A Bold New Venture
When Bungie decided to hand over the reins of the enormously successful Halo franchise to 343 Industries back in 2007 there was a great deal of excitement and anticipation surrounding the direction of the latest project from the boys and girls who gave the world the Master Chief. Although at its core a first person shooter and a stellar one at that, Destiny marks the beginning of a profound and invigorating new chapter for the veteran developer as they attempt to break free from the conformity and restrictions of the “traditional” shooter experience in favor of a vast open ended adventure, that borrows an array of different gameplay mechanics from numerous different genres in order to formulate its own patented and refined equilibrium. All be it for a few minor forgivable blemishes the latest blockbuster from Bungie succeeds in this endeavor.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone’s first instinct with this title is going to be to immediately draw comparisons to its forefather and to be honest I was no exception. From the visually stunning and varied environments, to the very design of the adversaries themselves, Halo’s influence and production values resonate throughout the entirety of the experience. Crucial to successfully immersing players in a new and unfamiliar setting however is a strong narrative and it is on this front unfortunately that Destiny falls abruptly short. From beginning to end I found it extremely difficult to not only understand the progression of the somewhat convoluted story arc, but also to genuinely care about the events unfolding over the course of the numerous story missions. It would have been nice to see a more evolved and fleshed out narrative to complement such a grand and adventurous setting as it would also help offset the somewhat generic and repetitive mission structure. Luckily due to the nature of Destiny’s heavily MMO inspired mechanics, the damage caused by such shortcomings are ultimately very limited.
“Halo’s influence and production values resonate throughout the entirety of the experience.”
Tight and surprisingly fluid shooting mechanics coupled with a role playing progression system result in a much welcome mix up to the somewhat generic status of first person shooters as they are now so frequently perceived. Players familiar with titles such as the Borderlands who have attempted this spin off before will feel right at home here with the ability to create and customize their hero from the onset with access to three different classes, all offering varied styles of play, as well as a welcoming level of detail for the player to utilize in a deeply fleshed out character customization. It goes without saying that leveling and the endless pursuit of rare and exotic new loot has always been at the core of the MMO experience and luckily Destiny provides players with a plethora of different avenues to achieve this desire. Whether you prefer to tackle adversity with friends or alone, questing and completing bounties in the open world, or in the somewhat lackluster PvP arena, The Crucible, all of these activities will net the player with not only valuable loot, experience and currency, but also serves as a catalyst to propel your Guardian to where Destiny truly shines – the end game.
Featuring a rather unique and interesting tiered leveling system, upon reaching level 20 players will no longer be able to level purely be gaining experience but only by gaining new and more powerful gear laced with a stat affinity known as ‘Light’. This forces the player to continue to tackle content of escalating difficulty in order to obtain the required gear to level. Much like dungeons and instances from familiar MMO’s such as World of Warcraft, players can assemble in groups of up to three and tackle missions known as “Strikes” which feature a varying amount of increasingly difficult enemy types and bosses all which garner the potential to not only reward the player with powerful new equipment but also generate valuable reputation tokens which can then be traded to vendors in return for legendary weapons and equipment. If you prefer to stick to the acquired taste of the PvP arena in The Crucible however you can most certainly do so, as both methods of progression are certainly viable here.
It would be selling Destiny short to describe its presentation as anything other than impressive. Running at 30 frames per second at an impressive resolution of 1080p on both next gen platforms, not once during the chaos of combat did I encounter a simple performance hiccup. Complementing its impressive performance consistency is a truly gorgeous array of exotic and varied game environments from the contrasting harsh barren deserts of Mars to the luscious jungles of Venus, Bungie has done an excellent job of coupling encapsulating art design with a truly remarkable and vast color palette. The result is a breathtakingly beautiful next gen title which serves as a benchmark of what is possible with the horsepower of next gen hardware. Myself and fellow Guardians alike however did on numerous occasions experience a range of network issues ranging from minor lag to complete disconnection from the servers, each of us being effecting to varying levels of severity. Although this is a minor annoyance at best due to the always online nature of the title it would be nice to see some of these creases ironed out in upcoming patches in order to alleviate frustration.
So you’re probably wondering how does this whole package stack up, how does this amalgamation of so many unorthodox game mechanics from numerous different schools of gaming correlate into a single intertwined and seamless experience. The truth is pretty damn well, garnering the best of best worlds with all the thrill and intensity of a fluid and fast paced first person shooter with the progression evolution and longevity of an MMO. It’s hard not to recommend Destiny when you take into account the sheer gravity of content that is not only readily available right now, but that which will continue to trickle in months and years into the future.