Polishing a Damaged Jewel: Destiny Review

Destiny is Beautiful but Flawed, I go over just what Bungie did wrong and if it was fun in my review.

Destiny: The word alone speaks volumes to the soul. It brings up questions about who we are and who we want to become. It strives to make us reach for something that is more than ourselves.

This is what developer Bungie intended to create with their aptly named game Destiny. However, the good folks who created the Halo franchise must have had a bit of a different meaning when they used the word.

When they said "Destiny is your story; you craft it and wield it. Use it well. Be Brave." we could only feel the world would be full metaphysical growth and  changing the world around us. The Universe would rely on us to change the fate of all things.

This was not the case.

The Start of a Story

Destiny is hailed as the first of its kind, and in a way it could be true. The first to attempt to bring a single player experience with a dramatic story surrounded by elements of an MMO.  

Well at least what there is of a story.

The game starts off by giving you what should be the start of a great story, but soon enough just leaves it in the dust.

When they said "Destiny is your story; you craft it and wield it. Use it well. Be Brave." we could only feel the world would be full metaphysical growth and  changing the world around us. The Universe would rely on us to change the fate of all things.
This was not the case.

The game shows us how things began, with the Traveler being discovered on Mars in our time. From here, the narrator begins to tell us how this discovery was the best and worst for the Human race. It brought along technological advances, sent us to the stars to colonize the planets, and expanded our lifespan, yet there was a flip side to the coin. The Traveler was being hunted by something only refered to as The Darkness, which brought upon destruction while seeking to wipe us out.

Sounds like the basis for an interesting story, doesn't it? Only problem is the game soon enough abandons the threat of the Darkness by mentioning the four other factions of enemies, powered by this mysterious enemy, that are threatening both Earth and planets beyond.

The Story is told in narratives while the missions load. So while you travel to each location, you get to stare at the top of the planet or at the sides of the warp field, you get to listen to some mission sensitive dialogue.

These dialogues are mostly done through the monotone stylings of your Ghost, the stories explain the past of the enemies or go into great detail about how powerful these enemies are. Sometimes they even mention how limited survival is. It may at times give insight to how your mission will help fight against The Darkness, but most the time it feels like it doesn't really add to the story.

At least that's how I felt. 

By the end of the campaign, I felt lost and rather disappointed because it just kind of drops off after not explaining anything at all. Sure you probably gave a destructive blow to the enemy but I really just felt like they didn't develop the this enormous story they had lined up. I was at a loss to what had happened around me when the final mission was done and they were setting up for an expanded universe, probably within later DLC.

My firm stance is that the story was originally going to be the main focus and the MMO/Multiplayer would come secondary. This became the opposite of what happened. The story was so mismatched, I still feel like I've missed something important and I played through each mission and restarted the game!

The story doesn't even explain some key points, leaving players blind and grasping at straws. You are required to go to Bungie's website and review the Grimoire cards you have collected that tell the story that they refuse to.

Story: 2 

 I was at a loss to what had happened around me when the final mission was done

I enjoyed the parts I understood at the beginning, it felt like it really had a good premise going for it. Soon enough, it fell short of a comprehensive tale which would allow you to shape the fate of the world, and gave us something that was very disjointed. It forced you to leave the game world and visit their website to read the story. Why would you make the player step out of the game just to learn more about it, especially if it something that should be in the game itself?

Graphics: A Double Edged Sword

I want to be fair about this: Destiny is a beautiful game, at least on the surface.

The cut scenes are gorgeous, even on the PS3 you can see just how far the game pushes the level of graphical output. The opening stands as the best looking one, in my opinion, but then again you can count the number of them on one hand.

The game worlds are littered with a stunning mixture of metallic hues and neon lighting. This brings out the shine in the polished metals of the characters armor and the pieces of debris that have yet to crumble down. It illuminates just how bad the dilapidated buildings and rusting cars are. A mixture of the future meeting the past, which can be very beautiful.

Looking in the distance when you first land on the planet, you are in awe of what you see. It's gorgeous in a barren planet sort of way. Like a historian exploring the lost civilizations of years past.

