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    Destiny

    Rating: 4.0 – Great

    Become legend

    Destiny was always going to be a big deal and overhyped. One could say that it was "destined" to be a big a deal and overhyped, but that person would probably not make good company. It is the first non-Halo game from Bungie in a decade, and it is one of their only multi-platform games now that they are not making titles exclusively for Microsoft anymore. With rumors of it having a $500 million budget, the addition of Peter Dinklage to the voice, and the promise of launching an entirely new genre of video game in the form of the shared-world shooter, Destiny was on the hype train from the get-go and never had a chance to get off and breathe. It had no chance to live up to all of the expectations of it, but it is still a great game that will only evolve and get even better as time goes on.

    The best way to describe Destiny is that it is a shooter MMO, though it doesn’t quite hold true to all of the conventions of an MMO, so that is why Bungie invented the "shared-world shooter" genre in order to describe Destiny. Players choose from one of three classes, each with two different skill trees to explore, customize their character, and then begin their adventure in Destiny.

    Destiny is split up into a variety of distinct different gameplay experiences and flavors. First I will talk about the story, one of the weaker aspects of the game. Destiny features a decent amount of story missions that can be played in co-op with up to three other players that take place on Earth, the moon, Venus, and Mars. The gameplay in these story missions range from repetitive and boring to hectic and exciting. However, almost all of the missions fall into a very simple formula: walk a bit, scan something, defend the area from waves of enemies, rinse and repeat.

    The actual plot itself makes the story missions even less appealing. The basic premise is that players control a Guardian, a person that has been given "Light" by the "Traveler", a giant floating sphere that hangs above the last city of Earth, and the goal of the player is to drive back the darkness, a threat that is looking to wipe out all of humanity, and the enemy of the Traveler.

    That’s about as far as the game gets in terms of telling its story. There are hardly any NPCs to interact with, and the cut-scenes are almost all entirely pointless. There’s very little background given to anything that is going on either, meaning that most of the missions might as well not even have the narration that precedes them anyway.

    There are a couple of different characters that are introduced, but they are paper thin in terms of character development. There is a queen that lives in an asteroid belt that has a hot-tempered brother, but nothing is done with either of these characters. There is a mysterious stranger that is seen spying on you a couple of times, but again, nothing significant or meaningful is done with this character either. The Speaker is a character that you can find chilling out on the Tower (more on that in a second) that is the only one that is able to "speak" for the Traveler. As you have probably guessed, absolutely nothing is done with him, and ultimately, nothing really happens in this story. The world doesn’t feel different after you complete all of the story missions. Nothing changes. Nothing matters. I have a feeling that Bungie will be releasing new story missions that expand the lore and tell a more impressive tale, but there’s nothing that proves that is the case over a week after the game has launched, and honestly, I couldn’t care less if they ever do anything in this game even remotely story-related again.

    So while the core gameplay makes most of the story missions fun, there are a couple of flops as well as the issue of having a completely useless plot that does absolutely nothing for the game or its world. Moving on to the other part of Destiny that is pretty disappointing, there is a free-roaming element to the game.

    Free-roaming occurs in Patrol Missions. Patrols consist of wandering around the lifeless, boring worlds that Bungie has constructed, killing random groups of enemies, completing pathetically tiny and boring missions that mostly consist of back-tracking or just killing X amount of enemies that you’ve already spent a ridiculous amount of time killing, and searching for collectibles, the latter of which are fairly meaningless, especially in the end-game as you will probably have far better gear than can be provided by any of the gold chests that are in the game anyway.

    Sometimes you will bump into players that aren’t in your party when free-roaming. Sometimes you may even run into one of the elusive Public Events, which are special boss battles that allow you to work together with a bunch of different players, but these are very rare. I do like how they can also pop up when outside of free-roaming and just doing the story or strikes in the same general area, but they do need to become more common. Bungie released a patch to address this issue just a couple of days before this review was written, but I’ve played the game extensively since the patch and have not noticed the Public Events popping up anymore than usual.

    To summarize, the free-roaming and story missions for this game are both busts. They are lacking features that are incredibly flawed, though there are many games that only feature lacking campaigns or a weak world to explore. Destiny, meanwhile, has a couple of other major elements that make it a game worth playing, and worth playing a lot.

    That first element are the Strike missions. These are like mini-Raids in that they aren’t quite as tough, but still provide a decent challenge and are capped off with intense boss battles. There’s only a handful of Strikes, but each one is distinct from the others and they are all very challenging and entertaining. They feature a lot of loot drops, exciting enemy encounters, and even more variety than the main story missions.

    The Crucible is the final major element to Destiny. The Crucible is the name given to the PvP portions of the game. PvP is sectioned off into its own area in the game, but you still use your same character and gear in PvP. In the interest of fairness, there are only specific situations in which the stats of your armor and weapons actually come into play in the PvP of Destiny, which is during events that Bungie runs in the game.

    Anyway, The Crucible contains four distinct game modes, with Bungie adding variations on those modes every once in a while for special events. The first mode is Control. This is a Domination-style objective based game mode. However, in Destiny, players don’t just get points for collecting objective points. They are also able to earn points for the team by getting kills. Control matches typically take place on the larger maps.

    Clash is the second multiplayer mode. Clash is the Destiny version of Team Deathmatch. Destiny also has its own version of free-for-all in the form of Rumble. Unlike a lot of other FPS games that restrict players from playing the free-for-all mode if they are in a party, players are able to hop in Rumble no matter what, which I greatly appreciate. There is very little fun in "boosting", and I think that the amount of people that would bother to do so is a very exaggerated number, so it has never made sense to me why games haven’t allowed players to access free-for-all if they are in a party.

