sun 26/05/2024

Destiny | reviews, news & interviews



The biggest game of a generation leaves an empty hole in space

'Destiny': In space no one can hear you scream "where is everyone?"

The blockbuster game to outblockbuster them all. Creating Destiny required a record-breaking budget of $500 million; it's made by the makers of the iconic Halo series; it fuses that series' first-person, space-opera shooter pedigree with World of Warcraft-style massively multi-player online gaming; and it sold $500 million on its launch day alone.

In gaming terms, Destiny is huge – a massively slick and serious enterprise… with a hollow heart that would make Hollywood proud.

Destiny is best viewed as a surface. It looks undeniably amazing – simultaneously organically complex, gritty and epic. And its Halo pedigree shines through not just in backdrops, but combat feel – the 30 second bursts of adrenaline; the duck, pop-out, run repeat patterns; the perfectly-balanced weaponry; the great fun vehicles.

Destiny - Halo meets World of Warcraft, first-person shooter MMO - see also Borderlands Titanfall and PlanetsideIn motion, Destiny is seductive – a smooth drip-feed of action, increasing power and visual overload. But underneath that, not only is there nothing to hang onto; there's little to draw you in and retain you.

Like other massively multi-player games, the idea is you band together in small groups of online players – to take on story-advancing missions; "patrols" where you battle reappearing groups of enemies; and player-vs-player combat arenas. No matter which you choose, there's a stream of experience points to boost your level and give you upgraded powers; loot drops and weapons and armour to snarfle.

Unlike its fantasy rival World of Warcraft though, there's little human interaction. That could be early days – with player-created factions and intrigues coming to the fore over the coming weeks. But on current evidence, that seems unlikely. The player hub, post-launch, feels like an airport – strangers passing through, a few listless shops to buy stuff from, little chatter.

Playing Destiny missions with a group of online friends improves the experience. But even then, unlike with strategic online games that demand speech, this first-person shooter requires little more interaction than occasionally reviving a fallen comrade. The game feels… empty and cold.

This is not helped by plotting and enemy design. Plot is absent (blah, blah… universe-spanning darkness… blah, blah… kill aliens). Meanwhile enemies fall swiftly into patterns familiar to Halo veterans: the ones that peer out from cover; the ones that snipe from far away; that are big and stompy; that run at you in a swarm etc. Even their names are generic – Hive, Fallen, Vex etc. The approach to mission design is similarly conservative.

All of this would be forgiveable if the game was as slick as it likes to make out. But even if you're a hardened online first-person shooter fanatic, I query whether you wouldn't be better off with the latest Call Of Duty or Titanfall. The latter, particularly, offering a more focussed and enjoyable sci-fi shooter approach. Worse, if you're a newbie to this arena, it's going to be a mix of baffling, offputting and dully frustrating.

Destiny - Halo meets World of Warcraft, first-person shooter MMO - see also Borderlands Titanfall and PlanetsideThere's little attempt to ease new players in smoothly. If you're expecting friendly players positively leaping to join your gang – there's no sign of that, or even any ways to encourage it. In the same vein, the player-vs-player Crucible seems fairly unbalanced, with higher-level players with better weaponry dominating most matches. Even simple things like the lack of ability to pause and return to co-operative missions mid-way through indicates a lack of thought or support for the non-hardcore player.

I had to break off an hour-long "strike" mission against a big boss about 45 minutes in. Returning to it later, when friends weren't online, meant not only starting again, but facing the same enemies now with no adjustment for playing without friendly firepower and support.

These issues may be fixed in time, as the game develops and evolves – massively multi-player games do tend to get much more post-launch support. But ultimately, there's every sign that while Destiny plays slickly and looks stunning, this is visual and gameplay gloss draped over deeply conservative design, with a hollow lack of player involvement at its core. It's thrilling, but leaves one empty.

In motion, Destiny is seductive – a smooth drip-feed of action, increasing power and visual overload…


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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