Destiny REVIEW

from the creAtor of hAlo And publisher behind cAll of duty...we eXpected something A whole lot better.
You know what’s the cool thing about Dettol? It works on almost everything. As a mouthwash (yes, a mouthwash) when you forget to buy a new toothbrush to scrubbing kitchen floor after your cats have puked all over it, it’s a one-stop wonder disinfectant to make your life easy. What do sanitary solutions like this have to do with Destiny? Surprisingly a whole lot. You see, the fine people at Bungie, responsible for hits such as Halo and…well, Halo, envisioned a game to tick all possible boxes for the discerning gamer.

The end result is Destiny.

But is it any good? Well, just like using Dettol as a mouthwash despite its raging effectiveness isn’t the smartest thing to do. Destiny falls flat in certain aspects, which is tragic given that at its core is a competent shooter. But let’s get the bad out of the way first, yes?

Destiny has an immense lore and back story.

You’re a recently revived guardian protectors of humanity on Earth and beyond. You find yourself in a world where races of the galaxy have been pushed to the edge by forces of darkness. Central to the plot is a mystical being known as the Traveler, which presented itself to humanity centuries ago. What happened next was a period of progress that saw humans colonise the stars and beyond. However, in the face of alien foes, the Traveler lost its powers and stands still protecting Earth’s last city, known as The Tower.

As you can see, the setting of Destiny makes for compelling fiction and slick storytelling; no surprise given Bungie’s expertise at making the  Halo games (particularly Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach) compelling in terms of narrative. There are lots of stories to tell to players to further their immersion. Or so you’d think. In a move that’s most puzzling, you can only read most of the game’s lore on your mobile phone. Yes, this is a Rs 4,299 game that runs on a video game console plugged into a big screen TV, but you have to still take out your cellphone to get an idea of what kind of enemies you just riddled bullet holes with.

It’s a puzzling decision that does the game’s majestic setting no favours. And while we’re on the topic of poor story-telling and world-building, the campaign’s plot itself is disjointed. You’ll find yourself completing mission after mission, unlocking new planets and places to visit with barely any explanation in terms of story, save for your Ghost, who tells you what’s important in each mission. Voiced by Peter Dinklage of Games of Thrones fame, Ghost is the sci-fi equivalent of Legend of Zelda’s fairy Navi, who assists you in missions but is exponentially less annoying. After completing a slew of missions with little-to-no narration, the game throws a ten-minute cut-scene in your face. Puzzling indeed. It’s this half-assed approach and lack of consistency in delivering an understandable plot that makes Destiny so hard to get engrossed in.

If this wasn’t enough, the missions themselves are repetitive in nature; even more so if you’re the sort who played the game since its Alpha demo back in June. Over the course of the game’s campaign (around 20 hours or so), you’ll find yourself repeating the same tasks again and again. From defending a structure from an impending enemy invasion to clearing out waves of interesting looking beasties, it’s extremely cookie cutter. This could have been forgiven if Destiny had some variety in terms of what you’ll see in each mission. It’s disappointing since this is not the case.

Have to assassinate high level enemies? Infiltrate an alien stronghold? Decimate opponents with a deathly sword? Guess what? Doing any of these takes you through the same vistas, makes you meet the same enemies, and has you walking through the same locations. Over, and over, and over. They’re three separate missions, but they take place in the same vicinity. It reeks of laziness and disrespect for a user’s time and energy.

It doesn’t help matters that the game’s levelling up and progression systems are flawed. Instead of moving from one planet to the next, decimating all who stand in your way, you’ll find yourself returning to old battlegrounds and replaying missions you’ve finished. Why? Because newer missions require you to be at a higher level. It’s an approach similar to old MMORPGs, but doesn’t do anyone favours in an era where even World of Warcraft makes things easier for the greenest of players.

