A world in progress

Destiny

HIGH The third-person sword-wielding sequence on the Moon.

LOW Having players drop out of Strikes halfway through.

WTF My character's an Awoken, so why does nobody comment on it at The Reef?

After putting my time in with Destiny, it strikes me as a curious thing.

Coming from one of the top studios in the industry and produced with a staggering amount of money and manpower, there's little question that it's one of the biggest titles of 2014. It's more than just a game, it's an event. So with all the talent and resources behind it, how is it possible that the final product feels so unsatisfying, so unfinished, and so lacking in direction?

Although it's a bit tough to define, Destiny takes the core of Halo and stirs it with a big dollop of level grinding, a smattering of loot drops, and a dash of MMO. Combining all of these things is a great idea, but the pieces making up Bungie's juggernaut don't really blend together. Of course the combat is great —coming from a developer that revolutionized the first-person shooter, that was a given. It was to be expected. But the rest? Everything beyond the moment-to-moment action needs work.

The problems start immediately. I was surprised by the limited options in the character creator, and I had no idea what the differences were between the three races offered. Why would I choose Exo over Human, or Awoken over Exo? The game didn't think it was worth explaining, and this lack of information is a recurring theme throughout Destiny, to its detriment.

As the proper game begins, the player's character is revived from the dead and immediately starts shooting aliens on the say-so of an AI companion called a Ghost. There's no explanation for who the character is (or was) and nobody blinks at the resurrection. Later, when clichéd snippets about a giant orb called The Traveler and its enemy The Darkness are told, I marveled at how little the game was saying despite tossing tons of jargon at me, as if I had any context for such. It seems as though Destiny takes place in an interesting, rich world, yet it's presented in a throwaway, cursory manner. Where there should be a deep reservoir to dive into, Bungie delivers a toddler's wading pool while directing me to the official website to learn more.

The lack of hooks in the narrative might have been forgiven with good scripting or memorable characters, but Destiny lacks these as well. Its hub world is populated with just a few emotionless shopkeepers, bereft of the barest hints of personality. Worse, the AI companion guiding the player (voiced by actor Peter Dinklage) is so flat and monotone that he is boredom personified. Apart from Dinklage, Destiny actually contains a host of top-shelf talent like Nathan Fillion, Lauren Cohan, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, but they're utterly wasted on inconsequential audio blurbs.

With little to immerse me in the world, it was disappointing to see that the campaign was just as uninspired. With the exception of strong sequences on Venus and one brief bit with a sword and a third-person viewpoint, Destiny's levels are monotonous swaths of land cut from the same templates: ‘go here and kill everything' or ‘go here, scan something, and kill everything'. Rather than crafting varied scenarios, the developers' go-to design is to simply throw huge mobs at the player.

Destiny

To be fair, running, punching and shooting all feel as tight as an action game could hope for. It's at the top of its class in this regard, but excellence in just one aspect isn't enough for a project with Destiny's aims. The developers spoke of this franchise having a ten-year lifespan, hooking fans and keeping them coming back for more. In its current shallow state, that's a pipe dream. Asking players to repeat the same campaign missions over and over? Excruciatingly dull. The difference between classes? Negligible. The boss battles? Tedious bullet sponges requiring nothing but player endurance.

The loot suffers similarly. All armaments fall into standard categories; rifle, shotgun, pistol, rocket launcher, and so on. For a futuristic sci-fi world, the weaponry is painfully safe, and most upgrades are nothing more than a small numeric damage bonus. The same goes for the armor. Players have very few options, and it almost never makes sense to equip anything but the piece with the strongest defense. Looking for some fabulous interstellar dress-up sessions? They won't be had here.

Despite my feelings on it, I suspect players who live for PVP might have a better opinion of Destiny than I do. There are a variety of modes offered—nothing unique or different, but they're solid enough, and with how high the intensity is, it's easy to forget the campaign exists. I also found that shooting fellow humans rewarded me with more experience and more frequent drops than the campaign. An intentional choice? Since I'm guessing most players will likely spend more time in PVP than doing the brainless story quests, I'd guess so.

