Activision’s mammoth machine goes into overdrive as the long-awaited and extremely over-hyped Bungie vehicle ‘Destiny’ takes the world of the online shooter by storm.
In what has to be some of the most powerful marketing by a videogames publisher in the history of the medium, one-time Microsoft flagship boys Bungie have jumped ship across to Activision to produce their first multiplatform title, Destiny.
Ever since the initial reveal was peek-a-booed to a select group of journalists way back in 2011 the public relations campaign surrounding Destiny has been working overtime, double time and all of the time to promote the science fiction spectacular to a not disinterested audience.
Although it has to be pointed out that Bungie have had their eye on the online MMOS title since the days of Halo: ODST when eagle-eyed gamers were able to spot a poster on walls of the shattered Human outpost at New Mombasa that announced ‘Destiny Awaits’ whilst an orb not dissimilar to a ‘Ghost’ floated nearby.
But has this non-stop show of outstanding real-life action trailers, amazing CGI sequences and ‘hinted at’ promises of a massive galaxy just awaiting your arrival to begin the most spectacular journey ever created by a videogame developer been a victim of its own highly successful PR campaign? Perhaps.
Building on what is very like Halo meets Call of Duty ( ‘verticality’, anyone? ) Destiny opens with a tale set in the distant future when Human’s have been visited by a strange and powerful entity known only as ‘The Traveller’. This benevolent being grants Mankind all manner of astounding technology, not least withstanding the ability to upgrade our spacecraft to allow for interstellar flight to other worlds, and thus the ‘Golden Age’ of wondrous inventions, peace and exploration begins.
After being granted these new-found powers Human’s then proceed to gain a foothold in the Solar System with colonies rapidly being installed on planets such as Mars and Venus, as well as our own Moon. However, with expansion obviously comes the concerned impression of imperialism from other, as yet undiscovered, species. And with Man’s continued exploration of our own Galaxy we awake the sleeping giants of ‘The Fallen’, and with the curiosity of this warrior race pricked it is not too long before an era of all-out warfare befalls Mankind as the age of ‘The Collapse’ commences.
Central to all of this is the massive, cloud covered sphere orbiting the Earth known as The Traveller. It is the arrival of this mystery being that heralds The Golden Age, and ultimately the cause also of The Collapse. However, it is also because of The Traveller that Mankind if saved from oblivion at the hands of The Fallen, but even so, by the time balance is brought back to Humanity it is not without terrible cost and the enormous loss of life.
Gone are the outposts on Mars, Venus and even The Moon itself. Gone also are the once majestic cities that thrived after the introduction of advanced technology from The Traveller. Gone too the once proud army of warriors who stood guard over Mankind…..everything , has changed…forever.
Moving forward we come to 700 years following the arrival of The Traveller as the protective satellite sends ‘Ghosts’, small probes carrying advanced artificial intelligence, to locate the bodies of fallen warriors, who were once the former protectorate of Earth’s one-time prosperous population.
Upon discovery of your lifeless corpse you are ‘resurrected’ by this tiny ‘demi-God’ and granted life renewed as The Traveller and his new allies, the Exo’s and The Awoken, plot the downfall of the invading Fallen Empire.
Now, here is where things get a little ‘tricky’.
The Exo’s are an enigma to everyone, including themselves. Built for a war long forgotten by everyone, these rebooted robotic rangers have protected Man since their construction but were powered down following the completion of their original task and then brought back online during The Collapse.
Equal in rights and status to their Human counterparts the Exo’s enjoy life among the rank and file and have even been recruited to fight once more as Guardian’s by The Traveller.
The Awoken, however, are a different kettle of alien fish altogether. These Human-descended blue-skinned warrior’s are a proud race who, during the time of The Collapse, sought sanctuary in the far reaches of Human controlled space. This area is now known as ‘The Reef’ and many Awoken prefer to still live here, often rejecting Earth born Awoken as ‘outsiders’ and making them unwelcome on The Reef.
Power is controlled by a Queen, and her ever scheming brother, but The Awoken are allies regardless of their cold, somewhat cruel exterior. Whatever happened during their Exodus to the far reaches of space during The Collapse may have changed their genetics forever, but they remain loosely allied to Mankind…for the moment.
And now we come to the ‘bad guys’ of the piece, ‘The Fallen’. These four-armed aliens are as agile as they are intelligent, and given that they are bipeds operating with two pairs of extremely strong upper limbs also allowing them to scale obstacles with ease, that is no small claim.
Advanced in technology and far superior to Humans and Awoken in terms of weaponry, armour and vehicles The Fallen have but one true opponent worth their time, really, and that may well be The Exo’s.
