‘Destiny’ Review

Published 7 months ago by

Destiny Game Review

After a separation from its own Halo brand, years of development and a monumental budget, Bungie’s first chapter of its epic sci-fi shooter franchise is finally here. Like many gamers, we’ve been been playing a lot of Destiny over the last two weeks since its release. And we needed to before we could understand everything the game offers and assign a review score. We’ve also been playing it a lot because Destiny is highly addictive, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Destiny takes place centuries into the future where Earth, and the now-colonized local planets in our solar system, have been mostly eradicated by what we can vaguely refer to as “The darkness.” There’s one remaining city on Earth, protected by a massive, floating spherical alien being known as the Traveler. It was this mysterious being that brought about the rapid evolution and expansion of humanity and who protects what remains on Earth. It’s also the Traveler that serves as the plot device behind the “Light”-powered abilities of the Guardians – the warriors players play as in Destiny that are divided into three familiar classes (Titans, Hunters and Warlocks).

The Traveler, the rise and fall of humanity, and the other alien species – some only playable, others only killable – are just little bits of the cool lore behind Destiny, lore that’s barely explored and detailed in the game. There’s sadly not much of a story to speak of in Destiny, which make the rare bits of dialogue between the game’s few characters feel even more odd and out of place. At the beginning of the game all players are introduced to a little robot ‘Ghost’ sidekick (voiced by Peter Dinklage) who, from mission to mission, offers plot information through exposition to pull players through, but most of it is uninteresting and forgettable because of how poorly it’s presented.

Guardians Fireteam on the Moon Screenshot

Destiny’s story and setting are rather lifeless. Of course, this is partly due to the game’s post-apocalyptic setting, but it’s mainly because Bungie took shortcuts and embraced dated MMO design philosophies in crafting the missions and environments. Invisible walls serving alien spawn locations are everywhere! Outside of the few scripted Ghost and Speaker (faceless man who represents the Traveler) scenes, and merchants in The Tower (the game’s social hub), there are no other characters to interact with. The story missions are relegated to running solo (or with up to two friends) and simply eradicating everything that moves. Same goes for the more challenging Strike missions which feature matchmaking to fill your three-person Fireteam. In between those missions or at any time after once unlocked, there are also ‘patrols’ where players explore the four maps they’ve already seen (Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars) in the story missions and earn additional experience and reputation by picking up little side quests.

The side quests involve players approaching and activating flashing beacons which prompt narrated mission instructions from characters you won’t know anything about and all the objectives are practically the same. Like the worlds they take place in, the patrol and story missions are not dynamic or interactive enough, and as a result Destiny is largely disappointing and unoriginal as a first chapter in something we’re told is “just the beginning.” Even the public events in these areas,which involve killing a mini-boss or protecting an area for a few minutes, become quickly repetitive but still must be played for additional daily rewards. It’s very detached and lacking of that feeling of being involved in something epic or meaningful.

Bungie’s expertise in visual design, sound and gameplay mechanics saves the game and make Destiny something worth playing despite its flaws and omissions (and long load times). Destiny looks and plays very well, bolstered by artistically crafted menus, and is meant to be played with others. That really starts after playing through the game once through to hit its soft level cap. From there, to continue progressing and taking on Destiny’s most rewarding challenges, players must acquire rare, legendary and exotic armor and weapons, and that’s achieved through replaying the game’s cooperative strikes, daily/weekly challenges and the competitive multiplayer in order to collect certain, needed items.

Destiny Mercury screenshot

This is both the best and worst part of Destiny. Strikes, which can be played with up to three players, are where the game shines, but there are only six of them. They don’t change much as the difficulty ramps up since it translates into simply putting more bullets on bosses, so while there’s something special about taking out aliens and even bigger aliens with friends, doing so repeatedly to level up, to complete bounties or for a small chance at gaining hard-to-acquire loot, may not be enough for all players.

The harsh grind is centered around Destiny’s problematic looting system which primarily gives players the same lower level (read: useless) gear through ‘Engrams‘ – items that need to be decoded. Picking up the rarest Engrams inexplicably rewards players mostly with less-valuable items, and when added to the already-demanding repetition, there are multiple layers of Destiny throwing up walls to prevent players getting something new and leveling up their Guardians.

This is how the game can be addictive because players must attain certain gear to play some parts of the game, but punishing at the same time for how that’s achieved. Destiny even holds back players from buying gear at vendors by making them grind for reputation points. Players are also expected to run in circles or “farm” on worlds to pick up resources and loot chests for materials to upgrade, an obsolete MMO mechanic which is painfully dull and unnecessary. When you do get that legendary or exotic weapon though, or cool color shaders to change the look of your armor, it does feel good.

