Destiny Review

September 22, 2014

It’s tough putting out a review on Destiny, because like many MMO’s, it’s unclear whether I am reviewing a complete game or not. Bungie have a purported ten-year plan for Destiny composed of free DLC, expansions, updates and sequels, but for the moment all we have is plain old, vanilla Destiny. It’s a title that’s been touted as ambitious and potentially revolutionary for the FPS genre, but its appeal is really a lot simpler than that.

Mechanically, Destiny shines as an enjoyable and addictive shooter. Players coming from the Halo series will be instantly familiar with how the game plays, with regenerating shields, the standard primary and secondary weapon fit-out and moon jumping around the various maps (even on Earth). New additions such as the double jump boost and summon-able speeder bike allow for new ways to explore and traverse each of the open-world maps on the available planets, except for running into the occasional (and unfortunate) invisible wall cordoning off playable areas. The game’s weapon types from auto rifles to sniper rifles, to hand cannons and rocket launchers all feel great to use, delivering a satisfying punch, which is heightened by enemy reactions. Concentrate your fire on a Cabal Legionary’s head, and it’ll pop off like opening a can of soda. Hit a Vex robot just right, and it’ll shower into firey sparks. Bungie knows just the right mix of audio and visual design, combined with gameplay mechanics to deliver on satisfying gunplay. The only real negative I can think of is the way grenades act in this game – you can only use one at a time, and they have to recharge after use. There are so many situations I can think of where grenades would have delivered a sweet payoff to a gunfight, but I was unable to use them due to recharge times.

But that’s really one of the few areas where Destiny truly shines. On a base, fundamental level the shooting gameplay is satisfying and fun, but the game built around it is flawed to say the least – with the major exception of the presentation. The visuals, sound design and music are absolutely amazing on PS4. The skyboxes, landscapes and visual design of each of the worlds excel at creating an adventurous atmosphere, set amongst the twilight of humanity. It looks like a next-gen game, but whether it plays like one, that’s another story. Let’s start with the campaign.


Destiny places you in the shoes of a Guardian, a being dead for potentially centuries, resurrected by a robotic ‘Ghost’ (voiced by Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage) through the powers of The Traveler. The Traveler is a planet… moon… space station (?) thing whose arrival in orbit around Mars brought a new Golden Age to mankind, with advances in space travel, medicine and a lot of other things seen in Star Trek. However, by the time your Guardian is awoken, the Traveler has come under siege by the ‘Darkness’ – the combined forces of several races seeking to destroy the Traveler, which has now become dormant and hovers above the last remaining human city on Earth.

All of this is explained in the intro and first hour or so of gameplay, but this is virtually all you learn of Destiny’s promising universe. What is The Traveler exactly? How did it help mankind? Why are the Fallen, Vex, Cabal and Hive attacking, aside from the usual ‘good vs. evil’ plot? How does our Guardian react after being dead for so long, and how do they adjust? It would seem the obvious reason to have a character like the Guardian, is so these things can be explained to the player, but this is never the case. A threadbare story about stopping the Vex (or, at least stymieing their progress) forms the main plot of the game, but only consists of a few cutscenes in its second half. Grimoire cards collected through the campaign can be viewed on the Destiny website for story fragments, in the form of poems or short descriptions, but nothing substantial can really be learned from them.

Even more vexing (aha) is the fact that the story doesn’t even serve as a platform for interesting level or mission design.  Every single mission in the game involves your Guardian shooting their way through waves of enemies to an objective marker, at which point you’ll need to get your Ghost to scan something while you defend him. Rinse and repeat, until you (sometimes) reach a boss monster, which are all essentially bullet sponges backed by respawning enemies. Shoot through those and you’re done. There is little to no variation on this mission structure, apart from a single instance where you’re able to wield a sword for a few minutes in third person.


Character creation options are limited, and you’re unable to see your appearance for most of your time in-game, only taking off your helmet in certain cutscenes and in the Tower, the game’s small hub world where players can meet. You can select from three, purely cosmetic races – Human, Awoken and Exo. More importantly, you can select from three classes, Titan (the damage-dealing, tank class), Hunter (the rogues) and Warlock (a mage/fighter hybrid class), which affect what skill trees and abilities are open to you. For instance, Titans have access to flashbang grenades which disorient enemies, but Warlocks can create miniature black holes that continually sap HP.

There are four worlds to explore – Earth (or, more accurately, a small area in Russia), the Moon, Venus and Mars. Each of these planets has an enemy that’s more prevalent, for instance you’ll encounter more Fallen on Earth and more Vex on Venus. There’s not a lot of difference between the races you’ll encounter – Fallen are basically the Covenant from Halo, Hive have annoying enemies that rush you, Cabal guys can jump and the Vex don’t really use cover. That’s about all the personality that’s imbued into them by the developers, and when two races are thrown at you at once, it doesn’t affect how you tackle the situation. Difficulty is really just determined by how much health an enemy has, not how it acts or what weak points it may display.

Once you’ve gone through the main storyline and seen all the ‘new’ content the game has to offer, it’s up to you how you want to spend your time in Destiny until the next content release. You can take on Bounties to meet certain conditions (kind of like in-game achievements), or try to level yourself past the maximum level cap of 20 by finding exotic and legendary gear, which is assigned on a random basis and can take a lot of time if you don’t try to exploit loot spots such as the ‘Treasure Cave’. Aside from the main campaign, you can take Patrol missions, which have small subquests you can complete for XP. These all involve killing a certain amount of enemies, or collecting a certain amount of an item (by killing a certain amount of enemies). Strike missions are more interesting, as they send you and two other players into tough dungeons, with massive final bosses that, you guessed it, are gigantic bullet sponges that can take hours to whittle down.


PvP is available through the Crucible, and is the place where you’ll definitely be able to have the most fun once you finish the campaign and are looking for ways to amuse yourself. It’s not perfect, but playing against other humans rather than the standard AI is always refreshing and challenging.

The best way to describe how Destiny makes me feel is that it gives the constant impression of a rich and detailed universe, where I’m constantly involved with my friends in saving the universe and becoming more powerful. A lot of this is down to the gorgeous visual landscapes and sweeping music, making you think you’re actually achieving something and propelling forward, but there’s almost nothing to back that up. Just a comment from Peter Dinklage about how important the latest thing he scanned was, but all you did was shoot the same four enemy types you’ve always been shooting to get to that point. Simply, it’s a game that looks and feels like a better game than it actually is, and whether that will change in the future with content updates and expansions remains to be seen.


Gorgeous visual and aural landscapes | Great, addictive gunplay


Mission design | Repetitive nature | Threadbare story

Overall Score: