We all waited patiently for Bungie’s new IP to reach our grubby little hands. They teased us with game footage that reflected breathtaking scenery and a detailed world all around us. Then they teased us with the Alpha gameplay. That first taste, you’ll never forget that first taste. It was like you had been bestowed a sweet nectar from the heavens that titillated your mind. Somewhere whispers formed in your head that this was a game to define a genre. This was the game that would change MMOFPS games forever. That whisper soon became all but a roar in your mind after you played the Beta. Do remember it? It was the perfect drug for the fix you so badly needed. You were hooked. Like a newly born heroin addict, you couldn’t get enough. We demanded more! Now we have it…it’s just not what we remembered it being. That feeling isn’t the same. The temptress that is Destiny has taken our hearts and dashed them upon the pavement, but it’s still a good game…right?
I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify a few things that I think many forgot about Destiny. There seem to be some illusions in the minds of a great many about what Destiny is and what was promised. Nobody from Bungie or Activision ever promised that this game was going to define or reinvent the wheel. The core concept of Destiny has already been performed by other games. Some not so great and others, *cough* Borderlands *cough*, done better. Also, for those that thought there would be a single-player experience, that was never a promise. Get that out of your mind right now. It’s an MMOFPS, that Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter. Notice Massively Multiplayer in there? Yea, that would mean there isn’t a single-player campaign. You wouldn’t expect that from World of Warcraft or any other MMO title. So you don’t like the game? That’s OK, but stop spreading vitriol over what may be your confusion.
If we get down to brass tacks, the game is good. That’s right. From the lips of an honest guy, it’s good. Destiny isn’t great and it has a long ways to go in order to get there. Destiny delivers everything that we saw in the Alpha and Beta builds, but that’s all it delivers. If you would like to know more about that experience, before reading further, I encourage you to click here. Destiny is magnificent in its visual and every facet of the world reflects that. Sadly, I feel like this is the only major area that Destiny succeeds. The story is short, tutorials are poor, and there isn’t any clarity as to how you get the best gear at end-game. Destiny has many flaws as an MMO. Let’s talk about the many facets that make up the good and the bad.
Visually, Destiny is an amazing game. Stunning backgrounds with gloriously draw distances really pull the player into the environment. It’s not just visuals, but sounds as well. The crunch of your boots on the dirt does add to the visual aid of the prairie landscape; the thudding of boots in an underground basement creates an ambiance. These are elements that are executed very well and give the player a real sense of being. Each world is huge in scope and it’s really great to just hop aboard your sparrow and traverse the different areas of the planets. The sparrow is a land travel device that reminds me of the speeders, including sounds, from Star Wars. The player won’t unlock all the planets from the beginning, but you will gradually shift your visual palette as your progress. No two worlds look alike and the helps. Unfortunately, you will probably traverse many areas of each planet multiple times and this makes each world feel a little droll after the umpteenth time you’ve walked through the same building for a different mission.
Along with stunning visuals, Bungie delivers another amazing soundtrack. Players can expect a soundtrack with very similar ambiance and tone to what they have heard throughout the Bungie years of Halo. Soft melodic tones while in orbit can later be followed with a dramatic combat effigy of sound. I could honestly sit and listen to nothing but the soundtrack and have an amazing musical experience. The musically inclined should be able to appreciate all of the small nuances within each score while taking in a visual world. It’s possible your brain could short-circuit from a sensory overload.
A game like Destiny should have strong mechanics to match its visual experience, but it doesn’t. At least, not in every way that it should. The control scheme works just fine for Destiny, but there isn’t a lot of room for customization. You can’t create a button mapping for yourself, instead your must use presets. As said, it’s not really a problem though. It never felt like there was too much going on with one button. Where the game gets lack luster is in everything else. Destiny can be quite confusing and I’ll explain why. Destiny give you a pretty basic tutorial and I can respect that it doesn’t want to hand-hold your through everything; it really needs to do so sometimes. There are many items you will pick up during your adventuring that you just won’t understand what they do or what they are for. If Destiny was trying to create an illusion of wonderment, it quickly dissipates when you realize there is nothing that will ever just tell you. I like trying to figure things out on my own, but once in a while the player needs to just be told before they start to spit acid about these things. Of course, in a world filled with the internet, we can look these things up online and hope someone has answer.
As Destiny is an MMOFPS it also offers Role-Playing Game (RPG) elements. You start the game with two subclass, but will only have access to one of them until level 15. This affords players the ability to get comfortable with gaining abilities and figuring out what play style they prefer. Not only can players customize this subclass, but you may also customize your weapons and armor. Customizing your play style will start getting tricky as you’ll find yourself trying to decide on grenade cool down time on your hand-cannon vs. more damage from the final round of another hand-cannon. I love how many variances this creates for a player. Once you reach level 20, the game doesn’t end. You can continue to earn higher levels by increasing your ‘light level’. Armor will start reflecting ‘light’ points and this combined with your weapon damage will increase that level. The RPG element is strong in the game, but can get a little confusing since most explanations are rudimentary.
So you’ve reached level 20 and you’re unsure of how to keep obtaining armor and weapons. You can literally get them anywhere from doing any number of things. This is where I feel Bungie could do a better job of explaining things to players. You would think that you simply get the best armor from completing dungeons aka strikes. That would be a slight extension of truths. You can get gear from strikes, but not necessarily the best gear. There isn’t a scaling ladder of where to get gear. I’ve seen players get legendary and exotic weapon drops in the Crucible (PvP arena). Just as well, players have farmed gear from story missions. Destiny leaves it to the player in how they want to go about obtaining better equipment. This feature adds variety to how an MMO would normally be played, but simultaneously confuses players that expect normal MMO tiered looting.
PvP is another piece of the Destiny universe. It’s a lot of fun for all of us adrenaline rage junkies. There are different maps that feature the use of vehicles and some are small enough to just murder each other on. Players can currently play four standard modes; Control, Clash, Rumble, and Skirmish are the 6v6, all-on-all, or 3v3 game types. In the existing modes, player gear doesn’t affect survivability or damage you can do. This is mostly true. What the game doesn’t control is my assault rifle having a faster firing rate than my opponents’ assault rifles. There are other modes and community events that will allow player level, armor, and weapons to effect the game. This creates a unique experience that makes the underdog work hard for success and allows the big wolves to prey on the weak. What doesn’t make sense is gear rewards in the Crucible. Players receive gear rewards randomly. It doesn’t appear to matter if you had 35 kills, 10 deaths, 4 assists, and was the top player on your team or in the match. That is your personal accomplishment that may be unrewarded.
The last part of my contrived effort to explain all that makes Destiny a good game, but not a great game. Raiding and weekly Strike missions. These will require you to have friends or join a clan. Unless you’re a complete shut-in, which would have me question why you’re playing an MMO style game at all, you will need people you know to complete Raids and weekly Strike missions. Standard Strike missions will find players to party you up with, but end-game won’t. I can understand the reasoning they provide. You will need a coordinated team of individuals to accomplish these features, but Bungie is running on the assumption that we talk to the friends on our friend list. Some people are so anti-social that they don’t even do that much. It worries me that players may not get to experience the fullness of this game because they are forced to play with people they know.
Keep calm and nerd on!