Lets be real here for a moment; if you haven’t heard of Destiny at this point you’ve either just awoken from a coma or decided to leave your remote jungle tribe and join the modern world. In either case, let me be the first to say congratulations and welcome. Destiny is one of the most hyped games the industry has ever seen. The hype, expectations, and excitement almost threatened to crush Destiny under its enormous weight before the game was even released.
I for one was sure that this game would be exactly what the next gen consoles were missing. I thought Destiny would finally succeed in in bridging the gap between two genres I love: MMORPGs and FPSs. I imagined Destiny to succeed where games like Firefall, Borderlands, and Defiance left me wanting more. You can imagine my surprise then as I started reading the early Destiny reviews and saw that instead of praise and accolades, many gaming journalists were instead quite disappointed in Destiny. How could this possible be? Was the cynical and jaded gaming media at large correct in its assessment? Confused, I began to ponder how we at ProGameReviews could best cover an enormous game like Destiny. I decided that Destiny would require a group effort to tackle.
So I attempted to assemble the most powerful and dangerous review crew the world has even witnessed.
OK, actually I just asked our regular staff to chip in but we are all MMORPG and FPS players with varying levels of experience. I HOPE this “review” will end up being more of an open discussion about the game and what we think are its strengths and weaknesses. As the game grows and changes so will our discussion. PLEASE feel free to add in and let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Graphics and Presentation:
So lets kick this thing off on what I feel is a high point and talk about the graphics and presentation of the game. I think this is one of the strong points of the game. Destiny looks beautiful and polished. The character models, environments, animations, gear, and everything else looks fantastic. I haven’t noticed any clipping or popup issues and the game has never slowed down even in the most hectic of firefights. At times I feel the menus would be better served by a keyboard and mouse but I am primarily a computer gamer so that makes sense coming from me.
This is another universally accepted strong point of the game. Destiny plays well. The shooting is smooth and the game just feels right. Movement, running, jumping, aiming are all well done. The controller layout makes sense and is easy to use even to a PC gamer such as myself. Though some people may disagree, I for one appreciate the aim assist in PvE. I normally don’t enjoy PFS’s on consoles because of the controller but Destiny has proven to be a great game to force myself to stick with and become comfortable with dual thumbsticks controllers (mouse and keyboard is still infinitely better).
More than a standard FPS:
Like the title says, Destiny is more than an FPS. I hesitate to label it an MMORPG though. I think its this classification that is in part the reason Destiny has received such critical reviews. Destiny attempts to mix elements of both game types… it only partially succeeds. Bungie NAILS the FPS part. As I said above, Destiny is a solid FPS. But Destiny is much more than just an FPS and this, unfortunately, is where it begins to falter. Destiny in many ways is like an MMORPG and has many of the same conventions. Destiny features character classes and progression. It has skill trees, social aspects, loot, and open world areas. There are public events, raids, and strike missions (instances in MMORGP speak). There are NPC factions and there is reputation within each faction.
Sounds pretty good huh? Well it is pretty good but far from great. Destiny is light in all these MMORPG areas. There’s just something Destiny is missing that keeps it from being a great game. It somehow feels like Bungie rushed the game out and didn’t quite realize the full potential of these various gameplay mechanics. For example, there’s no “looking for group” option to make it easy to find other players doing the same content. In fact, all the social aspects of the game are weak at the moment. It’s hard to group up with and communicate to others in game. This could be partially due to the fact the game is on a console but that’s not a good excuse and Bungie needs to fix this soon. Destiny is much better when played with others and Bungie needs to make it easier to do so.
How about the open world quests Krampus?
Well there are open world areas that house random missions. While completing these missions you’ll often bump into other players going about their business. This in itself is a good thing. The problem is that the areas are places you’ve already visited and the missions are uninspired; they all boil down to the same few tasks. To add injury to insult, the mobs spawn with annoying frequency so you are often forced to kill the same things over and over just to get around.
OK, so what about the characters (Guardians) themselves?
Well, there are three different classes, each of which has a different sub class available at level 15. Destiny doesn’t conform to the holy MMORPG trinity of Tank, Healer, Damage dealer though. As such the characters play very similar in the beginning. At level 15 the character sub classes add a bit of variety though and I’m sure as the game grows so too will these differences. A PLUS here is that you’re able to switch between your main and sub-class at any time without penalty; I really appreciate this. There is a level of physical character customization available during creation and the gear you pick up along the way also changes your character’ appearance though I haven’t felt my guardian ever look completely bad ass.
