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Destiny is a game I’ve wanted to really sink my teeth into for a while. I remember the term “shared world shooter” being thrown around, around the time it came out and that intrigued me. I tried getting into it twice before but gave up both times for reasons I can’t remember. Developed by Bungie and published by Activision, Destiny was released for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One in September, 2014. For this review, we played the PS4 version on PlayStation 5. Destiny is a game that does require an internet connection to play and heavily emphasizes cooperative gameplay. It should be noted that the seventh generation consoles did not receive the Rise of Iron DLC so the only way to experience all of the content is by playing Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions.
Set in the future, after the collapse of numerous human colonies spread throughout the solar system, the player is put in the shoes of a Guardian who is resurrected after being killed in battle and has no memories of their past. They travel to different planets, eliminating various alien threats on a quest to revive a celestial body known as “the Traveler”, in an effort to prevent the human race from being wiped out. Some of the expansions add new story content like The Taken King which introduces a new race of enemies and centers on a king’s efforts to avenge his son’s death and the Rise of Iron expansion centers on the Guardians efforts to wipe out a virus known as SIVA.
I like the setting and the plot is okay but the game did very little to keep me interested and engaged in what’s going on. A lot of the information and lore is conveyed through Grimoire entries which are unlocked by various means. But the entries could only be read from Bungie’s website and since the release of Destiny 2, they are no longer available. So you can still unlock them but not view them.
There’s a lot of things I like about Destiny. I like the setting, I like the planet hopping, and the gunplay is phenomenal. Most of the weapons look cool and feel great to fire and the game contains a nice mix of weapon types ranging from pistols to fusion rifles to melee weapons like swords. Destiny borrows elements from games like Diablo and Borderlands, making for a fun rpg-style shooter. You can play through it solo which can be fun but it proves to be more enjoyable with multiple players.
Before you can jump into the gameplay, you must first create your character or Guardian. You choose a species and Guardian class and can swap between different subclasses. Subclasses do earn experience and each one comes with abilities and modifiers that can be unlocked. What’s really going to define your Guardian is the Guardian class and your equipment. Weapons are not typically class-restricted and the subclasses are different for each Guardian class.
As you progress through the game, you’ll find and earn loot like resources and armor and weapons that can be equipped. Weapons and armor do come in different let’s say rarities and nearly all non-basic weapons and armor can earn experience and level up, unlocking perks that can be enabled by spending the appropriate resources. Destiny features two major types of character progression, standard leveling and a Light level. As you complete objectives, missions and kill enemies, you’ll earn experience and level up and the max level is 40. After that, you’ll have to focus on your Light level which is determined by your equipment.
I would say your Light level is the real meat of your character because we were able to reach level 40 pretty quickly. Unfortunately, after reaching level 40, that’s when the game started to feel like a big grind and the gameplay loop can become boring. If it wasn’t for the excellent gunplay, we probably would have given up some time during The Taken King DLC which we started after completing the main storyline.
One of Destiny’s bigger problems is that its very repetitive, not unlike the games it shares similarities with like Diablo and Borderlands. The loop will feel very familiar. Kill enemies, complete missions, get loot and hope its better than what you have equipped. And for the most part it usually is. After a certain point, most of the gear that’s dropped comes in the form of Engrams which need to be decoded, or in Diablo terms, identified. So you collect some engrams, bring them back to a hub area or Social Space, and visit the Cryptarch to have them decoded.
As long as we were progressing through events and missions that were designed around our level and Light level, we were finding gear that was always better than what we currently had equipped. Unfortunately, loot isn’t found around every corner so upping your Light level can be a slow process which can also mean you might have to grind to get gear that will increase your Light level so you can progress.
Gear doesn’t drop at the same frequency or rate as it does in other loot-based games. You can find loot in the environments and enemies can drop stuff but not every skirmish will result in Engrams. Completing objectives will often reward you with things but getting into a random firefight on a planet won’t necessarily result in loot. So if your goal is to farm an area for Engrams, you might be there a while. Other than Engrams, you can find and earn all kinds of different resources that can be used or spent on different things but Engrams are always what you want to be on the lookout for because that means gear or equipment, or in other words, weapons and armor.
A new weapon can make a noticeable difference. Those are what excited us the most. Since weapons are not typically class-restricted, everyone will get their hands on the same weapon types and the perks for each piece of equipment are often the same or similar to others you find. It’s all about that Light level. The problem is loot plays a big role in the game but since weapons rarely feel unique and because the Legendary and Exotic stuff is harder to get, the loot system loses steam pretty quick.
It wasn’t until we reached a high Light level did some of the weapons we acquired actually showcase some kind of new functionality or feel a little different than anything we used before. Sure, I acquired a Legendary pulse rifle earlier in the game, but it basically functioned the same as the last five I got before with some minor differences. The higher the rarity, the more perks or upgrades it has and typically, the higher the Light level.
The endgame is when you can really start focusing on what gear you want and their perks but until you reach the higher Light levels like 380 or higher, it just feels like a grind. It didn’t matter if the gear I got was Rare, Legendary, or Exotic, if it was a higher Light level than whatever I currently had equipped, I would equip it. Even if it was a weapon type I didn’t particularly care to use or was lower in rarity, I would still equip it just so I could increase my Light level so I could complete more challenging missions and events and earn better gear. Ultimately, Destiny has the gameplay loop down but the loot system feels lackluster.
Destiny does offer plenty of content, especially if you have all the DLC. There are multiple Social Spaces or hub areas where you can interact with NPCs, accept quests and bounties, and spend resources on things like new ships, vehicles, and equipment among other things. Destiny is a “shared world shooter” which basically means you’ll see other players everywhere you go. Players can join together and form a fireteam, which is just a group of players, and participate in missions and events together which is what we did. If you don’t have anyone to play with, certain events will match you with others.
