The official Knotch blog.
Destiny, the long anticipated release from Bungie, creators of the Halo franchise, is finally available. The game has been slightly panned all across the web and it’s been no different with Knotchers.
The approval rating for Destiny has dropped a considerable 13% from the beta to the launch of the game. It’s still a popular game, but did it live up to the hype? Back in August our resident video game expert and content intern, Alex Montrey, wrote a review of the beta. He’s back with his full review of Destiny.
Several years ago when I first heard of the Destiny project my first thought was “this is the change the fps genre needs!” This sentiment was further built upon as I followed news of its development eagerly. It was to my great dismay, then, that upon release day I was sorely disappointed. It is undoubtedly a beautiful game; its environments were lovingly crafted and its skybox is a technical breakthrough that I hope is widely implemented by the industry in the coming years. Yet, for all its beauty, the mediocrity of its structuring cannot be hidden.
The quality of Destiny’s environmental design and skybox continues to amaze. When viewed on my television with 120 Hz capabilities, Destiny never experienced a hiccup in terms of frame-rate and I never experienced glitches of any kind. It is very clear that Destiny’s developers put their blood, sweat, and tears into making this game as gorgeous as it is. With that said, the beautiful graphics remain a veneer that attempts to mask other problems. I’m glad they put all that effort into making the game as beautiful as it is, but further work should have been devoted to other aspects of the game before it was ever released or even beta tested.
Destiny’s story is borderline non-existent. Your character is left undefined in a world without meaningful context. We are told that there is a “darkness” that we must fight and then sent out to commit mass-murder on an interplanetary scale. We are teased with the occurrence of a “great battle long ago” and then it is never mentioned again. They opt for more vague insinuations and meaningless observations instead: kids are scared, so go kill things. Do it for the children! The ending of the game was disappointing as well, though I fear saying more in case I somehow spoil the ending for those who haven’t achieved it yet. A recent article by Patricia Hernandez of Kotaku.com stated that a potential “plot twist” is that we might be the true “bad guys” in Destiny. I doubt that theory, but even if it somehow came true it would have almost no dramatic depth or surprise given its current lack of effort.
I realize that you can expand upon the presented plot by reading the Grimoire cards you collect throughout your play-through by consulting the Destiny app or the Bungie website, but they don’t add much in the way of context and they really should have been included in the game itself, especially considering the nearly 16gb of required install space. Even if it was well-written (and it often was not), we shouldn’t have to read external literature just to get a basic context for our in-game actions. I realize that “because it exists” is often a valid context (and more power to you if that’s all you require) but for many this lack of context and of meaningful stories makes this game sincerely disappointing. We were teased with the prospect of a well-written story vast enough to rival Star Wars or Tolkien. What we got instead, in terms of writing complexity and creative depth, was a child’s pop-up-book.
Bungie gets the first-person shooter aspect correct and does so in a way that doesn’t easily get stale. Headshots remain the best way of dealing damage to enemies and are hugely rewarding (often resulting in an explosion of white fire from the victim’s head) and are kept from getting stale by changing the location of the “head” or precision-kill location by enemy race. In addition, quasi-cooperative play is mandatory due to Destiny’s “shared world.” This means that you can help out other players and be helped out in kind without any formal match-making. This may seem common-place in games like Guild Wars 2 and other MMO’s, but it is a novel concept for the current fps-genre. It is interesting to note that throughout my play sessions I have not heard another player’s voice once. This, for me, is a welcome change from other multi-player experiences where your fellow players’ voices had to be manually shut off. Whether this is a good idea remains up to you, but being the “solo gamer” I am, I was very thankful for it.
The enemy AI is just intelligent enough to present a challenge, especially when they swarm toward you in waves that prevent easy regeneration. Despite that, many have said that the AI could have been more intelligent so as to present more of a challenge outside of swarming. Across the net, I’ve seen many “Anons” comparing the AI of Halo to Destiny’s and wondering why Bungie didn’t include such enemy tactics as flanking into Destiny’s AI. In addition to the so-so enemy AI, the end-level bosses’ designs and implementation are aggravating as well. These adversaries are invariably just larger versions of previous enemies that act as bullet-sponges so as to give the impression of difficulty. I understand that this is most likely a limit of the medium in some way, but most bought into the hype of Destiny because they thought it would shake up the medium. Wouldn’t a boss battle culminating in, for example, blowing up a pillar off in the distance that crushes the boss have been way more exciting than just shooting it in the head for fifteen minutes?
The level design is relatively large, but most story missions culminate in a small boss battle in a single location. For Earth this was the Skywatch. For the moon this was the Temple of Crota. For Venus it was a research base, etc. etc. This kind of level design is lazy and promotes a feeling of repetition that cannot be suppressed by their bad attempts at story-telling or variation in enemies encountered. The only marginally redeeming feature of the maps was searching for the golden chests and dead Ghosts, the latter of which gives you more Grimoire cards with which to stretch the game’s threadbare context.
After finally being able to try out the multiplayer (due to having the prerequisite funds for PS+ this time) I must say I’m largely ambivalent. It has promise, but the lack of clear balancing threw me off. All of our guns were “nerfed” so as to prevent superiority by PvE level—all weapons in a sub-type, such as Pulse Rifles, dealt the same amount of damage. That being said, certain weapon types, such as the Fusion Rifles, seemed to have disproportionate amounts of power compared to others and it often seemed like the amount of shields and health each character possessed varied. This may seem obvious considering the class differences, but it made knowing how much damage was required to “kill” an opponent hard to comprehend and often resulted in largely inexplicable deaths. I often found myself saying “didn’t I have more health than that?” The multiplayer is definitely enjoyable but needs some fine-tuning and possibly some clarification on matters such as how much health you have, especially if your class options (such as prioritizing speed over health on your skill tree) contribute to PvP matches.
The end-game Raids are lengthy challenges for those who would dare to try them. They are not timed, so one does not have to play them right away for fear of losing the chance to do so, but the way one must experience them is restricted. The restriction of only being able to form Raid parties with those on your friends list has experienced push-back since its announcement and continues to do so, especially considering the absence of “split-screen” capability. As a solo-player, this is disheartening because it limits my end-game content and eliminates any longevity the game might have originally had for me and other like-minded gamers. This could be remedied by the implementation of a “guild” system for the purposes of matchmaking for end-game Raids. That being said, I have heard on the net that the current Raid has taken nearly 11 hours to complete. That’s something to keep in mind before one takes the plunge—I would personally be hard pressed to find adequate time to devote to Destiny’s Raids.
My end-game impression was that game-play and innovation was stymied in favour of graphical excellence and “ease of use.” Destiny is still fun, but it’s fun in a way that we’ve all experienced before. It’s not new and certainly not novel, which runs counter to its immense level of advertising claims. The Borderlands franchise established its precedent and largely did a better job with it. Destiny is a “safe” game—it’s just different enough to stand out but no real innovation was made and advertised promises were decidedly not kept. The only “good” future I see for Destiny would necessitate the adding of more story content. I would prefer that they added that story content for free because, after spending quite a bit of money on a “false promise,” I feel very hesitant to give them more of my income. Destiny did not improve the fps genre in a way we all wanted: it innovated safety. I agree with other reviews that a 6.5/10 score is appropriate for this disappointing title. - Alex Montrey