The long wait is over. After a successful and generally well received beta, where everyone could try out the next FPS MMO game from Halo famed Bungie, yesterday we could play final Destiny. Bungie took its sweet time so the question is whether the long wait was worth the effort? Is Destiny really Actitivision’s and Bungie’s killer app?
If there is one medium, where ecologists, environmentalists and doomsayers can see their pessimistic view of our future well represented, it’s the domain of videogames. In most of science-fiction themed games the fate of Earth is sealed and the galaxy usually isn’t in a better shape either. The same goes for Destiny where our once “beautiful” planet (well, it was actually beautiful before the civilization took place) gets invaded by nasty aliens.
Halo meets Mass Effect
Those aliens aren’t joking when it comes to intergalactic invasion: after the annihilation of Earth they plan to subjugate Pluto, Mars, Venus and also the Moon. Fortunately the heroic Guardians are here (that would be us) who will protect what’s left of the human society and also the rest of the galaxy.
If you think it feels like Halo and Mass Effect kind of badly mashed together, than you are not mistaken. The story isn’t the strongest part of the game to say the least. While our Guardian speaks sometimes and we also have a chatty, floating robotic companion called “Ghost” (who somewhat reminded me the floating skull, Morte in the CRPG Planscape Torment and who is voiced by Game of Throne’s actor, Peter Dinklage) the rest of the story is nothing to be enthusiastic about.
The Mass Effect feeling comes from the general setting rather than the story itself. There won’t be NPCs with extremely complicated characters to chat with, or blue aliens to make love with or any deep lore explained in conversations by funny aliens. In fact there will be rarely conversations, our most chatty companion will be the already mentioned floating robotic pal: Ghost. Destiny clearly isn’t made for a single player experience with a deep story.
“A profound MMO… it isn’t… young Guardian…”
Yoda would certify for you that Destiny isn’t a deep MMO either. Yes, you can develop your character’s skills, find and use gazillions of super weapons and armours for him. Yes, there are a central hub: The Tower, the last bastion of Humanity where there’s peace, where you can buy different cool stuff, get some quests and of course you can meet here other players, but it’s no World of Warcraft’s Ironforge or Oggrimmar. There’s only few places here to see and when you are done doing your shopping and using emotes, here your best bet is to simply go on questing on the planets – even the game tells you do so.
During missions we can meet other players as well or friends from PSN or complete strangers. One thing which bothered me a bit when a “friend” of mine from PSN joined (I barely knew him) and he was actually a chatty and annoying 13-15 years old kid, who couldn’t stop talking. Since the rather hard gameplay is encouraging deeper co-operation more than in Diablo III, for example shutting him up (using mute) would have been not only inpolite, but also impractical regarding the gameplay.
While I understand that Destiny is more about a Call of Duty when it comes to multiplayer experience, I still don’t like when my immersion is broke like that. (I am always muting everybody in multiplayer games unless they are friends.) The “dude” was so annoying, that I actually stopped playing a bit.
Besides those small annoyances multiplayer is generally a lot of fun. Since the game is rather hard, co-operation is more than welcomed. If you are playing alongside a skilful player, Destiny can be really a blast. The number of players on in the PVE (player versus enemies) on one map missions depends of the type of missions which you have to undertake.
The main missions are for four players max and the simple explorations for up to six players. It’s certainly not World of Warcraft’s team raiding nor Guild Wars 2 open world boss killing. So to sum up: it’s not really an MMO it just have some MMO features added in the gameplay, but this “simplicity” actually didn’t bothered me at all.
Say hello to my little Halo!
The first person shooter part of the game unsurprisingly reminds us of Halo. Since the areas are varied there are both traditional corridor shooting and big battles on large terrains with many enemies – which feels almost exactly the same like in Halo.
The only difference is the AI which seems sometimes a bit less intelligent: while the aliens are extremely aggressive sometimes I found them standing and looking literally the other way while I was happily shooting and killing them.
