Destined to need some work
It’s been a small journey reviewing Destiny, but now I’ve experienced every facet of the game and I’m ready to make my decision. As mentioned previously, the story and setting leave a lot to be desired, but the gunplay is very sound, and the PVP element reminds me of some of my favorite shooters, filled with tons of exciting moments.
But even after digging into the nitty-gritty, the endgame structure is rigid and has too many problems at the current moment to warrant a full recommendation.
Destiny (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Released: September 9, 2014
Once I fully completed the story and unlocked pretty much everything, Destiny did get more enjoyable. Again, the story is probably the weakest part, and anyone who wants more than “you are the light versus The Darkness” should look elsewhere. It was nice to earn more abilities for each class, which opens up the already solid gameplay and shooting elements.
All three classes — Titan, Hunter, and Warlock — have their own pros and cons, and although they seem similar at first glance, once you dig into the subclass at level 15, you have more options. Particularly in PVP, it’s really fun to see how everything plays off each other, from the Titan’s shield power to the Hunter’s close-up knife ability. It’s not just a typical arena shooter — you’ll have to figure out everything over an extended period of time to master the game. That’s a good thing.
In fact, PVP is my favorite part of the game. I’ve spent around countless hours with it and have no real signs of stopping in the near future, even without playing with friends. There are only four modes at present and 10 maps (11 on PS4), but each zone has its own nuances, and all of them have complex layouts designed to take advantage of every class.
Eventually though you’ll want to start gearing up for the bulk of the game, PVE — and that wasn’t nearly as enjoyable. After roughly a week to experiment with how endgame works, I have to say I’m not very impressed. While you can earn gear from both PVE and PVP play, the distribution is extremely uneven. PVP doesn’t feel like a grind, and it’s nice to not only earn random loot from participation, but also guaranteed marks to spend on high-end gear (even if you lose). The PVE angle is a lot less enticing, and even less fun.
To give you some perspective, you can play PVP and earn guaranteed marks, even after an eight-minute round where you get completely squashed by the competition and rack up zero kills — you may even earn a rare, legendary, or exotic item randomly for your troubles. Top loot is rare, mind you, but you’re able to work toward something consistently for your efforts. To earn PVE marks, you’ll have to take on hour-or-more three-player Strike missions, with a very high chance of failing on heroic or higher difficulties. Oh, and did I mention that a lot of the high-end Strikes (like Nightfall) do not have matchmaking?
Yep, Bungie has stated that six-player raids will be the big challenge in Destiny, requiring you to forge your own friendships and make your own dedicated static team. But what they didn’t mention is that essentially every piece of PVE content past level 22, including daily and weekly dungeons, also requires manual group-making.
While that is very much an MMO mindset, Destiny has zero tools in-game to assist with the process. Voice chat is minimal at best, there is no “looking for group” function, and there’s no “raidfinder” tool. It’s an odd choice not to give players the option to find groups and allow them to restrict based on Light level — it’s almost like Bungie thinks it knows better and doesn’t trust the community. In fact, the game is adverse to communication in general, which worked for Journey but doesn’t really work for a deep RPG-like game such as Destiny.
The reason for the delayed review was to test out the aforementioned endgame, as well as the first raid, the Vault of Glass, dropping today. Simply put, raids employ a different feel (in a good way) that makes them unique, but it’s not enough to make up for the rest of the game’s shortcomings. What I like about raids is that they’re designed to take a long while to master, and don’t reveal anything to the player. It’s up to your team to figure everything out, in terms of where to go, what to kill, and how to kill it. Tactics like purifying yourself of debuffs in specific areas during boss fights is an example — and again, the game doesn’t explicitly tell you any of this. It also provides guaranteed top rewards, eliminating a lot of the issues I have with the loot system.
On the flip side, these raids cannot be entered with the matchmaking system (you have to find your own group), it’s a slog to even get to Light level 26 to participate, and with a loot lockout, there’s a limit on how much gear you can earn weekly. This is all standard stuff for the MMO genre, and I actually like the idea of tough endgame content, but again, gearing up for it isn’t the most fun endeavor outside of PVP. Many people won’t see raids due to a skill wall, and many won’t see them simply because they aren’t having any fun getting there. That’s a problem.
Destiny hasn’t gotten off to the best start but I do see potential down the line. If more social features are added, loot is improved, and new content keeps coming, it will be worth the entry fee. We’ll be covering Destiny along the way, but for now I’d be wary of picking it up at full price.