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Score: 50%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 12 (Online Only)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

For me, one of the most distasteful trends in gaming enthusiast media is the abuse of meaningless superlatives; most often, these come in the form of hyperbolic statements made in the hopes of getting a quote on the back of the box. It can be tempting to be dramatic, but I try to ensure that whatever my reasons for liking or disliking a game are, they are explained in detail and backed up with as many examples as I can possibly muster. Now that thatís on record, let me cut to the chase: unless I see some serious changes in the future of its lifecycle, Destiny will go down as the single most overhyped game I have ever played in my nearly thirty years of existence. It isnít terrible; in fact, Bungieís knowledge and expertise with the first person shooter genre are capitalized upon to great effect. But the actual game that has been built around these tried and true mechanics is, at the time of this writing, borderline nonexistent. The creators of Destiny have recently stated that the gameís lifespan is supposed to be on the same level as World of Warcraft, so we canít take into account any future content until their respective release dates. But this baseline release is ultimately worth neither a penny of your money nor a second of your time.

Half a billion dollars were spent on Destiny, making it one of, if not THE most expensive video game ever made. Through the final stretch of my forty-odd hours with the game, tons of questions were running through my head. One of the biggest ones was "Where did all that money go?" My guess is the fifty megaton hype train pushing countless units as I type this; its marketing campaign was pretty spectacular. And, to the gameís credit, the production values are amazing. This is a beautiful vision of the future of our solar system, one that succeeds at suspending your disbelief. You wonít really mind the fact that youíre able to set foot on Venus without being turned to ash in a matter of seconds. Instead, youíll be taking in the magnificent horizons, stunning use of color, and the sumptuous lighting effects. The seductive art style lends itself well to the small helping of planets, but it canít fix Destinyís greatest flaw: there is so little to do. What good are these sweeping vistas if all theyíre good for is walking on? But Iím getting ahead of myself.

Destinyís soundtrack carries the overall audio design to very nearly the same heights occupied by the visuals. Despite the impressions given by the overall game, our solar system is a big, mysterious place, and the ethereal chorus (a Bungie staple) collaborates with a magnificent, epic score to sell this point as best as they can. Sound effects are also excellent. Guns may sound as similar as they are in nearly every other facet, but the legions of enemies youíll mow down sound awesome. The robotic Vex occupying the planet of Venus are fun to kill if only for their bizarre electronic death screams.

Amazingly, the voice work drags it down. This game features an all-star cast; not only can none of these A-listers carry the gameís wretchedly bad script, but it sounds like they arenít even trying. And these are huge names here: Lance Reddick (The Wire), Peter Stormare (Fargo), and Shohreh Agdashloo (House of Sand and Fog). And perhaps the greatest disappointment is Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), who gives the worst performance of his illustrious career as your personal Ghost. But honestly, I canít blame Dinklage for not caring: with Destinyís narrative as incoherent as it is, I wouldnít have cared, either.


Destiny takes place 700 years in the future, centuries after the celestial body known as the Traveler reached our homeworld and gave us the ability to become spacefarers. Unfortunately, the Darkness, a malevolent and devastating force, has encroached and brought humanity to the brink of extinction. The Traveler is now ailing, and there is one remaining human city on Earth. With the appearance of hostile alien forces in formerly occupied human colonies across the closest half of the Solar System, mankind needs a hero. Luckily, the planet is host to special heroes known as Guardians, who are able to harness the Light emanating from the Traveler in their ongoing struggle against the forces of evil.

Apparently, the above paragraph explains what Destiny is about. I dare you to complete this game up to the point where the core game ends and have anything resembling an idea of what just happened. Apart from your Ghost, there are maybe three characters in this game that have any idea of whatís going on; one of them a wise man who canít really be bothered to explain anything to your formerly-dead Guardian, and the other two a couple of pompous jerks who would rather spend their five minutes of screen time sneering at you. Thereís some lore to sink your teeth into, but none of it is actually in the game. Instead, the game directs you to its website for that. The hype train has been insisting that Destiny will one day sit alongside pop culture phenomena such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. From where Iím sitting, this statement is akin to taking a great franchise (The Godfather, Toy Story, pick your poison) and replacing its first installment with Tommy Wiseauís The Room. It's a bad sign when I ask my go-to Fireteam to help me finish the campaign, only to be informed that we had actually finished it the night before.

