I have to, at this point, assume you know (at least a little) about Destiny. I assume this partly because it’s been hugely, and brilliantly, marketed for months on end to gamers and the masses alike. Then there’s the fact you’re reading a videogame review article and therefore you have a passing interest in games and considering the preceding sentence, Destiny has to be somewhere on your radar.
The marketing of the game included not just advertisements everywhere you can imagine, but also highly publicized beta weekends, ones which had people all over (including yours truly) dying to get a code so they could play. Scarcity breeding desire or some such thing.
In the end though, now that it’s been released, I can say the game is good. It isn’t as good as the marketing, but it’s good. In other words, it’s worth playing but not worthy of the hype.
Destiny is, when all is said and done, little more than a first person shooter. It tries to be more, but the non-FPS elements all end up feeling grafted on to the FPS experience as opposed to an intrinsic part of it. You can upgrade and change and alter weapons and armor, but not very much and not in hugely significant ways until you’re pretty deep into the game.
To me, that’s okay. It makes the game less than it might be, but it isn’t a huge problem. I think there are bigger issues at work.
First, and this one you’ll notice immediately, the game doesn’t really offer up very much of an idea about how it all works. Sure, you get a sort of a basic intro level giving you an idea of what each button does, but when it comes time to work out what upgrades to weapons and armor are available, and what all the random other items you can pick up are able to do, the game offers no hints.
Rather than these hidden elements being compelling, they feel like a cheat, because the basic answer is that you can’t do all that much. It feels as though you aren’t given an explanation because Bungie doesn’t want you to know that the explanation would be really, really short.
The other big issue with Destiny is that it suffers from an issue which all-too-many FPS titles suffer – it doesn’t matter how you dress up the surroundings, levels have a tendency to all play out in exceptionally similar fashion. In Destiny, there are numerous levels where the Ghost (think little robot guide) traveling with you tells you he needs to look at something. You let him go do that and, while he’s working, you have to battle off hordes of monsters. It happens over and over and over again.
This device actually becomes a pretty good marker for the end of the level – if the Ghost says something about how looking at a system may take a few minutes, you can prepare for the hordes of baddies. Magically, it’s a soon as you wipe them out that the Ghost has all the information it needs and the level ends.
One of the great things about Destiny is that going around, blasting the baddies, and look at the beautiful (if barren) environments is almost enough to surmount the fact that level after level after level is the same. There are tons of weapons and bits of armor and picking out your favorites can be fun. There are also oodles of different monsters to kill and that, too, works well.
Then there’s the story. That is another part of the game which feels grafted on. You really only get bits and pieces of the story before and after levels and they tend to be told as cutscenes with you having no say in anything. You may get a few choices about which level to play when, but that is the extent of your agency.
In several ways, Destiny feels like a throwback to older, less freewheeling titles. However, it also hints at greater things.
There are several areas in the game where you are allowed to explore massive areas, taking on small missions and facing respawning enemies. These are sandbox-like modes and offer a very different version of what Destiny could have been. In this version, Destiny is almost a futuristic Skyrim, one that leans more heavily on FPS action than Skyrim, but also gives the player more choices than available currently.
That is the Destiny I want to see. I want to explore the world that’s been created, I want to work my way through the story that’s present more as I choose. Activision and Bungie want this to be a long-running franchise, so maybe Destiny 2 or 3 will head down that path. Then, it will go from being good, to being something outstanding.