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Destiny review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Immensely satisfying, emergent FPS gameplay
  • Steadily-increasing RPG depth is incredibly compulsive
  • Beautifully-realised world building
  • The main story is only loosely sketched
  • There's little communication of the bigger picture at first

Destiny is a game about evolution, and a game about journeys. By their very nature, you won’t appreciate just how deep those twin philosophies go at first. This isn’t a game that reveals itself immediately. Destiny teases its (current) complete form by presenting its constituent elements in turn, letting each settle in over an extended period before subverting, expanding and revitalising it with the next. It’s not a short-term process, and there are a couple of ups and downs along the way. But stick with Destiny, trust that it knows what it’s doing, and you’ll find that your ultimate destination is--for consoles--an utterly unique and immensely gratifying place to play. Not only that, but it’s just the first stage of an even longer journey.

Let’s start, as the game itself does, with Destiny’s core shooting. Whatever you find yourself doing, wherever you go, however long you invest, this will be the core experience underpinning it all. And the good news is that it’s excellent. Heavily based on the weighty-yet-fluid feel and adaptable, aerial versatility of Bungie’s other FPS, Destiny’s handling--typified by the whirling, emergent use of cover, the importance of shifting spatial control, and punctuated by the none-more gratifying feedback of its weapons-- is always, always fun. This wonderfully balanced shooting ensures that whatever the high-fallutin’ RPG framework built around any particular mission, whatever the higher purpose of your actions within the later, deeper meta-game, the real meat of the experience--the things you actually do to achieve your goals--is constantly enjoyable.

It’s not a 100% recreation of Halo, of course. The interplay between gun and grenade, for instance, is the first sign of Destiny’s RPG identity. Operating as inherent character-abilities rather than collectable weapons, each class’ grenade is furnished by a cooldown timer. Initially, this feels odd and slightly limiting, but as you level up and new skill properties become available, it evolves into something akin to a tactical magic attack, to be saved and unleashed strategically to modify the battlefield in different ways. 

It can be an extended, area-of-effect health drain, used to lock down entry points and soften up mobs before engaging. It can be a splitting, enemy-seeking cluster-bomb for rapidly shattering problematic, tight groups. It can be a flashbang for buying time during a PvP confrontation. It can be a tripmine, or a sticky, lightning-emitting booby trap, used to limit enemy movement.

Similarly, special melee and ‘supercharge’ moves intermittently become available in the same way, evolving Destiny’s strategic game into a new layer floating above the immediacy of its shooting. Even more-so when unlocked ability variants and gear perks start supplying the facility to buff, adapt and empower those moves as part of an interlocking, resonating, personalised combat system. Though there’s little rigidity here. Currently owned weapons, armour and abilities can be swapped in and out on the fly as needed, taking the stress out of character-building, and making Destiny’s tactical ‘theory’ choices as fluid as its gunplay. It’s an incredibly smart system, providing a raft of malleable depth right now, and setting up a great framework for growth as Destiny expands over the years. 

The never-starting story?

Destiny's story is vaguely-sketched at best. What is here is Bungie-by-numbers, all ancient evil races, ancienter, eviler alien races, and barely explained space-gods of general darkness and bad. There is however, a Tolkienesque amount of ultra-detailed lore to Destiny's world. It's just that it's all attached to the unlockable Grimoire cards stored on Bungie.net, rather than in the game itself. 

But for all of its internal layers, Destiny’s combat exists within a wider ecosystem. When you first arrive at The Tower, the game’s central hub-cum-market town, you’ll likely feel a little bamboozled if you have scant experience of MMOs. Wrapped up in rich, evocative presentation typical of the game’s slick polish, Destiny’s altogether more civilised Mos Eisley is packed with alien concepts, both literally and figuratively.

Multiple vendors ply you with high-level weapons and armour, demanding large amounts of multiple, unheard-of currencies. A man known as the Cryptarch offers to decrypt something called an Engram for you. He’ll sell them to you as well, if your reputation is high enough. Whatever that means. A polite robot will give you bounties--Achievement-style mini-challenges for PvE and PvP play--but Lord knows what the point is, other than a modest XP bonus. If Destiny has one major failing, it’s that during its early periods, it does a terrible job of explaining any of this. In fact it does no job at all. This definitely has the potential to scare off less dedicated players, but it’s worth fighting the intimidation. All eventually does become clear, as the inter-relating economic and levelling systems that make up its complete experience become relevant at late XP levels. But with no initial path carved out toward that point, confusion and misconception are an occupational hazard to the unwarned player.

