The game’s narrative shows a future where humanity, having enjoyed a Golden Age of technological advancement that saw us colonise other planets within our solar system, has been brought to the verge of extinction by an event referred to only as You’re surely already aware that Destiny is an FPS set in a persistent online universe shared with other players. Its campaign is a series of missions spread across several planets that you can play alone in its entirety, or cooperatively with
two friends, forming a three-strong Fireteam. You’ll find loot in the form of Glimmer, the game’s currency, or weapons and armour dropped by enemies and found in chests, and you’ll upgrade both those and your character as you progress.


Simple stuff, then, but it forms a hypnotic loop: after each mission, you’ll return to the Tower, a central hub for players, to collect rewards, decrypt schematics for new gear, or perhaps enter the crucible for a few rounds of competitive multiplayer. During the early game, you’ll rarely return from a mission without having levelled up your Guardian, unlocked a new ability, or upgraded your armour or all three. Or maybe you’re just coming back because you’ve finally accumulated enough Glimmer to buy that uncommon sniper rifle you’d been eyeing up at the gunsmith’s stall.
“it won’t be until the moon landing that the first real tingle of excitement arrives”
Bug a boo
It starts promisingly, though for anyone who played the alpha and/or the beta, those first few hours of Destiny will feel a little too familiar to be as thrilling as they probably are for newcomers. As such, for many it won’t be until their first moon landing (a couple of hours in) that the first real tingle of excitement arrives and it’s likely to be accompanied by a few doubts.

The story must take some of the blame. maybe Destiny’s necessarily episodic structure precludes a gripping narrative, but bungie can do better than this. As the game begins, you’re warned of an encroaching darkness that threatens the survival of the Traveler, a large celestial body said to be the only thing standing between the remaining survivors and total annihilation. but there’s no real sense of impending doom, just a vague threat that never properly materialises. First you fight one extraterrestrial force, then another, and then a third is introduced: each apparently more evil than the last. essentially, you’re just gunning down faceless bad guys with little meaningful motivation to do so.

It’s at once basic and untidy, a rudimentary story mired in a tangle of lore and jargon, most of which is detailed in collectible cards that can’t be accessed from within the game. Instead, you’re forced to visit bungie.net to uncover the background of these cosmic conflicts not that many players will bother. besides, why should you care when the voice actors seem equally understandably bored or confused by the lines they’re asked to deliver? As your floating AI ally, Ghost, Peter Dinklage struggles to muster any enthusiasm for the woeful dialogue. beyond brief, abortive attempts to turn him into a comic sidekick, Destiny’s self-important script takes itself incredibly seriously.

Not even Nathan Fillion and bill Nighy can inject a shot of charisma into this personality-free guff. It hardly helps that the missions are almost comically repetitive. In each, you’ll spend time clearing out zones of enemies, before reaching a darkness area’, from which point you can’t respawn though these often contain checkpoints from where to restart. eventually you’ll reach a room where you’re invited to plug Ghost into a machine to decode or unlock something, prompting waves of enemies to appear. Sometimes you’ll do it in a slightly different order, destroying a large wave of enemies and perhaps a boss, before deploying Ghost so he can deliver another barrage of tedious exposition. “Wow, this is amazing!” says Dinklage, the contempt in his voice clearly audible.
“the story is basic and untidy, mired in a tangle of lore and jargon inaccessible in-game”
Bootylicious
Outside the story, you’re free to explore each planetary hub via Patrol missions, which invite you to locate beacons directing you to various additional objectives. These are standard mmO-style sub-quests, asking you to kill enemies until you pick up ten of a certain item, to head to a specific location and deploy Ghost once more, or sometimes even to simply reach a certain point on the map and stand around for a bit.

In theory, it’s a relaxing change of pace, a place to grind levels not that you need to when the crucible PvP modes are a much more efficient method and to scavenge for helium filaments and spinmetal leaves to trade with vendors at the Tower. but there’s little else to find beyond the odd loot cache or dead Ghost to revive, with the same pockets of respawning enemies in-between. bungie has built a world that’s great to look at, but here it feels oddly hollow. Little wonder that the public events act as such a powerful magnet for nearby players: these temporary bursts of activity bring a lethargic world to thrilling life.


meanwhile, that strong sense of early progression soon subsides. before long, the differences between new weapons and old ones are too subtle to see a tangible difference beyond larger numbers erupting from enemy heads, and a defence stat that steadily builds so you can absorb more damage. You’re only concerned about getting a stronger gun because the enemies are tougher, not because it does anything significantly different from its predecessor.