The character armor sets a tone of going to war, while using the same metallic/futuristic themes. The style isn't as blocky and heavy-looking as Bungie's other hero, Master Chief, they all look slim but durable. They really portray protection, even if the game really doesn't make you feel like it. 

Now this is where some hiccups come into play. While the graphics look beautiful, they hide broken pieces just beneath the surface. While playing around the game, I noticed some technical issues continued to occur and really broke the flow of play for me. 

I mentioned the armor looking great, well there is also a problem hiding beneath the armor. Your avatar's face looks great, even before you do your custom design work on it. The character's faces are hidden by your helmet while on a mission and only visible when you're on the Tower. Sure you can't see the character while on a mission, being in first person, but other players could. All that custom characterization you did at the beginning goes completely to waste as no one will ever see it. 

You can say they will at the Tower but when no one around is focused on your face but on gathering quests or dancing on the top of the various buildings, you don't get to bask in your hard work. It's a waste of great graphical power among the other poorly done issues. 

The worlds look breathtaking, there is no doubting that. However the smaller details of what sits on the planets are very buggy. When looking at the plants and the trees, they look as if no texture work was really done to them. Some even appeared pixellated to the point beyond recognizing them as plant life.

While some of you probably don't give a flying flip about this design flaw since you're so busy shooting, you couldn't possibly notice. The question then becomes then how did I notice it when I was doing the same?

While I am one to hit the enemy with all I have, I also have a tendency to explore the environment. I take in all that the developers have given us and see just how much work they did. Sometimes it seems they gloss over certain things because no one looks for them. 

Another issue I noticed was the shadow effects. When in open areas where the sun casts the shadows, they are smooth, clear, and well done. However, when you're in an enclosed space, it's blocky and really doesn't resemble any shadow I've ever seen.

Another shadow problem is something more of a system design oversight, I'll give the scenario below:

When you stand next to the water, or even run up to it, there are objects hanging off a cliff or can even be next to the water. The object casts a huge shadow against the body of water. Not the small, standard shadow on the water it's placed next to but rather the water that is so many miles away from you. The size of the casted shadow is the same regardless of distance, not diminished in any way. Airplane wires hanging off the side of a cliff in Old Russia should NOT cast such a huge shadow, especially when the sun is in the opposite direction.

While the graphics look beautiful, they hide broken pieces just beneath the surface. While playing around the game, I noticed some technical issues continued to occur and really broke the flow of play for me. 

Not just random objects in the area causes it, the shadow of foundation of the map, the building blocks the designers used to build the map on, casts huge shadows too. This shouldn't even be a thing, how can something we don't see even cast a shadow? It even persists to move up and down awkwardly with you when you jump.

Party Trick:

Pull out a gun with a glass/holographic scope. Aim it at the water and watch how the reflection in the water changes. If you see either the top half of the scope reflected or even a larger part of it, you win a prize. If you notice that the reflection is still gigantic from far away, you should take a drink to celebrate. I tried it with a Rocket Launcher last, it was... trippy to say the least.

 I haven't heard many others talk about issues like that, and I have been chastised by other gamers for counting off for such things. In their eyes, these are small details that don't matter but that's how I've always been. If the game has noticeable flaws like this and I can find them, then why shouldn't I count off? It distracts from the immersion of the game. 

Graphics: 5 

While the landscapes, armor, and planets look amazing, the world is broken. With the issues with graphical shadows, reflections in the water that are ridiculously oversized, and low quality design on portions of the environment, I feel the game could have been more thoroughly worked on. It could have been fixed through the many updates they have had, yet these issues have persisted. It leaves me unable to truly immerse myself in the Destiny. Call me picky, but I call the game like I see it.

The Sound of Enjoyment

 Many games attempt to encapsulate the player's mood within their soundtracks. Some don't really rise to the occasion while others can make your attitude shift with just a single musical score. Bungie accomplished this feat with the same composer that worked on the Halo Franchise, Martin O'Donnell.

Battles have moments in which the music inspires fighting through tough situations, but they can shift at a seconds notice. When a new enemy emerges, maybe a higher ranked warrior, the tone shifts immensely and puts you on the edge of your seat. The beats are intense, with booming over tones and the lower, more rapid tones sometimes reflect the beat of your heart in those moments.

The musical score also has the dulcet tones, which elicit sympathy and are meant to engage your emotions to the story. The only down side is, the story doesn't pull you in enough to enhance this effect. 

Aside from the musical scores, the in-game sound really makes you feel a part of a living, breathing world. The enemies crawling around in the walls, the gun fire flying past your head, the birds scattering from the commotion, it all draws you in. That's just in the first 15 minutes of the game. 

We can't forget the Voice Talent that took part in this title, which when I looked closer, there was a great deal of heavy hitter actors and actresses in this game.

Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle)  Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Bill Nighy (Hot Fuzz, Pirates of the Caribbean 3), Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead) are just a few of the bigger names attached to this game.

Cayde-6 Hunter Vanguard Voiced By Nathan Fillion

Many people have bashed Dinklage for his role as The Ghost, the monotone robotic companion, and I normally don't agree with public opinion but this time I find it poor acting on his part. Though who knows if that was direction on part of the game developers or Dinklage himself being bored with the dialogue. 

Besides that wrinkle in the voice acting crew, Destiny really impressed me on sound, only thing that really struck me wrong was the story/minor gameplay elements didn't sync up with it.

Sound: 8 

The sound was superb, one of the best things I feel I could take away from the game. I don't know why they couldn't tweak their work as much as they did in this department. 

Enjoyment Is In The Content. Usually.

You may have read my Review in Progress a little while back, and how I hit on how Destiny felt like it was a MMO trying hard to hide that fact. Well, to no one's surprise, I can attest that the content of the game is primarily focused on MMO elements and even has them merging into the main story. 

Usually, Bungie provides gamers with a hard-hitting campaign then gives you an equal amount of multiplayer content to keep you coming back for more. Many players just stuck around for the multiplayer but have found enjoyment in the Campaign. This time around, their formula has greatly changed.

Destiny is an open world, multiplayer experience, meaning more than one player can be present on the planet or on a mission at a time. Given the system you play on will determine which server you are linked to. This can change the number of players populating your worlds. With me being on the PS3, the number of people was nothing compared to other servers I had heard of on PS4 or Xbox One but was a decent amount.

This takes away from the solo aspect of the campaign, which can work with the multiplayer idea of the game but leaves the solo story a little less immersive. 

Immersion is definitely lost when you're running through a mission and you see another player just farming one of the many "Loot" areas. Part of the game is to gain experience and have to fight to progress but if there is a player just squatting for Loot, it deprives people of that experience.

The story missions number at 20, 5 for each planet and is clocked at 16 hours of total gameplay. This is just running through and playing the story, ignoring the bounties and additional multiplayer battles. This should sound pretty good for a solo campaign, but the missions really don't offer anything different than one another. Running through the same areas, taking out random enemies along the way (which yes is progression), and finally reaching a new room where you take out the boss. 

Rinse and Repeat and you have all the story missions in a nut shell. 

There are moments of "Defend this area" in a few of them that then proceeds to shove you in a corner to fight off wave after wave of enemies. The missions are very repetitive, it felt like a copy and paste affair. While the fighting was enough to keep me interested, it doesn't mean I don't want variety when I play.

Aside from these missions, the focus rests on multiplayer events, The Crucible, repeated Strike Missions, and a Raid. These items seem to have drawn the main focus, with "capture-the-points" gameplay and "free-for-all" battles taking up most people's time trying to both gain experience and receive new armor/weapons. This is all well and good if Bungie kept all this separate from the campaign.

These missions don't change at all, they continue to revolve around the same story, the same final boss, just harder enemies depending on the difficulty you chose. 

This was not the case. Destiny includes multiplayer "Strike" missions into the equation (as mentioned above), where a fire-team of people drop on the planets instead of being in the arena areas, and sends them on a mission that was also done as part the main story. These missions don't change at all, they continue to revolve around the same story, the same final boss, just harder enemies depending on the difficulty you chose. 

