Published on September 16th, 2014 | by Luis Acosta0
Destiny – Did Bungie really give us what they promised?
Destiny is everything Bungie promised it would be, though there is some room for improvement.
There’s so much here. Bungie has taken a combination of first-person gameplay, massive multiplayer online elements and a sprinkle of role-playing game features to produce Destiny. Think about that for a second, folks. All of those things put together and balanced out in a single title. That is the very definition of ambitious. They pulled off a very large game. That’s not to say that Destiny doesn’t have its flaws, but at this stage of the game, the Bungie beauty sure knows where it’s going and how it’s going to get there. So let’s jump in.
The first thing you’ll be asked to do in Destiny is pick the class you want. You have the following choices:
Hunter – This is more of a long range fighter that keeps out of the hand-to-hand stuff. When you’re on side quests that involve someone taking large creatures out from long range, with powerful weapons, you’ll be happy with this class. Love the looks, as it’s a cross between a ninja and nomad, but not quite the scrapper for this reviewer.
Warlock – Good with the energy blasts and the class you’re going to hate the most when it comes to PvP. If you need a comparison to what you should expect out of this class, this is more like the guy/gal in Call of Duty MP that quick-scopes you constantly. I appreciate how great they are and people who like cheap attacks (and it’s only cheap because I’ve gotten killed so many times from them) are going to adore this class.
Titan – This is your grunt of the game, and a scrapper that will produce some powerful results, if you’re leveled up properly. This class helped me to lead the charge during co-op with my friends, as well as offered up some great defense, powerful offense and some damn cool looking weapons.
Once you choose your class, you’re taken into a restricted customization of the character. For example, my Titan offered up the chance for male/female/robot choices. I chose to be a robot titan, which offered up a variety of different looks. These looks included different styles of heads, paint marks across my helmet and just a cool shade of colors to choose from. There’s not much to this and it’s certainly not as deep as what you would find in games like Fallout or Elder Scrolls in terms of customization, but it’s a start. I’m hoping and praying that somewhere down the road people will be able to completely customize symbols and what not on the armor, but I have seen no signs of freedom for that in the game up to this point (I’m level 22). The game will open up some options for you in the later levels, but still not enough for true customization.
Once you’re beyond customization, you’re sent into a narrative about a traveler coming down and helping to maintain piece in a galaxy/universe that had strayed into violence and war. The story of Destiny, which seems a bit in pieces at the moment, alludes to some bigger piece that is probably in the works. You’ll feel a bit lost at times with the unveiling of certain enemies and situations you haven’t heard about before in the game, but it’s more about intrigue of what’s to come, then it is about what feels left out. For example, towards the middle of the game you’re going to run into a brother and sister duo in the far reaches of space. You don’t really have a backstory behind them, but they are creepy a-holes that know far more than you’ve been told up to this point in the game. They know of a God that must be stopped, an enemy that has to be taken down a peg and they scatter shallow details when they explain things. It’s like meeting that one character in a Shakespeare play that may not have a huge role, but tends to foreshadow a bit about future events that you can’t possibly figure out or imagine yet. What’s even worse about this brother/sister duo is that once you satisfy their demands in a certain mission, they tell you that you’ll be called in in the future. Having been through the game’s PvE, that future has yet to rear its head in this initial launch.
Anyway, the narrative won’t stick with you, and I don’t think it’s meant to in the initial launch (haven’t confirmed that with Bungie, but having seen so many movies in my reviewing career, I know something bigger is coming), but the story seems like just small scattered pieces of a bigger puzzle. I wish they had made them a bit clearer, and a bit more intriguing, but this is going to huge adventure. They can be forgiven until it all unfolds. If it still feels confusing by the end of the larger picture, then I’ll complain heavily. In the meantime, I’m making notes and we’ll see how it all comes together.
Speaking of the adventure, once you get the story established (or at least started), you’re sent to Earth to start one. If you’ve seen the alpha and/or beta, then you know what to expect on the Earth, more specifically Old Russia. It’s a very broken place that is rusted and broken everywhere. Within Old Russia is a bevy of mission types that allow for a variety of ways to earn XP. The lay of the land for every location and planet in Destiny is broken into the following missions:
Story – These specific missions are mapped out to go along with the ongoing narrative. Beating these levels unlocks other story missions, and sometimes planets. These are short, sweet and good for leveling up quick. It doesn’t require a large amount of dedication to get them done, which is great thing considering how you end each planet’s adventure.
