In the days following Destiny’s release I got a bit of stick for a tweet I sent, suggesting that the big sites had been hasty in publishing reviews only a day or two after launch. Although I may not have worded it as succinctly as I could have, after all it’s hard to condense thoughts into 140 characters sometimes whilst maintaining the degree of snark I wanted to convey, my issues were two-fold; I didn’t understand how they could have seen all there was to see within that time period, and that the Raid, a crucial part of the game, was not opened until a week after release.
After some discussions with the editor, we decided to wait until a specific point before we published a review; We wanted at least one of the writing team to have experienced and preferably finished the Raid, and on Friday 3rd October a group of Midlife Gamers finally reached that lofty goal. It’s time for another Roundtable review, hopefully to give you the full picture surrounding the most expensive video game in history.
1.) Let’s start with a bit of data. How far are you into Destiny? Where have you reached in the story, what rank are you, and how many hours have you sank into the game?
Damien: I am a lovely lowly level 21 Female Exo Warlock called ‘ohfuckIdonthaveaname’. My total playing time to date is just over 22 hours and 15 minutes. Roughly translates to 7 hours on missions, 3 hours on strikes, 10 hours on patrol and about 45 minutes a piece on Clash and Rumble for no reason other than bounties.
Derek: Story under wraps, currently rank 29 on my Hunter and 26 on my Warlock. So far, I’ve sunk 108 hours into the game despite the frequent flora and fauna inspired error messages.
Dave: I’ve only just reached Venus story wise, it’s hasn’t exactly gripped me so I’m not completely worried about getting through it, my OCD insists that it’s something I do though. I’m currently level 19, really close to 20 and I’m about 13 hours in so far.
Matt: Story has been firmly knocked out of the park. So far I’ve sank 133 hours into my level 29 Titan, 5 hours with a level 13 Warlock, and a paltry 15 minutes with a freshly minted level 3 Hunter.
2.) The story has drawn much criticism from both reviewers and gamers. How did you find it?
Damien: It’s hilarious. Or rather laughable. I am dead. But Dinklebot brings me back to life. He then shepherds me around, dishing out objectives such as go here and then here, and then kill these and then go here. And then kill these ones. They are different to the ones you just shot. I don’t have time to explain why. But when you have finished playing you can look it up on the back of a playing card you can find on the internet. Neat huh?
Derek: In a word, lacking. The early videos showed off cut scenes intended for the game, which implied at least some focus on the queens brother, but this never appeared. In fact the games cut scenes were limited to 3 standout points. I think the stranger sums up Bungie’s attitude to the plot; “I dont even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain”.
Dave: It’s just a bit meh, that’s literally the best way to describe it, to be fair it has become a bit better as time has gone on but from what I have read of other people’s reactions I shouldn’t be getting my hopes up, I’ll keep an open mind though!
Matt: Time for a related story. Recently the girlfriend had been watching me play for a while and, possibly wondering what I’ve been spending so much time doing, asked “So, what’s this about?” I umm’d and ahhh’d for a few minutes, muttered words like ‘Ghost’, ‘Traveller’, ‘The Hive’ and ‘Peter Dinklage’, before realising that a) none of it really made any sense and b) I don’t really have a clue what the hell went on. There’s a definite semblance of a story, and there’s an extensive lore if one can be bothered to read the Grimoire cards, but it’s ridiculously disjointed and plot points seem to start and end abruptly.
3.) How did you find the gameplay and mechanics involved?
Damien: This is the thing. It’s fast, it’s smooth, and in the early hours of the game you quickly level up and quickly become more powerful. The addition of growth and development is exactly the point where Halo meets Borderlands. It is what drives you on – to become the meanest of badasses. Your nameless Guardian is you. And I think that’s part of the problem with the story, I don’t know anything about my character.
Again, this doesn’t detract from the fact that I really like it as n FPS. Patrolling over old ground, many levels higher than when you first visited, and to feel like a boss as you decimate the low level Acolytes or Goblins. Playing with mates a lot as well, though things have become unbalanced a bit for me now, as everyone I play with are now well past my level. And this means my potato gun does a lot less damage than their nuclear Armageddon doom rifle that takes all my sodding kills. Also the limit of three on a fireteam is too low.
The Sparrows are fantastic. Leaping about the Moon in low gravity is awesome. It’s a gorgeous looking game. I love the way the goblins steam towards you once you’ve blown their heads off. And I really love blasting Servitors close up with a shotgun because I manage an IT system called that at work.
Derek: Bungie on form once again. In game combat is the expected fine tuned, accurate, mechanics that we have come to expect from a Bungie title, but this time with added verticality with the individual class movement skills. All in all, it does feel like an evolutionary jump from what we saw them produce on the Halo series.