Destiny Screenshot - Vex Cave

While a cooperative-focused title, Destiny sadly does not support local play on the same console or via LAN, something Bungie were champions of in the Halo days. Destiny may really depend on who you play with so if you don’t have equally-leveled friends playing on the same system, you’ll need to reach out to strangers since matchmaking isn’t supported in the daily/weekly challenges or the game’s high-level raids.

Destiny also features competitive multiplayer, dubbed ‘The Crucible‘, which actually lets players use their same characters from the main game, even down to the unlocked abilities and high level gear. It’s an interesting design decision to let players grow their characters in multiplayer before finishing the level-specific story missions, but the game lets players boost the difficulty on story missions, even if it does present a problem with balancing on the competitive side.

Most modes in The Crucible balance out weapon damage so low and high level players can fairly compete, but it doesn’t account for players who have more abilities unlocked or special features on higher level guns and armor. Add to that the unique powers of the three classes and corresponding subclasses, which are unbalanced, and multiplayer can be frustrating at times depending on the mix of players or team sizes. It’s a neat concept and a great way to earn additional loot, and there are even bounties specific to The Crucible, but like the main game, the competitive multiplayer is half-baked and lacking in creativity. There are some great maps, but no new or innovative modes compared to other shooters, and certainly less on the variety and vehicle front than Bungie’s past efforts.

Destiny Level 27 Hunter - Failcube

Destiny is the type of game where there’s a lot to enjoy if you make the most of it. Putting in an effort to coordinate with others to tackle certain bounties or challenges is just plain fun, and the story and other stuff isn’t required for that sort of cooperative experience. That’s where Destiny is at its best and where it can build from in expansions and sequels. As the launching pad for a new franchise however, Destiny ultimately feels incomplete, yet it’s still a game we can easily recommend for shooter fans. At the time of this writing I’ve put in 59 hours and 49 minutes into Destiny (my hunter and gear pictured above) and have acquired legendary or exotic gear for every weapon and armor slot. And I’m still interested in getting online to try the raid with friends so that speaks volumes to where Destiny succeeds and how much potential it has.

Destiny is available now for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Game Rant played the PS4 version for review.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5

TAGS: Activision, Bungie, Destiny, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

  • Andrés

    I don’t understand. How can it be “Very Good” if it basically amounts to constant (and unfair) grinding and its “story and setting are rather lifeless”?

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      Because, like I said in the review, it’s tremendous fun with friends, polished and addictive. I keep playing it, along with a lot of GR team. It’s very good because if you buy it, you’ll be sinking a lot of hours into and playing it with others. Because the actual co-op gameplay is that good, despite there being little story or lots of grinding.

      • jwalka

        why not just setlle for borderlands 2, which has everything you mentioned as positives, plus everything that this activision garbage lacks ? (like creative missions, decent drops for rares etc).

        • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

          Borderlands 2 was great but once I beat it solo and played most of it again with pals I didn’t want to do it again. I think I’m already ahead of that in Destiny hours now. If you picked up Destiny, I think you’d enjoy it and see what I mean (and why it’s getting crazy Twitch play and average play sessions).

          • jwalka

            people played borderlands 2 beyond the story for the exact same reasons people play this game after the ‘story – farming for elite gear and beating hard bosses.

            the visual style for this is just too generic for my liking, plus all the shoot outs are boring due to the guns all acting similar (i’ve watched some high levels play this and it comes across as halo with pretty looking guns that sometimes do stuff).

            cant wait for pre-sequel to come out so that everyone ditches it and people get a better understanding of why this game sucks a**.

      • Andrés

        Fair enough. Although I think the same can be said about games like Counter-Strike or Borderlands, to mention a few. I personally expected more given the amount of hype (?) the game generated. Hopefully, Bungie will add to the content in (free?) future updates.

        • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

          I think most of us expected more, for sure. Ultimately it’s disappointing as a release but there’s still fun to be had with it.

          • BlueCollarCritic

            @Rob,

            I’m not sure at what pint BUNGIE came clean about DESTINY being an on line all the time only game but they clearly didn’t do this nearly as soon as they should have and I for one believe that was deliberate. They saw the negative feedback/press Microsoft got when it tried to pull that ‘Connected 24/7′ requirement BS on Xbox One only to back down shortly after when they realized how badly this was going to hurt sales. I imagine Bungie believed that this on line all the time requirement would not be govern a second thought assuming that every gamer is OK with being connected 24/7.

            I for one will never purchase/play DESTINY because I believe that voting with your dollar is the only way you have to make these companies change their bad habits and this requirement of being connected all the time to play the game (even by yourself) is absurd. They’ve had years to work on this game and GTA 5 proved you could still get better graphics from current generation systems on a single disc (with some game install requirements) and so this bit about having to be connected to play single p[layer is simply about control and or conditioning the gamer base to just accept this requirement whether it makes any sense or not. If Bungie is arguing that the constant connection is necessary for updates and fixes then that tells me the product needed more time before being deployed. I get that there are going to be bugs but if you can’t get your game out on launch day so that people can play it without a launch day update/fix then you did not do due diligence in testing and Q/A of the game build.

