It’s safe to say that I’ve been looking forward to Destiny.  I listed it as my most anticipated game of 2014.  I played in the open beta.  I was a huge fan of Halo 3, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4 (yes, seriously).  I’ve enjoyed MMOs in the past.  How could I not like Destiny?

I do.  I do like Destiny.  It’s not everything it was touted to be, but it’s a good foundation and Bungie is already making big steps to move us to that level.

Let's do this thing
This one’s gonna be longer than the rest.  Let’s do it.

  • TL;DR: A Halo-inspired MMO with a great foundation
  • Platform: PS4
  • Score: 8.4
  • Hours Played: 45
  • What I Played: Completed story mode (all co-op), a few strikes, a lot of Crucible PvP
  • Recommended?: If you tone down your expectations from the media hype train, yes

Destiny’s story is … well, it’s something you’ve heard before.  You, a Guardian, are civilizations last hope against the darkness.  A travelling being of unknown power once fought against the darkness, but it is weak and needs your help.  You must take a stand against the alien invaders and save us all.

One sticking annoyance with Destiny is the way things are simply named.  The travelling being I mentioned before is actually called The Traveler.  The darkness he/she/it fights is literally The Darkness.  The Traveler can’t speak, but do you know who does it for him?  The Speaker, that’s who.  What would you call the last remaining city on Earth?  If you guessed The Tower, you’d be right.  It’s a shame that the writing team didn’t put more time and effort into naming the most prominent beings in Destiny’s universe.

“But Matt,” you may say, “the story is much deeper than that.  Haven’t you checked out the Grimoire?”  The Grimoire is similar to the Codex in Mass Effect — it contains a bunch of backstory and lore to the expansive world you’re playing in.  I liked the Codex and I read most of the entries.  But, curiously, Bungie has hidden the Grimoire away from the game itself.  Everytime a new entry pops up, you are reminded to “visit Bungie.net for more info”.  I don’t like that I have to leave the game to read more about it.  I feel like that can be an easy patch, but I don’t understand why it’s an issue in the first place.

There is also a companion app, but c’mon guys. Get this stuff in-game.

On top of all that, the story is very repetitive.  Missions boil down to landing on a planet, clear some enemies, wait for your Ghost (voiced by a sadly unenthusiastic Peter Dinklage) to decode something, and repeat.  There are little to no puzzles of any kind and very bland mission variety.  The only solace I had was that I played through the entire story with a friend, so we had our own fun while doing it.  I can imagine it would be horribly boring solo.

Which brings me to another point — how is such an expansive, MMO world going to be so limited when it comes to social interactions?  Chat is only available to people in your fireteam, i.e. your direct team.  You cannot talk to people in your same Tower instance, on your same PvE world, on your strike team, or your PvP team unless you specifically party up with them.  What the hell?  I’ve made plenty of friends, whether it’s just for the night or longer, via pre-game lobby and random interaction.  The only way to interact with people not in your team is through a series of emotes: sitting, pointing, waving, and dancing.

Also, the default setting of your character isn’t in the Tower, but hovering in space in your ship.  I feel like this really detracts from the “shared world shooter” feel that Bungie is going for.  By default, you are alone in your ship rather than in town watching others buy, sell, and tweak their gear.

I do want to reiterate, though — I really enjoy playing Destiny.  I’ve given you some of the bad to this point, so let’s get to the good.

Like how incredibly pretty it is
Like how incredibly pretty it is.

Destiny is, at it’s heart, an FPS.  Bungie is no stranger to that genre and there are plenty of things clearly inspired by Halo in Destiny.  Your Ghost is essentially Cortana — always at your side, helping you with computers and guiding you.  Characters feel very floaty, as Master Chief usually does.  There are a few alien races, like the Fallen and Vex, with varying military levels that you’ll see over and over.  The controls are very tight and snappy, although lag/desync in PvP can get annoying (more on that later).

As far as stats and gear go, Destiny doesn’t overload you with too much.  You can have four pieces of armor on at a time, three guns, and one grenade.  There are only three gear stats: strength (reduces melee cooldown), discipline (reduces grenade cooldown), and intelligence (reduces super cooldown).  There are three classes to choose from, the Titan, Hunter, and Warlock, each of which have two sub-classes to pick from with it’s own action ability.  Each class has about 30 total skills of which you can pick about 12.  There is enough synergy between skills as well as differences to allow for multiple builds.

