A week after the release of one of the most anticipated games of the year, the reviews for Destiny are starting to tumble in. They’re not quite what we were expecting, are they? Less “Whoooo, best game EVAH!” and more “Meh”. Expectations were high and it seems the reality couldn’t quite stretch up to it. These situations always make me wonder if some of the negative reactions would have been more positive had we not worked ourselves into a frenzy of anticipation. It’s Watch Dogs all over again.
To make my stance very clear straight away, I don’t think Destiny is a bad game. I like it. It scratches that itch I have to shoot people in the face. It challenges me, it’s very pretty and, to my surprise, it’s training me to shoot better. I’m not a massive fan of first person shooters, and aside from a few very notable exceptions, I don’t get excited about them. Unless an FPS is absolutely spot on, I can’t stomach it. Take it away, waiter, and bring me something with more story and less tomatoes. However, I am happy to say that the part of Destiny that is an FPS first and foremost, is a fine main course. Yes, I will have a sprinkle of ammunition on that, thank you, garçon.
I love the guns in Destiny. They feel good. They feel effective. There’s a nice variety and each type handles with differing positives and negatives – a gun for everyone! I’m an auto-rifle kind of girl and Destiny’s autos blast the crap out of everything in a manner that is truly gratifying. I prefer a shotgun for my secondary weapon. Nothing beats it when a horde of Thrall are right in my business. I know nothing technical about guns so I can only say that when a Copperhead goes bang, recoils and goes bang again and again and again, I am filled with a murderous, psychopathic delight that makes my toes tingle. Between that and my Storm Fist, which I prefer to call my Bunch of Fives, close range combat feels satisfyingly authentic. The Thrall are fast and I feel weighed down by my armour and hefty weaponry. It’s a frantic and formidable struggle for survival.
There are three classes to choose from although, aside from their special abilities, I have so far failed to see much distinction between them. I was a Hunter in the alpha and a Titan in the beta, and I chose to stay as a Titan because I love the special ability so much. When supercharged, you can fling yourself into the thick of battle like a chav into a Pound Shop, and land with a ground-shaking crunch that will damage any enemy within the vicinity. Very helpful ability, and I spend much of my time desperate for it to recharge. As a tank-type character you are supposed to get up close to take and deflect damage, so launch yourself at a Wizard, finish him off with your rifle still at relatively close range, punch a couple of enemies that dare get too close, throw a grenade at some stragglers and then back out with your shotgun pointed and quivering. Awesome, yes? Yes. Yes it really is. But not over and over and over and over. Oh I’m a better shooter now. I’m not cowering behind a piece of scenery like I normally would in an FPS. But every mission feels too similar and I am starting to get bored.
I played the alpha and the beta with a huge amount of enthusiasm. I got up in the early hours to fit in some Destiny time. Loved it. The mistake I made was not listening when people said the beta was near enough the finished product. I honestly thought there would be more. Where’s the story? Where are the amazing cinematic cut scenes to go with that incredible music? I’m sure I was promised more than just daga-daga splat.
When I listened to the Destiny hype, I heard rumours of an in-depth adventure shooter with MMO elements. I heard we were getting a new world that we could spend the next ten years in. Honestly, one or two missions is enough. There is no adventure, no in-game story to back up the awesome backstory. Destiny is a co-operative and single player shooter, and that’s all. There’s no heart, nothing to drive me forward. Okay it’s primarily a shooter so maybe it doesn’t need that much story, but I thought Bungie was going for an Experience rather than something that soon feels like such a generic slog.
Even the RPG elements aren’t enough to hold my attention. I’m levelling up, choosing armour, choosing upgrades, but I don’t seem to have found as many goodies as I did in the beta version. I feel as though my choices are very limited. I’m getting better weapons and armour as I level up but the enemies are levelling up with me. It’s meant to look like progression but in actuality I don’t feel much benefit to the upgrades. My Titan looks different but she doesn’t feel different. Finding the Legendary equipment is a bonus, I’m sure, but I would rather have a much larger variety of the more attainable upgrades. Or perhaps I’m just being greedy.
Destiny’s biggest selling point is its MMO element and that works flawlessly. Team up with friends or randoms or even play through by yourself. I’ve done all three and all three options are generally great. I had been fearful that I would always have to team-up in order to complete the main story, but this is not the case. It is challenging but very doable and the game works well if you choose to go solo. The only issue playing with friends is that in order to really enjoy it as Bungie have intended, you need to be roughly on the same level. If one person is much higher or lower then it just doesn’t work. The fun is in struggling together.
While I do tilt towards solo for the main story, I love teaming up with randoms on Patrol. Help each other out, do a little dance and then, ‘oooh something shiny’, off I go. As a confirmed commitment-phobe and chronic pause button presser, I like not being effectively tied to another player for an hour or more. I want to scamper in, obliterate stuff and then be on my way, good day to you, sir. For this reason I absolutely love the little events that randomly pop up on the map. They are very brief and you can choose to join in or just sail on by leaving your fellow Guardians to perish a la giant mechanical spider. These events are a wonderful interruption, they add variety, and I get warm fuzzy feelings when I see other players rushing in to help. When it’s over, we all go our separate ways. Perfect. More of that please, Bungie. I want more choice, more freedom, side-stories, sub-missions, mini-games. I want Skyrim levels of freedom. I want characterisation so I don’t feel like my Titan is actually a robot. I want to talk to other characters. But mostly, I want a story that is more than just background; I want to bob my head to the beat of it, not entirely forget that it’s there. What I’m trying to say is that if you want my attention for the next ten years, I need more than just a great set of guns. I need more than a fine main course. I need pudding.
God only knows how much of an evolution Destiny is facing over the next decade. The game, as it stands right now and underneath the lovely graphics, gorgeous music and smooth gameplay, feels empty and repetitive. I don’t know if future instalments will add more story and cutscenes, more reasons to roam free, or whether it will just provide more of exactly the same. I’m loath to completely criticise what is clearly just a base for a much bigger game, but I still can’t shake the feeling that Bungie have mucked up the chance to bequeath something truly special.