#Destiny Review Redux

BxRsfydIcAANE5II played in the beta, and whatever it was before the beta (which certainly wasn’t an alpha) and I find myself perplexed by the response of many webcomics cartoonists and bloggers to the game. That response being disappointment for many. Review sites – in the spotlight recently over #gamergate have been giving it scores like 6 and 7/10, which are actually more like 4’s and 5’s once you take into account score bias (where the average trends towards 7).

For me, the game isn’t a disappointment, despite having thrashed through the Earth stages a huge number of times during beta access and having to do so again with the full release. Despite having already played through it in some intense play over the last week (I was laid up with a fractured wisdom tooth for a couple of days).

I can see myself continuing to play the game a great deal in much the same way I continued to play Trion’s Defiance console MMO (also very good!) even after I completed that.

So why have I had such a different reaction to Destiny than so many other people and why is it – in my opinion – a very good and worthwhile game?

I think I can nail down a few reasons.

  1. I didn’t follow the hype: I understand Destiny has been hugely hyped but I hadn’t really been following it that much. My expectations were shaped by my experience in the beta and not anything else. If I hadn’t played in the beta it wouldn’t be on my radar because…
  2. I wasn’t expecting Halo: I didn’t especially like Halo. It was expensive for the single player campaigns and I’m not a fan of PvP which is where the franchise seemed to be increasingly concentrated. Because I wasn’t expecting Halo I wasn’t disappointed and was, in fact, delighted by what appears to be the bastard offspring of Borderlands and Phantasy Star.
  3. I’m a Roleplayer: The views, the lore, the Grimoire (no pun intended) are crack to me. I want to understand this bizarre, post-transhuman world in which we find ourselves playing. I have been inspired enough to start putting together a kit to play Destiny as an RPG (using Numenera) and I’ve been poring over my Grimoire, reading the strategy guide for the lore and poking at the online wikis to see more about it. It’s a really, really interesting world even if it is all based around a singular deus-ex-machina in the form of The Traveler and pseudo-scientific techno mysticism.

Graphically the game is superb, the first new-generation game to really seem to stretch the legs of the PS4.

The music is great and will likely come to form background to some of our tabletop roleplaying sessions in the same way the soundtracks to Mass Effect and other games have (Prince of Persia was great while playing Dark Sun).

Gameplay wise, yes, there’s not a huge amount of levels yet, but the design is tight and they are replayable in different builds, different character types and at different levels. The Strike missions remain genuinely challenging and fun and the patrol missions are excellent time sinks already, especially with random events going off.

The elements many have complained about, the lore being scarce, the story being incomplete and unsatisfying make sense within an MMO context, you don’t want to shoot your bolt and have nothing left. I am sure more is to be revealed over time, though I appreciate people’s frustration with the current state of play.

I can’t stand PvP, so I can’t really comment on that aspect of the game.

Style: 4.5/5 (a true next-gen piece of art, but I found the character design a little too dehumanising, distant and ‘unsexy’)
Substance: 3/5 (while the substance of the game is currently rather limited, the promise it holds is enormous. The hints of further Earth areas – Chicago, Mumbai, and other planets – especially the Jovian sub-system – all hold enormous promise that I hope will be fulfilled).
Overall: 3.75/5

The major problem with Destiny is that there isn’t enough of it. When you’ve made a game, that’s a nice problem to have and one that’s fixable.

Also, give us facial hair, goddamn pogonophobic game industry.