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GAME REVIEW | Destiny | Destined for better things (hopefully)

Memory can be a difficult thing. If something really is forgettable, so bland and throw-away that your brain doesn’t waste the energy committing it to your eternal collection of stuff inside the grey goo behind your eyes, then do new forgettable things suffer from your lack of memory of past forgettable things? Are we doomed to make exaggeration of how bad fresh forgettable things which crop up are because we don’t have any similarly forgettable experiences to compare them to – because we forgot about them all?

That opening is nearly as convoluted and boring as the story of Destiny, which doesn’t seem to exist outside of a gaming-plot-keyword-generator. Words like Swarm, Hive, Guardian and a theme of light and dark so vague that it casts a monotony of grey over the entire game. The cracks these issues show can normally be papered over with top performances from a game’s cast, but the only thing worse in Destiny than the story is the voice acting that goes with it. Peter Dinklage is beyond woeful as your generic robotic companion who scores a 0% for personality and originality. Similarly shocking is your character him/herself, who decides he has a voice at a point of the story so random, with dialogue so underwhelming you won’t even notice it’s your character until you see the shot focus on them talking. Last but not the least dreadful is the announcer in PVP, who you could get good odds on just being some bloke that won a competition to be in the game. It’s total shite.

All these story-telling woes leave you with a jarring lack of context to your shooty shenanigans and when you face off with a group of aliens, it’s unlikely you’ll have a clue who they are or what they’ve done to deserve a clip of ammo in their face. Luckily, the unarguably fantastic design of the enemies means they all look pretty menacing, so you won’t feel too bad about murdering them relentlessly. Cause they look pretty mean, ya know?

That, and the fact that shooting them is just so damn fun. This game is made by Bungie, who made Halo, and the slick, sharp, meaty gun play reflects this brilliantly. There aren’t heaps of gun types to choose from, and as you level up and get more powerful weapons they don’t control drastically differently to others in their class, but what’s there is inarguably excellent in terms of gameplay. Handcannons (big ass revolvers) are particularly satisfying, and all weapons have high multipliers for headshots, meaning you’ll be rewarded for taking that extra fraction of a second to line up your shots.
The other means of hurting things from outer space at your disposal comes from the powers assigned to your chosen class. Master-chiefi-ish Titan, Space-wizardy Warlock or Fuck- you-I’m-wearing-a-cape Hunter are the choices and each specialises in twatting aliens in various fun ways. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to get much choice in where you take these powers in the early stages and so levelling up can feel a bit restricted.

It’s a feeling that you’ll get far more times than you’d expect in a game with a budget comparable to the latest NASA operation. You’ll find yourself in the same places over and over, with ridiculous loading times between areas. Luckily, the design prowess of Bungie saves the day again and the general beauty of the locales, with their stunning vistas and detailed settings, are fun to revisit, but it still feels a bit thin based on the games extensive marketing campaign and it’s constant referral to a huge open world.

Another bare-bones element to Destiny is the social options. Whereas the game has been tipped as an MMO and even features a social hub where dozens of players are running around, the options for communicating with them suck. You simply can’t chat to those around you without selecting them individually and clicking through the menu to invite them to chat. It’s a logical choice by Bungie, who didn’t want the random chatter to overwhelm players, as well as cutting out the slightly odd characters who always tend to crop up in online gaming, but in practice it weakens the game as a whole. The best part of an MMO is to strike up chats with other players, making impromptu groups to help each other out on missions and lend advice, but this simply isn’t an option and you end up with an over-populated world where everyone’s completely disconnected. It’s almost a smart metaphor for modern society, except it’s not – it’s just the unfortunate consequence of misguided game design.

Get yourself a team of 3 together and go out in to the wild though, and Destiny comes in to its own. Set yourself a challenging mission and orchestrating your fireteam to victory can be extremely good fun as the co-op action flows and the stellar gunplay mechanics kick in. This is clearly a game that should be played with friends, but that just makes the inability to make any in-game all the more head scratching.

PVP is an improvement on the story mode, mostly because it strips away all the blandness of the context, but also because playing with loads of people is genuinely excellent in Destiny. Going toe to toe with real humans put the shooting mechanics to their best use and try as he might to ruin things, you can mostly ignore the ridiculously bad announcer voiceover.

These are, of course, first impressions of a game that is designed to be played for hours upon hours, but the initial signs are that the groundwork has been undermined by some totally shocking narrative and bizarre design choices. The fact you can only have 3 people on a fireteam, for example, is completely nonsensical given the size of the fighting areas and the focus on multiplayer. The game has already had updates, tweaks and changes announced and there are already some top ideas, such as increasing the frequency of the fantastic public events. In these, a marker will appear with an objective that all players nearby will see, prompting timed challenges that previously separate players must band together to complete. It’s epic, but rare in the games current form.

Looking to the future and the humongous budget and seemingly endless marketing campaign for Destiny ensure that support for the title they’ve worked so hard to make a success won’t be going anywhere soon. With some choice updates, Destiny could be the epic it strives to be, even with the story issues, but as it is it’s launched far short of the lofty expectations it built itself.

6/10

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