            I predict that once the newness of DESTINY has worn thin and your not seeing new content delivered often enough, Destiny will find itself in the no-longer-played game pile. On the upside we can hope that this experience will have taught Bungie a lesson to not try and pull this same stunt in the next game they release.

      • Fox

        I still can’t believe that it doesn’t have local co-op. That sucks.
        Also they purposely changed the engram system to be like that. Originally it would actually give you the color weapon/armor of the engram, but apparently Bungie decided it was more exciting if it was random.

  • jwalka

    from what i’ve gathered, this is a really low grade ARPG (if you could even consider it being one given how flat everything is) that is all visuals and nothing else.

    i’ll happily dump more hours into borderlands 2 – an ARPG that more or less does it right (maybe not as good as BL one, but still pretty good).

    closing comment: f*** bungie for being a spoon fed p***y when it comes to developing games and f*** activision b/c of their higher up money obsessed fat b***ards >.>

  • grapkowski

    Until you play it you can’t knock it. It really is an addictive game and with the weekly challenges and new content updated every 1 or 2weeks you really are playing something that is bigger than anyone can comprehend at this time. Bungie and Activision have agreed to maintain the game for at least the next ten years. And with a story that i believe is being told in near real time there is only the imagination to limit what comes next. Be brave, destiny awaits.

    • jwalka

      i saw the recent big release from them and it’s literally the same s*** as any other mission in the game with the inclusion of a different boss at the end… big f***ing deal.

      i think the haters saying that those that got sucked in are grasping at straws, definding this garbage like it was worth their money are right. this game does everything good ARPGs do… just worse and doesn’t even bother to instill some variation into the genre… $500 million develop my hairy a** >.>

      • ddlux

        @jwalka – wow dude open a window and breathe some fresh air. So you don’t like it (sounds like you haven’t really played it tbh), stop spamming the review and play something else (and maybe get a stress ball).

        • Big Baby Jesus

          LOL, hey man, I usually do not side on this guys side much, but he is right, this game is not that great. You level up due to LIGHT which is great and unique and all, yet you get it through LUCK that an enemy may drop it, or you don’t get kicked out of the server after setting it all up after calling up support.

          I just got to level 20, and every time I do a mission I get 3 crucible marks for it, although I remember it saying 100 crucible marks.

          I should be able to buy new shades, yet I can’t, because I cannot afford it do to the lack of crucible marks.

          I should be able to buy a weapon that can fire by now, but I cannot.

          They try to make you run around and take up HOURS of your time so you can collect nickels and dimes.

          You would think this is the point I would go “At least Tyrion Lanister is playing the voice of Ghost”, but I won’t, that is the worst pick. I am sorry, great actor, TERRIBLE voice actor.

          It gets worse, lack of computer AI, and putting characters together on the same mission seems to not even occur to the developers even though they say it is recommended for 1-3 players. There is no match making where there should be some, and having LIMITED matchplay in a place where there should be unlimited.

          I have contacted customer support, and they talked me through everything how to update it. It still does not work. I got to finish 3-4 games in the crucible since the day I got it.

          This game was talked up like you could go EVERYWHERE. That the size of the map would put The Witcher 3 to shame. It does not, nor was it close.

          I give it a 1/5, because I feel like I don’t want to kick them when they are down, and because I can see what they were trying to do, but this is what you get when you cut corners and try to be something you are not. The same universe that brought you HALO, you are not Blizzard. You tried to make it to big. Focus on two things, the story, where 1-3 players fight together. The Multiplayer, where they fight each other. The MMO way to go was the straw that broke the camels back, it should have had private parties and open invitations for the story. Instead we get this.

          Thanks Gamestop, for giving me a portion of my money back.

          • Big Baby Jesus

            I should be able to buy a vehicle with weapons that can fire by now, but I cannot.*

  • cidgrad

    Destiny sounds terrible. It’s like they were going for a Halo/Borderlands hybrid but incorporated nothing good from either of those games. Pass.

  • Kevin Fischer

    Doesn’t sound like it lived up to the hype. A lot like Borderlands 1 & 2. Invisible walls, non-open concept, boring storyline. I’m currently playing Borderlands 2 and I’m not impressed, at all. :::::::Goes back to Fallout:::::::

  • arsenic

    Wow I wish I was easily entertained like you Rob, I really do but Destiny made a lot of misleading promises to the public and didn’t deliver. I just don’t find console FPS like Destiny which relies on an aimbot challenging or fun because it lacks real skill to play. I thought they would have an MMO exploration and community or an RPG like story, but no it doesn’t have any of that. Only thing addicting to it is it’s loot system which other games like Borderlands have already.

