Destiny Review

Into darkness.

Bungie’s first new franchise in 13 years has already been in the hands of gamers for the last fortnight. You’d have to have been living under a rock to not have noticed its arrival, and since then, many of you will have been sinking dozens of hours into the game’s co-operative and competitive multiplayer. Yet, while it’s a game that has kept me constantly coming back for more – and would have done even if I were not aiming to review it – it’s also an experience which is quite flawed.

The game starts in Old Russia, as a Ghost of the Traveller floats over the rusted wrecks of long abandoned cars, searching. As it resurrects you, a person that died many years before, it imbues you with Light in the process as you embark on a new journey as a Guardian to push back the forces of the Darkness which besiege the remaining humans.

After picking from the three complimenting classes – Hunter, Warlock and Titan – and personalising your look, the story quickly sees you battling the Fallen and Hive armies on Earth, the Moon and into the rest of the solar system. It plays host to some truly spectacular and beautifully envisioned locations that are simply delightful to visit and explore for the first time, as you encounter more factions, both friend and foe.

With the fate of humanity at stake, it paints you as the hero, an intrepid newcomer who is able to take on humanity’s most deadly foes and come out victorious where others might have fallen. Sadly, the central story itself is fairly disappointing and its delivery often leaves a lot to be desired.

“Taking on the role of the Ghost, Peter Dinklage’s voice acting has had plenty of criticism.”

Taking on the role of the Ghost, Peter Dinklage’s voice acting has had plenty of criticism. Though masked quite minimally by digital processing, the delivery of his lines is almost universally lacking, but it is harsh to lay the blame entirely at his feet. There are plenty of other uninspiring and flat performances, working with a script and overarching story that leans very heavily on the notion of aural histories and mysticism to wave away a lack of familiarity with your enemies. Ultimately, a lack of clarity and understanding saps much of the sense of finality from the story’s climactic moments.

Bungie.net

  • Both Destiny’s story and online play are bolstered by ties to Bungie.net and the smartphone app. It’s disappointing that these weren’t integrated into the game, but it’s here that you can go deeper into the game’s mythology by reading unlocked Grimoire cards, and it also allows you to join groups and clans to feature a tag by your name.

With the Halo series, Bungie were famed for their “30 seconds of fun” mantra, and it very much feels like a similar principle has been extended to the missions in Destiny. Stop me if this sounds familiar, but once the location loads, you follow some way points to an objective which you have to defend for three waves while your Ghost unlocks it. You then proceed deeper into a complex, where you must fight a boss while also fending off lesser enemies as they spawn.

That’s not to say it isn’t a good formula and can lead to some huge battles which see you fighting off hundreds of enemies, but after seeing it for the umpteenth time it starts to wear thin and is compounded by the busywork and replaying of levels needed during later play, the long loading times and regular trips back to the Tower. After reaching level 20, experience no longer increases you character’s level – though does continue to upgrade your items and subclass abilities – and you need to instead find and equip legendary or exotic armour that includes a new Light statistic which can push you to level 21 and beyond.

The game’s Action RPG underpinnings – with health bars over enemy heads and damage visually manifesting it in the form of numbers – mean that your level plays a role in how much damage you can do and the kinds of weaponry and armour you find and are able to equip for battle. A problem which will affect some people more than others is the grinding that’s needed to get past level 20, with the Cryptarch in the Tower notoriously stingy with his handouts for ostensibly legendary engrams that you acquire. My efforts this past week to level up have additionally been hindered by caps on the amount of certain currencies that you can earn in a week.

Though you can play the game on your own, albeit with the world still populated by other Guardians – and there is a lot of joy, fleetingly similar to Journey, in silently teaming up with other Guardians in the main world – it is at its best when playing with friends in a fireteam. The co-operative group of three works excellently, especially when you are able to combine the three classes and their subclasses for battles on a grander scale.

“There’s a lot of fun to be had when playing in a fireteam of likeminded individuals.”

There’s a lot of fun to be had when playing in a fireteam of likeminded individuals, working together as a unit to take down the enemies. This is especially true when it comes to some of the tougher battles when playing higher levelled Strike missions which will really put you to the test. Calling out when enemies are spawning and flooding in, timing your super attacks and, of course, crying out when you’ve been downed and need reviving – a fairly regular occurrence.

It’s something that really comes together in the Raid mode, designed to cater to six players in a fireteam, beyond the usual three. Rather than having the Ghost lead you by the nose, the first Raid that has been released so far, Vault of Glass, drops you in and lets you figure things out for yourselves. Teamwork and communication are even more paramount as now you have puzzles to deal with and figure out, while also trying to stave off the waves of enemies and bosses, and some of the class and subclass abilities really come into their own.

