Eagle-eyed gamers spotted Bungie’s first reference to Destiny back in 2009 in Halo 3: ODST. It was officially confirmed in August 2011 and had its sights set on being a launch title for PS4 and Xbox One. It eventually slipped and after teasing us with a superb beta in July the game finally hit consoles on September 9th – we’ve been playing the Xbox One edition.
Destiny is an incredibly ambitious title that mixes First-Person Shooting with Massively Multiplayer Online. If you took Bungie’s previous Halo titles and combined the gameplay with mechanics from MMO games such as World of Warcraft you’d have an idea of what to expect.
We must admit that initially we felt ourselves a little disappointed with the game due to the huge amount of hype it has received and the fact that it’s different to what we were expecting. Due to this we’ve taken our time and tried to experience as much of it as possible before undertaking this review. We’re glad we did as it’s a complex game that takes time to understand. The more we’ve played the more we’ve enjoyed it.
The game is set a few hundred years in the future in our Solar System. Sometime before the game begins a mysterious giant-orb known as the Traveller arrived at Earth bringing with it a Golden Age. It gave humans the knowledge needed to head to the stars and helped colonise the Moon, Mars and Venus.
The Traveller was pursued by its enemy known as The Darkness and made its last stand at Earth before becoming silent. It now hovers above the last safe city on Earth as mankind attempts to rebuild. During this time several races of aggressive aliens occupied the planets of the Solar System. The story turns out to be a bit of a disappointment and to really get the most out of it you need to make use of the Destiny website or companion app which features plenty of additional information.
In Destiny there is no central hero to the story, instead each player takes the role of a Guardian with Peter Dinklage voicing Ghost – your little floating companion. Your first choices in the game are to create your character. You can choose from three classes – Warlock, Hunter and Titan – and three races – Human, Awoken and Exo. Characters start out at level 1 and must earn XP to level to an initial cap of 20.
Each class gets their own set of skills and abilities that unlock as you play. At level 15 a new subclass becomes available allowing you to tailor your character more towards your preferred style of play. Each class is a lot of fun and the game allows you to create one of each. You can change the spec of your character whenever you like, even during missions or multiplayer games, which encourages you to experiment with your builds.
Movement and combat initially feel like they have been copied straight from Halo with the same slow-moving feel. However there are differences such as a running slide manoeuvre that can be a life-saver while looking incredibly cool. Each class has their own extra jump ability such as a jet-pack style lift, double-jump or glide.
Classes also each get their own three special grenade types. These really help keep combat interesting and we’re big fans of the Titan’s magnetic grenades that stick to enemies. Special abilities are also on offer which are tied to your subclasses. Special abilities and grenades can be used infrequently as they take time to charge.
Destiny features a large variety of weapons divided up into three types – primary, special and heavy. Primary weapons include auto rifles, pulse rifles, scout rifles and hand cannons. Special weapons include sniper rifles, shotguns and fusion rifles. Finally heavy weapons are machine guns and rocket launchers. You start with your primary and can switch to your special with a tap of the Y button or alternatively you can hold Y for your heavy weapon.
The weapons aren’t tied to a specific class and you can carry a whole variety of them with you. Weapons have a variety of stats such as impact, range, stability and clip size. Some also feature bonus damage of a particular type which can be more or less effective against different enemies. We like to carry a scout rifle with a shotgun for indoor areas and sniper rifle for range.
Guardians are kitted out with armour pieces for head, chest, arms and legs. As you play you earn new armour and weapons from killing enemies and completing missions. You can also earn blueprints which must be decrypted and purchase new items with various in-game currencies.
Items also earn XP which eventually can be used to apply upgrades to increase their stats. These upgrades don’t always just affect the weapons themselves. Some will improve other areas of your Guardian such as how far you can throw a grenade, allowing you to carry more ammo or grant bonuses when you perform a certain action.
The rarer items provide bigger boosts to your Guardian and feature more stats. You start out with common items and eventually you can replace these with rare, legendary or exotic items. After you’ve hit level 20 you start to see items with a new statistic called Light. This lets you increase your level beyond 20 which is needed to tackle the harder parts of the game.
Currently Destiny has a single hub area called The Tower. Here you can interact with a variety of characters and vendors. It’s the place to pick up bounties which are special quests that grant extra XP or reputation with different factions. You can also interact with other players by inspecting them but there is no voice chat. Instead you are limited to a few simple emotes like dance, wave, point and sit.
You begin your adventure on Earth and eventually head to the Moon, Venus and Mars. Each of these has a single area to explore and not whole planets or multiple areas like we were hoping for. Thankfully the areas are rather large and varied with many different types of environments on offer and they all look absolutely stunning. Which is a good thing as you’ll be visiting them over and over.
Bungie has tried to cater for all kinds of players by providing a range of different activities. There are Story missions, Patrols, Strikes, Raids and the Crucible. Story missions take you through the main story of the game which we expect will be expanded over time. Patrols let you explore at your own pace while picking up smaller missions as you go. Strikes are co-op missions aimed at three-player fire-teams with the first raid becoming available at level 26 for six-player teams.
All these mission types can be tackled at different difficulty levels and going for the harder ones brings you bigger rewards if you are successful. The game encourages co-op by funnelling you along the same corridors, requiring you to revive fallen players and putting you up against incredibly tough bosses. There are also public events which randomly occur. A big problem with Destiny right now is the lack of communication. The missions lets you team-up with strangers but co-ordinating attacks is near impossible with the lack of voice chat.
The tougher strikes and raids are all designed to be played with friends due to the level of co-operation needed. When playing with friends the game is most fun as you can form a party to chat. Players who want to tackle all the content are going to have to make more friends. We’re hoping that Bungie might address this in a future update by providing matchmaking for these events.
Once the difficulty ramps up the combat is thrilling and there’s a real sense of achievement each time you overcome an encounter. The different alien races are brilliant and they attack in different ways. What they do have in common is that their attacks are relentless. Fights can leave you breathless as you struggle against the odds.
In addition you can face-off against your fellow Guardians in the Crucible. This is the competitive multiplayer area where you can play in different match types. These are fairly standard and feature modes such as free-for-all, team deathmatch and point capture. Bungie has brought all their Halo experience along and it certainly shows. Crucible matches all count towards your progress and help you work towards better gear. At the end of each match players are randomly awarded loot.
In just two-weeks we’ve already sunk more time into Destiny than we do in a year for most other games. Any fan of Halo and those who enjoy FPS and MMO games should find plenty to like here. Players with a large circle of online friends and lots of free time will get the most out of Destiny.
Bungie have crafted a wonderful game that is bursting with potential and we’re sure they are just getting started. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it feeling fresh over the coming months and years.