By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Destiny: Controversy Creates Server Crashes
Destiny. It has been both lambasted and heralded as greatness, as Metacritic scores can attest. It’s an ambiguous and ambitious game that has a lot to live up to with the Bungie’s Halo-fueled reputation behind it. But does it? Well, that depends on what you are seeking. Are you searching for an in-depth, riveting storyline that spans several planets and really lures you in as a player? You likely will not find that here. Action and excitement with lots of guns? Well, there’s certainly action and excitement. The game is unquestionably beautiful. The start of the game gives the feel of a single player shooter, potentially with some multiplayer elements like PVP, or grouped instances. These instances can be queued for on the map and must be done in a group. You can invite friends, or wait in a queue (similar to many other MMOs), and you will all drop into the map at a certain point. Though there are times where you will drop into someone else’s instance when a player dropped out.
This is where the confusion begins. Bungie is either incredibly ambitious with their MMORPG-FPS, or simply very confused at what they want to create. There is nothing wrong with creating a game that will require a great deal of time and investment; that has been a staple of MMOs for over a decade. It is hard to determine if it is simply a poorly made MMO, or a creative FPS. My opinion of this game has steadily changed since I began in the Alpha. In the Alpha I was incredibly excited. The gameplay felt fresh, fun and interesting. Levelling up, gaining skills and exploring new areas felt like the console MMO I was waiting for. When it released I felt much different. With an underwhelming loot system, random rewards in PVP, and the frustrating Engram system, this one’s very much a mixed bag. It is enjoyable to a point, to a degree.
I’m Your Venus; I’m Your (Gun)Fire
In Destiny you start on Planet Earth – that much is certain. There was some horrendous calamity and now “Old Russia” is in ruins. There are aliens and robots everywhere, and it appears that humanity is all but wiped out, save for a handful of Guardians. The gameplay is at heart an FPS with RPG elements, ala Mass Effect or Borderlands. Your character wanders alone, or with a group of two other friends, and explores several planets as one of three races (Human, Awakened, Exo) and one of three classes (Warlock, Titan, Hunter). Each class has its own skills and abilities that make it different from the others and have their own strengths and weaknesses. The Titan acts more like the traditional MMO tank, the Warlock functions as a Mage (or a Warlock!) and is pretty self-explanatory as the magic damage dealer, whereas the Hunter has an option to either be ranged with a rifle or go the melee’ route as a Blademaster, cutting down their foes in rapid succession.
The worlds are fun to explore and brutally murdering things with the guns on hand is frankly a lot of fun. The levelling system is all in all entertaining, and given an extra kick when combined with the bounty system that challenges you to play outside your comfort zone to accomplish extra missions. Succeeding against endless hordes of alien creatures never gets old either. Progression comes from xp, which you gain from bounties, completing missions, and PvP. However you do not have to just play through the story mode and complete missions. If you want you can just level through the PVP system, and when you meet the level requirement, you can complete the last story mission and reap the rewards. In fact, you do not have to do the missions in the correct order at all; if you meet the level requirement you can enter into the mission and complete it. Though it can be called an MMO, it lacks many of the functions that would make it quite the same experience such as servers with lots of players to interact with. Instead it is closer to a shared-world game, where occasionally other players show up in the same mission that you are on.
Grim Side of the Moon
The gameplay is fairly straight-forward: you select a mission from available areas such as Earth, Venus, and the Moon, or other locations such as the Tower (social hub) or the Crucible (PvP zone), which contains various PvP instances to enter into. The Tower holds many important game mechanics such as the Bounty System. You can hold a finite number of bounties at once and their challenge varies greatly. Completing them will net you bonuses such as reputation, items, or other benefits. There is a cooldown however, so you cannot simply run back in over and over and acquire them for easy levelling. In areas that have available missions, you will be shown its recommended level and player count. There are also rewards for finishing zones, though they may not always be something useful or even good. The RNG in this title leaves much to be desired, though that will be covered a little later. Each mission has a series of goals attached to it, and the current goal can be viewed by pressing the back/select button which will point the way (the minimap also shows what direction you should head). As you travel, you will unlock other types of gear and guns, with a main gun (assault rifle, pulse rifle, etc.), a secondary gun (sniper rifle, shotgun, etc.), and a “huge” gun, something like a rocket launcher or a machine gun.
