October 3rd, 2014

Destiny! A revolution in gaming that will finally justify the new generation of consoles! That will seamlessly fuse the compelling plot of single player games with the freewheeling interactivity of multiplayer ones! That offers tense gunplay in vast open-worldy vistas with oceans of content and customisability to explore!

So I was led to believe, anyway.


Destiny is OK. Pretty good, even. But revolutionary it is notably not. In fact, rather than feeling like an ingenious combination of the best features of a load of lesser games to make an utterly new and more compelling whole, it feels like a combination of features rather cynically poached from a load of better games to make something calculated to be maximally commercial but lacking any real soul or personality of its own.

It’s a 1st person co-op gunplay game like Borderlands but with less guns and no wit.  It’s an open worldy multiplayer like GTA V but with a far smaller world and that a strangely sterile, empty one.  It’s a random-drop equipment-grinding role-playing game like Diablo but with no role to play and all the equipment’s the same.

It gets a little bit of what makes each of those games work, but doesn’t really excel anywhere.  The background and texture of the game is just woefully generic and bereft of humour.  Your character offers nil personality, not even a name. Non-player characters are little better. Single player campaign makes no real sense and doesn’t dovetail at all with the multiplayer (can one really imagine one is the sole saviour of mankind when there are hundreds of other players around self-evidently having the exact same experience?).  Enemies, settings, and equipment are exactly the sort of enemies, settings and equipment we’ve seen in space games a thousand times.  This all leads to a repetitive experience. Get mission, blah, blah, something or other which comes down to following the white dot on your radar and shooting stuff on the way. Press square to deploy your personal Peter Dinklage for some phoned-in waffle bereft of emotion and onto the next white dot.

I’m being harsh, but really, the end of the previous generation, with games like the Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider, proved you can do an awful lot better than this from a characterisation, plot, and emotional involvement point of view.  Destiny just feels so safe, sterile and over-produced.

Having said all that, I have been playing it pretty happily for some time, and I do keep wandering back.  An intense and hugely monotonous grind though it is, requiring an unholy amount of hours to make progress at the higher levels, they have managed to winkle out whatever it is that makes that kind of experience compelling.  I can’t say why, cause they’re basically just like the others, but I do seem to really want that pair of special boots that guy’s selling, and it’ll only take me 15 hours of grinding to save up… The saving grace is the action – it is repetitive but it is great – smooth, exciting, plenty of satisfying impact, easy to learn but hard to master.  The worlds are a bit generic but they are beautifully realised, full of texture and detail, you just find yourself ignoring it all a bit in your urgency to chase the latest white dot on your radar.  Adding a couple of friends does improve things but you’d better have a few who are online a lot because the game makes it strangely hard to get an ad hoc crew of strangers together for the most challenging tasks.

Destiny does do a lot of things reasonably well, it all knits together into a pretty compelling experience and after the opening fiasco of GTA V you’ve got to applaud the technical achievement of making such a massive online experience run smoothly.  But it’s nowhere near as big, as varied, or as original as promised, and for me completely fails to supply the much-vaunted knitting together of single and multiplayer experiences.  Maybe the additional content they’re planning to drip in will gradually offer more variety, more reasons to grind away for untold hours, and there is a solid foundation there to build on, but without anything truly innovative or, more importantly, any personality of its own, I can’t see it pulling me back much as the months wear on…

Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on October 3rd, 2014.

17 comments so far

  • I agree 100%. I was so incredibly disappointed by the story. The setting offers so much potential, but we just get vague hints of a story. There’s something called the “Darkness”. There’s a mysterious woman who is “helping” you but spends the whole time she’s on screen telling you she doesn’t have time to explain anything.

    I feel like a 4th grader could do a finer job with the narrative and dialogue than whoever wrote this cut up tripe.

    The grind is awful, and the loot drops are only beginning to be fixed. Somehow, I still keep playing though.

  • billy says:

    I’d agree with everything in this review , it’s exactly my thoughts as well. So much of the game is underwhelming and not what we were promised , yet the combat at it’s core is fun. I’ve had 20 hours of fun so I guess I can’t complain but all your criticisms are spot on.

    Probably didn’t help I played Destiny straight after Diablo 3 and the last of us. Diablo 3 does so many things better and of course the last of us is a classic with a brilliantly told story.

  • ColinJ says:

    I’m not even going to bother with this.

    Apparently that new SHADOW OF MORDOR game is the mutt’s nuts. I’ll just get that.

  • Phil says:

    I couldn’t get into that game as felt it was just not inspiring enough for me.

    Today my copy of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor arrived. I’ve just come off playing it for 2 hours and I admit this game is just a amazing, and so entertaining. Far better than Destiny!

  • RAMSAY says:

    This isn’t about the game, but I was just wondering if you’ve seen The Leftovers yet Joe, as I reckon it might be your kind of thing? If so, I look forward to you writing about it in the near future. If not, check out it’s beautiful bleakness!

  • Hawkeyye says:

    Played the alpha. Hated it
    Played the beta. Hated it.

    Like an idiot I bought the game. Hated it. Traded it in after a week. Really wanted it to be all it promised. My own fault for buying into the hype and not believing my own eyes.

