All of the pieces are there to make Destiny a great game. The world is gorgeous, with some of the best art and design in a game to date. The combat is fun and fluid with weighty weapons and clever abilities. The music is beautiful and the sound design screams perfection. Yet Bungie doesn’t do enough to tie together all of Destiny’s fragments, leaving behind a hollow husk of what might have been.
Destiny does a terrible job setting up its world or giving you anything to care about. All story beats are doled out through excruciatingly boring exposition, mostly by your Ghost (played by Peter Dinklage), who seems confused why he’s saying what he’s saying. Any context for the endless number of lore terminology is relegated to collectible Grimoire cards, which can only be accessed through the companion app or Bungie’s website. Diving into those Grimoire cards shows a well-developed world the game never represents, but even then, reading off of cards doesn’t give you any context to their placement within the world.
A few story beats actually have personality and motivation behind them, but these only serve as mere shadows of what could have been. You’re left with little to care about but the Light vs. Darkness fight which is one of the most basic and childish of stories to tell. Many times characters mention the Light inside you and fighting against the Darkness to save the Traveler, but it doesn’t mean anything because you’re never given a reason to care. The story feels entirely too long and never picks up steam, ending before it even really begins. You might have fought against a piece of Darkness and saved the world or something, but it doesn’t feel like you really did much of anything. You have no agency within this world. At best, the story seems carved up into little pieces with all context and emotion removed. It’s a sterile story.
At least the combat is compelling enough to keep things moving. Weapons have weight and the combat feels great. Bungie knows how to make a good shooter and Destiny is no exception. In addition to weapons, each of Destiny’s three character classes have special abilities that help take out large groups of enemies. These abilities are the only differentiating factor in the character classes: they all use the exact same guns and most of the same armor. Destiny, in a lot of ways, feels like a faster version of Halo. But the lack of variety extends to the weapons as well, with only a few different types of primary and secondary weapons to choose from. It is fun to shoot enemies in Destiny, but it tends to feel like you’re doing the exact same thing over and over again, and everything turns monotonous.All of the missions in Destiny follow the exact same pattern and never deviate from it. You will travel to an area, storm inside wiping out a wave or two of enemies, press square/X to let your Ghost hack into something, and fight off wave after wave of enemies. The enemies themselves aren’t very tactical or memorable, with each faction getting a series of similar enemies. The Fallen and the Hive are easy to mix up with their similar structure and battle tactics of hiding behind cover and waiting in sequence to fire. Later factions are much more aggressive and interesting to fight, but there never feels like enough variety in enemy types. Even worse still, the missions often repeat large sections of environments from past missions. All of it ends up bleeding together and, with a lack of story, it becomes difficult to care.
In addition to regular story missions, you have the option to go on Strike missions. These missions pit you with a Fireteam of two others where you will run through the same environments as the story missions, fighting waves of enemies before getting to incredibly hard bosses. These boss enemies are just slightly larger versions of the same types of enemies you’ve seen time and time again, only with an egregious amount of health. One boss in particular takes about 20 minutes of constant firepower to take down. You’re forced to sit in position taking out chunks of the boss’s health before another regular wave shows up to cause some trouble. These new waves only serve the purpose of annoying you into moving positions and giving you more ammo, since you’re bound to run out constantly through the overlong fights.
At the end of your first time playing a Strike, you will get a small amount of loot comparable to the Strike’s level. Any other time you play a Strike, you probably won’t get any additional loot, or you’ll get loot of little use to you. In fact, many of the bosses don’t drop loot at all. Usually games are about overcoming a challenge and then being rewarded for that challenge. When you fight a boss for 10-20 minutes and then have no rewards to show for it, you feel cheated.
At various points, you will get unidentified loot you have to take to a vendor. This means leaving the planet you’re on and going through three different loading screens to get to the Tower, the main hub of Destiny and the only place vendors are located. Sometimes these unidentified equipment pieces won’t even be armor you can wear, but instead break down into one of Destiny’s many currencies. You have Glimmer, Vanguard Marks, Crucible Marks, Strange Coins, and Motes of Light; all of which apply to specific vendors for specific gear. Even still, you won’t have enough of the currency you need for quite a while. For instance, Vanguard Marks are awarded in very small doses through bounties and Strike Playlists, but you can only gain 100 Vanguard Marks a week. Most of the equipment you can purchase with these Marks require more than 100. Thus begins the long and arduous loot grind through the same six Strikes and the same few bounties just to get some new and powerful equipment.
Destiny also has an enjoyable multiplayer offering with four different modes and a variety of maps. There is nothing new or special about Destiny’s multiplayer, but it is an enjoyable escape from the limited PvE content. You take your Guardian from PvE into the PvP. All weapons are pared down so a level 4 player can still take down a level 20, however the battles can quickly become unbalanced thanks to character abilities that can wipe out an entire team without any way to defend. On certain maps, vehicles with weapons are offered and are entirely too powerful for a team to defend against. The vehicles are fast and hard to hit so if someone gets one, they can easily control the entire map with hardly any resistance. The more even the playing field, the more fun the multiplayer can be.
All the pieces are there for Destiny to be a great game: a beautiful world, fun combat, great sound design and music — but it lacks any cohesion. The story is nonsense. The content and mission designs are entirely too repetitive. Bungie created the basic outline of a game and didn’t bother to tie any of the pieces together. It is a homogenized, design-by-committee game that feels entirely too big in scope, despite being entirely too small in reality.