Let me start by saying that there are a lot of really good things about Destiny. I do like the game. I’ve hit level 20 and completed all of the story missions. I played a significant amount of the competitive multiplayer and even there the game is exceptionally good. The supercharged abilities add a nice wrinkle to competitive play especially in the objective mode Control, which is like Conquest in Battlefield. The game plays extremely well. The controls are tight and the gunplay receives high marks, with each gun feeling and handling unique. The artwork and environments are also beautifully rendered and detailed. There are a lot of things to like about Destiny but unfortunately there are quite a few things to be disappointed about as well.
First and foremost is the story. As a game that attempts to be steeped in lore, as other video game space operas like Mass Effect are, Bungie has failed immensely. The majority of information regarding the world is not available within the game, in fact there’s barely any sort of exposition with regard to your objectives and what is going on. You’re given enemies to kill but no real reason as to why. In most instances you’re just killing them because if you don’t, they’ll kill you.
In fact, the majority of information that explains the world you’re playing in isn’t even locked inside an in-game codex or library but on Bungie’s website and in their Destiny mobile application via their Grimoire. Even then you’d be hard pressed to find any useful information regarding the origins of many of the creatures and/or people you will meet along the single player journey. There’s no impetus on the storyteller’s part to explain anything to the player and while that may have worked for Bungie when they were making Halo, this sort of window dressing story exposition just does not cut it in today’s video game landscape where stories and narratives are becoming far more robust and substantial. Destiny may appear, on the surface, that its single player experience is going to be like Mass Effect, and while it’s gameplay may be an exception, it is actually closer to that of a Battlefield or Call of Duty.
The dialogue sometimes falls very flat, to be generous, and sometimes I wonder if the director of the voice actors was paying any attention during the recordings. This is a true shame, because the cast that lend their voices to Destiny is rich with talent and about 90% of them go to waste with their characters standing in the Tower delivering contrived throw-away dialogue that means absolutely nothing. This is because their lines are essentially salutations for when you approach them and then exit the menu used to peruse their wares.
This utter lack of substance, and the game’s lackluster ending have left me wondering if Destiny is an IP that will be buttressed by scheduled expansions which will simply be glorified new chapters, providing new things to go shoot and kill with loot being the carrot on the stick to continue to do so. While I’ve certainly never been opposed to publishers finding ways to make money, the games industry is a business after all, I feel like withholding key content that could have made Destiny feel like a more complete product from the outset is a catastrophic mistake.
Of course the early reports in right now declare that Destiny has become the best selling intellectual property ever. And while I definitely do not begrudge Bungie and Activision their success, I’ll be interested to see if reception to the expansions planned in December and inevitably farther down the road will be just as warm. For a game that was 5 or so years in the making it’s surprising that the cupboards are so bare. In the same breath that I laud Bungie for innovation in terms of competitive play, I have to point out that their matchmaking suite is ostensibly missing. Players can form a fireteam and jump into competitive matches together but outside of that, you’re not privy to many other choices other than which competitive mode to play. Also don’t expect to be able to speak to anyone outside of your fireteam through in-game supported chat features. There is no text chat option either, and in a game where Raids will not have matchmaking support, the lack of ability to communicate with other unknown players will undoubtedly leave many that are looking for new friends lonely and wanting.
The good news is that many of these problems are very fixable. While the campaign is what it is right now there’s no reason to believe that Bungie can’t do a better job in future expansions to bring a bit more life and depth (and above all sense) to the world of Destiny. For a game that should be so rich that it is overflowing with content the severe lack of it is just shocking. And as much as Bungie has said that reaching the level cap is just scratching the surface, booting the game up right now, it feels more like I’ve reached the end than the beginning.