Destiny is one of the most expensive games ever developed, and rightfully so, given that it is the new franchise from the biggest publisher in the industry, Activision, and one of the most successful developers, Bungie. I mean, how else do you follow Halo? That series defined a console generation and a strange flavor of Mountain Dew. The only way you can possible solve the problem of living up to that legacy is by throwing as much money at it as possible. But now that Destiny has been out for a month, a lot of people are asking if that money is actually on display.
Ditching the cinematic styling of Halo, Destiny‘s story is mostly told through in-game voice over and out-of-game codex entries. From what I can tell, this is actually a somewhat interesting universe, the game just has something of a hard time showing that to its players. Check this out: A while ago, a giant spherical being showed up and made life awesome for humans – lifespans tripled, we started colonizing nearby planets, things were great. Then this thing’s ancient enemy showed up and shit got real bad real fast. By the time this story begins, humanity is down to just one city on Earth, and the character you create is already dead.
The character creator is underwhelming, but you do get to choose between three species (humans, robot people, and aliens that look like pale humans), both genders, and a small handful of facial options. But the game does have three classes for you to pick from; Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. No matter your choice, you’ll spend most of your time shooting things, but each class adds some flavor to your experience, mostly in the types of grenades you throw and your super attack. Super attacks take a while to charge but can be devastating; my Titan, for example, could slam into the ground blasting all nearby enemies and doing a bunch of damage. Of course there’s a skill tree and specializations to unlock for each class too – by the time I hit the level cap my character was much more powerful and uniquely a Titan. It’s all just deep enough that I wanted to reroll as the other two classes.
Regardless of your class choice, you begin the game being revived by Peter Dinklage, who lazily plays a floating robot friend called Ghost. Ghost works for the orb thing I guess and he needs you for… something. Mainly you’ll do all the running and shooting and stuff and he’ll shoot lasers at control panels and doors to get them open for you. And soon enough you’ll be off on a solar system-spanning adventure that sees you killing various evil aliens over and over again.
This is a game that’s all about the loot, and I think the story missions were designed to be replayed for that reason. Which means the story is light and the shooting is plenty, which is a shame. But the loot stuff is pretty good. Every character has a few armor slots as well as three weapon slots, for primary, secondary, and special weapons. The rarer armor will come with cooldown reductions on it, which is handy, although I feel like the baseline cooldowns are way too long. The various gun types feel different enough, although it’s not always obvious that one weapon is better than the other in gameplay, even though the stats revealed in menus say otherwise. But any game with loot in it will make you feel good when you get something you want, and if you want to chase the high, there are many worse ways to spend your time.
One of the rumors you’ll see if you spend enough time on the Internet is that a lot of Destiny ended up getting cut so that the game could be out by its September release date. And if you go back and read some of the early previews, that sure does seem possible. It’s also possible a bunch of material has been made into DLC. It’s even possible that a bunch of content will be coming to the game for free in coming weeks, Bungie has been pretty active in patching the game over this last month after all. It’s just disappointing that the story feels so sterile and the competitive multiplayer options (basic TDM and territory capturing) so underwhelming.
All that said, this is a slick-ass game. A console exclusive, Destiny still looks absolutely gorgeous on PS4. Each planet has a distinct visual feel, animations are smooth, and every piece of armor you pick up will look slightly different on your character. Basically every character in the game is voiced by a celebrity, and while we’re talking about sound, the score is terrific – just Halo-esque enough and plenty epic. This is one of the most polished games you’ll play, and that sure does lend a sense of grandeur to the gameplay that few games can live up to.
I’m a sucker for the shooter/RPG hybrid – everyone knows Borderlands and Mass Effect are among my favorite games. Destiny is much more of a shooter than those games, which is OK with me because not a lot of people can make better shooters than Bungie. That said, if you’re not interested in the loot grind, don’t play this game. Without it, Destiny is a story campaign that drags on too long and a pretty rote set of competitive multiplayer modes. But if you’re like me, if you’re into that progression, if you’ve got the itch, this’ll scratch it.