Naturally, there are a lot of your typical MMO features.  Guns and armor can be upgraded with crafting materials acquired by destroying unwanted gear.  Thankfully, you can destroy gear wherever you want.  You don’t have to go back to town and go to a specific NPC to do it.  Various factions have their own currencies and reputation levels, allowing you to get their specific gear.  Bounties are missions that can be taken on for rewards. namely currency and experience.  They’re a great way to mix up play and force you to try styles you wouldn’t normally try.

This guy. Get used to him.
This guy. Get used to him.

The level cap of 20 can be reached pretty quickly, but certain PvE events require your level to be above 20.  The only way to do that is with Light (because it opposes the Darkness, get it?).  Originally, I didn’t like the idea of having to find gear with a non-combat stat to be allowed into content, but in practice, the best gear has the most light anyway.  Light level is essentially a quick view into how good someones gear is.  You still gain experience after level 20, kind of like Paragon levels in Diablo 3.  Each level’s worth of experience past 20 grants you a Mote of Light, one of the many currency types in Destiny.

Once you hit 20 and start gaining light levels, you’ll want to start doing Heroic missions and Strikes.  Heroic missions are the same story missions you’ve done before but with higher level enemies.  Strikes are ~30 minute missions in a small team with a couple mini-bosses and a larger boss at the end.  There are also Raids… well, currently Raid, as there is only one.  Raids are the hardest type of PvE event, requiring a huge Light level and a team of six.  I haven’t been able to try the Raid yet, but a friend of mine who has tells me it’s both really difficult and very well done.

What I have done with the bulk of my time is PvP.  Initially, there are three game types:

  • Control — hold and defend zones for points
  • Clash — team deathmatch
  • Rumble — free-for-all deathmatch

There have been a few rotating game types as well, like Skirmish (3v3 deathmatch) and Salvage (3v3, grab the moving point and defend it).  I hope more objective-based PvP types are brought into the fold soon.  That’s really where I like to be.

Time to fight, Guardians.
Time to fight, Guardians.

I am absolutely hooked on Destiny’s PvP.  It’s got a Halo feel (of course) with each class having it’s own armor ability super power that charges up faster the more you dominate your opponents.  Using your super against enemies generate orbs of light that can be picked up by your teammates to fill their own super bars faster.  It’s a system that promotes smart team play.

PvP isn’t without it’s flaws, though.  I mentioned earlier that lag/desync seems to happen far too often, which I’m sure will be corrected with time.  There are medals like Halo, but nowhere to see the medals gained after each match.  Hell, you can’t even see what each medal means without going to the website.  Also, I’d love to see the announcer from Halo make a comeback.  Getting a triple kill would be more satisfying with the dulcet tones of The Speaker.

Between the daily/weekly story missions, bounties, strikes, raids, PvP, and short-lived events like weekend-only PvP types and the current Queen’s Wrath event, there is more than enough to keep you going once you beat the lackluster story.  This is where Bungie needs to continue to shine — timed events with exclusive rewards will keep players like me coming back after I’ve already left for other games.  If the recent leak is any indication, hopefully we’re in for just that.  Bungie is definitely listening to the community as this dev blog shows.  On top of the engram level disappointment (which was patched today), here’s what I’m really hoping for:

  • In-game Grimoire
  • Better chat functionality
  • A “go to Tower” button
  • Sparrow races
  • View reputation levels via menu, not just at the appropriate NPC
Pictured: My Titan looking at the Traveler, hoping for a brighter future.
Pictured: My Titan looking to the Traveler, hoping for a brighter future.

Destiny was the most hyped game of the year.  It hasn’t quite delivered on that hype due to a flat, repetitive story and some strange feature/design choices.  It’s only been out for three weeks, but Bungie has already proven that they are receptive to the community and to change.  Destiny isn’t all it was built up to be, but it’s certainly good enough to get into now.  I’m very hopeful that the Destiny of the future will be even better.

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