However close combat is done better than in Halo and it’s somehow more fun as well. With my hunter one or two quick knife stabbing sufficed to kill the enemy. While it’s a bit similar to Killzone: Shadow Fall’s close combat, it’s also a bit simpler.
Naturally we are not leading Master Chief this time, so getting better stats, armour and weapons is crucial and in the beginning of the game we might find ourselves be killed rather quickly – especially if we play solo.
There’s of course a difference between the gameplay of the three classes: the Titan, the Hunter and the Warlock as well. While the Titan is better in close combat and generally a tough, strong character, the Hunter is rather good at sniping and the Warlock can use arcane “magic” (or skills.) Of course, everybody is using fire weapons: we can have up to three weapons. The primary weapon can be a gun, an automatic rifle (or semiautomatic).
The secondary weapon can be either a sniper or a shotgun, which are both much more powerful than the primary, and it has also very little ammunition scattered around the world and it costs a fortune to buy as well. We can only learn to use the third, heavy weapon later (which can be either a machine gun or a rocket launcher).
Is Destiny really an MMORPG?
No, it isn’t. The simple role playing elements are well thought out and rather original. Each mission, and each enemies killed brings you experience points. Each level improves a skill of his skill tree, specific to each class. The skill tree is divided into active skills (spells, powers, abilities) and passive skills (faster, more accurate etc …). There is also the opportunity to improve some of the weapons (which are suggested by a green background).
These weapons level up as characters in their own right. The more you kill enemies with these weapons, the more they gain experience and they can be further improved: a secondary fire, better charger, more power etc … This feature is also available for armor. It is well thought out and original.
However the online mode is rather limited for a game which calls itself “MMO”. Even if there are several kinds of PVP multiplayer mode it’s actually 6 against 6 which has a bit of Call of Duty feeling. On the plus side, the combat, which is based on a sci-fi world is really fast and furious and reminds you Quake 3: Arena. Still be mindful that if you play against good players you need very fast reflexes or you will be killed again and again.
I’m too sexy for my console?
Destiny is pretty nice looking and even awesome on some levels. Shadows are used wonderfully on the PlayStation 4, while they are still a bit rough around the edges (literally) on PlayStation 3. Lighting effects are also on the top and the general visual art is gorgeous. There only some hiccups which includes the human characters look a bit outdated and there are also few character models to choose from when you are making your character. Maybe more models will be added later.
Overall I was very pleased with Destiny. I have to admit however that I am a big fan of Halo games, and I like Bungie’s vision of how to make their FPS gameplay (big areas with lots of aliens attacking from everywhere, epic music pumping, vehicles etc.) and I also dig the concept of light MMO features added. Too much MMO would have been a mistake in my opinion – been there, done that, I am sick of World of Warcraft clones, thank you. Destiny just have the right amount of MMO we need. No more, no less.
While Destiny isn’t the game of the year in my book, and I confess that I like Diablo 3 Ultimate Evil Edition a bit more as far as multiplayer action-RGPs are concerned, it’s still a very solid 8/10 absolutely for Destiny and worth to buy and play for fans of the genre. A bit more interesting story perhaps would have been welcomed, but if I need my fix for Mass Effect-like story depth I replay the Mass Effect trilogy with another character and choices.
Destiny is a game to play with friends online, and shoot and kill aliens in co-op mode, or melt other player’s faces in PVP. It has a great universe, but a not so great story, it’s rather average at single player but excellent in any kind of multiplayer mode. It’s a great console shooter, perhaps a bit overhyped for its own good.
+ Excellent multiplayer gameplay
+ Well designed, interesting sci-fi universe
+ Bungie’s usual care to the FPS action
– Some more classes would have benne great
– Story is weak, few interesting NPCs
– Repetitive gameplay and level design on some places
Genres: action, FPS, MMO, multiplayer
Publication: September 9, 2014