'Destiny': Like This Review, Bungie's Space Epic Is A Work In Progress

Destiny is out now for all major console formats (last and next gen).

Key Features:

  • Intense FPS action with deep RPG character development
  • Engaging single-player campaign blended with online co-op
  • Multiplayer 'crucible' gaming, with multiple modes
  • Explore the Earth, Moon, Mars and Venus (and more)

The Pitch:

"From the Creators of Halo and the company that brought you Call of Duty. In Destiny you are a Guardian of the last city on Earth, able to wield incredible power. Explore the ancient ruins of our solar system, from the red dunes of Mars to the lush jungles of Venus. Defeat Earth’s enemies. Reclaim all that we have lost. Become legend."


We haven't 'finished' Destiny. We've had the game five days, and seen all the worlds on show, and blasted a lot of bad guys. But despite our best efforts (and very significant time investment) we haven't seen everything, done everything, or fought and killed everything.

This review should be taken in that context.

But on the other hand it's sort of appropriate - because 'Destiny' isn't finished either.

That's not necessarily a criticism of the game as it plays and works on launch day, or any of the mechanics (which are all rock solid). It's just a fact. The game already has two announced expansions - the first coming before the end of 2014 - and Bungie's full vision for the title is obviously, explicitly primed to be 'revealed' over the coming years, probably decades.

'Destiny' itself is just the first chapter in what will, given its immediate financial success, probably become a hugely important, perhaps even central game in the future of interactive entertainment.

What that means right now is that 'Destiny' is also a slight disappointment.

What was - is - so exciting about 'Destiny' was not that it blends Halo's 'spacey' first-person shooter mechanics with the RPG depth of games like World of Warcraft. Yes, it does that, and it does it well. But that wasn't really what was so interesting about it. The heart of the Destiny concept, as unveiled all those months ago, and of the various insights into its workings since, was scale. Scale of vision, and possibility.

The game was supposed to be open, enormous and deeply connected to the play-anywhere, with anyone mantra of the next-generation of consoles. We imagined traversing new worlds in space craft, fighting on fresh, uncontrolled territory, and genuinely founding legends not anticipated by the game's designers.

The reality is something more controlled, perhaps less ambitious in the moment and ultimately a little too safe.

Destiny takes place across four-and-a-bit worlds, and takes the player on missions, both solo, free-form and co-op, which advance the game's fairly mysterious (by design?) story. Which is the first stuttering point, unfortunately.

For in theory you're a 'Guardian' charged with defending and rebuilding a human civilisation reduced to a shell from its previous Solar System-spanning glories. In practice, though, you're basically just an increasingly powerful and specialised soldier, kicking various alien and 'Fallen' asses in an effort to get a better gun, a cooler scarf, and hone your skills against other human players in the multiplayer 'Crucible'. You're joined by your flying 'Ghost' voiced by Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, but of course so is everyone. The 'legend' you're forging is defined by your player level and inventory, nothing more.

Much of the story itself isn't really shown in game, but rather told indirectly on the Bungie website, supporting material and various other mechanics which take the easier road of letting the hardcore sink themselves into Destiny's (admittedly impressive) world, but don't attempt to blend much of it into the game as it actually plays itself out on your screen.

Indeed, there is lots of content here - at the lowest estimate about 15 hours for a single play through, probably much more, but the majority of the time spent doesn't move the genre on in terms of structure or scale. You shoot stuff, find respite, waves of enemies arrive, you kill them, move on. Expansions and future games in the series will do more, perhaps, and allow the worlds to breathe a little more fully. But for now it's quite a straightforward experience.

Fortunately, the central mechanics of the game are also totally solid and fun. The graphics and artwork are beautiful, and many of the worlds are truly exciting and haunting to explore. The variety is a little simplistic - instead of gravity and atmospheric differences, rain made of glass and gas-giant sea battles you get jungles on Venus and cities on Mars. Hey ho. That's games. We wished for something a bit more adventurous, but that's that.

The actual running-and-shooting is ace though, as you'd expect from Bungie, and the character levelling is horribly addictive. It tears its hooks into your skin and won't let go, and knows how to draw you back for another quick play whenever you have a spare moment. I can feel myself playing this game for a long time, and returning for more when the expansions roll around. Technically, artistically and creatively it's brilliant. Mechanically, it's conservative and a little stale.

The future of 'Destiny' is more interesting than its present - just as the past of the dystopian world in which it's set is more interesting than the visually stunning, curiously empty cities, jungles and cosmodromes you actually play within.

We can't wait to see what's next, but we can't help but be a little let down by what's on show right now.