Either way, it won’t be long before you head back into the PvE missions that construct and garnish Destiny’s current story. And from thereon in, the experience of them becomes richer, deeper, and more involved with each passing hour. As your character develops, so too does Destiny’s core gameplay. Levelling up is about more than increased attack and defence. It also fundamentally changes interaction. New methods of moving, jumping, controlling and defending evolve not only your character, but the game you’re playing with your character. However often you replay a scenario, or new, more challenging variants of it, you’ll always find that something has always changed, even if it’s just your own perspective, or those of the people you’re playing with. 

More Info

Release date: Sep 09 2014 - PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 (US)
Available Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: MMO
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Bungie
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Animated Blood, Violence

That said, Destiny certainly does not thumb its nose at the solitary player. While the expanding content of its ‘endgame’ (I’m loathe to use the term, as hitting the initial level cap really does feel like just the beginning) is certainly pitched for co-op, it would be feasible, if not entirely easy, for a solo player to break through a good proportion of the main story unaided. Indeed, for all the fun of knuckling through missions as part of a three or six-man squad, some of Destiny’s most epic, standout combat moments have come about through taking on a tough challenge alone. The increased threat and higher stakes reward the kind of creative and improvisational FPS play that few other shooters have the capacity to offer. 

The quality of Destiny’s combat becomes even clearer in the Crucible, the in-world setting for the game’s competitive multiplayer component. Currently comprising four main modes--base control, team deathmatch, free-for-all, and a tight, tactical TDM mode for small teams, in which co-operation is vital--and 11 maps, Crucible is no standalone addition. It becomes an increasingly important part of Destiny’s overall make-up as you progress, but beyond that, it’s simply one of the most robust, well-developed FPS PvP servings in recent memory. 

Again, obviously descended from Halo’s legendary multiplayer, it’s a slightly faster, more aggressive variant with more scope for fast kills, but no less varied or accessibly deep in its cat-and-mouse firefights. Played using the same persistent character and gear-set as everything else, it removes level advantages in the name of fairness, but keeps properties such as firing rate and stopping power. It’s sometimes possible for Destiny’s currently rather relaxed matchmaking approach to cause notable level disparities between players, but in practice, map knowledge and shooting skill largely trumps all else. 

When Destiny’s wider world starts to reveal and explain itself--around about XP level 16--and when more complex and interesting perks begin to arrive with higher-level gear drops, it initially feels too late. What use is better stuff when the story is nearly over and the level-cap of 20 looms? But in truth, this is just a transitional period. It is Destiny’s, admittedly overdue, method of prepping you for the real meat of its content, in terms of challenge, creativity, and player-led potential. All of that stuff starts post-20. Now, the game and its world change all over again, and what appeared to be the end turns out to be really only the end of the prologue.

A new levelling system, based on a new statistic called Light--attached to advanced armour--replaces the traditional XP system. The Crucible PvP modes and the newly available, increasingly challenging, remixed and reworked PvE Vanguard missions become the source of Light armour, through loot drops and by providing the previously unexplained currencies for purchasing high-level gear. The seemingly unimportant bounties reveal themselves to be a major part of Destiny’s economic fuel.

Daily and weekly challenges start to appear on the map screen, offering greater rewards for those brave and strong enough to tackle them. The first part of Destiny’s future Raid roster unlocks, bringing with it a design philosophy previously unseen, made of oblique, enigmatic, combat-driven environmental puzzling, and demanding immense levels of team communication and coordination. The versatility and scalability of the core combat become even more apparent, as it services everything from traditional FPS scenarios to frantic, chaotic mob battles. Finally, all of Destiny’s seemingly disparate, parallel elements coalesce into one, cohesive form, building a robust, enticing framework for adventures yet to happen. 

Is Destiny flawed in the way it explains itself ? Of course, but when it gets there, the pay-off is more than worth the wait. Is its story slight, skating only on the surface of its lore? Yes indeed, but once you get past it, you’ll realise that its real stories are the many you create with your assembled cast of co-op players, those of epic, emergent set-pieces and heroic, last-ditch Crucible victories. And does Destiny need more content? Eventually it will, but we know that it’s coming. In the meantime, I’m 45 hours in, and only becoming more engaged by the day. Hell, I still have a sub-set of support skills to unlock, and a second class to build. 

The only problem with reviewing Destiny, with summing up my feelings and experiences so far, is that it will always be a case of ‘so far’. That’s why I’m leaving the extra point of breathing space on the score. It’s there for potential. To be filled. But with Destiny’s 10-year plan starting so strongly, and set to begin evolving over just the next few weeks, I feel very content that it eventually will be. 

Vast, beautiful, and endlessly satisfying, Destiny is like a gradually-opening puzzle box of ever-more involving FPS depth. What's already there can be explored for tens of hours. What's to come is an incredibly exciting prospect.

This game was reviewed on the PS4.

46 comments

  • nick-christoforo - October 14, 2014 5:38 p.m.