Speaking of playing with others, one of Destiny's selling points is that it was supposed to offer a world of ambient co-op where real players come and go, helping each other and interacting as they wish. In practice, this concept isn't delivered. The campaign zones I played through felt empty, and I couldn't interact with the rare people I did see except through an oversimplified handful of emotes. There's also no way to trade items, and when entering the ‘darkness zones' where respawns are limited, any friendlies who aren't in an official ‘fireteam' grouping aren't allowed to keep fighting together. We're all running down the same hallway together, why do they vanish when I need them the most?

There are a host of other issues that I could detail, but I think the point is clear—for all of Destiny's potential, the lion's share is going unrealized. In an ostensible attempt to be the game that hooks everyone, it's outdone by others; Saints Row lets me create whoever I want, giving me a sense of personalization and ownership over my character. Monster Hunter offers rich systems that encourage cooperation and ensure that every mission is different from the last. Defiance put me in a huge world humming with activity, letting me explore while freely communicating and battling alongside others.

Destiny? Destiny has great shooting mechanics.

Despite the fact that Bungie feels lost everywhere besides the combat, there's no doubt that they're staffed with brilliant, talented people backed with enough cash to keep the machine humming for a long time. In its current state, Destiny feels unfinished and unfocused, but I imagine that things will be looking quite different in a year's time. In fact, if it doesn't grow and improve by an order of magnitude, I'll be shocked. As such, I'll be happy to push the Darkness back once the disparate parts come together into a more well-rounded experience, but for now, I'm… destined… to move on. Rating: 4.5 out of 10


Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 18 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and all available campaign missions were completed. 4 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: animated blood and violence. Although it's all about guns and bringing the heat to planet-stealing aliens, the game is generally tame. There's no explicit gore, and the bad guys flop over and dissolve into nothingness when eliminated. There's no questionable language or sexual content. Apart from the act of shooting guns and taking down non-human baddies, there's not a lot to be worried about here.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All dialogue can be accompanied with subtitles, and the on-screen radar does a great job of telegraphing enemy positions even when they're unseen. On the other hand, there are a few times when certain audio cues (gunshots, monster growls) can be helpful. Although the don't play a huge factor, gamers with hearing impairments may find it a bit more difficult, but not tremendously so.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway has been playing games since arcades were a thing and Atari was the new hotness. He's been at GameCritics since 2000. Currently, he's juggling editing duties, being a homeschooling dad, a devoted husband, and he does try to play a game once in a while.

Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:

bradgallaway a t gmail dot com
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IncognitosX
IncognitosX
6 years ago

I’m amazed that anyone who played this game managed to put it down after an hour. What amazes me even more is that people views on this game are so extreme. Either they absolutely love it or they absolutely hate it. This review is 20% less than the average opinion so it’s definitely one of the extremes. Then again, a review is only the opinion of the individual reviewing it so it. Last time I checked not everyone likes the same thing.

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

destiny was the nail in the coffin for bungie, for me and I’ve been playing their games since 1995: Marathon 2 and Myth are a couple of my favorite games of all time. Halo 1, ODST, and Reach were pretty solid games as well. Halo 2 and 3 less so, but I thought were still quite good Destiny though just seems so soul-less beyond the interesting art style and decent graphics (which will become nothing special soon, if not already) though sure the actual shooting gameplay is kind of fun, but even there does absolutely nothing new or particularly interesting.… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

The first thing I see, personally I do not thing that you thought about this game carefully enough. Wow, but really, your score is absolutely horrendous on MetaCritic. Destiny may be futuristic but it is barely like Halo in any way possible. You strive to see what games lack but do not seek what they have. And really? If you did even play it and pay attention to the story, it wasn’t brainless at all, the story was decent, definitely not the best story I have seen but it wasn’t the worst by far. And actually, Destiny has an awesome… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
Brad Gallaway
6 years ago

Hey anonymous… if that IS your real name. ^_^ If you want to equate Destiny to a book, it’s a bare-bones outline with no meat for a player (or reader) to sink their teeth into. The story’s barely there, and while the shooting mechanics are great, there’s not much content, the world is an empty set of areas, the play gets repetitive, and the end-game grind is poorly-designed and not at all appealing. Whether it’s the first truly new IP of the next gen is debatable, but IMO it doesn’t excel at anything it attempts except to deliver great mechanics… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

