Destiny Review – Great Gunplay Without A Soul

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The once prominent deity, the Traveler is now but a shadow of its former glory as it sits atop Earth, bringing what hope remains to the brave few, the mighty Guardians.

Destiny, the most anticipated new gaming IP in existence has officially raised the hype meter to unprecedented heights. With over $500 Million in worldwide sells in its first 24 hours at launch, even if you lived under a rock you might still be familiar with Bungie’s next attempt at revolutionizing the shooter genre.

So, what is Destiny – If you asked Bungie, it is not an MMO – but more of a hybrid shooter, bringing players together as Guardians in a vast and grand experience of thrilling objectives wrapped around a compelling narrative where humans have traversed out, setting their footprints on distant planets within our Solar System due to the coming of the ‘Traveler’ which sparked a Golden Age. But like most things, the party comes to an end, the Travelers reign along with human advancement are no exception.

As it turns out, Destiny is quite entertaining. Championed by thrilling and exhilarating cooperative gunplay, sealed by Bungie’s shooter pedigree and a musical score which is a brilliant character in the whole mix and Destiny has the makings of a great new trigger pull experience. You are proud to be a Guardian, fighting alongside your fellow brethren racing to become ‘Legend’ which at the moment is only defined by ranking up your character through the acquisition of loot founded on a mixture of various game modes, which will hopefully grant you your wish. Yet surprisingly, after spending many hours in the trenches of Destiny, advancing my Guardian Exo Hunter to level 20 and counting, by way of the Devil’s Lair of Earth, the bowels of the Moon, the far reaches of the heavily vegetated Venus and the desert yet beautiful landscape of Mars, and my duties have become partially reduced to a unexpected humdrum routine.

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Starting out players can customize their Guardian from the stylishly simple interface. Choosing between (3) three classes consisting of the Hunter, Warlock and Titan, the race of your character is also defined by (3) choices, Human, Exo or Awoken. There is a color selector for obvious reasons, however don’t expect something as in-depth as your commonly popular MMO’s, but remember, this not an MMO. The initial character customization is clean and a great launch pad before your journey finally begins.

Each class has two sub-classes. Your primary class is the one you begin with followed by an additional class which is unlocked at level 15. The two classes give your Guardian independent and dedicated abilities which cannot be shared among the classes.

Starting off at the Cosmodrome the story narrative takes shape as your Guardian is awakened by the Ghost or the impressive voice acting of Peter Dinklage which guides you to safety, while occasionally briefing you on the games basic mechanics as you mow down the smaller enemy types of ‘The Fallen’.

From the outset the game impresses upon you its keen visual fidelity. Players are introduced to this seemingly vast horizon of endless gameplay possibilities. Destiny is most certainly pleasing on the eye, maybe not as striking as Killzone Shadowfall or RYSE: Son of Rome in many regards, however the backdrop of what appears to be reachable terrain which plays audience to your fireteam’s intoxicating skirmishes is visually unmatched, if only you could actually reach those far off in the distance locales.

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Finally your Guardian reaches the Tower, the centralized hub on Earth where all Guardians gather to discover their true purpose. At the Tower Guardians can check in with the Postmaster for any incoming messages, take a trip over to Master Rahool, the Cryptarch who assists with granting you randomized loot in the form of Engrams or items which have a real-time stock refresh, oftentimes keeping you racing back after every mission to better equip your Guardian. Once you’re done there Guardians can visit the gunsmith, to see if new weapons are in stock which can be purchased with glimmer, Destiny’s form of currency.

Speaking of weapons, the wielding of the games weaponry is a great time despite the limited options. Weapons are categorized by primary weapons (Scout and Pulse Rifles and Hand Cannons) special weapons (Sniper and Fusion Rifles and the Shotgun) and heavy weapons (Rocket Launchers and Machine Guns). All of which can be upgraded. After visiting the gunsmith Guardians can check the bounty tracker for ‘Vanguard’ or ‘Crucible’ bounties which is masked as Destiny’s attempt at offering side missions. Once bounties are turned in Guardians are rewarded with Vanguard or Crucible Reputation and Experience points depending on the type of bounty attained.  Like the Cryptach, The bounty tracker also has a real-time stock refresh of new bounties to be acquired.

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Not to mistaken bounties as real side mission, they are not – completing a Vanguard bounty could be as simple as achieving 30 melee kills without dying or killing 100 enemies with precision damage. A Crucible bounty could be earning 3 First Blood medals, capture 10 zones in Control or by completing 5 salvage matches.

Heading over the Tower’s hanger and Guardians are introduced to the Vanguard Quarterman who operates similar to the gunsmith, only this robot dealer deals in rare ‘Legendary’ weapons, as well as Vanguard armory.

At any time during your visit to the Tower you will Find Guardians as with on the battlefield going about their business making their necessary rounds before heading back into the fray. The inability to chat with other Guardians who are not designated to your fireteam while in the Tower or in battle is unfortunate. Hopefully proximity chat makes its way to the game sooner rather than later. Without it, going at it in battle, for example in a public event among other Guardians, while it can be quite thrilling loses that personal touch.  In its place Bungie has given Guardians gestures. After downing an enemy you can break out into a fun dance, point at a fellow Guardian or Nod your head in pledge of being saved by a fellow Guardian. You can also at a moment’s notice take a seat and enjoy your surroundings. They are all actually great. However, as a replacement to proximity I opt for the latter. But why not both!

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Amanda Holiday will probably be the first human dealer in the Tower you will meet because she deals in making sure your spacecraft can make the necessary planet jump. In addition, you can also buy newer starships from her as well as those cool speedy hovering vehicles known as Sparrows. In other parts of the Tower there are different factions you can join, Shaders you can purchase for those of you with a fashion sense, among other things.

With your starship ready to add some mileage, jumping into the action consists of calling upon your trusty Ghost which sends you to Orbit. Orbit is more or less a planet themed menu screen of navigational options. With every planet completion via its story objectives other planets become open for you to traverse and conquer. Going from destination to destination and back to the orbiting menu screen, it does offer some lengthy loads screens but they are more than forgivable as they are done with great style.

Jumping into your first fireteam skirmish, if you’re a shooter fan you’re all smiles. Bungie most certainly knows how to get your attention. Pumping rounds into your enemies, occasionally landing those sweet headshots never gets old…at first. Going it alone is an option, however the beauty of the experience is when it is shared by other Guardians, a fireteam. Wielding amazing powers, the combination of attacking enemies with a powerful Titan complemented with a devastating Nova bomb from a Warlock and bringing it all together is the Hunter who with a charged hand cannon and throwing knives makes for memorable gameplay.

Destiny is quite flexible in how it approaches its varied game modes. Each planetary map reveals designated points of play highlighted by their objectives; Story, Strikes and Patrol. Each planet also possesses 5 Golden Chests for you completionists. Taking to the games story trail which offers brief stops in the Outer Reef, the story ends on Mars with a showdown against the all powerful and looming threat which has crippled the Traveler. To call this story a campaign is bit of an overstatement. A campaign it is not. Bungie hinted at the possibility of this compelling lore which would open to great discoveries, yet those discoveries have been founded on grinding for more and more legendary loot possibilities. While it is fun an empowering to rank up and enter a fray of enemies reaping thrilling havoc, a return to the same areas over and over with the only difference being that you’re more powerful does lose its luster after a while.  While Bungie insists that your experience with Destiny truly begins to take shape once you’ve reached level 20 at which you’ve been playing for 10 plus hours, this so-called unveiling of great new possibilities again is only founded on new varied Strike playlists and Crucible modes giving way to new progression options.

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Don’t get me wrong, working to progress your Guardian to Legendary status for those of you who don’t mind returning to the previously played areas which offer no difference in how they are played may be in for a treat. Yet for those who want more of a purpose beyond leveling up your character, you may be sorely disappointed with Destiny. If you were expecting unique side missions where you or your fireteam are tasked with freeing imprisoned citizens of Earth who have been taken to the distant planet like Venus for example for experimental reasons, you will not get that. Or how about bounties which once accomplished reveal progressive back story to the history of your race of Exo, Awoken and Human and how these races were distinctly affected by the Traveler.

For the most part, as far as having a sense of what’s going in the big picture or in the scheme of narrative related ideologies, Destiny leaves you completely swing in the air. You desperately want more from Destiny besides Strike missions and Crucible matches (PvP – 3v3 and 6v6). In addition, I couldn’t help but wonder how much purpose would have been added to this overall experience with the option of taking on missions in an effort to restore the Traveler in some meaningful way and not be limited to the task of becoming Legend.

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Apart from the glaring setbacks, Destiny is without a doubt a rousing shooter experience with exciting enemy face-offs and splendid visuals. Bringing the experience together Marty O’Donnell has orchestrated an unforgettable soundtrack pulsating with light and heavy tones of emotional expression. The moment you hit Mars and those red doors open and for the first time you are introduced to the military might of the hulking Cabal and that powerful herculean musical score kicks in, you are in shooter heaven indeed. The games soundtrack is a character all its own.

Ultimately, shooter fans will have an entertaining stay in the Destiny universe as long as they are prepared to board a continuous and grinding leveling progression train, with nothing more. While Destiny presents itself as an epic experience of discovery and rich lore, you are left with an underwhelming overall package trying to figure itself out. Destiny is undoubtedly fun, however going down its rabbit hole in search of some meaningful substance is deep and empty.

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