It’s been so long since developers Bungie developed the iconic face (or rather helmet) of Master Chief in 2001, and blasted into the video game heavens.
Halo: Combat Evolved’s success spawned Halo’s 2, 3, 3:ODST and Reach before Bungie surprisingly transferred its award winning series to 343 Industries.
After a long hiatus, Bungie have now returned with Destiny – which is arguably the biggest game release of the year. Published by Activision and announced alongside PlayStation 4 at Sony’s press event in February 2013, Destiny’s caged hype soon came out of its shell in April this year, when Bungie released an Alpha build for players to test followed swiftly by a Beta build, which became one of the biggest open Beta tests ever released. Now however the full game is upon us.
As has been well documented, Bungie didn’t want us reviewers to publish our full verdicts until we had played the game to death, allowing us to experience everything this game has to offer. And after a week of exploring, grinding and fighting, here I am delivering my assessment of 2014′s biggest offering.
Firing up the game for the first time will leave you confused. You’re an unconscious randomer awoken by a mysterious mechanical orb, who soon explains that it has been looking for you for centuries and that you are a ‘Guardian’. The mechanical orb known as Ghost becomes your narrator throughout Destiny’s campaign, and as a Guardian, you are tasked with defending humanity and the habitable colonized planets of the Solar System. As grand as the story and setting sounds, you’re strictly confined to certain areas on Earth, Venus, Mars and The Moon- so don’t expect a scale seen in Mass Effect. Also rather unlike Mass Effect is Destiny’s lackluster plot, which tacks together a string of “go there, hack this” and “fight them, then that” missions while Ghost fills you in on the outline, task details and background. Every once in a while you will be treated to a nicely acted and beautiful looking cutscene, but these are sparse and ultimately forgettable, and what Destiny boils down to is a stereotypical MMO. And let’s face it, no MMO is known for its story.
Destiny is an online-only massive multiplayer game played in the first person perspective, and it’s the first MMO game on console to not require a subscription to play (which is the downfall of most MMOs). As cool as this sounds with Destiny, however, the potential for meaningful encounters is squandered. Unless the people you’re with are on your friends list on PSN or Xbox Live, other wandering players can be freely interacted with using the click of the R3 button which enables you to invite to your Fireteam, chat ect giving that unique sense of community found in all MMO’s
The main mechanics of Destiny take the form of traditional first-person shooting, which you will be doing a hell of a lot of in this game. Each environment you explore is filled with hostiles that are challenging and exciting to battle at first, but sadly aren’t very diverse the longer you play. Enemy types are heavily recycled to fill out missions, with each adopting the same tactics found before, with the occasional boss thrown in – usually found at the end of each stage. Impressively though, every enemy type has its own way of fighting you. Acolytes tend to pop out from cover to shoot, Knights tend to use their heavy armour to and weaponry to take you down. while the Thralls swarm and rush you. Then there are those bosses, which are significantly more powerful and harder to kill, and they also adopt a wide assortment of battle styles.
The three classes available to choose from each cater for different styles of gameplay. Like sneaking and killing from afar? The Hunter class is for you. Like rushing in and unleashing hell? Then the Titan is more your style. My personal favourite is the Warlock, which is Destiny’s mage and has a better survival rate and unique special abilities to attack with, which are similar to magic spells. The Warlock’s attire looks the coolest too. Each class has a glide ability to help traverse high ledges or help escape in the heat of battle, and a special ability which is used for crowd control or grinding down a hard boss. Grenades can be used, which act differently depending on your chosen class. Unfortunately, both these and special abilities have a much too slow cool-down period before you can use them again.
Weaponry in Destiny is also short on variety. Machine guns, plasma rifles, hand cannons, sniper rifles and rocket launchers found on the battlefield only differ statistically, and so too does equipment with the addition of a different colour - which puts a downer on hoping to find an epic piece of kit which looks as powerful as it is. You can sleep easy though, because the battles can get hairy fast, and the combat is fast paced and can get very intense, with no slow down whatsoever.
Away from story quests, Strike Missions require you and two other random players, or two of your friends, to embark on a sequence of tasks which always ends in fighting a powerful boss. These carry big rewards, and if you all work well together they are pretty satisfying. Once they are all done, however, you’ve got no other option than to repeat them. Leveling up your character is made easier with the help of bounties, which are randomly generated tasks that ramp up experience earned for completion. These can range from taking out a certain boss or killing a certain number of a particular enemy. Aside from Strike Missions, Patrol Missions become available a few missions in, basically providing free roam with a constant stream of mini-missions to complete. It’s easy to get around too thanks to your Sparrow: a cosmic motorcycle similar to the Land Speeder from Star Wars.
Destiny’s main function is repetition. After the novelty of traveling and traversing a new area and fighting a new enemy type, you soon realize that you’re doing the same thing over and over, and once you’ve capped your character’s level, it’s just a constant hunt for legendary loot. Player versus player thankfully is on offer with the Crucible, which pits players against each other to earn more rewards and experience in matches like team death-match and Control – which is similar to Call Of Duty’s Domination mode. My advice is to never step foot in the Crucible matches unless you are a high level, because the match making leaves a lot to be desired.
Destiny looks amazing, and each of the planet surfaces offers some astonishing views. From Earth’s tropics and Venus’s jungle like environments to Mars’s famous red tinted atmosphere – and the view of Earth from the surface of the moon just has to be seen to be believed. Enemies are nicely designed as well, from dumb but scary looking Thralls to the behemoth-like Ogres, and some even enter the battlefield via an impressive insertion from a warping Carrier ship. There is loads to see in Destiny and I am still yet to see any cracks in the presentation.
The tense action, vast exploration and lush visuals can’t disguise the tedious repetition that Destiny relies on to carry it forward. This year’s biggest release is an enjoyable journey through its 9 or so hour long story, but once it is done, you’re simply left grinding for loot – which soon becomes a bore. Unlocking abilities for your character will keep you occupied though, so you can kick some serious butt in the Crucible.
Story - 3/5
Graphics - 5/5
Game-play - 3/5
Overall - 3/5
Version Reviewed - PS4