As a author yourself, Brad, it should be obvious to you that this first iteration of Destiny is a prolog, and as such, we can expect the story details to play out in future releases. In the meantime, the combat is a blast, co-op is a must-do, and the multiplayer is varied and fun, even for someone like myself, who has never enjoyed multiplayer until Destiny. As a dedicated rpg player (over 500 hrs spent playing DS2) I applaud the efforts of Bungie to develop what, in my opinion, is the first truly new IP of the next-gen consoles –… Read more »

I played Counterstrike AND Halo
I played Counterstrike AND Halo
6 years ago

What Halo did was make people care about console FPSs in the first place, and that, in and of itself, revolutionized the genre lol.

soninlaw
soninlaw
6 years ago

Right on Sleeve!!!! 100% agree with ya!!!

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Most of the people in this comment section haven’t played the game either, based on the comments. this game dumps loot on you every chance you get. Borderlands doesn’t offer half the things this game does. You must be taking guesses.

The story is decent enough, and the background is flushed out on the card collectibles the game gives you in-game. the story is huge. I think most of you are assuming and just saluting reviewers that support your assumption.

tom
tom
6 years ago

Thomas is spot on. The claims that Destiny is a good shooter is astounding to myself. And those opinions were the vast majority of what reviews thought. Any game can have good aiming control, nice sounding weapons and smooth player movement – but when your games combat has boring/lifeless AI, uneffecting hit by weapon animation or bog standard enemy feedback, plain standard weapons, bosses that just fucking strafe side to side while shooting 1 heavy attack at the player that you just have to dodge for 5 minutes and have to ware down in a test of only my patience,… Read more »

Thomas R.
Thomas R.
6 years ago

Good review, Brad.

Although I would hve to say even the combat doesn’t deserve the praise you’ve given it. I found it to be quite boilerplate. Overall, it’s Halo without the charm, the satisfying level design and deeper story and mythology and wrapped in a bland MMO.

agamerguy
agamerguy
6 years ago

I was expecting larger areas. This is not large at all. The review was right on. This game seems to be built for the COD/battlefield fans. I was looking for a deep long story, I didn’t get it. Last time I digitally download.

Furtin
Furtin
5 years ago

I didn’t knew this website and come via Metacritics. After having played Destiny every day for a month, I must conclude that your review of the game is absolutely correct. I stopped playing two days ago when I realized what a bland grindfest and timeeater this really is. Shooting mechanics are top notch, yes. But everything else just falls so short, I wonder how they get away with this. It obviously has the F2P mechanics of keeping gamers addicted to the grind. But really, even as a long time bungie fan, I jumped ship. This whole thing is embarrissing and… Read more »

Crofto
Crofto
6 years ago

There’s been a nice contrast between the comments for this review (and, thankfully, none of the typical gamer vile that usually rears its ugly head). I would, though, like to add one more thing in response to those who suggest Brad – or others – haven’t played Destiny ‘enough’. I’d like to point everyone towards Final Fantasy XIII and the common argument made – often by diehards who cannot bring themselves to admit that the game is, basically, mediocre – that the game gets good after 30 hours. I’m afraid using this argument, for Destiny or any game, is more-or-less… Read more »

Furtin
Furtin
5 years ago

Interestingly I didn’t knew this website (longtime gamer in the 40ies) and come via Metacritics. After having played Destiny every day for a month (dat crack syndrome), I must conclude that your review of the game is absolutely correct. I stopped playing two days ago when I realized what a bland grindfest and timeeater this really is. Shooting mechanics are top notch, yes, beautiful graphics ( bungie does the best skyboxes) and outstanding soundtrack (like always when Marty involved). But everything else just falls so short, I wonder how they get away with this. It obviously has the F2P mechanics… Read more »