Patrol – Patrol is what you think it might be, you’re patrolling the land and accomplishing small, sometimes repetitive missions. For example, in Old Russia, you’re sent into a large landscape, Russia’s is pretty damn big, and you go around finding beacons that contain small/short missions (enormously shorter than the Story missions). Each mission asks you to do things like scout, kill enemies or collect resources. It’s incredibly easy stuff that isn’t quite as good for leveling as it is for accomplishing bounties (we will get into that soon).
Strike – Block out an insane amount of time for these and get your mics ready to shout orders between your teammates. This is basically you running into the final stage of a level and fighting a huge amount of enemies, and then a nearly impossible boss (nearly). If you want to level up, this is the place you go to – when you’re ready (and you must be ready to play this). In Old Russia, the first strike is called ‘The Devil’s Lair’. The Devil’s Lair contains two large enemies you have to get through. The first is a six-legged robot that can kill you in one hit. The second is a giant purple eye that can kill you in one hit. Both don’t like getting shot, and they will find you if you piss them off. Choose your friends wisely before dipping into one of these. Don’t get me wrong, the rewards in this level are fantastic, but the preparation and work it takes to get through it can be hellacious. It’s solid stuff, but tough as nails.
Each planet you visit has a variety of all these, so they’re not cookie-cutter types of levels. Each one has different terrain, different enemies and different ways to quickly get things done (and sometimes not so quickly). When you get into some of the later planets in the game, you’re going to run into multiple strike missions – those are a blast. And by ‘blast’ I mean tougher than you can possibly imagine – especially, if you’re not properly prepared or leveled up.
Having said all this, I will say that I was a bit disappointed with the enemy A.I. in some of these missions, especially the lower enemies of the group. They do go by patterns when fighting you and are incredibly easy to pick off if you’re at the right level and have the right weapons to do the trick. That changes with the bigger enemies, especially during a Strike. Those suckers gauge how you are doing in the fight and react when you’re at a disadvantage. In other words, earmuff your kids when playing a Strike because you’re going to be cursing a lot. The difficulty and A.I. of the enemies changes slightly from planet to planet, and level to level (as it should), but for the most part you can learn most of the lower enemy movements.
Now, speaking of planets, as of right now I have the following planets available to me: Earth (duh), Moon, Venus, Mars and something that isn’t a planet called Reef. The Earth you’ve seen before, it’s a spread out environment that looks very much like a broken down earth. The Moon, which is the next planet to open, is a barren wasteland of research complexes where something very wrong (and creepy) has occurred. The next planet in the bunch is Venus, which is closer to Earth than anything else in the game. There are lots of hills and there is a Strike level that is simply unrivaled – at least t this point. I won’t go into that much, but my palms still sweat after having gone through it alone. The Reef is barely accessible in this version of the game (or at least I haven’t unlocked more), but it serves one purpose, no action – only a cutscene. The final planet in the bunch is Mars. Mars is your red beast that contains aliens that look like they came straight from a Luc Besson sci-fi film from the 90s. It’s red, has a lot of dunes and contains some wicked complexes and caves.
Regardless of which planet you play on, you’re guaranteed one beautiful thing – girth.
The load times for Destiny are a bit long in the tooth, but when you see how spread out and how deep these planets can get, you’ll understand why you have a 30-45 second wait time between levels. They are freaking huge, folks. The spread out environment, which isn’t quite open world like a GTA, allows for some great exploration. This also makes playing PvE experiences in Destiny so much fun. Going along for the missions is one thing with friends, but having moments where you can simply just go around and explore the nooks and crannies of the environment is simply a blast. I had a couple of friends that spent from 11pm-3am just going from planet to planet trying to find everything they could find. Bungie does a great job with encouraging this by putting hidden collection boxes filled with money, weapons, armor, etc. around the maps. Going out of your way to find their secrets is a rewarded process. I like that type of stuff and I could get lost in this game doing it. In fact, I have spent hours in the alpha/beta just doing that. Of course, what the hell else am I going to do when the alpha/beta restricted me to certain areas? Exactly.
Exploring the planets, doing the missions, completing the story and getting beyond the Strike levels is what you do with the PvE portion of the game. Right now, I’ve got about 5-6 missions and strikes to complete before moving on in the game. The majority of my PvE experience took around 20 hours to play. That doesn’t seem like much, but to put it in perspective, that’s about 3-4 times the size of a campaign for games like Battlefield. I’m still hoping that once I complete the Strike missions (all of them) that there will be more PvE to unlock. If not, I’m okay with that amount of time because I can replay anything I want and still gain points along the way – though, not as major as they could be.
