Destiny Misses Way More Than It Hits

destiny-review

I decided to wait until I had experienced most of what Destiny has to offer before writing my review. Just a short while ago I decided that I had pretty much done just that so here we are. It’s weird to think that a game could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, make 500+ million on its first day and in the end turn out fairly mediocre. Can that even be considered a success? A financial one, sure, but that’s about where it stops.

Destiny has many problems and I’ll break them down here:

Cliched

It’s really crazy how so much of Destiny feels like a giant cliche to the point where you aren’t quite sure if it’s trying to be a parody on purpose. You’d think that a studio like Bungie would deliver something of higher quality after having created something like Halo. The main plot in Destiny revolves around an ancient enemy known as “The Darkness” trying to destroy “The Light.” I mean, really now? Unoriginality aside, I can’t help but feel like I’m playing through some kind of alternate universe Kingdom Hearts fan fiction. Guardians are chosen because of their light or something and are accompanied by a small robot called a Ghost, there are things called Travelers, a Speaker, etc. Think of pretty much every overused sci-fi/fantasy word and it’s probably here. It’s hard to explain it right out but if you played through even a portion of it you might understand. It’s like you’re running around in a universe designed by a twelve-year-old.

The villains you face in Destiny are just unremarkable and bland. First you fight some alien guys, then some robot goblins, and finally space marines. Seriously, they look just like Space Marines and even have jump packs. Bungie seems to have gone creatively bankrupt in this department. The aliens in the Covenant (Halo) were far more memorable than any of these. Grunts, Elites, Jackals, Brutes, etc. I can actually remember those. I’m not even a big Halo fan but I can at least give them props for making interesting bad guys.

The weapons you get to use are essentially the most generic assembly of weapons I have ever seen. There are a few varieties and they are split between three different categories (Primary, Special, Heavy ). You would think that a game like this that is set so far in the future and has such interesting tech would at least provide some cool weapons. It might, but you don’t get to use any of them. You get stuff like a handgun, automatic, semi-automatic, scout rifle, sniper rifle, shotgun, scattergun, machine gun, and rockets. Aside from the scattergun you could essentially find all of that stuff in something like Call of Duty and it would seem no different at all. Where are the interesting energy weapons? Bad guys have energy weapons and other cool stuff but you are left with what feels like rejects of a derelict era. Again I find myself thinking of Halo and the weapons provided in that game. Sure it had your standard military guns but it also had a lot of interesting alien weapons. Where’s my Needler 2.0, Bungie?

Story Presentation

I mentioned the gist of  what Destiny is about and that’s pretty much all you get. You don’t really get any kind cohesive narrative except for Peter Dinklage flatly talking in your ear about where to go next and a bunch of other nonsense. Halfway through the game I wasn’t even sure of my motivation anymore or what my ultimate goal was. There didn’t really seem to be a point to any of it. There are a couple of cutscenes that pretty much just bookend the story and that is about it. Eventually you reach the end of the game and after a rather lackluster boss fight things just sorta end rather anticlimactically.

So I mentioned the monotone Peter Dinklage voice work but I don’t really think it’s the guy’s fault. They got a lot of talent for this game and I have recognized many voices. Unfortunately it’s all fairly lifeless. Their voice director really should not feel proud of the work done.

Repetitive and Restrictive

Obviously you are going to be doing one thing in a game like this: Shooting. Even so there are many ways you can shake up the formula and create some really exciting moments. Destiny doesn’t really do anything like this. There are no real awesome cinematic moments in the gameplay and no real hallmark experiences to be had. Despite taking you across several locations and planets you will still in the end follow one basic format for almost every mission: Fight through an area filled with bad guys -> Defend an area against bad guys while your Ghost hacks. Seriously, I lost count of how often this happened. That’s all it ends up being. Occasionally you’ll get Fight Through -> Defend -> Boss but it really doesn’t vary beyond that.

The open world exploration missions can be more interesting since they let you roam around wherever you want to. Scattered about are several mini missions you can do that will get you exp and rep. It’s mostly just “go here and scan this,” “Kill and collect X,” or just “Kill stuff.” Each planet you get to explore is pretty decent in size and each planet seems to get a bit larger than the previous. There are a lot of really cool areas and it all looks really nice. What really takes you out of the experience is all of the invisible walls and death walls you hit. I’ve seen a lot of people posting links to a dev video where they state something like “The game is huge and you can travel anywhere you can see” but that is a load of crap. You will constantly hit solid barriers or hazard areas that will straight up kill you if you stay too long away from where they want you to be. It’s not so much an issue in the first area, which is Earth, but when you are exploring the Moon and Mars it really sucks when you are roaming around thinking “Oh cool, I wonder what’s up here” only to be stopped in your tracks.

