By: Steven Santana
There is not a true story to Destiny, despite it having numerous “story” missions. The overarching narrative is full of stereotypical conflicts and uninspired names. Your adversary, the Darkness. Your allies, the Light. Bungie attempts to give this digital world a high fantasy sci-fi feeling, with enemy types called: wizards, captains, knights, legionnaires and centurions. However because they use such basic names, it’s more lazy than inspiring. Your character does not matter in this world. Despite giving you the choice from a million different faces, they hide it behind a helmet for a large majority of your playtime, and only show it during rare cutscenes. Since you don’t talk, your ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage, is given the task of exposition. However his exposition is shallow, dull and devoid of any meaning. Frequently he will spout out a line of dialogue that neither you nor he understands, and it comes across in his delivery. There seemed to be some intention of crafting a well written and deep universe full of lore, as evidenced by the Grimoire card system. However these snippets of context creating text are not even in the game- instead you must go onto Bungie.net and read up on the cards you have unlocked.
The shallow quality of the fiction also extends to Destiny’s gameplay. First, your class’s selection changes nothing outside of your super ability, which is not unlocked until after a few levels. Warlocks can shoot out a large energy projectile, Hunters summon a one hit gun, and Titans ground pound for an area of effect attack. These abilities work fine in battles against AI opponents, but when brought into the Crucible, Destiny’s competitive multiplayer, not all super’s are equal. As highlighted by a recent Kotaku video, the Hunter’s alternative ability, one hit kill melee sprees, is a bane of multiplayer. Expanding outward from a class’ abilities, you have access to four primary weapons: auto rifle, scout rifle, pulse rifle, and hand cannon. This is where you begin to sense a lack of weapon variety. While games like Borderlands 2, Call of Duty and Battlefield attempt to give you a variety of different model weapons with their own feel, Destiny instead offers you very few distinctions between one auto rifle and the next. One may have a higher rate of fire coupled with a larger magazine, but beyond that, not much else sets it apart. Special weapons include shotguns, sniper rifles and fusion rifles, which require a charge before firing. Fusion rifles were the most unique weapon introduced, as the charge required before outputting damage necessitates anticipating enemy movement. The only heavy weapons are rocket launchers and machine guns.
With these weapons you’ll be shooting, a lot. Fortunately for you, the shooting feels very good. Weapon aiming is great on the default setting, and auto aim never intruded as I lined up on my intended target. The problem with the shooting however, is what you’ll be shooting at. Enemies rarely prove themselves to exist beyond just being something for you to pour bullets into. While initially the Fallen reminded me of previous encounters with Elites in Bungie’s previous series, Halo, I was quickly disappointed with how underdeveloped the AI’s reactions to damage was. They would sometimes sidestep a bit and hide around cover, always popping out and exposing more than enough for me to blow them into bits. Common enemies are grouped into smaller mobs instead of actual squads with a purpose. Observing from afar reveals that they have little to do besides walk short distances always with their gun drawn and leveled. Bosses are the most disappointing. Instead of requiring more skill or new tricks, you simply amplify everything about a fight with a normal enemy. They deal more damage, you spend more time behind cover regenerating your shield/health, and you spend much more time filling their critical spot with bullets as yellow tinted numbers pop out. Higher difficulties do nothing beyond multiplying the damage output of enemies and their ability to take hits.
Mission variety is lacking as well. Out of the nineteen story missions, six strikes and four patrols, there was only one that differed greatly from the rest. In it you progress into the moon’s crust and find an old sword that, once equipped, acts similarly to the gravity hammer in Halo. You are required to take down three “princes” and then the mission ends and boots you back to orbit just like every other mission. The one thing that separates this from other objectives is that instead of shooting bullets, you can use a sword. Every time you descend onto a world you are spawned in the same location and head off to Point A where your Ghost scans something, then you go to Point B and scan something else. The only difference is in when you fight enemies. Perhaps you’ll fight them on your way to Point A, or maybe they’ll show up as your scanning something and appear in waves. This continues through every single mission which can sometimes hold a longer than necessary boss battle with an oversized regular enemy type.
After you’ve reached level 20, you can continue to level up, but instead of gathering XP you’ll be equipping items that have a “Light” attribute. These items can also be bought from vendors, which is the recommendable route since legendary items rarely ever drop from AI enemies. Gathering the marks required for legendary armor requires you play the same Strike missions or compete against other players in the Crucible. The only drawback is neither prove to be long lasting fun. There are six strike missions, and the maximum amount of marks you can earn from one is five. Legendary armor costs from 65 to 120 marks. This means you’ll be playing the same Strike quite a few times to earn enough marks, and each Strike can last up to a half hour depending on how often your team fails. In Crucible, you’ll earn around two to three marks per match, which thankfully don’t last as long as Strikes. The problem is that at high levels, Crucible devolves into frustrating matches where victory is hopeless or where your team dominates so omnipotently that it sucks the fun out of competition. However, there is a limit to how many marks you can earn in a week, with the ceiling being a hundred. This means that even those determined players who tirelessly chug away at Strikes will earn a hundred marks and only be able to purchase one legendary gear to raise their Light. This forces you to return to the boring story missions hoping against hope that you’ll get a rare drop that will raise your Light stat a little more.
Should you play Destiny? No. It is pretty and, the gunplay is great, but this game is so full of shallow mythology, tiring and repetitive missions, and an overall uninspired feel that I cannot recommend it. If you enjoy loot hunts, play Diablo III or Borderlands 2. If you enjoy MMOs, play Guild Wars 2. If you want a great single player story with real characters, play Wolfenstein: The New Order. Destiny attempts to be a conglomeration of all of these things, but in the end, fails.