I reached level 20 this morning in Destiny and figured this was a good time to do a review. Much like my review for Diablo 3 this is likely going to be a two part review. The first is the experience from level 1 to 20. Normally developers call this the “game” and then all the content that follows is the “post game”. I’ll say right now that that wording confuses the hell out of me but I just have to accept it since everyone and their cousin uses it. To me anything in the game is the game but I am apparently wrong. It should go without saying but my review will be largely spoiler free unless I warn otherwise.
So what’s it like? You’ve probably seen a million reviews about this game by now that have all been polarizing in one way or another. While I was playing I saw “It’s the worst game I can’t stop playing.” more than a half dozen times in some variation. Everyone seems to agree that its “horrible” but they “can’t quit it”. I can only assume this logic is based off of a heroin addiction but I’m not certain. For me though I’m far less offended by the game.
In fact I’ve had a pretty damn good time. I suppose we’ll cover the various tropes of a game review and see how things go. Starting of course with that harbinger of new game consoles “Girafeeks”. The game is absolutely gorgeous on the Playstation 4. I was literally stopping from firefights to explore and look around at all the things they had made for this game. I can find literally nothing to complain about visually. The style of the ghosts, the protagonists, and the antagonists are all wonderful. There are four unique races that you’ll be coming up against in the story, knowing of their existence won’t change your experience.
The first is the Fallen which are basically the Covenant of this game (it appears). They fill the niche of generic enemy aliens. I don’t hate them and they all have a fun look to them. The next is the Hive. These are an interesting mix of the Flood from Halo with the space ships of the Necrons from Warhammer 40K. When you first hear “Tombship approaching!” you’ll be imagining these guys dropping out of it:
Then when he actually does appear a few missions later you are wondering if they literally were playing Warhammer 40K before they designed the game (Wizards bear a striking resemblance). The third race you’ll meet is my second favorite, the Vex. These are very sleek robots that really tickle my senses. They fill the Borg/Reaver role it looks like, lifeless unified automatons that march around the galaxy wiping out life. But this is just the impression I got from them. Every last one of them is well designed and their motions are fluid, just delightful.
Finally there is the Cabal. They are my favorite because they are very on point. Massive space marine looking monsters marching across a dusty space desert with your face in their iron sights. They are commanding and the higher ranking Cabal members that you get to fight are a hoot. They all look cool and they give me a Dune vibe which is always 100% welcome in any game. Shit, the lack of a sand worm was a darn shame.
Every landscape is gorgeous, every gun is a delight, and I’m quite fond of the ships. Your starter ship looks like a hodgepodge of crossbeams and solder. But it was also found in a junk heap in Russia. Anyone expecting exquisite construction from a Russian derelict is probably expecting a little too much. The ships you can buy later are usually pretty sexy and all of them have heavy inspiration from Star Wars (which I do not find problem in).
The sound design is excellent. I’ll split this up into two parts because I have a feeling at least one person reading this just blew a blood vessel. When I’m talking sound design I mean the weapons, music, and effects. All of these things are crisp and clean. I generally loath battle music (I turn it off in any game that I can) but it didn’t bother me much in Destiny. The songs are catchy and overall excellent. They might not be as memorable as something from Uematsu or the catchier tunes of Nintendo, but as a grand epic they stick well. The sound team at Bungie knew what they were shooting for and I think they met it.
On the flip side the character voice acting is apparently a point of contention for some people. I’m not entirely sure why. I’m actually planning to write a piece on this because I feel like Bungie inadvertently discovered a gaming wide prejudice. The shorthand of it is that people are upset that a robot sounds like a robot, and I’ve read that folks weren’t too hot on the voice actors for the rest of the characters. I thought they were fine. I played as an Exo (revived robot) and my guy sounded exactly as I’d expect from a synthetic humanoid.
Peter Dinklage suffered largely from the Judge Dredd problem. So in the 1995 Film the studio decided to hire Sylvester Stallone for the part of Judge Dredd. This was a ridiculously expensive decision and raised an interesting dilemma. In the comics Judge Dredd is not supposed to ever remove his helmet. But if you’ve just paid out the ass to have Sylvester Stallone in your film you want his face to be seen, apparently. So in the movie he removes his helmet (quite a lot). It’s a damn shame too because I think his iconic lisp (from part of his face being paralyzed) would have worked really well for audiences and still kept the mystery of Judge Dredd.
Peter Dinklage is a household name at this point. He’s an amazing actor and seems like a delightful human being. A big sticking point for people is that his character was spiritless. As I’d expect…seeing that he’s a robot. Liz suggested that his voice have more robotic filter in it. Which is a fair request, HAL from 2001 is an iconic emotionless AI but he also is heavily filtered. You can’t do that here however because you just paid out the ass to have Peter Dinklage in your game. So you want people to know it is his voice.