Brad Gallaway
Brad Gallaway
6 years ago

Hey Sleeve. A fair question, but MH is adifferent beast — Even from the start, it’s easy to see the hooks and the depth. Most of the options were locked away at the beginning, but I was interested to dig in and see more. Essentially, it gave me enough to want to keep going from the start. Not so with Destiny. As for the armor, I didn’t do any postgame grinding because the game wasn’t interesting enough. I wrapped the last mission and called it good. Stuff like ‘scout rifles reload faster’ or ‘more ammo for pulse rifles’ is pretty… Read more »

sleeve
sleeve
6 years ago

A question, Brad: If you played “18 hours of single player” of, say, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, and only 4 hours of “multiplayer”, would it rate a 4.5 out of 10? Your comment about “very few options” being available for armor is so completely false it’s very difficult to know where to start. Each character class has a number of different stats that are impacted differently by armor choices, and defense is never the only consideration. These considerations only become more complicated once you reach level 20 and start obtaining Legendary and Exotic armor. A lot of this doesn’t play… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Most of the people in this comment section haven’t played the game or played it long enough, based on the comments. This game dumps loot on you every chance you get. Borderlands doesn’t offer half of what this game does. The story is decent and offers cards earned in-game to flush out the background story. It’s not meant to be a story solo game like the others. There’s know way you could think this game is bare-bones anything if you played it, and Brad’s perspective on the weapons suffering by using pistols,assault,grenades,machine guns,rocket launchers, sniper, ….That’s like accusing mmos of… Read more »

Sgt_Simulacrum
Sgt_Simulacrum
6 years ago

Hello. I have just started reading reviews from your site and I’m really enjoying your candid assessments. Refreshingly devoid of the usual critical “softening” found in so many mainstream sites these days. Just one question: where on earth are the scores? I don’t mind too much because I’m enjoying the actual editorial so greatly, but people keep commenting on them, and having zoomed and pinched all over the page I’m still searching. Please can a helpful regular reader enlighten me??

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

you must have a weak ‘theory of mind’. not everyone thinks like you. I agree is lackluster but is rather fun with friends

Igor Amos
Igor Amos
6 years ago

After about 20 hours, I very nearly sold Destiny. A few more hours in and now I love and respect what they are trying to do. All of a sudden the whole seems cohesive or at least working towards a connected world. Its really different that what I’ve ever played and for me has the feeling of a giant improved hoard mode playground. I feel like the AI does a admirable jobs with crossing paths of enemies and even though patterns are recognizable, for some reason I don’t get tired of it. Part of the appeal is the beautiful graphics… Read more »

Jim
Jim
6 years ago

Just voicing my opinion. I didn’t care for it, but I’m not going to fault anyone else who does.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I do think it’s fair to say that Halo revolutionized first person shooters. Things like regenerating health, the inability to carry every weapon at once, vehicles with physics, and (in Halo 2) the party and matchmaking system were completely new at the time… even when PC games are considered, as far as I know.

Jimbionic
Jimbionic
6 years ago

Just hit level 19, mostly through Crucible. Only just hit Venus tonight. I’d say the game is fun overall, but flawed with some crazy design decisions. For example – * Launch button. I have already made my choice of destination now I have to move the cursor from the middle of the screen to hit Launch and wait for 3 seconds. Why? * Loading times. Way too long. * You can’t just press a button, for example square or triangle. Have to wait while the circle fills. Lots of time wasting in this game. * Grimoire. Why are these snippets… Read more »

Peter Bove
Peter Bove
6 years ago

Im very disappointed compared to all the hype the game had. At first the game seems like its going to be awesome, but the story is boring, the campaign is short, and it’s very repetitive. This coming from nothing else but a experienced gamer lvl 26 in the game. The loot system is the worst! Very deceiving I already have the best auto rifle in the game, PATHETIC. it’s the gold Surus Regime if anyones wondering. The shooting is exactly the halo even down to the beatdown and driving ghosts but now pikes. All in all its a good game… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

The fps genre was revolutionized in a major way. One of the major leagues for online gaming and competitive gaming in general, MLG, got its major start with Halo 2. Now there were other games on the roster and games before that. But Halo 2 marked the first time a contracted team was payed 1 million dollars for their skills and time.