The Fallen appeared first when they attacked the Human advanced base on Venus during the onset of The Collapse, but their motives for doing some are still unknown. Perhaps they felt threatened by Mankind’s sudden technological improvements and interstellar travel? Perhaps they thought it best to nip this war-like Human species in the bud before their tinkering’s and ingenuity produced weapons and craft that could better their own? Whatever the reason behind the assault the outcome was swift and decisive leading to further attacks on the remaining Human outposts from Fallen warriors emboldened by their early victories.
Split into six distinct classes The Fallen are, from the lowest rank to the highest in ascending order:
Shanks: Shanks are the ‘Drones’ of The Fallen with one major difference to the Human version, Shanks spray death and destruction from their onboard cannons. In essence they are the Jack of All Trades of The Fallen in that they are, more often than not, the sentries, the Drones, the front line recce troops, the hunter-killers, the IED’s and the Kamikaze pilots. These AI ‘dogs bodies’ are expendable assets sent in to prepare the way for their organic brethren.
Dregs: The moniker speaks for itself as these lowest of the low biological entities are the ‘grunts’ of The Fallen ranks. These former thieves now spend their time between acting as shock troops and guards as they get all of the less glamorous jobs their fellow combatants feel are beneath them. Pack hunters, scavengers and easily distinguishable from any other Fallen because unlike the rest of their species Dregs are two handed like their Human enemies. It may be because of this that they are seen as ‘the dregs’ of Fallen society.
Vandals: Now we begin to get to the more ‘meaty’ of The Fallen warriors with these hard-headed killers. Four armed for better mobility, agility and unarmed combat, ( try fighting someone who has both of your arms held outstretched and yet still can hit you with a flurry of combinations and you begin to get the picture ), The ‘Vandals’ are the ‘sniper’ and specialist class of The Fallen. Armed more often than not with high-powered fusion weapons for that additional blast their one disadvantage is the charge time required by said weapons. However, get too close to these sneaking assassins and they are able to ‘mix it’ with the best of them. You have been warned.
Captains: The Prussian aristocracy of The Fallen. These powerful brutes come armed with twin swords that they wield with astonishing deftness and ability. Complete with heavy armour and rank identifying cape, The Captain’s are the toughest of all The Fallen bipedal warriors. Capable of turning their murderous talents from sword to shield, rifle to rough-necking these impressive soldiers are professional and dedicated and should not be underestimated, ever!
Servitors: A spherical beam producing ‘Death Star’ that has shields and a larger than average lifespan against anything other than later rare weapons. These orbs of doom are capable of teleportation across short distances as well as producing Void projectiles which they launch across vast area’s from their ‘eye-like’ aperture.
Archons: The High Priests of The Fallen. Extremely powerful and can absorb far more damage than their lower ranked comrades the Captain’s. Archon’s also possess special abilities such as the ‘smash’ which will do extreme player damage if you are the victim of such a devastating blow.
Kells: In a word, ‘Trouble’ ( with a capital ‘T’ ). The supreme leaders of Fallen Houses, these are the pinnacle of power for Guardian’s looking to rid a planet’s zone of The Fallen permanently. Approach with extreme caution and only when in Co-oP Mode.
Offsetting the rank and file of the foes you will face in Destiny are the allies made up of The aforementioned Exo’s, Awoken and, of course, the trusty Humans. Customization for the classes in each race is somewhat limited at first, but that’s not to say it does not improve as you quickly whip through the first twenty or so levels gaining performance and armour upgrades along the way. Items such as the ‘legendary’ and ‘rare’ weapons also offer their own personal upgrades for completing set tasks and achieving kill streaks.
Staying with the games’ story for just a moment longer we now have to decide whether or not to praise or persecute Bungie for what loosely passes for the ‘campaign mode’. To be honest with you all it is not a decision we have to put too much thought into because the sheer lack of anything even remotely approaching a single player mode doesn’t just speak for itself it veritably screams the house down.
In a game the cost a reported £500m to develop the word that springs to mind when attempting to describe the attraction for a solo player is, surprisingly, anything but positive. The total disregard for any kind of single player mode is staggering, especially when you consider that time and again over the years gamers have proven to publishers and studio’s alike that they do not want a shift over to always online, MMO styled digital only videogames. Gamers want tangible copies of physical media discs that house ‘their’ experience that ‘they’ paid for to enjoy in the comfort of ‘their own’ homes. Not some wishy-washy excuse for a concerted effort to force gamers into purchasing something that they don’#t really want.
