'Destiny' Review: Jack of All Trades

Erik Fattrosso ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer 

Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
Reviewing Destiny, Bungie’s first game after they left their Halo franchise behind, is a bit of a difficult proposition. This is in large part due to the immense amount of hype that’s gathered around the game (It’s the most expensive game ever developed, coming in with a cost of about $500 million), but also the huge variety of games that it seems to draw influence from.  While most clearly drawing upon the Borderlands series and their own Halo, Bungie also takes elements from MMO’s and loot driven games like Diablo.  But does it all mess together to create a game that’s better than the sum of its parts? Well…maybe not.
There’s no denying that Destiny is a lot of fun. The familiar FPS mechanics are some of the best ever seen.  They’re fine-tuned to an incredible degree and mowing down countless numbers of aliens and machines feels great.  Visually, it’s one of the better looking games on current-gen hardware.  The different planets all look and feel different from one another and it’s easy to immerse yourself into the various locales.  That being said, Destiny’s problems start with the fact that there’s never a satisfying reason for you to go to any of them.  The game starts, introduces the fact that you’re a guardian (basically the protectors of the realm, lord of the seven kingdoms, king of the Andals and the First men…sorry for that), and sets you off.  You’re AI companion Space Tyrion (It’s a floating orb voiced by Peter Dinklage, called a Ghost in-game) tells you to go somewhere and stop something bad from happening and that’s basically all the plot you get for most of the game’s missions.  It’s not until the last third of the game that a real narrative starts to form, but by that point you won’t care and the lack of explanations early on lead to confusion near the end.  For a game so similar to Halo (you could easily mistake Destiny and Halo 4), it’s a real wonder why it lacks even a fraction of the story.
Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
Past the 20-or-so story missions, there are various other activities that you can partake in. Options range from Strikes, three man missions that end in a boss fight and are usually pretty difficult, to the Crucible, the PvP portion of the game.  Strikes provide arguably the most intense and exciting experiences in the game; play with a friend on co-op and desperately yell at each other for covering fire. The Crucible holds the standard multiplayer options, but it can feel a bit barebones.  What’s here works just fine, but there’s a noticeable lack of private lobbies and custom games.  Bungie has new missions called Raids in the works, but as there are none released yet it’s impossible to judge how they play.  Everything you do gives you experience to level-up your character.  There are 3 different classes to choose from, but minus their special ability there isn’t much difference between them.  You’ll hit the level cap of 20 relatively quickly, but that’s not the end of leveling.  It is, however, the beginning of one of Destiny’s largest problems.
Rather than have a solid level cap, the game instead gives you a “soft” level cap of 20.  At this point, standard experience ceases to level your character.  From then on out, you increase your level past 20 by “finding” items with a new stat called Light.  The more light you have you higher your level can go, presumably to an infinite number.  Now, there are a few problems here.  The first is the confusion factor.  The game does a really poor job of explaining this mechanic, so until you do some googling you’re not going to understand what’s going on.  Secondly, you can’t really find items with decent Light stats; you have to buy them from one of the numerous vendors in The Tower, the games hub-world.
Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
Photo Credit: Bungie, Inc.
With that, the games loot drive ceases to be about actually finding good gear and becomes more about farming currency to buy it. This would be fine too, except that for some reason the game has something like 4 different forms of currency, plus 3 more optional ones. And Ranks for each vendor.  Want to buy a gun from the Warlock Vanguard? Then go to him with a few hundred Vanguard marks and at least Vanguard rank 2, which is leveled by doing stuff for the Vanguard.  How about the Crucible Gunsmith? Alright, so get a few hundred Crucible marks and increase the Crucible rank.  And what about Dead Orbit, or one of the other two optional vendors? Simple, buy an item from them to wear and then all your Crucible and Vanguard experience will be put towards them instead.  Oh! And those strange coins that you’ve been picking up? A secret vendor will be in town only on weekends. It all makes perfect sense, right?  It shouldn’t require more effort to understand the leveling and purchasing system than it does to pass a college level class, but here we are.  You could have logged almost 20 hours and still be confused on which ranks you need to increase and where you can get some obscure currency form that you need.
There really isn’t anything new that Destiny brings to the table.  For all its hype, it ends up being a culmination of different games that never reaches the heights of any of them. There’s RPG elements like in Borderlands, but they feel underdeveloped.  There’s a very Halo-like setting and gameplay style, but the story hardly exists.  There’s loot finding like in Diablo, except you’re almost never going to find any helpful loot (Think Diablo 3 at launch).  There’s a level of social interactivity similar to an MMO, but it’s not quite social enough to match one.  Destiny does a lot of things well, but it doesn’t do anything particularly great except for the actual gameplay mechanics.  It comes off feeling like a bit of an empty shell. There are a lot of cool ideas on the outside that are never fully explored and leave you with a hollow feeling that’ll persist as long as you play.
For all of its shortcomings, Destiny is still a genuinely fun game.  You can have a great time with it, so long as you can suppress the nagging feelings that’ll arise during the experience.  They don’t damper your fun so much as they pull the game down from great to average.  Today, Destiny walks away with a 7/10.

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