    The fourth mode is Skirmish. This is a 3v3 game type that requires a lot of strategy and a team working together not only to kill the enemies but to revive fallen players, which is another way to earn points. I absolutely love Skirmish and find it to be the most challenging and rewarding game mode in The Crucible. Since fireteams (what your party is called in Destiny; yes, Destiny has its own fancy word for just about everything in the game) are limited to three players and there are three classes in the game, Skirmish feels like the purest way to experience the PvP in the game.

    As for the core gameplay, the game feels like a marriage between Call of Duty, Halo, and Borderlands. I feel like the gameplay is a bit more fast-paced like Call of Duty, though it also has that "Halo" feel of lowering an opponent’s shields and then getting in close for a melee attack. The game feels like Borderlands when playing the co-op missions, for obvious reasons.

    Players are able to outfit their character, or Guardian, with a variety of different types of armor and weapons. There are primary weapons, secondary weapons, heavy weapons, consumable items, and much more to collect and utilize. Each subclass has a special ability called an overcharge that is extremely powerful and can be used in a variety of tactical situations, which adds yet another wrinkle to the combat and helps Destiny stand out and feel different from other FPS titles.

    I think every single map in Destiny is well-designed, which isn’t something you can usually say about an FPS game. In fact, most of the maps are incredibly fun to play on and memorable. Shores of Time is my absolute favorite map and I am always extremely excited to see it pop up when playing The Crucible. The bigger maps I find somewhat less enjoyable, but at least the Sparrow (a speeder bike you can summon pretty much at any juncture) makes it so you can get right back into the thick of the action quickly. The bigger maps also feature turrets and some minor vehicular combat, though the latter seems like an afterthought added to the game in the last minute, which is somewhat disappointing when compared to the extensive and impressive vehicular combat design seen in the Halo series.

    Like MMO games, Destiny has a color-based loot system. There are whites (Common), greens (Uncommon), blues (Rare), purples (Legendary), and yellows (Exotic). Obtaining the higher level gear requires a significant grind, and the process behind it I think has confused some people, though it’s actually not all that complicated. There are a few different currencies that can be obtained, and these special currencies are typically what you need in order to obtain the higher level gear. Of course, the higher level gear can also be obtained through random loot drops, though that is unlikely.

    Players that don’t enjoy the PvP are unlikely to find Destiny all that entertaining, but those that do like the PvP will probably spend hours and hours in it, so the grind is no problem at all. It honestly doesn’t even feel like a "grind" that you would experience in other games. I constantly find myself with an excess of cash and materials, never really needing anything.

    When not on missions or battling in The Crucible, Guardians spend their time on The Tower. The Tower is the Guardian headquarters. Here players can interact with other guardians (there is a "dance" button, don’t worry), purchase new gear, and acquire bounties. Bounties are like challenges that can be completed for bonus XP and other rewards. There is an infinite amount of them, and they can apply to both the Crucible (red bounties) or the Vanguard content, which is the co-op content (grey bounties).

    Raids are an aspect of Destiny that aren’t quite fully realized just yet. Bungie recently added the first Raid (at the time of this writing), and it is cut off to anyone that doesn’t have good enough gear. Raids allow up to six players to tackle them together, and they are extremely, ridiculously difficult. I have a feeling that the current Raid is going to be nerfed at some point. Right now, only the most hardcore of Destiny players should even bother looking into the Raid content.

    Visually, Destiny is quite beautiful, with a solid frame rate and beautiful textures and jaw-dropping galactic landscapes. Due to its cross-gen nature, Destiny doesn’t take full advantage of the eighth generation hardware, but it is still one of the better looking games available right now.

    Technically, it’s not the same good story always. I have been booted from my fireteam on multiple occasions and have encountered other issues, such as a weird glitch where my game will boot up with no sound, requiring me to go back to the home page on my Xbox and then manually reboot the game. That being said, Destiny’s online launch has been a thousand times more stable than anyone would’ve guessed, especially considering all of the rocky launches there have been lately, such as the ones suffered by both Grand Theft Auto V and Titanfall. I was able to play Destiny extensively during launch day and never encountered any major issues, and the online framework has yet to fail me in any significant manner still. I am extremely impressed with how smooth Destiny’s launch has been, and I give props to Bungie and Activision for pulling this off.

    I mentioned earlier that Peter Dinklage is part of the voice cast in Destiny. The audio design in Destiny is mostly impressive, with a fantastic orchestral score that will remind you of Halo, and great voice acting work, though the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. Besides Peter Dinklage playing the role of the Ghost, there’s not much else in terms of voiced characters. Every once in a while the Guardian you control will talk, but it feels incredibly unnatural as he only talks in very rare situations, usually to rattle off a weak, dumb one liner. They should’ve went with a completely mute character, in my opinion, or they should have made your Guardian speak a lot more. It just feels unnatural with him only talking once in a blue moon.

    Destiny is most certainly worth the price of admission. There are a couple of factors to it that don’t live up to expectations, such as the weak campaign and the boring free-roaming, but the PvP and Strike missions are an absolute blast. Destiny will only continue to grow as Bungie adds free updates to the game and releases major expansion packs (two of which are already announced and the first launches in December of 2014), so the game will just get bigger and bigger, and there’s already a very impressive amount of content to sink one’s teeth into. Destiny is not the best game ever made and it’s not Bungie’s best game either, but it is a bold experiment that is mostly successful, and I can’t wait to see where Bungie takes this ambitious "shared-world shooter" in the future.

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