I primarily played with one other person but at one point I needed to catch up to his Light level so I played a bit by myself and did find that, as of this review, there’s still plenty of people that play this so I was able to join other players out there to complete things like Strikes and Arenas. The only events we couldn’t get into were Raids and the Crucible. A Raid is a cooperative event that supports up to six players and we tried tackling a couple but the two of us found trying to get through them tedious and we were never able to get anyone else to join in to help us out. The Crucible is Destiny’s competitive multiplayer mode and every time I tried to get a match going, I was never able to find other players.
Luckily, there’s more to Destiny than Raids and The Crucible. There are numerous missions to complete, you can participate in Strikes which are basically repeatable cooperative missions, and test your skills in the Arenas which offer a series of trials with different modifiers. And there are Weekly Strikes for high Light levels that offer a chance to get Legendary and Exotic gear. You can also do Patrols on each planet which means you can freely explore the planets and take on small side missions.
All missions in the game start to feel the same after a while. You visit a planet, shoot a bunch of enemies, defend an area, make your little Ghost companion scan something and you’re done. That’s usually the gist of it. A story arc doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be required to complete unique objectives. You may have to complete Strikes or Patrols and you’ll often end up revisiting the same places and sometimes fighting the same bosses.
Patrol missions are by far the most boring activities in the game. A Patrol works like this; you visit a planet and can explore freely and do whatever you want or take on one of the side missions the planet has to offer. These missions can be found in different locations around the planet and consist of different simple objectives like scout an area, kill enemies, and collect items. Most of them are not very exciting but they are a good way to earn specific resources.
What’s bad is the missions that require you to Patrol. For example, there’s a series of missions that require you to eliminate High Value Targets on multiple planets. That means you have to Patrol the planets and look for the specific Patrol mission type and complete it. The issue is this mission type may not be available so you’ll have to complete or accept and abandon the missions that are available and wait for more to generate, hoping the one you need becomes available.
Then there’s the missions that want you to eliminate Taken champions. This means you have to Patrol the planets, wait for the Taken to arrive, eliminate enough Lieutenants so the Champion appears and then eliminate it before they leave. If they do leave, you have to wait for the Taken to come back and repeat the whole process over again and that can be very annoying. There’s other types of missions that require you to Patrol and most of them suck.
Supposedly, Patrols can be a good way to farm for engrams. We found a couple of guides online that indicate you can farm for Engrams by simply killing the enemies that respawn but we found this method to be way too time consuming. As mentioned before, enemies don’t always drop Engrams so you could end up farming for quite some time.
I do enjoy the planet hopping aspect of the game. However, we felt the game should have included maps. The planets are more or less just large maps. You can summon a vehicle to get around the planets quicker which is nice but a fast travel system would have also been beneficial because there’s no way to know how to get to certain areas of a planet unless you’ve memorized the layouts. And this sucks when a mission objective requires you to search a specific area and you have no idea how to get there. The different areas, buildings, and facilities typically house resources and enemies which will constantly respawn. Buildings and facilities are often more claustrophobic than the outdoor areas and include numerous linear paths and corridors that lead to bigger rooms where battles usually take place. If you stay on a planet long enough, you may get the opportunity to participate in an event that appears which can reward you with some good stuff.
Destiny showcases a nice sleek sci-fi presentation with plenty of detail. Each planet looks and feels distinct and often displays beautiful backdrops and vistas. The lighting is good, foliage is lush, and the texture work is solid. From the post-apocalyptic look of the Earth to the wet and rainy Venus to the sandy dunes of Mars – the environments are gorgeous and diverse. I, personally, think most of the weapon designs look cool and I also liked the alien designs. Each faction has their own thing going on so they are distinct and well animated. The soundtrack is great and includes some excellent orchestral tunes that fit what’s happening on-screen. Weapons sound powerful and that coupled with the satisfying visual effects and kills like enemy heads being blown off or the Vex breaking apart help make the gunplay feel rewarding. On the technical side, we did not encounter many issues with the performance but we did experience several connection issues. We would occasionally get stuck in a loading state on different planets and I don’t mean for a few seconds but minutes and we would also frequently get disconnected from each other and it usually happened when travelling from one planet to another.
I enjoyed my time with Destiny but as for the loot side of things, I think it could use some work. I don’t mind repetition in a game like this but there has to be something to make up for it. In a lot of loot-based games, loot is what does it. It’s typically what keeps me going. Frequently finding new toys to play with can be exciting especially when they make a noticeable difference or change how you approach situations. That’s not always the case in Destiny. The weapon you get might function just like the last one you had except now you have a high enough Light level to complete certain missions or events.
We feel Destiny just doesn’t have the same kind of exciting and addictive loot system as others of its kind. And without that, you’re left with everything else and it’s simply a repetitive shooter. We admit we were having a great time before reaching level 40. But after that, it just felt like a grind. As a straight up shooter, despite the repetition, Destiny is good fun and is even better if you have people to play with. The gunplay is excellent and that’s really what did it for us. Running around and shooting aliens is satisfying, rewarding, and often a lot of fun, even if it was grindy.
We would recommend Destiny, especially if you have people to play with. It can be played and enjoyed solo but you’ll get more out it if you play with others. Luckily, as of this review, it still has active players so even if you don’t have friends who play it, you can certainly find others to play with online. It’s a better shooter than it is a loot-based game, at least as far as we’re concerned, and even though the action gets repetitive, blasting away aliens on different planets proves to be a hell of a good time. Definitely check it out.