    I seriously hope the writer of this review looses his job because he's obviously pretty bad at it.
  • nick-christoforo - October 14, 2014 5:30 p.m.

    This game is nothing but a mediocre cash crop. Way overrated. This is why people prefer GameSpot for there reviews.
  • litaljohn - October 3, 2014 10:40 p.m.

    I honestly have to scratch my head at what gamesradar is actually reviewing here. They are reviewing this game as they include future possibilities and a "ten year plan" the problem however is we already know that the bigger chunks of content are paid expansion packs coming out, which I would assume would be reviewed on their own and not as part of the main game's "promise" of pumping out additions. To credit the game with the idea of a ten year plan is also terribly misleading. Bungie has a ten year plan for the IP, NOT this game. Bungie is contractually obligated to release a sequel every other year as per released court documents that have become public knowledge. To review the game with the mindset of a ten year plan is simply impossible. The PvP, while potentially fun, also is not very balanced, for one, early character levels are put at a huge disadvantage to the point where for instance you may be stuck with a single jump as a hunter, while a player who is decked out can triple jump as the same class. Furthermore, by having PvP weapons tied to your character has equipped also puts gamers at a disadvantage from players who had better luck and got a weapon with better base stats. I understand bungie wants us to feel more engaged and connected to our characters, but that connection should not come at the expense of fairness. It's hard to consider the crucible a "competitive" multiplayer when a portion of how well you can be is tied to pure luck of getting a good base weapon pickup. Forced matchmaking in some strikes and the lack of matchmaking in raids is another poorly thought out plan. Yes strikes are easier with a group, but outside of weekly strikes we don't even get the chance to challenge ourselves and go at it solo. Meanwhile raids have no matchmaking to speak of. People can argue that raids need teamwork and so that the raids have no matchmaking to encourage you to play with friends and communicate but compared to the alternative it is simply unacceptable. I beg of anyone to explain why having to attempt the raid with less than six people is better than adding random players. How is having more help shooting enemies a bad thing if you don't intimately know them? There is simply no logic to it, any help is better than none. "However often you replay a scenario, or new, more challenging variants of it, you’ll always find that something has always changed, " I really wish the reviewer expanded upon this comment as I simply have no idea what they are talking about. The only change I have ever experienced in replaying anything is slightly stronger enemies that behave the same way on higher difficulties and that the time of day/night may change. That's about it that I have seen however. I am open to being wrong, but I don't know what I am apparently missing. That's not to say even with these issues the game is not fun. It looks great, handles well, and has interesting setting and enemies. But even reading the review I don't see how they justify the score. I'm not going to be like the fools who rate the game due to the hype it failed to live up to, but I'm not going to pretend it does not have multiple shortcomings. Personally I'd give it a 7/10 it's sort of a jack of all trades master of none.
  • condor21 - September 29, 2014 11:53 a.m.

    For a 10 year game in the making, it is not worth the cash, IMHO. I expected more. And I think gamers should expect more from these gaming companies. If you want real fun and some new action, go play PlanetSide 2. It's not perfect but a lot more fun then this garbage!
  • Thestoebz - September 23, 2014 7:11 a.m.

    Great review yet again and I agree wholeheartedly. I have popped 70 hours into this game since release and still loving it. Gives me a reason to get off league of legends. I know where I'll be coming for reviews, when I barely ever read them. This site has some of the most intelligent and honest reviewers around. Not swayed by the corporate turds like ign and gamespot.
  • sebastian-howells - September 21, 2014 8:47 a.m.

    I thought Destiny was brilliant, there really wasn't any flaws in my opinion, although many may disagree I rated it 5/5 on my blog http://epicgamerblog1.blogspot.co.uk/. I'm still not sure why some websites have rated Destiny so low, it has been one of my favourite games since I started playing it.
  • MikeJazzfaceTheDancingSquirrel - September 21, 2014 4:01 a.m.

    This game is 9/10 for me- absolutely incredible- so much fun so much satisfaction!
  • Shigeruken - September 20, 2014 5:26 p.m.

    Excellent review. Commenters be damned.
  • Crashdj - September 20, 2014 8:17 a.m.