But enough talk about the superficial stuff: what is the game like? At the time of this writing, I can only come up with this scenario: take Borderlands 2, remove the humor, lower the standard co-op player count from 4 to 3 (save for strike missions), simplify the loot system to a handful of core weapon types, improve the fundamentals of the gunplay, and instead of an enormous, diverse series of questlines, give out a dozen or so thirty-odd minute instances to repeat ad nauseam.

If you want something thatís not completely samey after the first fifteen hours, your only hope as of this writing is the Crucible, Destinyís incredibly meager suite for online competitive play. While the gunplay is a lot of fun, the game types are as uninspired as, well, most of the rest of the game. And while the vehicles, jetpacks, and Light powers are fun to use on other people, all it really did was make me want to play Halo 4.


Iím not sure I would call Destiny challenging. The only thing you need to conquer the core game is time. Enemy strategies generally trend towards those employed in a massively multiplayer role playing game; the Flood-like Hive charge en masse, the mechanical Vex march forward, and the Fallen juke and jive much like the Elites from Halo. Bosses have two functions: looking cool and absorbing tens of thousands of bullets before finally going down. Destiny is at its best when youíre managing mobs and fending off waves.

Once you complete a standard or strike mission for the first time, you'll know what strategies you need to make it through to the end for the next several plays. As of this writing, Destiny doesn't offer much in the way of punishment for failure; that is, unless you're fighting a boss or enveloped in special "darkness" zones that prohibit respawning unless you are revived by an ally. And given the tedium that accompanies the boss fights, it really hurts when your Fireteam wipes.

Game Mechanics:

Destiny puts its best foot forward. Character creation allows you to choose from both genders, three races (a standard Human, a bluish gray-skinned, glowy-eyed Awoken, or the Terminator-esque Exo), and three classes: Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. The character customization doesnít come close to what youíd expect from World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls, but it gets the job done. There are no passive or active racial characteristics, and the differences between the classes are minimal at best. In fact, save for a rudimentary skill tree, the only meaningful difference is in Light powers, which devastate enemies and help speed the recovery time of your fellow Guardiansí power charge meter.

Destiny may have the worst loot system Iíve seen in a game. Item drops are governed purely by luck. Not performance or skill. Blind luck. If one of your teammates is a total liability to your Fireteam, his/her chances of getting a sweet item during or after the mission are as good as those of the leader of the pack. And while Destinyís arsenal of core weapons (one primary, one secondary, one heavy) is mostly fun to use, jockeying for better loot is nothing more than a numbers game. In better games like Borderlands and Diablo, every new piece of gear is akin to a fresh change of clothes, and sometimes the player is forced to weigh out the pros and cons of going one way over another. In Destiny, all you need to do is look at the damage indicator and potential to know what weapon is better, and once you swap out one auto rifle for another, the chances are high that you wonít notice a lick of difference. Combine that with the fact that the quality of loot drops trends low; it's exciting to retrieve a rare or legendary Engram, but that excitement often turns to disappointment when you take it to the Tower's resident Cryptarch and have him give it the Pawn Stars treatment.

What usually makes these games work is the sense of progress, the addictive growth of your character's abilities through questing, looting, and killing. For a while, this addictive quality is here in spades. It's wonderful to finally reach a certain level, earning a new ability and perhaps the prerequisite specs to equip a piece of gear that you've been hanging onto for a while. But once you hit level 20, things change for the worse. Apart from bits of currency and completely randomized loot, the well of rewards goes bone dry. Instead, your level is governed by other factors, primarily your Light score and reputation gained with whichever of the game's Factions you belong to. Light score is tied entirely to your gear: the more Light attributed to each piece of gear, the stronger you are. Combine this fact with the arbitrarily awful loot system, and progress just doesn't feel like it should. At one point, you may find yourself actively avoiding gunfights during missions; and since the gunplay is the best part of the game, it's an example of yet another of the ways in which Destiny shoots itself in the foot.

Iím not giving up on this fledgling franchise yet, but in the state that it's currently in, Destiny is a total bust. Fantastic production values and airtight gunplay can only carry a game so far, and thatís damning when the play space is supposed to encompass the entire solar system. Playing this game is like smashing an enormous piŮata only to find out that thereís absolutely nothing inside. I believe that the day may come when Destiny is worth a buy. But that day is most certainly not today.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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