Hype can be a double-edged sword. Spending hundreds of millions to market magma as a “High Quality Resurfacing Solution” doesn’t change the product. It still burns down villages, it still creeps across the ground at half the speed of pouring jam, and it still strikes fear into millions. With reports of Activision spending $500 million on Bungie’s latest FPS/RPG franchise that’s supposedly an MMO but not an MMO Destiny, one does have to wonder how much of this went to development and how much went to marketing.
So now it’s time to delve into the dark future of Destiny, and the future has never been so bright. On the surface at least.
First impressions always matter and Destiny does a fine job of impressing from the moment it graces the screen only to continue treating the eyes at every turn. Light dances across metallic surfaces with an elegance reserved usually for the finest ballets, going on to illuminate the screen with so much lensflare even J.J. Abrams would be jealous. Everywhere from the overgrown ruins of Venus to the dilapidated buildings of Old Russia there’s a tangible quality. It wouldn’t be surprising to find sand in your shoes after a long trek across Mars.
This finesse of fidelity is present in character designs too. Not only is player armor beautifully crafted but so is that of your foes. Worthy of particular mention are the Cabal, whose bulky, yet sleek, suits can cause episodes of jaw-dropping wonder and fear. It isn’t the overall presentation of models that makes them special though. It’s the small details like cloth draped from Guardians or the frenzied running of Hive Thralls which add to Destiny‘s beauty.
Last, but by no means least, in Destiny‘s arsenal is the sound design. Sweeping orchestral scores calmly pleasure the ears at some times only to entwine themselves with thumping electronic beats to get the blood pumping. Even the satisfying thump from melee attacks (seriously, they feel and sound so good that the person responsible deserves free beer for life) is a treat to hear. One nice touch comes from weapons fire which reverberates around interiors, adopting the metallic tones of steel walls or rocky caverns in its echo.
However, not all of Destiny‘s audio is great.
While there’s plenty of it, dialogue rarely raises anything more than a smirk. Very clichéd. The Ghost — voiced by Peter Dinklage and from now on shall by called Dinklebot or Guilty Dink — delivers every line in a tone which straddles the chasm between impassioned theatrics and machine-like monotone only to dip into the hole between. Numerous other recognisable names make up the rest of Destiny‘s cast, but nearly every line doesn’t quite hit its mark. The Ghost companion along with narrations from other characters only seem to exist as a simple way to throw exposition at the player without forcing them to read.
Laying the blame solely upon the voice cast just wouldn’t be fair. Some of the lines they were asked to deliver are born of the same amount of inspirational spark as a brick. This is because, like the blank casing around a cupcake, Destiny‘s story holds everything together just enough to give Guardians reason to pump clip after clip into enemies but barely stands out alone. When the tale does finally get going, it ends with all the grace of a falling potato – a fate eerily reminiscent of that which befell Rage.
That’s not to say there is no intrigue throughout the game. Traversing each of the four planets (Mars, Venus, Earth, and The Moon) evokes a sense of wonder. All have been left to the wilds of nature and the player is left to gaze through a crystal ball, seeing only a murky glimpse of what these areas used to hold. It would have been nice to know more, but allowing players to create their own stories is often more effective.
Where Destiny really excels is in the moment-to-moment gameplay. Whether shooting Fallen Dregs as a new character or taking down huge bosses in the 20+ areas (20 being a sort of soft cap as additional levels are granted by gear not experience), the controls truly feel so intuitive that moving and shooting is itself a joy. Never once do you find yourself engaged in combat with the controller while fighting a Vex Hydra. Every activity from a simple reload to bashing out a class-based ability is smooth as silk. Oh and, of course, the brutal melee strikes are simply to die for.
The three classes all fulfill a particular role in Destiny but, unlike many other multiplayer experiences, you are not penalized for your selection. Titans can use Sniper Rifles with the same effectiveness as Hunters, who are just as capable with Scout rifles as Warlocks. The only major differences between classes come in looks and specialized skills. Outside of this, all classes are nigh on completely homogeneous. That isn’t to detract from the available customization, however. Weapons and armor of higher quality can be upgraded to reward you for continuing to use them and molded to your personal needs.