PvE aside, what about the PvP? The initial PvP experience is called the Crucible. This is broken down into the following match types:
Control – This is a 6v6 capture the flag-esque game. I played the hell out of this in the alpha/beta and it’s still one of the more fun and competitive ways to play PvP in Destiny. You have three zones, you take control as many as you can, the first one to 20000, or the highest score when time runs out, wins the match. It’s easy, it’s fast and furious, and I will continue to play this for a while.
Clash – This is 6v6, no zones, just a deathmatch. It’s exactly what you know as team deathmatch. Nothing more, nothing less.
Rumble – You can have your Fireteam in this one, but it’s an all-out war against everyone – a free for all. I’m not a huge fan of this one, but that’s a personal preference, as there is a lot going on at once. Level advantages are completely disabled in this one, which is a great thing. Puts everyone on the ground level.
Skirmish – I like this one because it has three teams face-off with each other. I like that idea a lot. Level advantages are off on this one and it’s just a nice triple team battle. You have the ability to revive your teammates in this one, which is nice.
Salvage (*UPDATED: This is a timed event — thank you, Jordan) – I just unlocked this puppy today. This is a 3v3 team objective-based PvP. You’re given locations to go try and capture/retain relics. This one is neat because it requires team cooperation. You simply won’t survive without it. I tried this sucker before conceding to write this review. It’s fun, quick and very compact. Also, I apologize to the two teammates who put up with my n00bness on this one. I did really bad the first time out. And the second time. And third time.
All of this said, I’m still unlocking and playing the Crucible, but what I’ve seen of it so far really offers up some variety of gameplay. I know I have a ways to go in it, so I’ll be happy to report back as I progress, but as of right now it offers up enough to keep me happy.
In addition to the variety of MP modes with Destiny, the maps offer a bevy of different styles that cater to most of the hardcore MP players, though some maps tend to lack in some areas. Keep in mind, I’ve only unlocked a certain number of Crucible features, so I’m sure there are more maps still to see. For example, the Salvage mode opened up a portion of the Venus map, which puts you in the city ruins of the planet. It’s a very flat terrain that is tightly woven. I don’t love the feel of the map, but I understand why it works for the Salvage mode. Anyway, my point is that I’m still finding new things, but the following maps are currently unlocked in my game:
Shores of Time (Venus) – You know this one really well, if you played the beta. This is a map of Venus that is circular in nature. You’ll find it mostly with the Control mode of Crucible. Love the feel of it, but watch the edges of the mountain you’re playing on. I’ve killed myself more times than I was killed on this map because of those edges. Definitely conducive to jumping.
Rusted Lands (Earth) – I played this for the first time today and it reminded me a lot of the shipyard level of Black Ops II. Containers are everywhere, there are ledges everywhere to jump up on and it’s quite spread out. At the same time, the containers will make you claustrophobic. A neat level, but it has its draw backs here and there, especially if you’re trying to find a comfortable area to set up and prepare yourself for battle.
Blind Watch (Mars) – This is one of three maps on Mars. It’s incredibly spread out and there are multi-tier places to jump around on. This is in my top three map choices in Destiny. It gives you some elbow room to maneuver.
First Light (Moon) – I know I’m going to catch hell for this from our senior editor Will Johnson, but the Moon’s First Light is still my favorite map to jump around on and play. Picture two circles, one inner, one outer – that’s basically the map. There’s enough room to jump all over the place and tight quarters to make a panicky enemy mess up. I enjoy this map quite a bit and I hope in the future expansion of the game that they build something similar to it
Meridian Bay (Mars) – Tight quarter fighting that is based on abandoned structures. You have an outside and inside set of structures to jump on and through. It’s good stuff and it offers up a variety of ways to dispose of enemies, especially if you like sniping people. Snipers will be thrilled with this map’s layout.
I know there are more maps to be uncovered in the multiplayer portion of this game, but that is what I’ve run through so far. I’m still waiting to uncover the Iron Banner, which is floating around somewhere, but until then please know that I’m having a blast with getting my ass kicked in PvP. It has a hint of Halo in the mix (duh, Bungie) and it offers up a variety of quick gameplay options that should satisfy a good majority of fans. I’m not sure that it’s quite to the level of how Black Ops II felt in the MP department (still consider that one of the most fun experiences I’ve had with MP), but I’m confident that there’s more variety to be uncovered through this. What I’m enormously impressed with Bungie about in the MP category is how there haven’t been that many issues with logging on and playing. There have been rare kicks here and there (three so far this entire week) and some lag (just last night – I haven’t seen it since), but for the most part they came prepared to handle the large amount of folks on Destiny’s servers like a champ. It helped that they did extensive testing with their beta program of the game. Glad they did that and I’m really happy the game has gone smoothly so far. EA and DICE, please take note of this.