Dave: Gameplay wise it’s excellent, Bungie have always been excellent in this regard, I love the different enemy types. I know I shouldn’t mention Halo but it feels just as comfortable and for me that’s brilliant. It crosses over with Borderlands for me, I have this weird thing for numbers flying off enemies as I hit them so this is great the customisation is cool, I’m looking forward to making my guardian look less like a tramp once I hit the higher levels.
Matt: Pretty magnificent. The gunplay is tight and accurate, and the three different enemy races have a variety of subclasses within them, each favouring different tactics on the battlefield. I’m entirely comfortable with the much-maligned mission structure of ‘get to the waypoint, have Dinklebot scan something while you fight off waves’ because, especially at the higher end, it’s still a tense affair where the sight of 5 Minotaurs spawning in fills you with dread.
The progress structure is well done too, your early time with the game is filled with rapidly upgrades to your abilities, while the latter end sees you obsessing over the finer details given to you by armor of weapon upgrades.
My only complaint would be the limit on the number of people you can get together. While I found 3 playing together perfect for the story, I would like to see 6 able to party up in Patrol and possibly the implementation of other PvE modes where 6 friends can play.
Fundamentally though, it’s brilliant fun and even more so with friends. Last time I checked, that’s why I play games.
4.) The amount of content has also drawn complaints. A month after release, are you still finding things to do or do you feel like you’ve seen all there is?
Damien: This has not really been a problem for me yet given the relatively low play time. That said, I was certainly expecting a lot more. 55 quid for a game engine and some starter levels. Minimal cut scenes due to lack of anything to explain. I’ve not heard the Paul McCartney song yet so that might be the best bit. I will get round to finishing the campaign soon. I’ve only got about three missions to go.
Derek: 108 hours. Yet, I have only just finished the Raid content, still have a level to aspire to through the raid and with the frequent change up of content such as Queens Wrath and Iron Banner, I don’t feel like I’ve seen it all. The core game is drained through. Each of the daily challenges have been completed many times before, and the daily/weekly/nightfalls are never new as it is just core game levels ramped up to maximum difficulty.
Dave: Because I haven’t played as much as everyone else there is still plenty of content for me to get through, there is already plenty of repetition but it doesn’t really bother me as it’s such fun to play. The strike missions are good fun and the random public events keep thing interesting. I have the season pass so I’ve hopefully got lots more content to come too.
Matt: I’m still playing Destiny every single day. I’ll pop on the do the Daily story mission to grab some upgrade materials, quickly hit a public event or two, and blast through my bounties to level up my Faction rep. More often than not I’ll help another person or two through the Daily too. I actively look forwards to Tuesday, when the Nightfall and Weekly Strike resets. Each week there’s been a new ‘thing’ to embark on too, whether it’s the Queen’s Wrath missions or Iron Banner.
5.) There’s quite a few different ways to play Destiny, from various PvE modes to the Crucible PvP. Have you been particularly focussed on one, or are you splitting your time across them all? Aside from that, how do you find the PvP? Does it continue Bungie’s tradition of excellence with Halo?
Damien: Not played much in the Crucible, competitive FPS is not my thing at all. But it’s all just shooting isn’t it? Where’s my Griffball?
Derek: My focus has been predominantly on all aspects of the PvE, as opposed to the PvP. that is not to say I havent played it and about 15 hours of my 108 is on PvP. Does it live up to peoples expectations of Bungie Multiplayer? Yes, but with Caveats. PvP is a bit of a double edged sword at the moment. Cheap kills are a plenty especially with the special attacks and certain weapons but it never gets to the point where I feel utterly outgunned like I sometimes found on Halo. With Bungie making constant tweaks I can only presume it will eventually balance out fully. Thoroughly enjoyable but still work to be done in my opinion.
Dave: I’ve got a confession, I had to look up PvE… Preventing Violent Extremism?
Anyway, I’m mostly playing PvE for one reason only PvP just feels unplayable for a lower level character. I’m constantly getting battered and it’s not particularly fun to be honest, I’m sure as time goes on and I get levelled up I’ll join in as it does look good fun.
Matt: For the vast majority of the time I’m in PvE, with the occasional dabble in PvP when the community get together or I need to work through a bounty. Nothing against the PvP, it works well save for the (very) occasional lag, I’m just swaying off competitive multiplayer as I get older. It does need some balancing work too. As I’m sure any PvP Destiny player will tell you, the Bladedancer special attack is the singular worst thing about the PvP aspect ofthis game. Ridiculously overpowered, and if you’re up against a team predominantly playing as Hunter you’re pretty much doomed.
6.) Has there been a highlight or memorable moment from your play through?
Damien: Only one a little while ago playing with a couple of mates from work. They were either side of a Hydra trying to blast it, and I leapt off from a nearby ledge and flying over the top of the Hydra, raining down a massive nova bomb. Boom. Hydra obliterated. ‘Xbox record that’.
