Destiny may not have the same impact that the original Halo had for Bungie, but it’s an excellent shooter that blends single player and multiplayer gameplay to a degree we haven’t seen before. In the last years of the PS3’s life cycle, it’s a new experience worth checking out.
Ignoring Destiny would have been hard over the past couple of years. Bungie’s first Activision release has been eagerly anticipated for quite some time, and promised to bring their expertise in shooter dynamics to a multiplatform release for the first time. What’s interesting is that these dynamics are, and this is also a first for Bungie, applied to a ‘shared online world’.
We’ll get into more details about what that means later, but let’s first go back to this August’s Gamescom. Up until then, we had no intention of reviewing Destiny, but that changed when we visited with Activision in Cologne. Before that meeting, we assumed that ‘shared online’ meant that this was no place for gamers who are more interested in single player gameplay – and that the experience would quickly become a frustrating grind or a place where you get slaughtered non-stop by far better players. Perhaps this says more about our skills in online multiplayer than about Destiny, but you get the picture.
Destiny, however, is much more welcoming than that – despite being a skill-based shooter just like Halo was. If your main draw in shooter games is the campaign mode, then Destiny provides you with one. It’s the game mode we first started exploring, for (now) obvious reasons. Destiny’s campaign mode is, however, different from what you’re used to. Instead of a high-octane thrill ride through a Hollywood-like storyline, progress is much slower and gradual – which also makes the campaign last longer.
This is partly because of the MMO influences in the game, where you ‘level up’ by upgrading your character through smaller and bigger tasks that get you experience points. While we understand this because of the nature of how the game is structured, this does take away a little from the flow that other single player campaigns have. That’s not to say that Destiny is lacking in action though. When the bullets start flying, Destiny is a joy to play – with plenty of adrenaline-filled moments and perfect balancing that provides you with just the right amount of challenge. Single player fans need to be aware though – Destiny replaces the ‘in your face’ storytelling you see in most single player campaigns and replaces it with a slower buildup that uses background lore to add depth to the experience instead.
Destiny’s player characters fall into three categories: hunters, warlocks and titans – each with somewhat obvious skillsets to set them apart from each other. They’re not as different as you would think though, as the actual gameplay doesn’t change that much based on the character you choose. The biggest factor in that sense is your own gameplay style – and how you choose to develop and outfit your character. This makes you more and more efficient in how you play, and your character class/category is only a small factor in this.
To this end (developing your character), Destiny also provides you with the Crucible and Patrol modes. The Crucible is essentially a deathmatch-type of multiplayer battle whereas Patrol is clearly inspired by MMO gameplay. This means lots of free-roaming as you are handed little assignments in exchange for a chance to develop your character. Think ‘kill this’, ‘find that’, etc.
Then there’s the Strike mission – a gameplay mode where you play with three or more players to tackle large amounts of enemies and huge bosses. This feels like the most organic, integral and exciting mode outside of the main story missions – and pairing up with strangers to conquer these missions isn’t just common sense – it’s necessary. There is a level of challenge here that means you can’t do these solo – but getting past a Strike mission with a group of skilled players still feels like a huge and thrilling accomplishment. It’s here where single and multi-player gameplay meets – and it’s a great experience for both types of gamers.
So in the end, Destiny isn’t quite perfect for those who prefer single player shooters, and it’s also not your typical multiplayer experience. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge it as either, and we should see it for what it is: a universe that blends both worlds together and will no doubt provide us with much more content and shooter fun in years to come. Though most will play this on next gen systems, Destiny looks and plays great on PS3 as well and is well worth checking out if you are interested in taking your first steps in Bungie’s new franchise.