Destiny (2016) Re-review for PS4 and Xbox One
So, I’ve been playing Destiny on and off since it first came out back when I was a wee lad in 2014. I played the Taken King expansion and more recently, Rise of Iron, but I never felt like I had enough to say to justify a review. Instead, I’m going to look at where Destiny is now and my experiences with the game as a complete package in 2016.
Destiny was a familiar story in gaming, a victim of its own hype. Bungie aren’t blameless here; they promised something which wasn’t delivered. We had been led to expect a massive Mass Effect style story driven open world RPG MMO with the gun play of Halo. In retrospect this seems like a bit of an insane proposition, but this is what was arguably marketed and faith in Bungie as a company was high enough that lots of people thought they could pull it off. When Destiny released in 2014 it was a competent shooter/MMO with not enough content but excellent FPS mechanics. Two years later Destiny is unburdened of the hype and able to be appreciated for what it is and it turns out that what it is is excellent. I know that sentence was bad but I like it so I’m keeping it.
The story of OG Destiny was so incoherent that I still can’t quite believe it; it wasn’t even bland bad, it was an epic Phantom Menace/Batman v Superman level disaster. I don’t know how this happened but, well, it did. Taken King and Rise of Iron improve things somewhat; it’s clear what is actually happening and I know what’s going on, even if that doesn’t actually make either story particularly interesting. People still insist that the Grimoire cards contain some fascinating lore but that simply isn’t good enough, especially considering that they still can’t be read in game. I never rated the Halo story nearly as much as some, but at least it made sense. The characters were clearly defined and had relationships with each other, there were stakes to the action, Destiny still takes place in this weird ethereal void where nothing you do seems to matter. I really hope this is something Bungie touches up in the sequel, because whilst the storytelling has improved in later releases it’s improved from ‘unmitigated nonsense bollocks’ to ‘boring, bland bollocks.’
Now, before I go any further I need to explain what kind of Destiny player I am, because there are people who play Destiny and people who play Destiny. I’m the former; I’ll play each mission once and all the strikes maybe twice. I’m not into grinding for the best loot, or taking on ridiculous challenges, or mastering the PvP. I’m not going to talk in massive detail about Engrams and strange coins and Exotic Gear. I will say that levelling after 40 has gotten faster, with better loot drops to raise your light level meaning that the grind is significantly curtailed, which I massively appreciated. If you’ve bought every expansion you’ve paid a lot of money on Destiny, and a lot of people certainly got their money’s worth, but I’m not sure I did. That said, if you were to buy the complete package at full price today, you absolutely, undeniably would. It’s definitely worth picking up now.
The thing is, for all these problems, I just love playing Destiny. I love the gunplay, I love the way it looks, I love the music, I love the boss fights. The strikes in Destiny have provided me moments of gaming bliss only rivalled by Bloodborne and some Nintendo games. The weirdest thing is that I haven’t even touched what most call the best part of the game, the raids. They’re still locked behind matchmaking which simply isn’t an option for me. Out of my circle of friends around 2/3 aren’t active gamers and most of the remaining are PC master race types. Getting together six people for a Destiny raid just isn’t an option for me. Game journos have hyped these up, but they by the nature of their profession will have nowhere near the trouble getting these groups together than a normal person with a full time job will. Some of these raids take hours apparently; the most I can game in an unbroken period is maybe an hour sometimes. It’s a testament to how much I bloody love Destiny that I enjoy it so much whilst bypassing what is unanimously considered its best feature.
The Taken King and Rise of Iron certainly make improvements, but they are held back by the somewhat creaky framework of the main game. The mission design improves significantly across the releases, particularly the final story mission of Rise of Iron, which takes clear inspiration from Halo. If the inevitable full sequel can build on this, I honestly think Destiny 2 will be something incredible. Destiny remains the maddening contradiction it always has been, but riven of the hype we can now see the remarkably solid underpinnings of the whole thing. It remains a flawed experience, but I really do love it. I genuinely have faith in Bungie to learn from its mistakes and make Destiny 2 the best game it can be; I for one cannot wait.