Video Game Review: Destiny


Photo courtesy of Bungie

From the makers of the best-selling video game franchise “Halo,” Washington-based developers Bungie have created an expansive new universe for gamers to explore. Five years in the making, “Destiny” is ambitious, creative, and downright fun, but it also falls short on some of its promises.

Published by Activision, the same company responsible for the ubiquitous “Call of Duty” Franchise, “Destiny” is a first-person shooter that takes place in what the developers call a “Shared World Shooter.” Meaning that, although they are taking strong cues from massive multiplayer online role-playing games such as “World of Warcraft,” it still is a first-person shooter.

Bungie is classically known for first-person shooter gaming, but also incorporating things such as public events, player-versus-player arenas and connecting in shared spaces with gamers from around the world.

Bungie doesn’t stray too far from what they do best: creating great, fully realized sci-fi worlds. Playing as a nameless guardian, you choose from three classes (Hunter, Warlock or Titan) and are revived by a floating robot called a Ghost, voiced by Peter Dinklage (of “Game of Thrones” fame), and your avatar is thrown into a new world that is revealed to you at the same time as the player.

The story takes an interesting slant on the sci-fi motif: Present-day astronauts on their first landing on Mars uncover a spherical alien artifact known as The Traveler.

The Traveler becomes the conduit for advancing the human race technologically, providing an opportunity to explore and colonize the solar system. And while the Traveler comes back to Earth, something follows it, known only as “The Darkness.” It weakens the Traveler, leaving only one city left on Earth, residing directly underneath the floating Traveler. It is up to the guardians to defend it and uncover its secrets.

The narrative, while heavy in background, leaves a lot of questions for players to figure out on their own. Who and what is The Darkness? Why is there only one city? What is The Traveler?

For someone who loves a strong narrative in games, it leaves a lot to be desired, with having to head to exterior sources, such as Reddit, to get basic information on plot elements. While I do appreciate the length at which Bungie has created this world, it didn’t do a very good job at conveyance.

For a game that, in derivative terms, is just shooting aliens and running around, players need more to keep them going in terms of exposition. It simply isn’t there.

The core gameplay is what you expect from Bungie, with strong execution, solid shooting, great enemies with artificial intelligence and incredible, sprawling environments. In addition, the progressive role-playing elements found in most conventional shooters is intact, so you will be leveling up, getting loot and gaining new skills.

Nothing new in terms of mechanics, but how Bungie incorporates it into its “Shared World Shooter” feels different enough to be worth experiencing, but comes up short on what fans and gamers were expecting.

Once you’ve reached the level cap and completed the short and rather vapid story missions, “Destiny” reveals its “End Game”–complete with new gameplay variations and missions that entice you with more exotic gear, emblems and titles for your guardian. Unless you are a sci-fi nut or Bungie fanatic, I don’t see this game keeping you satisfied into the coming months. There simply aren’t enough gameplay “hooks” to keep gamers around, and it all feels rather superfluous.

Bungie has stated it has a “10-year plan” with “Destiny,” with downloadable content already planned and dated and weekly updates to keep players entertained. If executed as stated, it could change the way we view console gaming, games that are platforms that continually serve content instead of gamers seeing the credits roll.

But we will have to wait and see, starside Guardians.

Played on Xbox One with review copy courtesy of Activision Publishing. The game is now in stores and is available for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

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