Video game stories always seem to get a lot of flack. It's something I've never really understood as they are no worse than what Hollywood churns out for the most part and I've read my share of literary disasters. Forthe most part they serve their purpose as background to give changing environments a sense of coherency and when they are the focus of the experience, they can invoke emotions greater than any other other medium due to games one advantage over other entertainment: interactivity. You are part of the story and become that more invested in it. How you play creates as much plot as a cut scene. It's why I love gaming so much as a hobby.
What happens though,when the traditional side of entertainment serves to undermine the new? This is the conflict at the core of Destiny. It looks amazing. It plays just as you would expect considering the caliber of the team behind it, made famous for the influential Halo series. It has night eating multiplayer that will have you and your friends laughing and sharing anecdotes (and videos thanks to the new consoles sharing functions). The story and the world though? Absolute pants.
I honestly can't remember when I've cared less about a games plot. There are plenty of titles where it is just noise but nothing this terrible has been so in your face for a long as I can remember. The terrible performance on show from what has become known as the Dinkle bot (a robot voiced by Peter Dinklage) only compounds the issues with the story. This is even before the player finds out that most of the details about the game world are on cards that you unlock as you progress and are only viewable on either the bungie app or website. In short, if you're coming into the game for anything apart from the shooting, stay well clear.
On the other hand, if you are just looking for a shooter, Destiny certainly delivers from a mechanics point of view. The gunplay is immensely satisfying with perfectly tuned controls and just the right amount of auto aim to make those head shots feel satisfying. The super floaty jumps from Halo are also on show making navigation around the environment feel effortless, if not graceful. Add in a class based super move and you have a sublime recipe for delicious core gameplay. Bungie really can't be faulted here.
The core experience of Destiny is that of an MMO. You have a hub where you hook up with people pre mission, you can do your shopping, pickup new side quests (known as bounties), get super high level gear and occasionally hand in story quest items to unlock new campaign missions. It's a nice way of making you feel like you're part of a living world even if it is undermined by the fact that it's instanced. No WoW style hundred odd player dances here unfortunately.
This compartmentalism of players goes into the main game as well, so you'll never run into more than a few players with this number dropped down to a maximum of three when you enter a dungeon. It's pretty lonely for a shared experience in all honesty. Not that you'll notice that much though, as long as there's plenty of enemies to shoot.
Theres three types of alien race to shoot in the face (or their equivalent of) and are basically the gameplay equivalent of the flood, the covenant and the robot guys from the new Halo that everyone seemed to hate.They're all great fun to shoot in the face but with what is pretty much just three kinds of mob for the whole game, things get old fast. This is not helped by the whole game only having four large levels. Missions will have you running over the same area over and over again with the same enemy placement, doing something slightly different at the end, be it slaying a big monster or fighting waves of grunts while your ghost scans something of great importance that is never explained.
The amount of content on show here is pretty thin on the ground and gets repetitive very quickly. Playing with friends reduces this issue but as a package Destiny doesn't lend itself well to all night sessions solo. To combat this you have strike missions, multiplayer focussed raids that involve fighting one or more boss enemy. These start out as the highlight of the game but soon become wars against bullet sponge monstrosities that are more fights of attrition than that of skill. This is a real shame as they become a central part of the end game so hopefully there's some balancing on the way.
The other side of the game is the competitive multiplayer.There's not many maps but all of them are tightly designed. There's also plenty of variety so those going in for a PvP experience will be very happy. It's not especially well balanced as those with higher levels will have more abilities and better gear but that doesn't stop it being a great way to spend an evening or two. Besides, stats are auto balanced and you get experience just like in the main game, so is completely possible to max out a character without even touching the main game.
Getting a characters to level twenty isn't a huge task really, a few solid nights of play or a week of casually dipping in will have your avatar at the top of their game. The experience changes quite dramatically here. While the XP cap is twenty, it's possibly to level up further by equiping gear that has a light attribute. This raises the cap to thirty and consists of simply grinding to get new loot. The game from here on in will be something of a marmite one. You'll either get hooked by the feedback loop or get bored and move on. I'm of the latter persuasion and after a good few hours in this phase of the game I simply decided to roll a new character. This made the game fun again but only until the campaign made me run across the same world to the same cave for the third time. For the second time..
Destiny has amazing central gameplay and it's hard to argue that most shooter fans will get some enjoyment out of it. It's just a real shame that the rest of the game falls short in so many fundamental ways. Bungie claim that this is the first game in their ten year plan of releases and to expect constant added content and expansions like you'd expect in any MMO. This sounds great but for those buying in at the beginning, it rings somewhat hollow. Maybe Destiny will be worth coming back to in years to come when there's a lot more to see and do along with balancing to what is already on show. If this situation does arise, I'm sure we can do another review as you'd expect from any online game that significantly changes over the years. For now though, it's simply an above average multiplayer focused shooter to play with friends for a few weeks until the next big release hits.