    Most of the complaints I've been reading about Destiny is that it's repetitive, a slog, you shouldn't have to play this game for 15 hours before it becomes fun and blah blah blah. I starting playing Destiny during the beta and within hours after it officially became available on Sept. 9. Only last night, more than a week after the launch, I finally reached level 20, not because I suck, but because I wanted to take my time, really enjoy and explore this game. I've done the crucible, the story missions, many of the bounties and have spent a significant amount of time in patrol mode on the various planets just effing stuff up arcade style. I really love doing that. It's hardly felt repetitive at all, hardly a slog. The thing that I've really begun to appreciate about this game is that it truly shows what the PS4 is capable of and how responsive and much improved the PS4's controller is over that of the PS3. Having come from PC gaming to console gaming a little over a year ago, FPS's have been a challenge for me, especially using the PS3's way too sensitive controller. This is the first game I've played on the PS4 that truly shows just how good the PS4's controller is. Naw, not a slog at all. It's the only game I want to play right now and the only game most of the gamers I know are playing right now too. I think Bungie nailed it. I come at this game never having played Halo because, quite frankly, I will go to great lengths to avoid using any hardware of software made by Microshaft. I suspect this game will keep me interested for some time to come. It seems that I've just begun to scratch the surface of all that's available.
  • laughing_haina - September 20, 2014 4:15 p.m.

    I could not agree with you any more. As my first PS4 game it has definitely been a great investment and only of the best game I have played in a while
  • death4us - September 20, 2014 2:02 a.m.

    The truth be told is that most people will decide if they like a game after playing 3-5 hours of it. So if you can't capture someone into the game within that time you basically failed as a game maker. If you really think about it most fps campaigns don't last even 5 hours. I am not saying the game is bad in any words just saying why many people won't end up liking it.
  • jacob-sicola - October 8, 2014 2:23 a.m.

    I completely agree with you and think that people who play a game need to be more patient to see what is all in store. I generally give a game about a week to ten days before I start making up my mind.
  • Cruddi - September 20, 2014 1:45 a.m.

    I half agree, the game does come to life abit in end game BUT it shouldn't be a slog to get there and I felt like it was, I must admit I am enjoying it now I've hit light levels but again I shouldn't have to have waited this long. Also I STILL haven't come across a public event even after they supposedly increased the frequency of the events I spent about 2 hours straight running round mars on patrol and got nothing! They written a script for star wars and ended up acting it through finger puppets to paraphrase Ben "Yahtzee" Crowsaw
  • Magnumram8008 - September 19, 2014 8:08 p.m.

    My sentiments exactly. Honestly, if this game was bad, boring or or just ok i wouldnt say anything. I can hardly distinguish whether Destiny is a love it or hate it game because i cant see how anyone can hate it even if they did not have the time. Grinding is not necessary. Destiny allows you to choose your own leveling path. Yet people cannot just play thier own game anymore and will truly follow everyone elses strategy just to try and get a different color gun and or armor. its the same kind of person who watches walkthroughs before they play the game for themselves. then, will watch the walkthrough while playing the game mimicing every step, desicion and style. i think destiny exposed the sheeple mindset of people who take what reviewers say about a game as gospel.
  • Midnight_23 - September 19, 2014 4:28 p.m.

    Great review I thought. While reading the review, one thing kept appearing itself to me; this guy has a passion for games and knows how to enjoy them. All of the greatest points made as to what makes makes this game special, are my same points as to why I enjoy this game and can see myself enjoying it for some time to come!
  • winner2 - September 19, 2014 4:12 p.m.

    Something feels a bit off here.
  • Bloodstorm - September 19, 2014 3:49 p.m.

    Definitely agree with the review. Destiny is a great game, with amazing game play and worlds that are very intriguing. I feel like the derisiveness that we are seeing it due to misconceptions of what this was supposed to be. Destiny is like the love child of Halo, Diablo, and Guild Wars. Not quite an MMO, as I've never ran into groups larger than 4 or 5 outside of the Tower, which works as the social hub. I see the criticisms, as the story was weak. It left me wanting more. I want to learn more about this universe. When the story wrapped, I wasn't quite sure what I accomplished. However, I don't hate it for piquing my interest, quite the contrary, I want to experience so much more of the fantastic setting that I have only been permitted to scratch the surface of. Also, I suppose because I do not watch Game of Thrones and so I have no concept of the man, but I felt that Peter Dinklage's performance was fine. I actually quite liked Ghost. He is a contrast to say, Cortana, who was an AI based off a human. Ghost is something born from something very much not human and so he is not as excitable as Cortana could be in that sense. Lastly, I don't know why Bungie ousted Martin O'Donnell, and would really like to get some insight on that one day, because the music was as amazing as I expected it to be. The man was gifted and I really hope to get to hear him at his craft again one day.
  • pl4y4h - September 19, 2014 3:16 p.m.

    Gotta be honest, wasnt expecting a score that high
  • _--_ - September 19, 2014 2:43 p.m.

    --so --GR waits the longest to drop their review --and --they give it the 5th highest score of all 75 reviewers --a score that tallies up to 77(and gr gives it a 9?) -- --shakes and scratches head
  • rob-moir - September 24, 2014 1:35 a.m.

    Frankly it feels like this review was bought and paid for by bungie or written by someone with no critical ability at all.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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