A tan and red hovercraft slows to a halt overhead, and a six-legged spider tank swings out of its upside-down hang from the underside rails and slams into the ground, causing tremors in the area around it. Spreading out its limbs, the main cannon rotates to face you, a targeting laser appearing on your chest.
This is but one of many scenes visible in the new triple-A title by Bungie (original creators of the Halo series that has now been passed on to 343 Industries), called Destiny. Throwing players into an unfamiliar, yet memorable world with simple and addicting mechanics, Destiny is easily one of the most playable games this year, though it is not without flaws.
The story, while somewhat solid and without gaping plot holes or continuity errors, hits sub-par compared to the other titles created by Bungie. The plot of Destiny simply falls short of the dramatic, exciting, and very intimate narrative of the titles that Bungie is known for, like Halo 3. Many of the characters seem rather detached at times, including the player’s companion who is voiced by the famous Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister in the TV series Game of Thrones. The player character is only given a few lines beyond painful groans, and those only occur in cut-scenes. In addition, the player character has no backstory save for that they “were born in the Light” and “have been dead for a long time.”
The gameplay, however, stands head and shoulders above the competition. Even though there is nothing too special about the shooting mechanics, the gameplay still feels satisfying. The weapons have a nice kick, and a great sound, most of all the melee attacks, which produce a thick, quick thud of sound. All players have access to a super ability, which range from a golden gun to a ground-pound. These abilities are very fun and good for crowds, but seem underpowered in player-versus-environment scenarios at higher levels.
One point that can be made about Destiny is that progression is extremely quick, and you can probably hit the soft level cap of 20 in less than 20 hours. After you hit 20, your level can only be increased through a certain armor stat. Gameplay after the story does continue to a point, through bounties (which are daily challenges), strikes (essentially a more difficult, three person mission structured the same way as those in the story, with a boss at the end), as well as a Nightfall Strike, and extremely difficult strike which ejects the team from the mission if the party is wiped out. Raids are even larger versions of strikes with multiple bosses and difficulty modifiers. Timed events also occur, but it is currently unknown if Bungie is capable of ensuring that these events are available with some regularity.
Destiny also features a multiplayer game mode, designated “Crucible” and features several sub-game modes within it. Level advantages like armor bonuses are disabled, though lower-level players will still not have access to the same abilities or weapon upgrades that higher level players have. In addition, there appears to be some balance issues in that some super abilities are instant and kill all players in an area, while others require more skill. Also, auto-rifles and shotguns are usually much better than their alternatives, but a soon-to-come patch is supposed to fix this.
Item gains are another sore spot. Being almost completely random (unless purchased using in-game currency), you are left to the mercy of the random number generator. For example, after a game of Crucible (or a strike, raid, etc), some items are rewarded. These rewards are completely, absolutely random, with no regard to performance or any other factor. This can lead to some people “earning” a full load-out of high quality weapons and armor while others are forced to rock the same gear they’ve been using for a long time.
While initially the tactics used by the enemies (or lack thereof) can make the game more difficult, at higher levels it seems like, for the most part, the difficulty is inflated only by increasing the health, damage, and number of enemies. While not always a problem, when the endgame largely involved the repetitive killing of the same enemies, it can become extremely annoying.
Overall, Destiny is a great game with wonderful mechanics and a storyline that does not always live up to expectations, but still sets up the plot nicely. If a prolonged shooter experience is engaging to you, it’s possible to overlook some balancing issues and some systems in dire need of fixing in order to see the real beauty of the project. It really is something that can become great, but it needs an extreme amount of work in certain areas before it gets there, and if any company is up to the task, it’s Bungie.