A choir sings a haunting, interstellar melody. A ship crash lands on a mysterious ringed planet and a great hero is born in John 117, the Master Chief. New alien races are discovered and vanquished. Ancient plans and evils are revealed. You are taken from beautiful vista to beautiful vista on a sweeping sci-fi epic.
The Halo series is one of legend. I struggle to think of any game property that garnered so much enthusiasm since Mario and Zelda on the original Nintendo. Halo wasn’t just a beautiful story with iconic characters. The original Halo made console shooters relevant on the shoulders of Goldeneye 007. It’s sequel served as the introduction to massive online console gaming.
After ten years expanding on the success of Halo, Bungie decided to start with a new IP.
Is it impossible to live up to one of the most revered series ever? I tend to think so.
After spending weeks of time with Destiny and talking with others, it is time to see how close the new series comes to Halo.
What exactly IS Destiny?
A common question by many Bungie fans and gamers is, “What exactly IS Destiny?” If you have not been playing this and are literally only interested as a Halo fan, you may or may not be disappointed.
Where Halo was all about the getting into the world and about crazy unique online battles, Destiny feels totally the opposite. Here the focus is on gunplay, loot, and leveling. If you like World of Warcraft and are into shooters, this is your game.
The entire game can be played with friends. I would recommend it. There is something about discovering your characters with friends that feels great. Even when you get to the endgame — level 20 — there is still a ton of character discovery and subclass modifications. You may not have even found YOUR weapon by this time.
Destiny’s Story and Lore
With all of this time playing and discovering your character, you may not have time to take in the story.
Bungie doesn’t make it easy to care. 20-30 minute missions are finished with a fleeting moment to check out all of the cool gear and use the restroom/grab a snack. Scenes of great peril, where Peter Dinklage’s “Ghost” has just discovered some incredible secret are deafened by waves of enemies and the firing of hand cannons and auto-rifles.
There is a story embedded here, but time spent not shooting things is time spent decking out your character and talking with your friends. It is very difficult to enjoy the story.
And even when you do go back and play through old story missions on harder difficulties, you start to learn why you didn’t care about the story in the first place. Nothing is gripping. We are shown things like “The Traveler” from the outset yet never get to interact with it or learn much about it. Also, every mission seems to have at least one obnoxious “protect Ghost” section where wave upon wave of minions storm a computer or terminal. An already repetitive process of shoot, shoot, and shoot again is made more monotonous by the droning request of Peter Dinklage to protect the location.
By game’s end, I had absolutely no clue what I was killing, who I was helping, who was good, and who was bad.
Honestly. It doesn’t matter.
The Vanguard Mode
It doesn’t matter because the game is first person shooter MMO, where the whole point is doing simple tasks to collect powerful gear and materials to upgrade gear. Nobody ever complains that WOW’s story from mission to mission isn’t exciting.
“Kill ten rabbits because I said so.
Thanks. Have a hammer.”
Vanguard mode are the adventure segments, and even though it feels as if there are 1,000 modes of play, they all boil down to “go somewhere and shoot things along the way.”
Once you have hit the end game, you can go back and play strikes and story missions on higher difficulties, but the lack of content here is a bit frustrating. Adding bounties to provide extra incentive to go back and play old missions is nice, but after killing Sepiks-Prime for the fifteenth time, I think I’m ready for more content.
If it sounds like I am oversimplifying it, I am not. If it sounds like I am complaining, I am not. Regardless how simple the concept is, the game just feels right. Powers are fun to use. Characters can navigate bumpy terrain in first person. Combat is fast, tight, and fun.
The Crucible Mode
This quick pace lends itself to the competitive multiplayer portion of the game, known as the Crucible. To be clear, I am not a huge online gamer. I will say that the drive to get a good legendary drop from the multiplayer is what drives me.
What might fascinate Bungie fans is the pace of the multiplayer. There are no perfectly timed rocket launcher shots to a Banshee while in midair. There are no crazy grenade tosses through ventilation shafts or leaps of faith onto the heads of enemies hundreds of feet below.
Make no mistake, Destiny feels more like Call of Duty than Halo. There are powers, yes. But even those powers have a quick resolve.
In Crucible, super-charged characters usually get automatic kills, and certain combos are better than others (auto-rifle and shotgun anyone?). As combat power is balanced among all levels, the best players are the most tactical. You have to know the maps, know the choke points, and know what weapons work best in a situation. Perfect aim and gun selection are almost secondary to having the higher ground on an opponent.
If this sounds like your type of game, I struggle to think of a more epic multiplayer experience. Crucible is also often patched to continue to balance weapons and classes. I still think that Titans get the short end of the stick across the board, but that may just be me whining as a Titan player myself.
Content is King
With writing these reviews and blogs, you are always told that content is king. You need to give people material that they want to read and a place that they know they can revisit. If you like our Spoiler Cast, you might subscribe to us on iTunes and continue to listen.
It is hard to tell what will happen with Destiny, a game which will supposedly build on itself into three complete games and numerous patches/expansions.
Bungie has been good to add numerous patches thus far, improving the experience and leveling the playing field. New content in the form of a 2-5 hour raid (The Vault of Glass) and limited content like the Queen’s Wrath quests and Iron Banner multiplayer (where player level and weapon damage are taken into account) serve to freshen up the content.
Personally, I feel as though the game at launch should have had more content and maybe even another planet, but at least Bungie is showing a willingness to add and grow.
I wonder if Destiny would be taken so seriously if not helmed by the team that brought the world Halo. Unlike those games, something about Destiny feels sterile and boring. It might be the fact that everybody is their own character or that you simply play the same missions over and over.
Still, it is always great as an old school gamer to get behind a new series that people are genuinely excited about. With the crazy number of online resources and videos, it is clear that Destiny is a big launch for the quietly ailing industry. I only hope that with expansions and sequels, Bungie can bring back the love and feel of the series that made them so popular.
Some of my favorite things about Destiny:
I would like to end my review by creating a bulleted list of some of my favorite things from the Destiny game that surprised me or excited me.
- The menu screens (these things are so wild and modern and beautiful)
- Finally killing the Nexus
- Being able to tweak characters mid game and during loading screens
- Finally getting a Legendary Helmet engram only to find out the decoded item is for a different class.
- Punching an entire opposing team to death in Control whilst in my Defender bubble.
- My white Destiny PS4 bundle
What are you favorite/least favorite things about Destiny? Are you still excited about the game weeks later?