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    Destiny Review

    Some evolution required…

    Destiny is Bungie’s first title away from the confines of its Halo universe. Published by Activision, this much hyped “MMOFPS” provides the player with something new from the studio that created one of the bestselling FPS franchises out there. But under the weight of Activision’s extreme hype engine and  the pressure of delivering a title that breaks several moulds and boundaries, Bungie seems to have lost sight of certain elements in the overall construction of the game.

    It needs to be said, right off the bat, that Destiny has been receiving a general raw deal in terms of reviews. Perhaps buying into the hype machine soured more than a few views of the game, and it has been getting a beating in reviews that it doesn’t necessarily deserve. That said, it certainly doesn’t live up to the lofty promises made by marketing departments and press releases. To be fair, Destiny is a good game, and it delivers a lot of fun. But it isn’t what we were told we would get.

    Set in an indeterminate future, Destiny brings us to a world where a mysterious, intelligent alien planetoid has changed our solar system. The Traveller, as it is called, has transformed worlds, and has allowed humanity to spread across new planets. But the Traveller’s old enemy simply, and blandly, called the Darkness has left it weak, and it is up to a group of heroes called the Guardians to set things right. The player’s character is brought back from the dead, and is introduced to this role.

    The plot feels a little like pseudo-spiritual science fiction, and it is crammed with clichés and the like. Sure, there are some great voice actors present within the game (you’ll be recognising voices all over the place), but they don’t do much to mitigate the fact that the narrative is weaker than it should be, and it’s telling is a bit clumsy. That’s to be expected, though, because most open-world games that try not to herd players along with a story-line manage to take narrative missteps more often than not. And, quite frankly, the lack of emotional connection to the plot doesn’t really matter, because Destiny delivers tons of fun in terms of action. The combat dynamics are excellent… but we’ll get to that in a bit.

    One of the complaints that has been levelled at Destiny is that there is a sort of “soft” level cap. When you hit level 20, you’re pretty much done with the plot, and your skill tree is more or less exploited to its fullest. But the player can keep gaining levels, and gains access to better equipment. This equipment (unlike earlier level equipment) has a lot of different buffs and abilities attached, and the player who is patient and pedantic will really be able to trim up their experience and customise their character, even if they do (for now) have to revisit areas they have been to a bunch of times.

    Destiny offers three types of character classes; the stealthier, gunslinging Hunter, the energy magic driven Warlock and the battleground expert Titan. At earlier levels, these characters don’t feel particularly different. There are no class restrictions on weapons, and the only real differences come in the skills that the players develop. Even these seem to be cosmetic differences, because each class has an rea-attack, grenade-like skill, or a higher jumping skill, and so on. And they roll out in pretty much the same order.

    Real differences start showing up later, but these have as much to do with the players customisation choices as they do with design.But it doesn’t make too much of a difference to the player who is going to sink their teeth into what Destiny does best combat. Clever AI, that is wonderfully varied over the different enemy types, great implementation of cover and verticality, and an array of weapons (that sometimes also feature upgrade trees) combine into making Destiny a challenging and highly enjoyable FPS. The action is intense and often very challenging, and offers just the right kind of addictive nature to keep you coming back for more.

    And all of this takes place in beautifully crafted levels across four planets Earth, the Moon, Venus and Mars. Each setting has its own flavour, and beautiful vistas are cleverly crafted to let the player feel a truly grand scale, even if everything is not explorable. Little details abound, making these places seem lively and, ultimately, very real. The levels are large and free roaming, with missions taking place in areas that can be revisited, or have been visited before. And because of its MMO aspirations, you may well run into other players while doing missions. Sometimes they may even help you, or join up with you to form a fire team. But the game is just as fun played solo.

    Destiny combines FPS elements with RPG elements and then introduces it into an MMO style game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage to pull the combination off too well. The FPS part is extremely solid. The RPG sections are a bit light and under-developed. The biggest loser, though, is the MMO part. Communication between players is difficult, for example, unless they’re in the same party. Organising competitive matches in The Crucible is painful, due to no private lobbies and no customisation options. And getting a group together for the weekly Heroic Strike missions isn’t much better. It’s almost as though you’re a loner in a multiplayer world here. If the combat wasn’t so compelling, this would be devastating to Destiny.

    It feels like Destiny is a teaser, in its current guise, like a really big demo for all that is still to come. And Bungie are already rolling out their new ideas and content (like the Heroic Strike missions), all of which will undoubtedly add up to making Destiny a truly fantastic game (once a few issues have been patched away). But it feels unsure of its identity for now, and comes across as a little half-baked. It’s great fun to play, and the combat is really well handled. But Destiny has some way to go before it develops into the killer title that we were lead to believe it would be right out of the gate. It’s pretty certain that it will get there, and there are numerous reasons to keep plugging away at enemies in the large and beautiful environments even in its current state. Just be aware that you may have to wait a while for Destiny to evolve from decent to awesome. And that’s a little disappointing, really, because we were promised much more than what we got.

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