Da GeeZ
Da GeeZ
6 years ago

Totally agree, Destiny was an awful soulless experience. How on earth did Bungie produce something so mediocre after the amazing Halo franchise !!!

Brad Gallaway
Brad Gallaway
6 years ago

Sgt: the scores are white on white… Highlight the text at the end of the reviews. = )

Isaar
Isaar
6 years ago

I honestly have no idea what people are talking about as far as “nonexistent lore”. I’ve played the game for ~10 hours at this point and I know EXACTLY what is going on, who is who and why I’m doing what, except for portions of the story that are being left ambiguous for obvious story purposes. Also, I have to say, it just so happens that at this point “bog-standard FPS gameplay” is pretty damn good. The controls are responsive as you could ever hope for. The enemies are similar but varied enough to keep it fresh. The AI is… Read more »

Destiny_hunter
Destiny_hunter
6 years ago

Wondering if the reviewer played as much as claimed. The whole thing about only equipping armor with the highest defense makes no sense to me. The armor has 3 different buffers and a host of other perks, such as faster reloads and more ammo for certain weapons, etc. I’m only a level 14 and I’m beginning to see the bigger picture open up. There are tons of possibilities with the skill trees, which I am currently building on the first one. Maybe this low score is for clicks, but don’t be turned away by it. It is not an accurate… Read more »

Crofto
Crofto
6 years ago

Nice review, Brad. I’m surprised Bungie didn’t manage to add more variation, atmosphere and depth to this game. Halo may have had its flaws, but the set-pieces were typically excellent due to variation in gameplay, location, and superb enemy AI (another area wherein I hear Destiny is poor). The story too was, equally, never excellent, but there was enough meat on the bones for players to invest their time and become motivated purely for narrative reasons. What caused them to ignore such elements with Destiny? Maybe they were aiming for the From Software school of thought on minimalist narrative, but… Read more »

Jim
Jim
6 years ago

I’m still amazed that anyone else who played this game managed to stick with it for more than an hour. Nonexistent lore, shallow characters, bog-standard FPS gameplay… what is there to keep people interested? If there are additions later, fine. But it should be worth playing at launch, not put out in an unfinished state with promises that it will get better later.

tom
tom
6 years ago

Destiny as a prime example, deserves a podcast devoted entirely to the current trend of the domination of production values, against fun or interesting gameplay. And this from Bungie, who in the Halo series are know for their best in class AI which is the biggest reason for the claim they revolutionised FPS. I’ll leave characters and story out for now because that is on a very slow incline instead of the free fall of gameplay nowadays. As well as, how a 4 year developed game can aim for so low an outcome of non-offensive, down-the-middle, try-to-please-everyone, AAA production philosophy… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

“My character’s an Awoken, so why does nobody comment on it at The Reef?”

Not that it’s that important, but the well hidden grimoire cards point out that you are a a descendant of Awoken who left the reef for earth.

The cards then state:

“Earthborn Awoken who venture out to the Reef, hoping to learn its secrets, find no special welcome from the reclusive Queen.”

Probably an after-thought and Sure saves money on extra dialogue. I for one am thoroughly enjoying Destiny with my pals, but I can see why it’s not everyone’s bag.

Schuesseled
Schuesseled
6 years ago

I’m not certain if he played for the correct period of time to notice this but in fact once you surpass level 20 the only stat that matters is light. For PvP where level advantages and defense don’t matter I could give your argument a better reception were it not for the fact that destiny’s multiplayer isn’t interesting enough to retain customers. (Much better games for multiplayer battles) Personally i find the lack of information depicted by the game unacceptable, I had to look up online what the different weapon types (ark, warp, solar) did and why I should care.… Read more »

Zippydsmlee
Zippydsmlee
6 years ago

IMO Halo and Half Life revolutionized single player FPS’s, mainly due to interesting AI. Both had good to great multilayer but I think Halo brought in more people to the overall FPS experience.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Good summation. I dont know how these games are getting through in a post WoW/Halo world. Had the same sensation in this game as when I started playing ToR. Kinda fun, but could have been so much more. And totally accurate regarding the class differences. Why even bother spending the time?