Ultimately I found his character charming and felt bad for it. I’ll explain why in an upcoming post and I think I might be able to convince you of my thoughts and perhaps even change how you view his character. So for me, I actually enjoyed the entire experience. I’ve heard stories at my job of people threatening to turn off the game on their friends because of how much they hated his character. For the life of me I can’t even begin to empathize with that kind of reaction.
Moving onto the actual content of the game. Destiny has a relatively short single player experience if you rush through it. I’ve been told it can be finished in between 10 and 15 hours. It took me about a week because I kept getting side tracked and having fun. This is a Bungie game so I knew what I was walking into. I stopped playing their games after Halo 2. It had promised me the world (literally) and then gave me a single player experience that didn’t even last long enough to survive that period between school ending and dinner being ready.
Ever since then they’ve been the “multiplayer people” to me. Putting no effort into the part of the game that actually matters to me. That’s fine because I’m not who they are marketing to. Their games were insanely popular and clearly it just wasn’t my cup of tea. It saved me a ton of money over the years and is the reason that the Halo Collection (Read: Seemingly the only reason to own an Xbox One) isn’t catching my attention.
You can choose to play nearly every mission in either normal or “hard” mode. The hard mode gives an inconsequentially increased chunk of exp and possibly slightly better drops. The real reason to use it is if you want to have more intense firefights. The AI in this game is pretty darn good, to the point of being irritating sometimes. I’m reminded of Fear where I was routinely getting flanked and needing to use all the tricks up my sleeve to survive. Overall I think I’ve become a much better FPS player by the end of this campaign.
The story worked for me but I’ll admit I don’t fully get what happened. The decision to tell parts of the story in the loading screens was actually probably a poor choice because I can’t be bothered to pay attention when I’m watching a space ship fly along an empty sky.
You can also do things called “Bounties” during the missions and I highly recommend these. They really accelerate your skill, character, and weapon leveling. They are probably my favorite part of the single player experience because they challenge me to do things like “Don’t die for 9,000 experience.” Which means I’ll need to do two to three missions without being killed once. That can get incredibly intense. The “Don’t die during a strike.” in particular can get you sweating bullets when you are sitting there with two pixels worth of HP and praying the boss doesn’t see you in the next quarter of a second.
You can buy new speeders (strongly inspired by the speeders from Star Wars) and space ships from a vendor in the back of the hub zone. All of these look sleek and in the case of the speeders they improve your speed and handling when driving around. There is a speeder owned by (I believe) the Vex that you’ll occasionally get. Driving that around and unloading a couple dozen shots in as many seconds is super delightful. I was blowing away entire platoons of Fallen with one that I had found (that was on fire, amusingly). Finished all of my bounties in a couple minutes.
Driving is a delight, too. The handling of this game in general is incredible. I survived some conflicts that really should have ended me. Jumping and boosting through the air, dropping a bomb beneath me, and then twirling to force punch somebody beside a ledge as I plummeted past. At times I was disappointed that I wasn’t streaming all my games to twitch or hitbox because there are just so many “Oh shit that was rad!” moments. This is one of those games that lets you make it fun. If you walk in wanting to not like it, you won’t. But if you walk in like I did with an open mind and no expectations it’ll tickle your backside, or frontside, whatever, its up for tickling and just needs you to point it in the right direction.
Additionally they have a website and phone application that list out “grimoire cards” for you. These cards tell little backstories to all the different elements of the game. It’s a neat touch and I applaud the idea. I’ve looked at a few of the cards and they weren’t terrible. If you like plot and backstory they might be right up your alley.
Graphics, sound, campaign, controls, and supplemental content. That’s most everything. Well I haven’t played the PVP at all, it really matters not to me. For me the multiplayer portion of a game doesn’t exist. But I will be checking it out during the “Post Game” review because I feel like I should give it a chance. Overall though I think that Destiny is a good game. It’s not the game of the year, and its not going to end up on any top 10 list of best games from me. But if I were listing out my top 100 favorite games of all time it just might end up on that list. It’s tough to say though because I realize on reflection that I’ve played an awful lot of games.
Maybe don’t get it yet if you are on the fence. Wait for the expansions to hit and see how they do. There might be a “Destiny: The Destiny Edition” that’ll have everything. The actual price of this game is looking to be about 100 dollars once those expansions hit. That’s completely unacceptable. Also its an always online game that means all your progress is really just ether. With that in mind I can’t justify grinding in it. Online only games are worth much less to me than those with offline saving and offline components.
Regardless, with all that in mind. I am not disappointed in owning it. I had a good time and I’m sure I’ll play it a fair deal more. Seeing that they have events that might unravel some more tiny story tidbits.
Update: I’d like to note that the Angry Joe review really does cover the shortcomings of the game well. I still like it but I also agree with basically all his points, you can find that video below: