- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PS3, 360, Xbox One
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: Bungie
- Players: 1-12 (online only)
- Site: http://www.destinythegame.com/uk/en
Judging by the sales figures, everybody on your street has already bought at least one copy of Destiny. If you haven’t – or if you have, and your copy is still in the plastic/possessed by the spirit of a dead relative – then read on to find out if you should.
What you may already know is that Destiny is (on the PS4 as we’ve been playing it, at least) a very good looking game. Not just in terms of textures and so on, but also art. Character designs are entirely unremarkable to be honest, but the environments – especially exteriors – are not. Special mention must go the moon but, even generally speaking, the game is often visually alien to an extent that rivals Metroid Prime. This is backed up by a quality soundtrack that makes the well-publicised frustrations of Martin O’Donnell all the more understandable.
This sets the scene for a planet-hopping FPS. Well, not quite; it’s more of an MMO-flavoured FPS. Despite the huge chunk of compulsory data needed on your hard drive, this is an online-only game. The theory is that you tackle each challenge with other people, facing swarms of foreigners (sorry, aliens – this isn’t Call of Duty) alongside others, combining your efforts to triumph over seemingly overwhelming odds. The reality, depending on how you play, may pan out somewhat differently.
It’s important (and fair) to stress the fact that Bungie designed this game as something to be played with your friends. Indeed, inviting or joining your friends in-game is incredibly simple, allowing you to join up and do shooty bang-bang stuff together very easily. If you do tackle one or all of the story missions by yourself however, you’ll be faced with the very, very poor matchmaking of random people. The most common experience when playing a mission without friends is to see the icons denoting a random player or two suddenly pop up in the distance, then disappear before you ever get to them. At other times you may actually see their avatars; whizzing past you in the opposite direction, as they’re at a later stage of the mission following instructions that you have yet to be given.
The upshot of this – again, only applicable if you play the story without friends – is that you end up ploughing through an experience designed for three people by yourself. This is less of an issue once you’ve levelled up a bit and got your hands on tastier gear (more on which soon). To begin with, however, monotony sets in quickly, and things can even feel patently unfair. Matchmaking is significantly better for the super-hard ‘Strike’ missions, which won’t even begin until you’ve been matched with a few other players. We did on a single occasion, for whatever reason, lose both players we’d been matched with; and as all the enemies were a few levels above our character, we simply gave up in frustration soon after.
Speaking of player and enemy levels, the whole levelling system in Destiny is something of a double-edged sword. The general overview, as you may know, is that you reach level 20 through the traditional XP system – but then move through levels 20-30 (the cap at time of writing) by equipping powerful armour which now has a new ‘Light’ stat. Equip an armour set with a high enough total Light value and you level up; simple. This does, however, highlight the main problem which gnaws at the heart of the game.
In Call of Duty, or Battlefield, or Halo or whatever, the criteria for triumphing over AI is simple and fair. Choose the right weapon for the job, don’t miss, and stay out of the way of enemy fire. In Destiny this set of criteria is, at best, half the recipe for success. The respective levels of you and your enemies makes a huge difference to damage received and dealt, rendering your choice of weapons – and even the accuracy of your shots – almost redundant when there’s a significant discrepancy. Needless to say, the number of human players also has a big effect on your chances of success, especially in the relatively cramped interior sections. It’s almost impossible to keep pace with the levelling of enemies in the story without grinding previous missions and/or competitive multiplayer, which seems to be an intentional tactic designed to disguise the fact that there are just four planets, each with only a handful of missions.
Level advantages are disabled in PvP (which contains the traditional online modes you’d expect) and for this reason, it’s massively more appealing and enjoyable than the campaign. The number of multiplayer maps may be disappointing but each is excellently designed, and the superhuman jumps that can be unlocked in the early stages of play add more to the experience than you might imagine. Back in the story, however, the main incentive for playing is not variety of gameplay (there is none) or unlocking new missions (of which there are few) or the thrill of triumphing over equally-matched enemies (the levelling sees to that). You are instead encouraged to keep grinding for randomly-dropped Stuff; new weapons and armour. Your level of virtual avarice will ultimately determine how much time you put into this game.
Did we mention that the story is scrappily told, anticlimactically ended, entirely uninteresting, and crammed full of actors who sound like they’re dictating the script to their secretaries on a lazy Friday afternoon?
The shooting mechanics are easily solid enough to support anybody looking for something they can play with friends all the way through and, if that’s what you’re looking for, Destiny is great for a casual blast every now and then. Whether you’re planning to play alone or with a team, however, ask yourself this: Are you happy to concentrate on the next reward, rather than what you’re doing right now?