‘Destiny’: Gamers Are Not Impressed Yet

Source: Destiny game trailer via YouTube
Source: YouTube

If you’ve been waiting for a major video game to come out, look no further than Destiny. This game was created by Bungie, the makers of the immensely popular Halo series. It cost a reported $500 million to make, and is part of an unprecedented 10-year agreement with publisher Activision. Video games rarely get bigger than this. Now that it’s out, critics and players have begun weighing in on the game’s quality. Surprisingly, it’s not looking as sunny as most people had hoped for such a major release.

At the time of this writing, Metacritic gave Destiny a score of 79 out of 100 on Xbox One and 76 on PS4. Those aren’t bad scores, as they fall in the site’s “generally favorable reviews” category, but we can assume the game’s makers would have liked a better score for such a high profile game. Users haven’t been quite as charitable as reviewers, giving the game a 6.6 out of 10 on the PS4 and 5.7 on Xbox One. So what’s going on here? How did a game made by such talented people get relatively middling reviews? Read on and we’ll look at how the game succeeds and where it falls short.

But first, what kind of game is Destiny? Answering that question is harder than it might seem. It’s an online first-person shooter that pulls inspiration from shooters like Halo and massively multiplayer games like World of Warcraft. But the result is an unusual game that doesn’t fall neatly into either category.

Destiny takes place in the far future after humankind has colonized other planets in the solar system. But all good things must come to an end, and vicious aliens have wiped out almost the entire human race. The only known survivors are in a city on Earth that’s protected by a mysterious entity called the Traveler. You play as a soldier tasked with going around the galaxy and wiping out all the aliens you find.

Fighting aliens requires a lot of shooting, so it’s a good thing the core mechanics are solid. As Game Informer puts it, “Intense, high-octane battles are Bungie’s forte, and Destiny maintains the reputation. Each of several gun types feels balanced and rewarding, and the special powers, grenades, and melee attacks that are unique to each class are exciting to acquire and a joy to perfect.”

You can play some missions alone, but “strike missions” require you to team up with other players. If you have friends online, you can play with them; otherwise the game drops you in a team with strangers to complete the mission. Some strike missions contain super challenging bosses that simply aren’t very fun to fight. According to Polygon, “With very few exceptions, boss enemies take an absurd amount of damage and require no real strategy beyond avoiding their massive one-hit-kill shots.”

As you complete missions, you collect new weapons and pieces of armor you can equip to increase your statistics. Each piece of gear changes the look of your character, so you might have to make a tough decision between wearing the most protective suit of armor or the one that looks the coolest.

As you complete missions, the game’s story gradually unfurls. According to The Escapist, however, the plot “doesn’t really go anywhere, most of it’s explained in text collected in the background, and there are maybe four characters of note, none of whom I can remember the names of, or indeed care about.” The game features the voice talent of Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, but, as The Escapist puts it, “Bungie took one of the most charismatic actors on American television and turned him into a drab plot delivery monkey.”

For a game that’s meant to be around for 10 years, it’s curious that once you hit the level cap at level 20, there’s not much to keep you coming back. You can keep trying to find rare “legendary” gear, but to do that, the game places you in random strikes you’ve already played through. You can also participate in player versus player matches, which some reviewers enjoyed, but others found lacking in innovation.

That about sums up Destiny at launch. However, just because critics and gamers aren’t completely taken by by the game in its current form, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. More than any other genre, a massive online game like this is ripe for change. Thanks to its 10-year development agreement, Bungie is poised to release a ton of additional content over the coming years, much of which will be based on the critiques of gamers and critics today. So even if it doesn’t sound like your cup of space tea right now, you might want to keep an eye on this game in the future.

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