The level cap at this present moment is 20; however, you can “level” past that. In fact, it’s recommended to be 26/27 for certain endgame content like the first big raid zone. I do not understand the purpose for this. Is it different to have an alternate leveling method post cap? Sure. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. Perhaps it would have been better to just increase the level cap instead of creating an extra style of leveling. When one hits 20, there is a stat that comes on gear called “Light”, and this increases your effective character level. This is when the time commitment appears. Daily missions and lots of PvP become the course of action in the game. Doing things such as Strike and Nightfall on harder difficulties will increase the loot you get. In theory anyway. In game you receive items called Engrams, which are essentially unidentified items like you might find in Diablo 3. You go to the Dealer (located in the Tower social hub) and he identifies them for you. There are rarity values attached, but there is no guarantee that the Rare Engram will net you a rare item. (Though an upcoming patch will guarantee Legendary Engrams will have quality drops.) It can be absolutely soul-crushing to find a rare engram and not get a rare item in it. It’s all up to the RNG.
The Fifth (Multiplayer) Element
Speaking of the RNG, PvP is certainly interesting, if not unbalanced. The shotgun reigns supreme and is without a doubt one of the strongest tools one can use in a PvP match. However, the maps are fantastic, and if anything, Bungie can create solid PvP as is evident by their years of Halo multiplayer. Don’t go into this mode with the mentality that your twitch skills will immediately carry you up the ladder though. If you do not level your skills in the main game and really put work in, you may find you do not stack up against the rest of the other players. Although the PvP is action packed, and the Control maps combine Team Deathmatch with Domination (kills and acquiring choke points, first to 20,000 points), what really sours me on the whole experience is how loot is distributed. It appears that rewards for PvP are completely random; I’ve seen the worst person on a team pick up pretty fantastic gear, instead of rewarding the best player or the best team. There is PvP gear to attain also, but it is only for level 20+ instead of PvP gear for lower tier characters (such is common in other MMO style games).
It was said that the first Fireteam to beat the first raid instance in Destiny had at least 6,000 deaths. There was an incredible time commitment put down here in this game to farm for gear, unless of course the RNG loves you. It genuinely feels like there is the potential for a great deal of time-sink, though I’d personally just wander the land mindlessly fighting battles rather than always being so goal oriented. Though Bungie is working hard to balance and change portions of the game that are unbalanced, and the first Loot Cave got removed (a portion of the game where you can sit and farm loot without any real difficulty) there are more and more of these types of areas popping up. Overall the game isn’t perfect, but the devs are making clear and precise steps towards the right direction.
Conclusion: 4/5 – Great
Despite disconnect errors in main story and in online Fireteam play, Destiny is fun. It’s interesting and the combat is quite enjoyable. I enjoyed my time with it and will likely spend much more of my time wandering and shooting things in the face, and thunder-punching them into the distance. I am still underwhelmed, though. What I expected and what I got are two very different things. I also realize that I am probably in the minority that did not think this is the Best Game of All Time ™, but I do feel like Destiny is a fun casual game to play with a couple of friends even if I personally feel the end-game of this would-be MMO leaves much to be desired.
I don’t even have to explain this; the graphics are beautiful for this game. After a while it feels incredibly redundant going to the same zones again and again, for Hard Modes or bounties, but when I am there, I am always impressed by how fantastic the worlds look. On all platforms it is released for it is a treat to view.
I really like the tight controls for this game. The buttons make sense and are only occasionally awkward. I don’t really care for how the Super Moves work as far as the button choices, but it is not so inconvenient that I’d be upset over it. All in all, Bungie’s dedication to solid controls paid off here with how easy it was to get into the game and do everything from PvP to flying around on a vehicle.
While I enjoy the gameplay, and think it is very solid, the story makes it suffer. As I said above, I feel almost no immersion in this tale, nor do I feel any inclination to work to save the universe. More likely, I just like shooting things until they explode. I like the fact that it has end-game content, though I feel it is terribly out of place; PVP immersion is nice though, in that it’s included directly into the game instead of a separate mode outside. That was a pretty clever choice. The social area is neat and offers gear and bounties and such, but I almost feel like it got shoehorned into the game at the last minute.
The music for this game is suitably dramatic and impressive; they really put hard work into the sounds and sensations of Destiny. The sizzle of fusion rifles to the sound of heavy boots crunching into centuries old dirt on the moon. Even if the story does not drag you in, the sounds of Destiny certainly can with how remarkable they are.
I’d also like to take the time to thank Jason Evangelho of Fatal Hero (http://www.fatalhero.com/) for the screenshots of the title.