If Bungie and Activision are so sure that the gameplay contained within Destiny is the future of videogames, and that the monotonous grind of a mediocre MMO is what players were hoping for, ask yourself why, then, did they market the game as an experience totally different to the one that players got.
There is no exploration of worlds from the cockpit of your star-fighter as you hurtle through space at warp factor 9. There is no single player mode whatsoever, rather a cobbled together Co-oP atrocity that forces players to team up with strangers online or be battered incessantly by enemies far to powerful for one warrior to stand against.
There is also ‘no’ discernible endgame because, ultimately, the game was so sliced and diced to ensure a steady stream of future DLC that quite literally all you can do in Destiny is fight the same re-spawning enemies, in the same area’s in the same missions over and over and over again in a never ending nightmare of tedium which is only offset by the occasional Weekly Strike Mission which is, yup you guessed it, just another rehashed mission from any one of the scant few that you have already completed a thousand times before.
Quite what Bungie were thinking when they had the team meeting to discuss modes and format and they all agreed that the way forward was a four-player enforced ‘’campaign’ with no single player option, save the opportunity to enter into what should be a four man strike on their Jack Jones, is just beyond us?
I find it incredible to believe that rational thinking men and women went along with this, particularly in light of their last title, you know? Halo? Only the most successful videogame franchise in history that supplanted itself in the hearts and minds of a generation, and then some, not because of its multiplayer, which was fantastic and varied, but because of the characters and scenario’s you found yourself being swept along with in the solo campaign mode.
Graphically the game is quite pleasing but the early warning signs for the more savvy gamer where that the title was available on all last generation platforms as well as the current crop. This should have given off warning bells regarding the limited architecture, meaning that the gameplay would also be restricted. When you consider that Dead Rising 3 breaks the record for the number of enemies on screen at any one time at a whopping 22,000 then it kind of puts things in perspective when Destiny starts to struggle at around 14.
But worry not, because lets call a spade a shovel here…Destiny never really pushes the boundaries of …well…anything?
The visuals are passable, the combat is the same bog standard FPS fare that we have been spoon fed in a thousand other shooters, the customization is basic and the gameplay positively mediocre.
Destiny as it is, this piecemeal 6 hours of beige hacked to bits in favour of selling players back huge chunks of the original game in the inevitable Season Pass, is far from the blockbuster experience that gamers were promised for so long.
That some players are even defending the disgraceful inclusion of items such as the predictable Expansion Pack flyer in the game case on day one of launch just goes to show how blinkered and downright gullible some consumers can be, as they are happy to be fed any old line from publishers and developers regarding the promise of ‘ten year programmes’, in which we are now supposed to be happy that we will be ‘treated’ to ‘free’ updates, ( are there any other kind? ), and ‘paid’ downloadable content ( are there any other kind? ).
If any proof was required that Bungie’s promised opus has been callously butchered for future DLC packages then readers need only search Youtube for the myriad of video’s showing players already finding future area’s that will house downloadable content. This plainly demonstrates that these area’s have been deliberately removed from the launch game in a bid to then sell it back to you at a later date.
Yes, Bungie have made the combat absolutely buttery smooth and so similar to Halo that Xbox gamers will be able to jump right on in to Destiny and feel like they are cozying up to a much-loved old friend.
But, again, within the combat comes yet another problem because of the lack of a storyline. This means that all players will ever do is spawn in the exact same spot every time they begin a new mission or level. Then they move on through a few sparse enemies, who are also in exactly the same spot every time you pass them. ( so much so that if you just care to hang around a few minutes they will then magically re-appear like nothing ever happened and you can grind them into mush all over again ). From here its either a quick jaunt through the same terrain or you have the option of using your ‘speeder’ ( that comes with no armaments and basic controls and has about as much protection as chocolate fire guard ). One last push see’s you reach your objective where you will then take part in enforced ‘Horde Mode’ until the 30 second clock timer runs out and you go back to orbit, Earth or the same place you started from in the first place to rinse and repeat like some mind-numbing sci-fi torture.
And that is it. That’s Destiny..?
What happened here? This is the most expensive game ever created. £500 million. MILLION!? Where? How? Destiny has some of the most lack lustre level design of any game in recent memory, and the absolute worst solo experience next to MAG…and that game doesn’t even pretend to have one!
Minor niggles also litter the game like IED’s just waiting to go off on the first unsuspecting person to happen by. Some of them small, others not nearly so.
In no particular order here are some of the things which can cause aggravation on a scale of mild irritation to outright controller throwing ire.