PvP aside, if you need more of a PvE co-op experience then there is The Vanguard. The Vanguard is interesting because it allows you to do Strike levels for massive leveling. You don’t unlock this until you are around level 20 (and rightfully so), but it’s a fast way to earn Vanguard points, which is important for Vanguard bounties (get to that in a bit). Right now, I’ve got four Strike levels open on The Vanguard. They get harder by increments of two. For example, the first Strike is built for a level 18, the second is for a level 20, etc.. These Strikes are tough as nails and not for the weak of heart. You can play them with your friends (up to three) or via matchmaking. I’ve had moderate success with matchmaking minions, so choose wisely or bug the shit out of your friends to level up and play this.
So what about the other gameplay elements of Destiny? The leveling can be quick in the game, with a soft cap hitting around level 20. You can gain most of your leveling through the PvE portion of the game or you can spend your time in PvP and gain it quickly. I arrived at level 20 around four days into the game. After you get to level 20, you can level up through items you obtain in the field that contain Mote of Light. As you can see below in the picture, you obtain a ‘Light’ level at 20 and that goes up quickly through extensive PvP work and winning certain rare/legendary items. It also helps if you go back and do some Strikes, but PvP is a pretty quick way of leveling. I’m unsure of how far the Light levels go, but I’m willing to keep playing to find out. Eurogamer stated that they saw someone at level 29, hopefully it keeps going.
Speaking of leveling, Bungie has broken down how you level in the game by each object you own. Sure you get the regular character leveling by class, but you also get attribute upgrades with every single object you own. For example, your helmet, armor, leg/arm armor, weapons, ships and even your ghost (Peter Dinklage) can level up and adjust in some way. If you own a sniper rifle, then you can upgrade it at a certain point where you get a better scope, stronger damage or you can re-obtain the missed bullets you fire. It’s neat stuff, folks. The attribute tree isn’t extensive, but it is impressive for a game like this. The upgrades to your class are pretty vast, as you can see below, so there’s a lot of things to think about when you’re upgrading your Guardian. More importantly, you get depth to a game that seems like a basic first-person shooter. That’s invaluable.
Should you not want to upgrade weapons, then you can dismantle them, gain money from them and go buy another weapon. The Tower, the central social/market hub, in the game helps to facilitate with obtaining new weapons, armor, ships and sparrows (those are the land skimmers you fly on the planet). It also allows you to unlock certain weapons/objects that you obtain during battle, receive messages with items and obtain bounties for both Crucible and Vanguard modes. The bounties give you certain goals to meet during the game, which translates to items and/or XP. On a side note, I haven’t unlocked nearly everything for The Tower, as I know Iron Banner will unlock some areas, but it’s a pretty big area with room for expansion that will allow you to customize your experience a bit. It’s a nice place to take a breather as well.
Outside of The Tower, MP and The Vanguard, there are other things in the game. BUT! I won’t mention these ‘other things’(because I want you to discover them yourself) that you can unlock. I will say that they’re not deep, but they’re value added to the overall package.
As for the presentation portion of the game, Bungie did a fantastic job with bringing you the planets. They made the planets wide and deep, which means you have room for exploring. Each planet has its own pros/cons, each has its own style and personality, and most importantly each feels like a different place. Like I stated before, there’s so much spread and depth to the levels that you could simply lose yourself on them, especially during modes like Patrol.
The amount of textures and details for each place is impressive. There are lots of active pieces to the environments, such as hot springs on Venus, large mounds of desert/mountains on Mars and an incredibly large amount of junkie shit on Earth (what you would expect from our poor planet – our fault, by the way). That’s the charm and visual personality that go along with each place your Guardian visits. I love the lighting and environmental reactions that each place has, as the visuals really do build it all pretty uniquely.
As for the enemies, their looks are horrifically gorgeous. With the folks you meet on Earth, you get these thin aliens that come in a variety, which range from no armor to well-armored. They move and dodge with their own unique animation and blowing their heads off is unique as well (not really, but it’s gorgeous no matter which one you do it to). The aliens on Mars are big and bulky, again looking like the fat, armored aliens from The Fifth Element. The Venus aliens are similar to Earth’s, though the robot aliens (who are on Venus as well) are pretty terrifying (they remind me of the Cybermen from Doctor Who). The truly unique enemies are the bosses, which come in a variety of flavors. They’re the ones that stand out and the ones that are most terrifying when you get too close. My point is that each group you face is unique to the planet they reside on. They are different enough to intrigue you visually. All of these come to you in 30fps, which is okay in my book.
I honestly can’t wait to see more of this game as Bungie releases it.