One of the most common questions I’ve been asked by friends is whether or not Destiny lives up to its hype. While it may take weeks, months or even years to truly know the answer to this question, there is no denying that Destiny has had a big impact in the gaming world. When a title recoups its entire $500 million budget on day one, it’s hard not to notice. I personally know several PC Gamers that have picked up a console just to give Destiny a spin. It’s obvious that Destiny isn’t your ordinary IP launch. Does this mean that we’ll still be talking about Destiny a year from now? Good question.
After reading some of the early reviews, it’s clear to me that some people are a bit confused about what to expect from Destiny. Many writers have approached Destiny as if it were a standard console shooter, expecting a clearly defined campaign with a big climax at the end that wraps up the story in a neat little bow. Some have barely mentioned the value in the open/persistent and explorable maps in favor of focusing purely only on the story campaign, voice acting and writing. Now, these are all important elements and I would agree that the dialogue could use a bit more pizazz, it certainly isn’t terrible. The plot leaving players with more questions than answers is a good thing since it sets the stage for future storytelling. In a persistent world, you’re not going to have as many of the controlled environments like you’ll see in a single player title. Destiny is very MMO’ish in how there is a great amount of flexibility while playing through the missions and how you control of your actions and destinations. With the exception of some of the very well-crafted cut-scenes, you never really lose control of your avatar. In most shooter campaigns that I’ve played through I’ve assumed the role of a character in a story while in Destiny I assume my character in a world - again, a very MMO-like aspect. The bottom line is that some reviewers compared Destiny’s campaign to other story-driven games, which isn’t an entirely fair comparison. Destiny’s story isn’t contained purely in the campaign as we see it now. Destiny is setting the stage for what is to come through updates and expansions. While there is certainly a solid story in Destiny, its purpose seems to be more to set up a canvas that future updates will begin to fill in. In the meantime, the Grimoire cards that players unlock contain tons of supporting lore material that the game doesn’t explain on your screen.
When it comes to gameplay, I admit - I don’t play many shooters. Besides the Borderlands and Bioshock series’, I haven’t touched shooters. Since this is the case, it’s difficult for me to compare Destiny to other shooters except to say that the gameplay seems very well crafted and I’m having a great time. I found Destiny to be very accessible. While I did have to keep looking at my PS4 controller to remember where the square or circle buttons were, I found that I could keep up with the objectives without feeling like I was attempting the impossible. As I’ve played Destiny more and more, I’ve become much more comfortable with the controller and seem to have a decent grasp on gameplay.
Now, I may not be able to speak about whether or not Destiny a great shooter but I can speak with some confidence about its MMO aspects. While Bungie has been careful to avoid calling Destiny an MMO, the family resemblance is undeniable. Upon reading some reviews, it’s fairly easy to tell if the writer has played MMO’s or has strong opinions about them. A sampling of Destiny review complaints include long boss battles, fights resetting in instances after a group wipes, not being able to pause the game (I laughed), always online, enemy respawns and reputation farming. These elements are all familiar with those of us that play MMO’s, but could seem a bit strange to players from the other side of the fence. For example, they may not realize that in a persistent world that if the enemies don’t respawn, the other players are going to have a bad time! (By the way, enemies in Destiny don’t respawn by just appearing into the world - they are usually dropped off by ships or teleport in - it’s very cool.)
Destiny is certainly MMO’ish but there are some features that are intentionally missing from the game. There is no player economy or trading. If you want that weapon upgrade, you need to earn it, find it our buy it from a vendor. Also, there are no chat channels or text communication between players of any kind. Thankfully there is optional voice chat to use between groups of friends. Voice chat will become increasingly important during higher level group content.
On the subject of player communication, after playing the game for several days, I’ve concluded that I don’t miss player chat nearly as much as I thought I would. Knowing that teammates couldn’t yell at me in chat, I had confidence to try new PvP maps and do strike missions without the fear of being put down or made fun of. I’m free to experiment and try new things and since the “pros” can’t abuse others in chat, they simply keep fighting and I keep getting better. Had I been subjected to the litany of name calling and shaming while still learning, I’m not sure I would have continued to play so willingly or had as much fun learning the game. While there are times chat would be useful, it’s not entirely necessary to progress in the game or as a team. If I need to communicate with my team so badly, I can turn on my microphone and talk, which is also optional.
So, does Destiny live up to the hype? Again, only time will tell but for me, the game has certainly exceeded my expectations and as a long-time PC gamer I’m very surprised that this console game has been able to grip my imagination and attention.