crucible is that it seems to me that there is no matchmaking component to it. Now, I may be missing something here like something in the setting I need to change or something like that, but I was getting my butt kicked every time I try PvP. The first time I played The Crucible was with three colleagues and they were all around the same level as I was at the time (9-12) and we were going up against whole teams of maxed out level 40 players. Needless to say we were getting destroyed, but it made it that much sweeter when we were able to put an opponent down. When my clan mate and I played last night, we did a few 3v3 matches and they didn’t seam quite as hard even though we were facing off against maxed characters again. However, we are also Levels 32-35 right now so that obviously will play a role as well. If you want to take the strikes up a notch, there is also the Legacy Strike Playlist that throws you into a randomly generated playlist of Strike Missions that ramps up the difficulty to Levels 20+ but you also receive greater drops during the missions as well as better rewards at the end. The past couple of days we have been doing these the most and my partner was able to get to Levels 0-35 in barely two days time.
The only area where Destiny falters a little bit is in it’s Story Missions. In the early stages, there’s something about the combat that just clicks. You have two weapons at the onset of the game. Using these basic tools you’ll cheerfully go to work on the Hive and the Fallen. Before long, you’ll become as intimate with the types and tactics of your enemies as you were with Halo’s Covenant. You’ll get use to which ones charge you, which ones cloak and sneak, which ones are the Elite-style heavy hitters, and which stand in for the Brutes. You’ll learn how to adapt to different situations, and how to deal with a rush of Thralls or Fallen Vandals in entrenched positions. Get through the first few hours, and the game opens up. You’ll become more powerful, but then so will your enemies. As the action moves from Earth to the Moon and then to Venus, you’ll find the atmosphere and pacing changing all the time. If the earthly sections are reminiscent of Halo and Halo: Reach, then parts of the Moon missions bring to mind Doom and Doom 2, with gothic underground structures and demonic bosses, and a nasty tendency to swamp you with wave after wave of aggressive enemies. Venus throws in a whole new foe, the Vex, and has vibe that is part Halo, part Mass Effect. There’s some stunning scenery to view and some great spaces to explore, and all the time Bungie uses them to stage challenging fights against credible foes. Destiny is definitely NOT an ugly game. As I said tho, Destiny’s story missions does have their issues, not least a tendency to over-use the ‘defend this spot while your ghost does something’ objective, but the minute to minute gunplay consistently feels great. It’s actually one of the most polished FPS I have ever played and it just flows so fluidly. Everything feels as though there is actually weight behind it. It might not have Halo’s bevy of eccentric weaponry, but the assault rifles, pulse rifles, hand cannons, etc. have their own distinct characters, and while the application of level-requirements and vast damage ratings to weapons doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense, that doesn’t make it any less satisfying when you find a pulse rifle that blasts through Hive Knights like a sharp knife through a crab shell. Whatever the naysayers might say, Destiny still has it’s share of big, epic moments. You’ll survive them not by playing it safe, but by trying something daring and unexpected. You’ll scrape through thrilling battles by the very skin of your teeth.
One of my issues with the story in Destiny is that, while it has a rich universe and a proper story line, it’s all a little too opaque and understated. You feel that Bungie was so keen to avoid flooding you with cut-scenes and background lore that it hasn’t given you quite enough to work with, or get worked up about. For a game that’s establishing a whole new universe, that’s a concern. The final sections of the game contain some of Destiny’s best moments, though also a handful of those increasingly tiresome ‘let’s pretend to guard but really ignore Ghost while he does something or other with a terminal’ bits. It’s also let down by a tough but slightly anti-climactic final boss battle where you effectively tackle the same git three times-hardly the stirring climax Bungie gave us in Halo: Reach. But, like I said, that is really the only aspect of the game I could lobby a complaint against. The vast array of game modes and the fact that the game is just so damn fun to play for long stretches at a time make it an easy forgivable offense. Which should show just how good of a game Destiny is, because most games with a knock against the narrative like that would be a deal breaker for me since I am a huge fan of strong narrative-driven games. I just think Bungie missed a prime opportunity to really come out of the gate with a deeper back-story driven universe. The good news though, is that this can be remedied in future DLC or the inevitable sequel, which, at the point of this writing, has been announced for a launch some time in 2017. Needless to say, I can NOT wait. For more on Destiny in the near future, keep it locked here on SportsNerdWeb. Be kind to each other….CHEERS!