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…