The road to level 20 and a touch of endgame
[Since a large part of Destiny is found within the raid system upon reaching max level, we’ll be publishing a Review in Progress for the game over the course of a few weeks. Here are our thoughts about the live version.]
Destiny finally landed this week, and based off my initial impressions, my first foray into the world Bungie built was mixed. Having worked my way up to level 11 at that point, I was mostly experiencing the basic game modes and enjoying PVP quite a bit, but I was very disappointed in the story.
I have a better idea of what to expect now after reaching the max level of 20, and while I’m having fun, I’m still not blown away with what Bungie has given us so far.
Destiny (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Released: September 9, 2014
After reaching level 20 and playing everything extensively except for raids (more on that later), I can safely say that there really isn’t a whole lot to it — at least, not nearly as much as Bungie lead us to believe. For the most part, the beta showed everything you need to know in terms of progression to level 20: story missions, the occasional Patrol, sparing Strikes, and PVP whenever you feel like it.
Point blank, after completing the story, I felt completely underwhelmed and disappointed. Scratch that, I felt underwhelmed the entire time I was pushing through the story, from the generic villains like the “Vex” and “The Darkness” to the unmemorable heroes and characters whose names I’ve already forgotten. Bungie simply did not do a good job here at all, and didn’t give us a real reason to care about the world and lore of Destiny within the confines of the game.
Oddly enough Destiny‘s own website gives us a cooler view of the universe, with Grimoire cards that feature extended histories and lore bits to flip through. Some games can pull off the “lore by proxy” feel like the Souls titles, but Bungie tried to pack in so many canned terms and plot points that it feels forced, and ultimately, poorly done. The story and theme are a delivery system for the solid gunplay and multiplayer — do not expect anything more.
Mechanically, Destiny functions just as well as it does at level one as it does at 20. I enjoyed leveling up my Warlock and unlocking all of its abilities along the way under its main class (Voidwalker) and really like using it for PVP, and I’m currently in the process of testing out the Sunsinger tree for PVE. Having tried out the Titan and Hunter classes, I feel like pretty much everything is balanced, and I love seeing the different styles gel together in every multiplayer mode.
But what about after you cap out? Bungie has said time and time again that Destiny “begins” at max level (20), which is partially true. The reality is that you’re going to be doing the same content on a loop, just with better rewards and higher difficulty levels. Think Diablo, or any other dungeon crawler you’ve ever played with the formula in mind — you’ve done this before. Taking PVP out of the mix entirely, your endgame PVE experience consists entirely of Strike playlists, daily quests (story missions mixed around), and weekly challenges (super-hard Strikes). Raids are coming, but they’re basically juiced-up six-person Strikes.
As you do these activities constantly, you’ll earn gear with a special stat on them called “Light.” Light is what’s needed to progress past level 20 and work your way up to the current maximum, which is said to be 30. Now here’s what I like about Destiny that makes it feel like less of a “grind” and more like a streamlined dungeon crawler — practically everything gives you loot.
Whether it’s Patrol missions at level 20, playlists, or even PVP, odds are you’ll earn loot from in-level enemy drops, from a random reward list at the end of a mission, or by way of Marks — tokens that you’ll earn by playing PVE or PVP. In other words, there is a multi-layered horizontal progression system where you always feel like you’re working towards something, even if you’re messing around.
I’ve played PVP for around 15 hours now and I have no interest in stopping. It’s my favorite part of the game, and if I can’t wrangle up friends to do PVE content, it’s where I’m hanging out. I’ve earned a ton of gear from PVP already, and since gear all blends together, I’m having fun experimenting with different weapon types and playing with other people online. Right now there are only a few modes to play, but the classic “Capture the Point,” “Team Deathmatch,” and “Free-for-all” gametypes are getting the job done.
All of the game’s guns have weight to them, and the top-notch sound effects and animations make multiplayer more engaging. I’ve had many moments that really take me back to some of my favorite eras of the genre, especially with the floaty double-jumps and wide array of weapon types (if you include class powers). Variety is the name of the game, and to give you some perspective, there are over 10 different grenade variations that could be in play at any given time — it forces you to rethink your strategy constantly.
So where do we go from here, review-wise? The first raid will unlock soon, on September 16. Since raids are such a big part of the game, I want to experience the process before I cast my final judgment.
If you’re on the fence, use these two Review in Progress updates as a frame of reference in the meantime. Just know that at this point, I can wholly recommend that if you’re looking to pick up Destiny for the story and aren’t interested in Strikes with friends or PVP, wait for a price drop.