  • David List says:

    You make good points. It’s not epic. There’s no notable story. I agree that Dinklage phoned this in for a check. The occasional increase in his voice’s volume is about as dramatic as his role ever gets in the game.
    I just reached level 20 last night and am learning that to advance further would require more grinding time than this game (or any, as far as I’m concerned) deserves.

    However, my preconceptions were a bit different than yours.
    Firstly, the advertisements are what suggested to me the game would be revolutionary. But all advertisements say that about every game. “I was paid a shitload of money to convince you this game is awesome. Trust me.” Perhaps I’m cynical.
    The footage looked like every other sci fi fps. I won’t name the dozen that pop to mind.
    Secondly, (and most importantly) I saw that Salvatori and O’Donnel were composing. I saw that the team that made Halo (which WAS revolutionary) had their hands on it (and not some tired-ass Halo sequel).
    Those were my expectations. And they were met. The soundtrack isn’t as good as Halo or Halo 2 or Halo 3. But it’s damn better than 4. The game plays like a modern, updated Halo… and for that, I enjoy it.
    For now.
    Until I get Shadow of Mordor.

  • jordan says:

    Most over-hyped game since Too Human.

  • Robert+Borchert says:

    I became wary of Destiny when the manufacturer started toting it as the next big epic game franchise. Red Flags. I never purchased Destiny. I follow various forums and post requests for game review from real gamer’s. It kept me from buying Destiny and Watch Dogs.

    Point of note: Games (like books) that are reviewed before the product hits the market should be taken with a grain of salt. Reviewers like that are often paid to write reviews. they get the product (or book) for free from the developer (publisher). If they are a reviewer who consistently calls a lemon a lemon they won’t get paid to do it anymore.

    Now this does not hold true for Joe’s books. Any reviewer who does not like them is nuts.

  • Gamer says:

    Personally, I do not always agree with the majority, Destiny is a triple output A as they are called, but hey we are not expecting so if you are against this principle … is boycotting … short truce controversy
    Talking about the game, I find it more than nice! When I bought a PS4 my only regret was Borderland 2 Grace destiny I find the joy of FPS / RPG that me as most in Borderland 2.
    Now whether you are a fan or not of the universe Bungie, Halo genre inspiration is not to please! In short, a fabulous blend of two monster FPS (one for gamepley and one for the style of the universe)
    I LOVE this game I still spent long hours to finish bottom this game 🙂

  • Kobu says:

    Joe, being glad to read the confirmation of my suspicions about Destiny from such a competent source (and even more glad at the realization that I won’t have to invest neither money nor time into it amidst the great variety of really nice games this year) I have to wonder why is it that my search of your site on “The Banner Saga” results in nothing. I dare say that sure is a game virtually tailored for your liking and I expected to see a huge positive review on it back in spring… Haven’t you pick it up yet at all or am I so gravely mistaken in my estimation of your preferences?

  • Chris says:

    Just curious, but any residual guilt over your purchase in that case?

    I know you’ve waxed poetic in past blogs about the golden age of gaming, (think “Last of Us” and “Tomb-Raider”)but I can’t help feeling that we’re in danger of financially validating such mixed signal projects, independent of any creative or innovative success on their parts.

    Not sure about you, but I’d much rather see more future efforts from say a risk taking Naughty Dog than a slightly right of the bell curve Bungie…

  • dawnrazor says:

    Agree totally with your estimations of Destiny and would go as far to say it is lazy in the extreme in many of it’s aspects… However, I’m still playing, there is something quite compelling that is drawing me back again and again. Having a Playstation Plus account does increase the game play a lot, with capture the flag and team combatant style games that can be fun and can earn you heaps of rewards, I’d recommend delving into this part of the game if you haven’t already. As I read somewhere, Destiny is an online game for people who don’t like to play online…. And that certainly feels to be the case.

    It’ll do until Assassins Creed Unity comes out 🙂

  • Country Rip says:

    Sparrow racing on a forest covered planet needs to happen .

  • Matthew Dowling says:

    I cannot agree with this more. Also, bonus; My favorite author reviewing video games that I play. EPIC

  • ZeroGal5 says:

    I completely agree with this. At first I was pretty satisfied with the over-all story of Destiny and figured ‘hey, they’re releasing more within the years’, so I was pretty sated with what they gave me…

    That was until I cracked into Assassin’s Creed.

    I got my grubby hands on the first game and have been playing catch up, and I can say %100 that they probably didn’t expect Creed to go past the first game, but the story telling is excellent despite that. I still love to play Destiny– the patrols can be pretty fun, and I have no issues blasting hoards of aliens to upgrade my Titan. I just hope that they take the let-downs from the first game and improve on it. AKA give us a strong story-mode and change up the missions! I’m still a fan of this game though. I will be for a long time.

  • David says:

    Played the demo, and that’s honestly as far as I’m going to go. Combat is a lot of fun but no coherent story to speak of in-game (they want me to look up lore entries online? really?) gives this a pass for me.

    Can I have an open world Mass Effect instead please?

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