Story and content:
This is something that most people agree with: the story in Destiny stinks. Perhaps it’s not that it stinks but that it was not given the proper amount of attention. For reasons unknown, Bungie just didn’t devote the time to the story that people expected they would. This has spawned some interesting and heated debate on Reddit. One poster in particular details how he thinks the game was changed in the year before its release and provides interesting facts to back up his theory. True or not, the result is a story line that most people don’t understand and therefore don’t feel a part of. Most of the story is told through the voice of your ghost (computer, robot, floaty thing that follows your around) while waiting for your next mission to load. There aren’t many cut scenes to mention nor are there many NPC character interactions to write home about. I for one feel completely disconnected from the mythos of the world. Bungie’s solution? Provide players with in game cards called grimoire cards to read about the world. Yeah, OK, people will stop to read the cards and learn about the world. SHUUUUURE.
Here’s a really funny video for you that exemplifies the terrible story and the frustration caused because of it.
All this being said, does it really matter? Let me ask you a question.
When playing a MMORPG can you honestly say you follow the game’s story line?
Do you read or listen to the 100s of quests you accept and complete OR do you rush through them as quick as possible in order to level your toon? I’ve sunk a huge amount of time into different MMORPGs and I can tell you this: most people rush through the content as quick as they can. People are generally far more interested and gathering loot and leveling up than actually playing close attention to the story. There’s a pressure created in these games to level up as quick as possible and get to end game content. And why is that you ask? Well, partially because every MMORPG I’ve played perpetuates the promise that the REAL game doesn’t start until you reach the level cap. Then once we’re there we all complain that there’s NOTHING to do. It’s a vicious cycle that Destiny is already experiencing (read getting its ass handed to it by the internet). Is this Destiny’s fault or is it something more? Is it simply the fact that there are, and always will be, players that consume content at a staggering pace? Once these players reach the end game (which they usually do within the first week of the games release) they are then disappointed that there’s not enough to do. They seem surprised that they are forced to replay content over and over like EVERY OTHER game before. This is the formula and people are somehow still surprised by it. I think the blame should be levied upon both Bungie AND the unrealistic, never satisfied gamers (myself, Krampus, included). I’m not saying the game is perfect nor am I saying it has enough content. I myself have not finished the content because I have a family and a real job BUT I can sympathize with those players that have finished the game, expected more, and are now faced with a terrible end game and an even worse loot system which inspired the infamous loot cave “exploit.”
So lets touch on end game quickly, but first a disclaimer; I’m not at end game yet. This is where I’ll look to my peers at ProGameReviews (if they even are) and to YOU, our loyal readers. I have, however, read enough about its deficiencies that I can quickly tell them to you.
Once you hit the level cap, level 20 currently, you cease to level in the standard way. From this point on you are forced to gain levels through finding gear with light points which then give you a higher effective level.
OK, thats a little weird but whatever. I’m assuming it’s not that hard to find gear with light points right?
BWAHAHAHA! (that’s an evil laugh just incase you didn’t know). This is where the real grind begins in Destiny and why there is a lot of talk that the loot system is broken. When you find rare, legendary, or exotic gear in Destiny post level 20 there will be a light attribute associated to it. You can also gain light points by upgrading your armor. These sought after pieces of equipment are found mostly through random drops of items called engrams. Once you find a engram you need to decrypt it at the Cryptarch back at the tower. This Cryptarch dude decrypts the engrams into an actual item. OK, sounds easy enough but there’s a catch here too. Rare, legendary, and exotic engrams have a chance to turn into a piece of gear equal to OR one level LESS than it’s rarity. So that exotic engram you finally found MAY end up only yielding a legendary piece of gear.
Since engram drops are random AND do not scale based on the level of enemy you killed to find it, the current loot system has caused people to look for ways to increase their odds. Enter the infamous loot cave. The loot cave was a place where an infinite amount of low level enemies spawned. By killing them over and over you were quite often awarded with engrams. This became an easy way to help gear your chatacter… before Bungie squashed it.
So let’s sum up what we have as this point because this article is getting seriously long.
- Destiny is more than just another FPS
Not so Good:
- Loot system
- Amount of content
So for better or worse, this is the state of Destiny right now. It’s a safe bet to assume its not the reception Bungie expected or desired. But despite the low points Destiny is still a good game. Maybe its just the fact that I haven’t finished the game yet and that I’m a bit forgiving about the story, or lack there of. The bottom line is I’m still having fun playing and reading about the game. Will I be playing Destiny for months to come? Probably not unless things change but for now it’s a decent FPS with an added layer of complexity that makes it that much more interesting to play.