  • AlexMech

    All right you bunch of whiners, this is ridiculous! You know what the real problem is? You don’t want to be “duped” into enjoying something that you expected more out of and DO want to be upset that its not all you expected it would be.

    Bungie (to my knowledge) made no claims about single player experience or lore, just that the game needed to be played to be reviewed properly. The trend currently (which I am not a part of but can recognize exists) is for multiplayer experience. Make your own story as it were. I don’t care for that sort of thing, but that’s why I have not bothered with Destiny already. And while we are throwing comparisons lets get something sorted that just needs to be fixed in All YOUR HEADS. Halo CE was a OK game for story, it was the FEEL of the game that took everyone in. Vehicle combat and control, beautiful levels, well done soundtrack, sexy sidekick, it was all there. Halo 2 was the story, that’s when we all cared, and why we all yelled in frustration at the ending, and why we all bought Halo 3, we needed to know the end. But Halo 3 was a layup, not a stellar piece of story. ODST and Reach were stories (and damn good ones) but remember by then Bungie was either working with a engine that was already sorted (in ODST) or was getting ready to bug test Destinys engine in Reach (which after watching some gameplay I see TONS of crossover between the two engines) and story got mild attention. Dying made it really memorable.

    Remember what the creative director of Halo 2 said? He cringed at all the unfinished stuff in Halo 2, but we lapped it up because of the story.

    This is who Bungie is, Destiny’s next installment might be more story oriented now, because they got the skeleton of the game built. I don’t know, and I barely care, this is not my type of scene. But if you are all gonna bitch and moan please do it understanding what you are talking about.

  • SapperBo

    I got this game at the midnight release, and the early review were right. The story is boring and short. But after you get to like level 12, and you start really digging deep and playing with games, I believe this is the best game out now. It’s addictive like WoW but with so much action. Some of the fire fights are spectacular, and if you have enough friends the grinding isn’t that bad. You pretty much want to get on every day to do the bounties and new missions. If you are dissing this game and haven’t played it, you are doing yourself as a video gamer a huge disservice. It’s an incredible game.

    • SapperBo

      I meant digging deep and playing with friends. Because if you get 2 friends together (or 5 more for the raid), you can really sit there for 3 or 4 hours and not get bored.

  • JLAvenger88

    This is an absolutely spot on review

    I’m still putting time into this game – but I find it strange to play as the gameplay is relatively enjoyable but the locales and missions are not, so the game doesn’t necessary feel fun to play
    The think that the lack of fun feel for me come down to the fact that after hitting the ‘soft level cap’ gaining further levels is more down to luck than skill because of the whole ‘light’ stat being tied to gear and the loot system being that you have to be lucky enough to find the right coloured engrams AND lucky enough to be given an item that matches the colour of the engram when you decode it – it’s just frustrating

  • Big Baby Jesus

    It is hard not to love it, but when I get kicked out of the Crucible 9/10 times after I reset my internet and everything it is hard to not trade it in for instore credit at Gamestop.

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      Getting kicked out of Crucible 9/10 times is a connection issue. Something might be broken on the net/console side on your end. That’s never happened more than once to me or the GR staff or our friends playing it.

      • Big Baby Jesus

        I have spoken to customer service, and they want me to re enter stuff that was not wrong in the first place, I am a good guy, so I roll over when I am told, it still does not work.

        I could see what they were trying to do with the MMO, but they failed so bad at it, getting LIGHT is a matter of LUCK, not a matter of missions, time, XP, or anything else possibly in combination, instead it is LUCK.

        Even worse is the fact that all my Crucible points I have gathered in the entire time I had the game is 6. I remember reading I would receive 100 for one of them… They want me to dedicate hours and hours to nickel and dime me for 6 Crucible points and I would be lucky to see anyone in the same mission because of terrible match playing.

        I get that it is made for groups of friends, but this is the newest Xbox, all my friends are still on the 360. This game is not for me, and it might be good if the match making was improved or at least existent, and the multiplayer was decent. When it works it is not half bad, but it doesn’t work.

        We were lead to believe that it was going to be a LOT bigger and Tyrion Lanister would be a great voice actor. Both were not true.

        I would give this a 1/5, it would be a 3/5 if I got the same amount of Crucible points that it said when I first took the bounty, at least I wouldn’t feel the need to take a shower after paying $60 for this game.

  • Gmachine

    I suggest that all of you should take up a more productive and satisfying hobby. I like knitting. My new socks feel great and don’t dissapear when I turn off the TV.