“The setting makes for compelling fiction and slick storytelling; no surprise given Bungie’s expertise at making Halo games.”
Speaking of massively online multiplayer games, Destiny’s campaign is best played with a friend or two, preferably with everyone using a headset and mic. The game’s mission structure gets terribly boring after a while and having a friend along makes it a lot more palpable, further proving that misery indeed loves company. Or in this case, 500 million dollars worth of it, if the game’s day one sales to stores is any indication.

With so much to hate, you’d think there’s no reason to play Destiny. That’s where you’re wrong. The most obvious reason to give Bungie’s always online shooter a shot is that it looks absolutely breathtaking. Regardless of your console of choice, Destiny is quite possibly the best looking game this year. With a rock solid framerate backed up by fantastic art direction, it’s hard to find any flaws in Destiny’s visual style. Everything, from the game’s exotic locales such as Old Russia and Venus to the enemy designs, is stunning, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a pixel out of place.

Those visuals are backed up by an amazing musical score. It’s orchestral and sounds appropriately epic, and by the time you’re done with the game, it’ll be tattooed on your brain. It’s that good! So much so that it’s probably the best thing about the game, right up there with Mass Effect and Halo in terms of quality.

This is not all. Aside from being highly polished and sporting one of the best soundtracks around, the gunplay is phenomenal. No surprise given the developer’s expertise over years of making Halo games. The weapons handle well, pulling off head shots is extremely gratifying, and the sheer act of moving across the game’s exotic landscapes and gunning down enemies packs a punch very few first-person shooters can match. Thanks to this strong second-to-second gunplay, Destiny is saved from being a complete disaster.

Furthermore, the role-playing elements of the game are surprisingly well done. Every mission grants you access to new weapons and armour and they’re doled out in a fair fashion. It’s not as generous a distribution as Diablo 3, which has you ending a quest with more loot that inventory space, but it’s good enough. Complete missions, defeat powerful enemies and take part in the game’s robust multiplayer modes, and you’re assured of obtaining some great items to customise your character with.

On the topic of multiplayer, Destiny’s competitive mode, known as the Crucible, is a blast to play. Regardless of your campaign progress, you and other combatants start off at the same level. It makes for interesting encounters based on pure skill and reflexes, with your choice of character class making all the difference. By and large, barring one horrible lunar map, Destiny’s maps are well made and accommodate the stipulated six-on-six player format perfectly. Throw in the fact that you earn experience to level up faster in the Crucible makes it a component that’s hard to

Also hard to ignore are the game’s classes. There are the Warlock, the Hunter and the Titan to choose from. The Warlock utilises the power of the Traveler to set foes alight with magical blasts; the Hunter lets you specialise in quiet stealthy kills, both long and short range; while the Titan is the game’s tank, soaking up tremendous damage and dishing out just as much. While you can’t change classes after choosing one, Destiny lets you create multiple characters so as to experiment with a class for each. Although having just three to pick from might seem anaemic for some, it works well enough. They complement and balance each other, making competitive and co-operative play surprisingly fair and fun for all.

So Destiny isn’t a total bust. The gunplay, classes, loot drops, competitive multiplayer and RPG elements are well thought out. Technically, it’s superlative and it sounds great too. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Bungie’s first attempt at the MMO genre would have been evolutionary a decade ago. Today, thanks to the repetitive mission structure, constrained exploration (since each mission on each planet takes you through the same locales), and disjointed story, it falls behind what most seasoned MMO and FPS fans expect and it’s a disservice to newbies to the genres as well.

Much like Dettol being a magical fix for all your sanitary concerns, Destiny too falls flat in being the be all and end all for MMO and FPS fans.

Having said that, thanks to the game’s modular nature and promise of extended support, it is possible to see it improving over time. Though at a cost. Though Indian pricing hasn’t been announced yet, $35 is what the game’s expansion pass would cost, which requires the base game that costs Rs 4,299. Until we have an idea of what these fixes entail, it’s tough to recommend Destiny to anyone but the most hardcore of Bungie fans. Everyone else should wait it out
destiny’s got the basics right, but everything else is not. hold off until a price drop or till the forthcoming expansion packs try to fix its issues.

RATING: 5/10

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