Playing Destiny is a lot like going to see your favourite band, but arriving early and catching them at the sound check. They sound good, as perfect as you remember them, everything is running smoothly, perfectly almost, lights, sound, set, venue, everything. But there is something lacking, like they're saving themselves for the real deal, like they don't want to commit themselves fully for a meagre warm-up. And instead of being pleased to see you, they're annoyed you arrived early.
I'm a big fan of the Halo series (barring 4), so have been looking forward to Destiny's release for quite some time. For me, Halo got the FPS formula down so well, everything else pales in comparison. Balanced weapons, challenging difficulty, fun multiplayer and overall, a good story/single-player campaign. Perhaps it's unfair to want the same but more, or to compare the two, but it is a Sci-Fi FPS after all.
Aesthetically, Destiny looks lovely. Each planet has a breathtaking vista, each piece of gear looks gorgeous, each gun lovingly rendered. The games mechanics are smooth, gunplay is fun, abilities work well, everything has that spit and polish I've come to expect from Bungie.
But that's it. Story-mode is short. Interesting, fun, but short. I accidentally completed it, and I wasn't really trying. I think this is going to be the biggest sticking point with other peoples reviews as well, it just doesn't feel like a full game. It got to a point where it was interesting, but then that was it. With nothing but a whimper, short speech and a free gun, you complete the available story content. It felt like there is more story for sure, but to not even have a viable 'single-player' campaign, that has a beginning and an end, on a game I forked out £75 for, is a bit rich.
I'm sure you can make a game as long as you possibly can, and some nerd is going to blast through it within a few days regardless, thats unavoidable. What bothers me is that this isn't really a substantial game in itself. It's great that they are going to support it with extra content on a regular basis, and have it go on for years and years, but to me it just feels like they are withholding stuff rather than expanding on an obviously rich and interesting world.
To site a Halo reference, first Halo was great, long story, enjoyable, it also felt like I accomplished something by completing it. But I also wanted more, because it was so rewarding to play in the first place.
Levelling in Destiny is a bit different as well, the level cap being at 20, which you can get to within a day of solid play. However, that number is more like a starting point from when the game begins, any rank before and your still learning the ropes. Once past 20, your gear determines your rank, which I thought was a nice touch, as this game is all about the loot.
Where getting to that level cap is relatively easy, there is a gulf between that and being able to obtain legendary equipment from vendors. The game is split in to 2 modes, the Vanguard and the Crucible. Vanguard missions are strikes and story driven content, and for completing them you get Vanguard rank and currency. And then it's the same for Crucible, which is the multiplayer. Different vendors require either Crucible or Vanguard currency, so there is a nice distinction there for peoples play-styles, with rewards for both. I haven't even got to the first ranks in either yet, and I've been playing for 3 days straight more or less. And you need Rank 2 to begin buying these items, so it's good they have thought about the long game there for those that put the time in. As well as that, you can affiliate yourself with certain factions by wearing their gang 'colours', which ranks you up in there favour when you complete bounties and crucible matches. Again, a nice touch, even though the gear isn't particularly numerous for these guys, I hope it's expanded on in the future.
Multiplayer, unfortunately, is probably the worst case of matchmaking I've ever seen, which is unusual for Bungie. Although they've levelled the weapons to be equal to some extent, abilities play a big part, and almost ruined the experience for me. Games are frequently made up of a mottled assortment of ranks, from 4 to 20+. Now these 20+ guys have wildly superior super-charged abilities to that of a level 6 guy, and whats more, they can get perks that speed the recharge rate of these super-charged abilities, so at one point the game just becomes an avalanche of super-charged, instant kill beat-downs, rather than being about the gun-play. It's fun at times, but I feel having them as a rarity, or kept them out entirely, would make for a better game. It is however, one of the few games which works best with a smaller amount of players, the 3v3 are really fun and requiring a bit more team work. The best games I had where when everyone was the same level, so I'm hoping that will be fixed relatively soon.
After completing the current story, and getting to a higher level, you unlock strikes. Strikes are missions that culminate in defeating a big enemy, and they also make use of the Halo type 'Skulls' to modify equipment, game rules and A.I behaviour. My main beef with this is, again, lack of content. I think there are 6 strikes in all? Which you can quickly cycle through, even with the higher difficulty settings. When I say higher difficulty, what I mean is, it's scaled up to you, so the experience, for me, just stayed the same, which was another disappointment for me. Hiking up the health bar of the last boss is lazy, as lazy as just copying and pasting missions to different level back-drops. If it was me, I would of had the bosses and enemies at least randomised, so each experience is a little different. Weekly strikes however are a lot more challenging, so they're the ones I will most likely be looking forward to.
There are lots of good ideas, like the always online/multiplayer aspect of it, but none of the planets areas are particularly hard enough to warrant about 8 other guardians rampaging across the same map in a frenzied blood-lust. Joining a friends game isn't as seemless as they made it out to be when hyping up the game, you won't even appear in the Tower, the games main hub, together unless you team up before hand, and there is simply no 'just dropping in' to a friends game like they claimed. Even the public events are so rare that they are more likely to appear as your logging out or in going to a loading screen then when your actually playing.
Destiny has the potential to be amazing, but they dropped the ball by not making it a full game first. It's almost like it's designed to be played for a few hours every couple of days, anyone looking to put more than 4 hours in after reaching level 20 will be bored quite quickly. They say that the game starts at level 20, but I don't really see that at all. The story is what drives the game, that sense of purpose, that travelling from A to B. For instance, GTA got instantly dull for me after the story mode was completed, as there was literally nothing to do apart form piss about.
So overall, Destiny is everything I kind of expected from playing the Beta. The game is obviously great fun, and I'll be playing this for a long time yet, I am however disappointed with the amount of playable content on release date.
(Also, I've yet to try the 6-player raids, however, seeing as they are limited to friends only, it's unlikely I'll play them for a while. For guys like me, who aren't in a clan, kind of old, have friends with kids and jobs, trying to organise 6 people who still game, who have the same console and are even interested is such a fucking rarity these days, I feel this is more of punishment than a game mode)