It is brutally difficult, demanding six players ideally at or above the level 26 mark, and in playing it for over six hours our group has yet to reach the final boss. Even taking into account online guides from others who went before us, there’s a fantastic sense of satisfaction to piecing together the elements of the puzzles laid out before you and then striving to overcome them. So far, the Raid has been the most refreshing and inventive aspect of Destiny since the wonders of landing on Venus and Mars and encountering the new enemies. It does, however, make me question why these ideas didn’t trickle down in some way and the main thrust of the game, upwards of 40 hours in my case, is so repetitive and formulaic.

If that’s something that you’ve struggled with and disparaged when playing with friends, then the Vault of Glass is the light at the end of the tunnel. It was unlocked in the game a week after launch and is part of Bungie’s plans to keep adding and refreshing content within the game, in addition to upcoming paid DLC. There are more Raids planned, of course, but today also sees the launch of The Queen’s Wrath, adding new bounties and missions, hopefully putting a fresh spin on proceedings to keep us invested.

That variety is something that we are also seeing with the fast paced competitive multiplayer, where staples of the genre like Team Deathmatch, Free For All and Domination are joined temporarily by other game modes that alter the objectives, emphasise vehicular combat and the larger maps, or fiddle with the player count. There’s even a preview of what Mercury will look like, and we’ll hopefully get to explore it in upcoming DLC.

Outside of the Iron Banner, a game mode that is set to return in October after a stint during the Beta, your levelling perks have been nullified which leads to a rather well balanced experience in which even beginners ought to be able to compete. Though the rechargeable shield does give you leeway in most cases, special weapons like the Fusion Rifle and Shotgun are able to take someone down in one go, but require charging up and extreme close range to do so and have limited ammo without taking regular pickups.

More deadly are the heavy weapon ammo drops, which see a couple of ammo boxes appear and grant a couple of people the ability to use their rocket launchers or machine guns, though only until they die. These are nothing compared to the potential mass destruction from the use of your super ability, easily capable of taking out multiple enemies in one fell swoop, though you’ll also only get to use this once or twice per match. This does however lead to the one seeming misstep, with the Hunter Bladedancer’s ability allowing them to shrug off damage and cut a bloody swathe from one end of the map to another.

What’s Good:

  • Co-operative play at its best.
  • Well balanced, fast and furious competitive multiplayer.
  • Some beautifully realised locations that are a joy to explore.
  • The Vault of Glass Raid shows there’s potentially a bright future for the game.

What’s Bad:

  • Poor voice acting and script hinders an already weak story.
  • Endless repetition of the same 20 minute mission formula.
  • Grinding beyond level 20 can be particularly arduous and isn’t explained well.
  • Very long load times.
  • Grimoire cards and the clan system cannot be accessed within the game.

Destiny is far from a perfect game, with flaws quite clearly apparent in the storytelling and the repetitive formula, but it’s also a game that can quite easily keep you coming back for more time and again, especially if you play with friends. It’s a shame that some of the ideas in the Vault of Glass Raid couldn’t trickle down into the earlier stages, for more variety and intellectual challenge, but it does at least point to an exciting future for the game.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4

67 Comments

  1. I got my first exotic item last night….it was for a Warlock class…I’m a Hunter. Great. This pretty much summarises my experience beyond level 20. Pure frustration.

    • Well, create a warlock then. Warlocks are great. Especially the second sub-class where you can self-revive and surprise whoever is about to regret killing you.

  2. Great review.

    It’s a good game, not great. It’s not a breakthrough in any way. It shines with its cooperative and competitive play.

    Totally on the nail with the score.

    TSA … Best reviews out there.

  3. Respect where it’s due, thesixthaxis has become my most trusted review site for quite a while and this review only reinforces that. Too many other sites and magazines (that will remain nameless) have pretended the negatives don’t exist with this game, and given it an almost perfect score or have done the opposite and ignored and of the positive points. I respect reviews are opinions, but this site time and time again gives a very well balanced and well thought out review. Thank you!

    • That’s the TSA staff all frothy in the downstairs department, you ol’ smoothy you. :-)

  4. Glad I gave this a miss. Everything I heard from friends with the game was it was ok but nothing special and I’m still hooked on Titanfall for my fps needs.

  5. There seems to be a lot of people slating it, without actually having played it, and convincing themselves they won’t like it because of a lot of nitpicking. that to me is pretty ridiculous and rather silly, yes there are flaws but the overall experience is absolutely amazing, especially in co op. game of the year so far for me

    • I have played it and wanted to like it, but for me the negatives outweigh the positives on this game and overall it felt like a hollow experience, but I hope that the improvements on the sequel are enough to sway me. A game that involves both co-op and sci-fi / space is something that will always interest me.

    • I’ve been reading through the comments and spotted the same thing, I planned on posting a response like yours but I needn’t bother now, cheers.

      I’ve been absolutely blown away by this game. By nature I have an addictive personality, an all or nothing type of guy and I just cannot stop playing or thinking about Destiny when I am not. I admit the game isn’t perfect – as outlined by Teflon in his pretty accurate review – but if a little more patience was given to it I think there would be less moaning. People are just impatient nowadays and demand to be level 30 within a day of creating a character.