The alluded to exploration from your single-seat space craft is, in fact, nothing more than a static cut scene. Not even an entertaining little mini-game, and even 2K’s NBA 2014 did that.
The fact that in a game that has boasted so much social interactivity and online community backing that not even a clan tag can be added to yours and your friends gamertags to show that you do, at least, have some kind of social recognition within the game itself.
The limitations of the 100 member clans, ( although you can’t have a clan tag ), meaning for larger groups you need to be split into sub-sections and have far more complicated hierarchies.
The questionable ‘one hit kill’ weapons in multiplayer.
Gamers being allowed to constantly farm ever more powerful weapons and ever stronger defensive armour and higher skill attributes in the ‘campaign’ and then being allowed to take them into the multiplayer unimpeded for tactical advantage.
Okay,, okay, that’s enough of the constant whining. It’s like the One Foot In The Grave version of the Destiny review. So, after all that evidence and after all those minor and major niggles and jiggles along the way the single biggest issue with Destiny is not the lack of story, its not the omission of a genuine solo campaign or the many little snags, the most annoying and outright frustrating thing about Destiny is this……
I LOVE IT!
Forget everything we just pointed out and just do yourself a favour and get among some of the coolest and most addictive action since call of Duty 4. The gun play is outstanding, the all new double-jumps bring a totally different feel to the combat systems usually found in spoon-fed shooters and constantly re-spawning enemies mean that the game never stops, it just keeps throwing armed to the teeth bad guys at you again and again in a constant challenge to your gaming skills.
Yes, we know we outlined a whole catalogue of moans and gripes but the truth of the matter is that Destiny is such a great game IN SPITE of these issues, rather than being a terrible one BECAUSE of them.
So what if you are dropped in the same spot for every mission, and so what if the lazy level design means that until the launch of the undoubted myriad of downloadable content packs that you will be fighting across the same locations and zones for the the same recurring missions. SO WHAT! Because at the end of the day, let’s be honest here, how many of the players getting among the action in Destiny are truly ‘bothered’ by it? That’s right, you got it in one…’none!’
Destiny knows it doesn’t have to answer to the nit-picking, know-it-all’s in either the gaming media or the industry because it does the one main thing right above all else, and that is to deliver on the promises made to introduce the future of online FPS gaming.
The action is incessant and once the bombs and bullets start to fly then the pace of the never-ending onslaught is blistering. The weapons feel meaty and extremely well balanced. Each firearm brings with it its own set of upgrades such as additional projectile damage, better sights for distance, ( or close combat ), as well as the ability to auto collect ammunition from any weapon type encountered from fallen…erm, ‘Fallen’.
The new found attributes in the gameplay, such as the outstanding double ( upgradable to ‘triple’ ), ‘Halo-Bouncing’ is great fun and brings with it a whole new way to deliver death and destruction to your enemies. Battling it out with an opposite number who is also capable of this new ‘verticality warfare’ is also great fun and adds new dimensions to an already highly entertaining combat system.
When all is said and done, however, the pissing and moaning, the praising and gushing, it all boils down to one basic thing with Destiny: “ Do you like shooters? “
And that is basically ‘it’, in a nutshell.
If you enjoy shooters games where everything you see is trying to blow your head off with everything from fusion based power weapons, automatic rifles and even laser swords then you will absolutely love Destiny. Because believe you me, you are going to be doing just that! Shooting!
If you don’t like shooters and you are whining about the lack of campaign, the fact that enemies re-pawn again and again you are in a constant battle regardless of how many bad guys you kill, then what the Hell did you buy a shooter game for in the first place? This wasn’t exactly sold to you as the next Fable title or Mortal Kombat. What were you expecting?
Destiny never actually made any promises to be anything other than ‘the next generation of shooters’, so all of those people, ( us included ), complaining because it has delivered on the only actual claim that it made need to re-consider, ( as we did ), what it is we are actually so aggrieved at.
Destiny is a beautiful game with massive panoramic vista’s and some of the very best FPS action you are ever likely to encounter throughout this entire generation. There is no point in saying ‘From start to finish’, because the game is incessant, ever evolving and with an already assured 10 years of future content planned down the line. So, as we say Destiny is not likely to be anywhere close to the end just yet.
Remarkable as it is re-inventing the shooter genre Destiny could just have ushered in the age of the ‘MMOS’, ( or “ massive multiplayer online shooter “ ), and we thank them for it. Forget negativity, forget minor grumbles and gripes and just enjoy it for what it is, the promised ‘future of shooters’. GmP rightly scores Destiny a justified 7 out of 10