This alone intrudes on the solo players style, forcing a multiplayer experience on them in a mission that is required to get information on the main story. It tries to break down the wall multiplayer and single player, which is a great idea to some people, but really isn't something that everyone desires.

These multiplayer elements can add replay-ability, in terms of leveling up (or leveling up your armor after hitting the Level cap of 20), gathering new/better armor and weapons, and collecting the collectible materials for upgrades and the story based Grimoire cards.

This can get very repetitive given the limited content available.

Content: 7

Sure it has a lot of things to keep you coming back for more, it just doesn't have enough variety to make it a worthwhile experience at the moment. The merger between MMO and Campaign left me a little irritated, it just isn't my cup of tea being forced into an MMO experience, but I know many people who would enjoy it. With bounties, additional strikes, and the raid, Destiny has enough for those fans to keep coming back.

The Big Question Is: Did I Enjoy It?

My enjoyment of the game was mixed. 

As I stated in my Content score about being forced into an MMO situation didn't add to my enjoyment. I enjoy a good solo play-through of a game, it allows me to focus and explore on my own. Having players names show up on the screen, or having people rush in and attack a group I am fighting really just took that away.

I knew going in, Destiny was going to include an MMO element. I played the Beta and I knew players could join in and there were many multiplayer elements, but I didn't realize just how much it would alter my experience. 

Destiny could have been good, it is too flawed for me to say it is though. I can't say it's a horrible game because I am not into this genre of game, but I can point out the flaws in the system since I come in as an outside party. If MMO games were my cup of tea, I probably would have missed a few of these issues, but still would have caught the major ones. 

I enjoyed toying around with the different types of weapons and classes. While the number of guns didn't rival that of the Borderlands series, I can still say I had fun playing around. Though the Loot system seemed uneven, guns have prerequisite level requirements, which makes sense. Problem is that when you see a Level 2 or Level 5 armor piece that is weaker than your level one armor, you really have to wonder why the system functions like that. Giving you an uncommon item and it be weaker than what you need makes the loot grabbing experience a little less enjoyable.

The story may not have reeled me in but the gameplay did, even though it was repetitive as all hell. There was a bit of strategy behind surviving, and the decision to make certain zones where you can't respawn put the icing on the cake. Switching up weapons, mixing in grenades, and dodge tactics on huge bosses was fun. Irritating at times but fun.

Destiny could have been good, it is too flawed for me to say it is though. I can't say it's a horrible game because I am not into this genre of game, but I can point out the flaws in the system since I come in as an outside party.

I can't really say I had too much fun, but I could imagine scenarios where I would have.

Now if they had made the Space Ships more than just travel pieces and maybe had a few space dog fights as a multiplayer option, I would have been all over that.

Enjoyment: 6 

Yes I know, I have to be into these kinds of games. I can't say that I didn't enjoy it because that would be a lie. I did get irritated by a lot about this game and the immersion was non existent. There is a lot that Bungie needs to fix before I'd attempt to play it again. I really had all the fun I could out of it in one play-through.

Jay's Verdict

Destiny is a flawed game. On the surface it looks pretty, sounds great, and has some choice in what you can do with the game. Once you look deeper you see the games scars that never healed. You begin to feel lost in a sea of story that could have been honed into a better narrative.

It has some great things going for it, if you're the right person. If you're not then you run the risk of getting bored, feeling saddened and run through regret of picking up the title. You can enjoy it and dislike it at the same time, I never thought that was possible but I learned the hard way, it is. 

Overall: 5

I can't say I recommend this to many. I always say a game is worth a try to everyone though. I just speak of my experiences plus the flaws that I know others have experienced as well. I have no real need to bash Bungie or Destiny, the idea had potential but fell short of the mark. They have more DLC coming starting in December but I don't think I'll be sticking around to see if it has improved. 

Destiny is currently available on PS3, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.

Our Rating
5
Destiny is Beautiful but Flawed, I go over just what Bungie did wrong and if it was fun in my review.

Contributor

Have been writing since I can remember, have always loved reviews (gaming mostly), and have a knack for the written word.

Published Nov. 3rd 2014

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