  6. Poor review IMO. How many games have repetitive levels? COD/BF/GOW (button masher) and they still get high reviews.

    Whoever reviewed this obviously hasn’t played it properly, only listened to the vocal minority moaning about stuff.

    • Wow, those are some seriously disrespectful words, if you ask me. I’ve had many a chat with Tef (Stefan) who reviewed this. Not only has he been hammering away at Destiny like a buffoon but our normal co-op time (Dead Rising 3) had to bloody wait just so he could put more time into the post-level 20 stuff on Destiny.

      Bilbo, your opinionated replies are nearly always interesting, agreeable or something ranging in between. However, this time, you’ve been ungraciously rude.

    • I think that’s being a bit unfair there.

      There _are_ issues with the game, although I personally think the good stuff more than makes up for them.

      And a 7/10 isn’t a bad score, really. In fact, the review policy (it’s linked to right at the bottom of this page) says that’s “quite good”.

      But it’s just one person’s opinion. He’s wrong, of course, and it deserves at least 8/10, but he’s allowed to think it’s only a 7.

      • That looks like I’m replying to bunimomike there. Which I wasn’t. That was a comment on the opinions of Mr Bobbins.

        And now I’m replying to myself. Which isn’t without it’s advantages.

      • You were fine, fella. It was indented the correct amount as you’d hit reply to Bilbo, not me. However, your subsequent ramblings have secured you a night in the Funny Farm.

      • I like the sound of this farm. Does it feature hilarious comedy pigs? That sort of funny?

    • In the words of Gandalf…

      BILBO BOBBINS! Do not take Tef for some conjuror of cheap Destiny tricks! He is not trying to rob you of your destiny. He is trying to help you.

    • Have to agree with bunimomike, fair enough if you disagree with the verdict, but the rudeness in your comment, Bilbo, there’s no need for that.

  7. A few hours of Destiny a day then bed for me,it does get quite repetitive BUT it’s the thought of getting to that next level and that elusive Legendary/Exotic gear that keeps pulling me back in.It’ll keep me going until Dragon Age comes out,what i’m really looking forward to is The Division hopefully it has the same excitement level playing co-op as Destiny and the storyline of TLOU.

  8. Thanks for the review, it doesn’t sound as if I had to play this any time soon. Didn’t dislike the Beta, so I get may well get it when it becomes a little cheaper.
    What I do not understand, however, is that they seem to have spent quite an awful lot of millions on creating this game, but not a single one on a decent story. That, I find unbelievable, and it sounds like a shame for any game developer. Makes me think movies are the more mature medium, as none would get away with that.

    • Seems to me that more went on the marketing than the actual game.
      Saying that, for all I know that could be the norm.
      Shouldn’t the F2P Planetside 2 be released on the PS4 soon? Looks similar to me in a way so I’ll probably just give this a go instead.

  9. I’ve played it, completed the story, all the strikes, got to level 21.. and find it soooo dull. It’s fun with a couple of mates, but IMO far from the GOTY that it was hyped up to be.

    I was so looking forward to this, but playing the same missions over and over in the hope of a decent item drop (an item that looks and feels identical to the item you already have but with higher damage/ armour) are not for me. Going to get rid of it this week.

    • Thats a good point… Wonder what GOTY will be? The hype just made me assume it would be Destiny but I can’t see that happening now after it’s mixed reviews etc.
      Is there even an ‘official’ game of the year?

      • The Last of Us Remastered is surely a shoe in, even with it being a re-release. It’s still the best thing released so far on Next Gen by a country mile.

  10. I cannot disagree with most of that, however I didn’t buy it looking for a single player experience, I was expecting an FPS based MMO and as far as I’m concerned that is exactly what I got. Some think it’s not expansive enough but while I understand their sentiments I also have been in early on some other ‘expansive’ mmo games which were riddled with issues due to their over ambitiousness.

    Bungie have understandably kept the universe quite contained at the moment and the game is all the better and stable for it. I fully expect content and features to be added quite regularly and in a well planned and, most importantly, tested manner. The single player does indeed fall somewhat short on the story side but, again they intend the game to be around for the long haul and I would expect an MMO to add to this extensively over time. They do provide additional back story via other means, and on this I do agree with TSA in that it should be viewable also in game. Although you can view it via the website from the PS4 web browser and switch to it without exiting the game.

    I am enjoying the game hugely and fully expect to continue enjoying it for some time and while I do agree with some of the review I find the score a little low considering just how well the launch went when we consider the abject disaster other MMOs/online RPGs have faced (FFIX, Diablo). It is all about opinions though, and reviews are subjective, but I do feel a lot of negativity towards the game is due to a lot of people expecting Halo and them delivering something else.

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