I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Destiny ever since Bungie moved away from Microsoft and the game series that made me an Xbox fanboy for over a decade, HALO. I knew whatever their next project and game was going to be would be something amazing, and on September 9th 2014, they handed their new-born to the world. Having played and just fell in love with the game during the beta, I was salivating at what the full experience would be like but with only a few days of play, there is still so much to discover and learn about this game that to try to do a full review on the game which big name gaming sites have done would be a disservice to Destiny in my humble opinion. So with that said, I wanted to put down my initial thoughts on this game and my experience with it so far.
I was originally worried that with the Beta showcasing the first full playable location in Destiny, Old Russia on Earth, that replaying it again in the full game would feel like a chore, even with the excitement of getting to create my Guardians all over again. But I was surprised to find that Bungie had indeed made some tweaks to the gameplay which were very much welcome. The first thing I noticed was that the voice of Ghost, played by Peter Dinklage (Actor who plays the role of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones), which had received plenty of criticism during the E3 Alpha test and in the Beta, had been worked on again, the tone of voice was less wooden and had a sense of a personality in the full game. The AI of the enemy has also been given a much-needed reworking to make them more of a challenge and a fight instead of the constant respawning bullet sponges they were in the beta. Item drops have also been improved making the discovery of new weapons and armour more natural so as you level up so does your arsenal and armour levels. This all blended together to giving me the sense that Bungie has made changes based on feedback and game date taken during the beta, and starting off you notice the improvements right away.
The moment you set your newly created Guardian’s boots on the ground in Destiny, two things hit you right away. First is just how beautiful a world and universe has been created by Bungie. This is not just beautiful by FPS standard in games, but I’v yet to encounter such a good-looking game on new generation consoles. So far I have visited Old Russia on Earth, the Moon and Venus. The level of detail in the background alone is staggering but it continues into the areas you visit during the four story missions available on each world. Bungie have cleverly used the locations in a way that teases and encourages you to explore all you see, caves to abandoned building. You will discover crates and loot chests which contain components you can use to help upgrade weapons and armour or pieces of armour and guns. This teasing does come with a downside as not all the locations you explore will hold anything at all, no chests or Dead Ghosts to awaken as collectibles. I found it was easier just to complete the four story missions at each location, and use the Patrol mission, which allows you to explore the whole location whilst carrying out random side quest which will help you earn XP for levelling up, to go around and explore for collectibles and chests.
Next is the music and audio quality in Destiny. Bungie is well-known for the amazing musical scores it uses, with the HALO theme one of the most recognised in gaming. I found the audio was very much best experienced with a good gaming headset. From the musical score which ramps up during story missions to give a sense of the drama of the combat, to the little details of the sound of a collectible near you to help you track it down, it all adds to the experience. The voice acting in the storyline’s cut scenes delivered during cut scenes is good, as above, the voice work of Peter Dinklage has been amended so it sounds less naff and has a warm personality which shows through as the story proceeds.
I found the new RPG elements to add a good level of personalization to the FPS style of Destiny. Each Guardian class; Titan, Warlock and Hunter, have their own ability trees which unlock new abilities or enhance stats as your Guardian levels up. Some will offer a different option such as the turning your grenade ability from a standard grenade to a cluster grenade for example. Once you reach level 15, you will unlock the sub class to the Guardian. I have been using the Hunter class as my main playing Guardian. The first upgrade skill tree is the Gunslinger, which focuses on enhancing gun play with the super charge move being the Golden Gun. The sub class is called the Blade Dancer class and changes the special move to the Arc blade. The subclass will not start levelling up until you unlock it and make it active, and once active you will lose the abilities you had unlocked in the first class. It levels up with gameplay instead of Guardian levelling up so you can unlock its skills during normal play. Those skills will unlock in the same order as the first skill tree, grenade first, jumping boost and then special move followed by the enhancements and new abilities. It is worth exploring to find a skill set you prefer for your Guardian. For an FPS, the RPG elements I found to work well although to really start working on the more aesthetically pleasing armour choices you need to reach level 20. Until then you are stuck with the armour options and visual style of them as you level up.
Outside the main story side to Destiny, you have the competitive MP side known as the Crucible. Unlocked at level 5, it is a series of game modes such as Control, seen in the beta and the only two I have unlocked so far (currently level 16) Clash and Rumble. I have not spent much time in the Crucible as yet, there is no matchmaking my level so if you go into the Crucible at level 5 you will encounter much higher level players with the weapons and abilities of their levels making it quite frustrating as you will be cannon fodder until you pick up better armour, abilities and guns to use. I found the Crucible to be very HALO 3 meets HALO Reach, but you do need to have a good levelled up Guardian with weapons to really make the most of the crucible. I think it would have benefitted from having a training grounds area for new Crucible players to allow them to get a feel for the game types with other players of the same level before being thrown in with the “big guns”.
So far, with still a fair bit to do in the story mission and much more time to be spent in the Crucible, for me Bungie have delivered on everything I expected from Destiny after playing the beta. The action is spot on for a sci-fi based FPS with a world and universe that is so very much the Bungie I came to value from HALO. Which leads me to the elephant in the room. Yes, Destiny feels in a lot of ways to be very much what HALO could have evolved into had Bungie continued with it. The similarities in gameplay, feel and tone can not be ignored and I do not feel they should be. As a HALO fan the Destiny experience for me is enhanced by taking the best elements of HALO, which we should remember put Bungie on the map and has been a success for over a decade. Anyone coming into Destiny and thinking that this is a bad thing probably should have done some research into Destiny a bit more before picking it up, maybe even getting off the “next big game must buy now” bandwagon. Bungie have stuck to what they do best, and with Destiny reported to have a five-year plan in the minds of Bungie, big things are no doubt in the pipeline with this being the opening introduction to its world and universe.
It has ticked all the boxes for what I personally wanted from an FPS. I am bored with the modern warfare shooters of CoD and Battlefield. For many on the Playstation platform this could be their first time experiencing a Bungie FPS game if they have never played HALO. Destiny needs time to be experience, and no review from any site with only a couple of days or less playing time can be taken to represent the full Destiny experience. I have loved what I have played so far. I appreciate it is early days but it has done what I expected it to do and each new chapter and location in the story is adding even more to that story. Destiny will not be to everyone’s taste. If you know and enjoyed HALO and Bungie then Destiny will be right up your ally. But if you were not fans of HALO then Destiny may come across a little underwhelming for you but it deserves a chance. It is far more of an experience than the typical “A to B do this objective and finish the mission” single player experience. Playing with two friends to form a fire team was a great playing experience but so was going solo in the story or in the Crucible.
My thoughts after playing it since launch day and getting a Guardian up to level 16 at time of writing is that Destiny is the start of something very special, and it will be intriguing to see how Bungie deploy more of the story and gaming going forward. We know that there will be two expansion packs for Destiny with the first releasing this December, which will give a good idea of what lies ahead in terms of story and gameplay for Destiny fans. This will be my go to FPS game for months to come, I have no interest in CoD Does Titanfall or the delayed Battlefield Hardlines ‘replace terrorists with drug lords’. But for the time I have spent with the game, nothing has been a real let down and the last time I felt this good about a possible long-term FPS series was HALO, and Destiny is the child I would have welcomed from it.