Daily Missions, Marks, and Rep A.K.A. Grinding

Destiny is not an MMOFPS. You really wont ever seen more than a handful of players at once. Just getting that out there. Yet for some reason the devs decided to make it like an MMO. Unfortunately they took all of the bad aspects from the genre and stuck them into Destiny. I could tell almost right away that things weren’t going to go well when every merchant was selling stuff for various marks and tokens. There are daily and weekly missions that will give you bonuses but other than that you are left grinding away at either Strike Missions, which are PvE dungeons of 3 people, or playing the PvP portion of the game which is essentially like the online versus of every other FPS. PvE stuff will get you Vanguard Marks and PvP stuff will net you Crucible Marks. I really don’t know if there is any kind of difference between the types of gear you can get. I don’t see why there would be since I’m not aware of any kind of PvP stat. In the end I imagine most people will want to just play the competitive multiplayer component rather than grind dungeons over and over again with inept strangers.

Maybe some people like this kind of stuff. I do not care to know those people. Unfortunately, this is all that is left after you complete the story portion of the game: grinding for gear. EXP points will only get you up to level 20 and in order to go beyond that you need to equip pieces of armor with light points. Having so many of those on at once will increase your level. Right now I’m only level 21 but I have seen players at 26. I have no idea if it goes higher than that. What’s irritating is that new game content that they add is going to require you be at these higher levels like 26 and so on, so if you want to get in on that you had better start grinding away.

Here’s where things get really interesting, though. You can only get 100 of each mark per week but almost every piece of equipment is above 150 marks, some even 250+. So you will have to grind for weeks just to buy one piece of gear. Dailies, tokens, and rep are already forms of artificial game lengthening but this just takes it to ridiculous levels.

There has to be some good, right?

There is a lot wrong with Destiny. I’m not even sure if I covered everything that I tried to make a mental note about. This is probably why I need a pen and some paper. Anyway, I don’t know if I would necessarily say that I’m enjoying myself but I am still playing. I’m curious about some of the places I haven’t been and I want to unlock all of my character upgrades. Plus the competitive multiplayer portion of the game isn’t bad. Nothing ground breaking or anything but still enjoyable. There are a few things that I would like to specifically mention. Stuff that I thought was pretty interesting.

Game Infrastructure

I don’t really know how else to describe this. I find the way everything is tied together to be very appealing. Between doing missions you are just orbiting on your ship and from there you can choose what planet to head to and what activity to do. When you go some place with other people their ships will meet yours mid warp and you all fly down to whichever planet together. It all looks really, really neat.

Speeder Bikes

I love these things. You can summon one down from your ship and use it to zoom around areas. It reminds me a lot of the speeders in Star Wars Galaxies.

Strike Missions

I actually do like the Strike Missions. Not really enough to grind them for hours but I do find it fun to run through them with two other people. They all seem to end in some decent boss battles as well so there’s at least that.

Remote Play

I have the PS4 version of Destiny so I am able to remotely play it with my PS Vita. I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot but it really works quite fantastically. The game looks great and the button layout actually works really well despite losing triggers and stick-clicks. Tapping the left side of the screen throws your grenade and tapping the right activates your melee attack. Really my only complaint is that the analog stick control is really difficult on the Vita. For some reason there is a rather large dead zone and it makes aiming pretty tricky. It’s manageable for most PvE stuff, baring maybe some of the harder Strike Missions, but pretty much impossible for PvP stuff. If you can play competitively on a Vita then my hats are off to you. Edit: Not sure why I pluralized hat…

The Online Integration

Destiny integrates it’s online and multiplayer elements very well. I’m actually really excited at the prospect of this level of online integration potentially making its way into future games. Everything just works so well and seems so seamless. I like seeing other players around and how there is never a feeling of having to join a session, etc. How many of the people currently enjoying Destiny were also the ones bitching about the possibility of “Always Online”connections required? Stuff’s creeping up on ya.

Final Thoughts

I feel kinda in a weird place right now since I can very clearly identify a lot that is wrong with Destiny yet at the same time I’m still playing it. Actually right now I’m feeling the urge to do some PvPing and maybe run a dungeon. It’s not a feeling that will last long for me, but I’m trying to get as much out of it as I can. I can only hope that the content they add later in the expansion pass is some truly exceptional stuff cause as it stands I’m not entirely sure I could give this game my full recommendation. It’s really one of those “wait and see” situations.

  • Do you plan to try out the 6 man raids in Destiny? heard they are suppose to be insanely hard, but they require level 26 light to enter.

  • I’m going to do my best to try to see it all. As much as I can before I want to tear my hair out anyway. I don’t know how people are already level 26. I spent all day yesterday trying to find better gear but nothing was dropping for me.

  • I actually stayed away from this game because of the reviews, but then I just went and got it since my 2 brothers and I wanted a way to chill on the sofa and blow sheot up!

    I’m only lvl 7, but I’m really enjoying the game. I guess my expectations were so bad, I was actually surprised by how much fun it was.

    I don’t care about story or lore, so that doesn’t bother me. I was literally looking at my equipment when they are telling the story.

    So far good times, but I know it’s early. Currently I have 5 hours in, so that’s $12 an hour so far. We’ll see how how far that rate drops!

    Good review, thanks for writing!

  • Howdy’s spot on with one thing this game gets really right. If you just want something to play with a couple friends, Destiny is great fun. Doing story missions and strikes with your friends is almost just as fun as doing co-op halo was back in the day. Hoping the scope of the raid is ramped up, and we get some of those epic outdoor style Halo vehicle sequences in the future.

    As someone that’d replay the best Halo levels over and over and over, I’m enjoying logging in to knockout a strike or daily story mission now and then with a buddy or two.

  • The “cliche” bit is not necessarily a negative.

    That being said the two biggest issues I personally have with the game is not the grind. It is more about the small team size for the average content. I want to play with my friends, and being a veteran of the MMO world, 3 people is just plain too small. Four would have to be the bare minimum and 5 would have been a good number.

    My second issue is about encounter design. The vast majority of Strike encounters boil down to a BIG boss that has a “beam” weapon capable of killing you in short order, plus adds. The bosses have far too much health. There are a few Strike bosses that buck this trend but they are few and far between. Every planet has a Strike that falls into this category. Toss in the extremely buggy “anti camping” features they have added make some missions extremely frustrating.

  • For me the game works well enough. The moment to moment combat is fantastic and I like the combat scenarios they put you in. I never expected more then a PSO/FPS mix and I got that so I’m pretty happy.

  • If I’m being honest, so far, it seems like another Elder Scrolls Online. Super hyped and potentially a fanboy’s biggest wetdrea, but ultimately completely mediocre. Both studios are massive and both fanbases said “Holy hell! An only Skyrim/Halo? Count me in!” And then, both studios put out a game that isn’t bad by any means….but neither were very groundbreaking. It’s hard for average games like this to do well because of the incredibly outstanding competition of WoW (filled with interesting lore and gameplay) as well as MOBA’s like DOTA 2 or LoL. Albeit, I know these games are all very different, but my point is for as far as online games go, Destiny didn’t really bring to the table what I expected. There are better, albeit slightly different, alternatives.

  • @Graev From reading your blog it sounds to me like its bare bones on purpose.
    Like a standard retail version of the sims.

    Oh just wait we will add the cool and interesting stuff in expansions at 35$ a pop.
    Seen that coming from a mile away with a 500 million budget.

    instead Ill wait till its in the budget bin with all said expansions combined.

  • @Zyler
    I’ve seen this game in another way. Destiny’s goal is to create a new playerbase, a broad one maked up mainly of casual players, not the regular shooter players. Destiny is the entry way into a new IP that will be spinned off in many games (they confirmed the big budget is for multiple games) and in many genres (that’s my guess). Therefore, they needed a game that could be picked up at anytime, for any amount of time, without much consequences. Systems are not complex, game play is somewhat relaxed for a shooter, story is minimal as it requires less memory investment from the player. They mainly need to create the habit or a hook if you will with regular content update so player never gravitate too far from the game and could be lure into what’s next for the IP.

    Profits before the gaming experience, we shall never forget that 😉

  • U have some stuff wrong in your blog dude. The buyable items are all 65 marks, but the helmet, wich is 120 marks (all the different merchants only differ in stats combos, look and maybe some special weapon upgrades. So you should propably start checking these out before you start grinding. You have to equip their mark if you want their faction to raise). So you basically could already have 2 items by now. You also will find WAY more legendary engrams 20+. So with some luck, you would already have 3 legendaries (1 will give you 22 light with 2 easy upgrades. Each light level needs 16 points to raise). That already will bring you to Level 26 (you would somehow find another lvl 20 item with 15 light ^^). But wait, it gets better. YOu will propably find some “strange coins” in your inventory? Having 13 of these suckers will bring you 1 exotic item (unique/best items pre-raid, but you only can equip 1 armor and 1 weapon of these). The vendor will spawn in the tower from friday to sunday and have 1 exotic for each class + 1 weapon + 1 exotic engram for 23 mote of lights (another currency you might already have). There is also a random exotic bounty for a exotic weapon reward (3 steps like: do 5 strikes w/o dying, then get 25 Kill/death ratio in pvp, then do a heroic weekly).

    All that is hardly a grind .. you will somehow get to 26 very fast after 2 normal weeks. The gap between 20 and 26 seems so big in the beginning, but that will fade ^^. You are basically right with all the other stuff tho. The pve part will become boring very fast. It’s kinda nice, that they delayed the raid for 1 week to let everyone catch up to the extreme players and they will have some events coming to keep us entertained. But in the end, it will all be about pvp in the long run. The PvE players will drop and wait for the expansion. Nobody cares about the bad story mode then anymore …

  • @maljjin
    yeah, they have a 10 year plan for that ^^. The budget of “500 Million” is not for the current game but for that whole period + marketing and stuff. People only see these 500 million and are like “whaat? 500 mil for that crap? I’m very dissapointed.”. The press release about the 500 million they earned first day might just be to counter that impression. But these are actually the units they sold to the vendors, and no one really knows how many units they sold digital.

  • Is it just me or has the quality of your articles improved Graev? please don’t take it the wrong way.It’s a genuine compliment 🙂

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