Falling Short: Bungie’s “Destiny” is fun, but not excellentWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bungie’s new massive online shooter and multiplayer experience called “Destiny” ($59.99, available on PS4, PS3, 360 and Xbox One) does so many things so wonderfully well it feels like a shame to point out the things it doesn’t do quite so well. But the flaws undeniably exist, leaving gaming’s newest franchise as a worthwhile and entertaining experience, but one which doesn’t quite become the “must-have” blockbuster the new generation of software so desperately needs.
Make no mistake, developer Bungie has clearly aimed high with this new release. Coming off their work on the groundbreaking “Halo” series, which featured a stellar main story campaign while giving players seemingly limitless replay value through its multiplayer matchmaking, Bungie seemed to decide its next game would be a merging of both concepts. A first-person shooter set in a massive multiplayer world, where players would constantly be running into fellow players even as they were involved in their own story.
It’s a fascinating idea, capturing the fun of an FPS with the leveling and looting of a “Diablo”-style game, with plenty of multiplayer match-ups thrown in. But while any MMO is hard to judge so early in its life cycle, as it naturally will grow and evolve over time, “Destiny”‘s flaws are mainly focused on aspects that you’d imagine would be perfected at the time of release: Story and level design.
Let’s start with the single-player campaign that Bungie is trying to tell, which is surprisingly uninspiring. Set a vague time into the future, the game tells of a mysterious celestial body (“The Traveler”) which gave Earth’s residents amazing power, but brought with it an unspeakable and vaguely defined evil (named, cunningly, “The Darkness”). You are a “guardian” tasked with fending off the Darkness’s hordes and protecting what remains of the human race, which you do by running around on various planets and shooting aliens in the head.
Really, that’s about it. The narrative doesn’t effect the gameplay to any appreciable degree, as most any story mission amounts to “go here, shoot stuff, end level.” This isn’t to say the action is bad, far from it — the shooting, honed by Bungie over years of work on the “Halo” series, keeps the game fun long after you’ve stopped trying to care about the galaxy-spanning events that are supposed to be happening. But given how much work was obviously put into the universe “Destiny” exists in, it’s unfortunate how little effort was made to give the events that take place there some weight.
The actual environments themselves are somewhat disappointing, as well. Again, they’re not poorly made or designed at all. The canvas that “Destiny” gives players is rich and varied, and every level is distinct and beautiful. But there seem to be so few of them.
Most all of the actual action in “Destiny” takes place on one of four locations: Earth, the Moon, Venus or Mars. But the actual area to play in on each planet seems so tiny, especially since players pass over the same area of the map over and over during story missions and optional side-quests. Whether fair or not, this gives the impression of lazy design — that instead of multi-layered worlds to explore, players are being marched through the same basic sections repeatedly.
Again, these issues are even more of a shame when “Destiny”‘s strengths are considered — and there are many. As mentioned, the gun play is top-notch — some of the best first-person action ever captured on a console. The world, what there is of it, is richly designed and gorgeous to look at, with all sorts of fascinating small details that make it feel truly immersive.
The game largely succeeds as an MMO outside of its main campaign, as well. There are tons of customization options for the look of your character and gear, and earning currency to upgrade your armor and weapons is as addictive as you can imagine. Meeting up with friends and/or strangers to tackle missions or compete in multiplayer battles makes the game feel like a truly social experience, and I’ve already made a few friends by first playing alongside them online. There are drawbacks to the game’s always-online nature, though, most galling of which is if there’s any interruption of your signal, it immediately aborts your mission — even in single-player story situations.
Ultimately, whether the good in “Destiny” outweighs the disappointments is going to be up to the individual player. I am enjoying the pursuit of better weapons and higher levels enough to keep me engaged, even as I mentally whine about heading down that same path *again*. But gamers looking for that elusive “next big thing” … well, they’re probably going to want to keep looking.