Destiny review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie
Medium: Blu-ray
Players: 1-12
Online: Yes

If you play videogames (and I?ll assume that you do!), you?re likely well aware that Destiny was released last week across a variety of platforms. It was, and likely will be, the biggest ?event? release of 2014. Sure, there?s a new Call of Duty right around the corner, and another Smash Bros. too, but this is a brand new IP from the guys and gals that brought us Halo! That means it has to be great, right? Well, sorta.

Honestly, I did find more to love in Destiny than most critics, but I can also agree that Destiny has some failings. There?s a lot of repetitive aspects to the game, a grindy feeling to building up reputation points, gathering late-game gear, and pushing your character past the level cap of 20. Matchmaking options, or the lack thereof for end game content, is equally frustrating. I get that Bungie traditionally doesn?t seem to support random matchmaking outside of competitive multiplayer, but I see nothing wrong with giving players the choice. It would be unlikely that I could finish the Vault of Glass raid with a bunch of randoms, but why not let me try anyways?

Destiny_Crucible_Screenshot_6And yes, the story is a mess. I really love the overall setting, and the strange mix between sci-fi and fantasy elements. Space Warlocks and Space Ogres? Yes please! But it seems as if Bungie is building a world that?s only on its first draft, and requiring players to visit your website in order to read the equivalent of a codex is silly. I have no issues with reading background info to inform my overall understanding of a plot, but I?m unlikely to pull myself out of the game to do so. Especially when the story and dialogue gives me little incentive or desire to learn more. Of course, this is the first entry in what is planned to be a much longer running narrative, but as it stands the story of Destiny is not the reason to pick this up.

So why would you want to check out Destiny? Well, everything else about the game makes it clear that there?s a considerable amount of love and effort being put forth here. Having your Guardian awake for the first time in Old Russia on Earth, and seeing the vast field and incredible draw distance extend before you, immediately awakens a sense of exploration that builds and builds the more you play. It would be nice if there were more rewards for exploring areas fully, loot could certainly be expanded on for instance, but the random pockets of enemy resistance, public events, and occasional surprises supplement the open experience nicely.

Destiny_10Destiny is also a beautiful looking game. Whether you?re staring off into the vistas of Venus, Mars, the Moon, or Earth, you?re likely to see something stunning. Incredibly rendered skyboxes, varied environments, sprawling structures, desolate wastelands, and a variety of alien foes pepper every inch of Destiny?s playable stages. Likewise, the multiplayer maps get the same attention to detail, while being functionally fun to play around in, accommodating the right amount of players across the handful of modes present. You won?t spend a huge amount of time looking for a fight, but it?s also unlikely that you?ll be spawn camped or have a difficult time rallying teammates before being attacked. Seriously, I found the overall design of Destiny?s multiplayer to be one of the best examples of competitive first-person shooters out there, outside of Bungie?s own Halo series. The modes available could be more diverse, but I can?t deny that I had a ton of fun in every match played.

Also, combat in Destiny never feels bland or mechanical. You?ll run the risk of boredom if you?re content to plug away at low-level foes while grinding for loot, but if you?re willing to challenge yourself with heroic difficulty modifiers you?ll likely never get bored. Enemy A.I. is generally intelligent, not willing to stand still for long and making ample use of cover. For story based missions, or the tougher dungeon-like Strikes, the enemy mix also forces you to stay on your toes. You?ll often be tasked with taking down low-armored yet persistent soldiers, larger, shielded, and more powerful foes, snipers that hang far back in the distance, and melee-focused monsters that endlessly rush towards you. The only real issue I?ve seen is that enemies sometimes get hung up on environmental objects, for instance, Thralls seem to have trouble navigating structures when homing in on your location.

destiny_7I also found myself enjoying the variety and distinct properties given to various weapons in Destiny. I?d often bounce back and forth between primary weapons like the Hand Cannon and Auto Rifle, and often have a tough time choosing between more powerful varieties like the Rocket Launcher and Machine Gun. But the real selling point here is the various skills that are inherent in each weapon you pick up, with skills that unlock specific to each weapon, enhancing damage, reload speed and more as you continue to play. The more rare a weapon or piece of armor is, the more abilities it offers to unlock. Combine this with the abilities of your chosen class, or the sub-class that unlocks at level 15, and you feel as if you can create a very unique Guardian in comparison to other players around you.

So while not every aspect of Destiny is praise-worthy, I think there?s still a lot of merit to be found in the newest sci-fi driven IP from developer Bungie. I found myself playing more than was necessary for this review, and plan to play even more now that it?s done. Ideally I?ll get to experience the end-game raid that opened up this week, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the planned DLC content. I also feel compelled to level up the other two classes I?ve sampled so far, and can safely assume that the MP side of Bungie will keep me pretty well occupied in the coming months. So yes, Destiny falls short of second-coming status, but it?s still worth checking out.

Grade: B+