There’s little meaningful choice when it comes to your Guardian’s skill tree, too with few ways to truly differentiate yourself from others within the same class. You can opt for faster recovery or movement speed, or stronger armour, but genuinely new abilities are few and far between You will at least get to change your subclass once you hit Level 15 having rolled as a Warlock, we relished the opportunity to hurl great balls of fire, but only the new Super ability was really any different from our time as a Voidwalker.

survivor
Yet many of these problems melt away in the face of the game’s moment to moment interactions. Flaws that would torpedo any other game feel almost insignificant when you’re dealing with gunplay of this quality. bungie knows how to build combat bowls that fizz with possibilities, how to craft intense encounters that you scrape through by the skin of your teeth. more importantly, it knows how to build weapons that are fun to shoot.

Pulse rifles are a particular joy, but we quickly fell in love with a high-powered magnum designed for methodical marksmanship. That affection is mostly down to the feedback; precision shots here are unbelievably gratifying. Vex robots splatter gloopy white fluid like bishop in Aliens, while a headshot on a bulky cabal trooper sees their helmet pop off, prompting wisps of black smoke to pour from the top of their suits as they gasp and collapse to the floor. 

It’s a frequently beautiful game, too. every new planet has its own unique look, from the brick-dust dunes of mars to a ruined city on Venus that looks like a sickly, tropical version of The Last Of Us. And you simply won’t see skyboxes anywhere else that look as gorgeous as these do. 

You can see where the money went, because from the UI to the environment design there’s a slickness and polish to the production that feels lavish. but did that enormo-budget also prove restrictive? The PvP multiplayer demonstrates that the developer has lost little of its talent for map design, and if you’re a Halo player looking for something along those lines you’ll be pleased with the four competitive modes here. It’s fast-paced, twitchy, entertaining, and the matchmaking is very good indeed. Yet there’s almost nothing new here.

say my name
Destiny is best described as a game of wonderful moments rather than a wonderful game. each player will have their own anecdotes to share; for us, two in particular stand out. One was an event during a Patrol session, where we teamed up with two strangers to stop the Hive drilling into the moon, succeeding with seconds to spare. The other saw us band together with an unknown Hunter and forced to finish a Strike mission after the third member of our Fireteam inexplicably dropped out. After half an hour of panicked pot-shots and taking turns to cower and pray for the other’s
respawn timer to hurry up the wave of relief as the boss finally fell prompted a celebratory dance-off.

These are the kind of shared experiences bungie wants its players to talk about, but they’re carefully rationed throughout a game that too often provokes ennui instead of exhilaration. As Paul mccartney warbles over the grandiosely bland credits theme, there is hope for the future. In the coming months and years, Destiny could yet evolve into something essential. right now, it’s a frequently enjoyable, beautifully made shooter you can play with friends and strangers alike. but it’s no more than that.

Mote play
Experience you earn above level 20 generates Motes of Light, which can be exchanged for Hunter Cloaks, Titan Marks and Warlock Bonds or Emblems. By this stage, it’s unlikely you’ll have unlocked all of your subclass skills particularly if you switched at Level 15 and it’s worth replaying missions just to gain access to some of the later abilities.

light ’em up
You can, however, break the level cap. To gain a level, you’ll need to equip armour imbued with the Light stat. To reach level 21 your four pieces of armour must add up to +20 Light, for example. It’s a strange and restrictive design choice and if you equip, say, gauntlets with a higher defensive rating but no Light element, you may actually drop a level.

on your marks
The most efficient way to unlock Light gear is by earning Crucible marks or Vanguard marks. The former you’ll get by playing a lot of PvP matches, while the latter are gained by completing Strike playlists. Both are pretty stingy with rewards, though you’ll earn more by tackling missions on higher difficulties. Each set of marks is capped at 100 per week.

Faction stations
Alternatively, you can ally yourself with one of the three factions within the Tower New Monarchy, Dead Orbit and Future War Cult by purchasing and equipping a class item from them. Any Crucible marks will carry over, but you’ll need to complete bounties to boost your reputation with them, which will unlock specialised kit from their vendors.