Derek: Sadly, nothing springs to mind from the campaign itself. This is the one flaw with Destiny. The most memorable moment at this time would have to be the feeling of elation on beating the final raid boss and actually completing Vault of Glass. Other than that, I’m kind of drawing a blank
Dave: Just the social aspect, whether I’ve been farming at the cave just chatting with a friend or just diving in to a strike that I’m too low a level to be in and getting through it relatively unscathed. If I had to choose a single moment it would have to be my 9 head shots in a row, three of which were in the air!
Matt: From a visual perspective, I lost count of the amount of times I stood and gawped at the gorgeous scenery. Whether it was the Northern Lights while in Old Russia, wondering what happened to a badly damaged International Space Station orbiting the Moon, looking across a sea at active volcanoes on Venus, or…well, I’m drawing a blank when it comes to Mars, the game was never short of jaw-dropping sights.
From a gameplay perspective, it’s got to be finishing the Raid. Our first run through took 8 hours of blood, sweat and tears, only for us to fall at the final hurdle. It was ridiculously late, the weekly progress reset was only hours away, and you could hear the disappointment and frustration in our voices. After regrouping the following weekend and finally getting our heads round the mechanics, we finally felled Aetheon and I’ve never quite heard sounds like the ones that came down my headset that night. 6 grown men, slightly after midnight, screaming in celebration in unison, all I expect being quietly told off by our other halves like I was. Best gaming moment in years, without any doubt.
And for those wondering; We did it properly, not by knocking him off the edge.
7.) Lets talk loot. Firstly, what’s your thoughts on the rate of drops? Secondly, what’s the favourite thing you’ve received?
Damien: I’ve enjoyed the guns and things I’ve had along the way and indeed the levelling aspect and frequent improvements. I’ve now of course reached the next stage with the light. Have only progressed one more level since the cap because this change in direction is disheartening. It’s not about doing well or having fun. It’s now just a lottery to levelling up. Just keep playing and playing and you might just get lucky. It doesn’t seem terribly fair especially if you are required to level up 6 more times to be able to take part in the next part of the game.
Derek: Sore point to be fair. I’ve been very lucky with the loot drops, and when playing with someone who just gets nothing at all, I couldn’t help feel guilty. In fact it got so bad that I actually didn’t mention any further drops I got until their situation had improved dramatically :P favourite thing I received would have to be my Suros Regime. Now maxed out, that weapon is an utter beast of a hybrid auto/scout rifle, and only now after finishing the raid have I found a weapon that is even close to being comparable. This dropped for me in the 3rd or 4th game of Crucible following hitting 20, so its been a stalwart companion in my rise to level 29.
Dave: I hadn’t been too worried about it initially and then when the loot cave got shown about I jumped in to try and catch up with my mates level wise, it was only then I started to pay more attention to the loot. Bungie rather cleverly started bombarding you with a huge wave of enemies of you hung about at the cave too long, I survived a couple of waves and had a blue engram drop, it was pure luck but when I redeemed it, it was my favourite weapon, a legendary scout rifle. Even better I collected whilst online with my gaming buddy who had played 30+ hours and had no blue drops. The reaction was priceless.
Matt: Let it be known that I am firmly, FIRMLY, against the loot cave! Yes, the game is a lottery. Yes, it can be frustrating at times. To put it simply though, if you play the game as it’s intended to be played you will be rewarded in time. When I hear people complaining they’re not getting good gear, I always give the same advice; Focus on one aspect of Faction Reputation and hit the bounties to level that up, and play in modes the give you Marks related to that Faction. You’ll have enough to get a Legendary in no time at all.
As for the favourite thing I’ve dropped, it has to be the Insurmountable Skullfort, an Exotic Titan helmet. I saw it on one of the trailers and instantly fell in love with it. After patiently waiting for it to be put on sale, I was stunned when it randomly dropped for me at the end of a Nightfall Strike. Not only do the added bonuses link work into my style of play, it’s covered in pulsating lights, making it ridiculously ostentatious and therefore absolutely perfect for me.
8.) Finally, would you advise people to buy, wait, or avoid?
Damien: Overall, it is a good shooter. But if you are expecting anything more as I was then you may be disappointed. I fell it’s been hyped as something it isn’t. It’s not RPG enough. It tries to give the impression of one, by showing you progression, but it is so limited in both depth and effect. Why can’t I trade weapons with other people? Why can’t I store a thing? I mean why would I? A few hours after you’ve put something in the locker, it would be totally redundant. Why do I have a spaceship? It’s sole purpose is just to be something to look at on loading screens.
I remember playing the beta for the first time. Wandering around The Tower. I honestly believed I was getting something that was going to be a lot more akin to Mass Effect but it couldn’t be further from the truth. But even hooking up with mates in the Tower, there is a real lack of anything to do together beyond that stupid football and that stupid fan. No, the Tower is not The Citadel. It’s just a lobby. And you go there to visit different menu screens hiding behind NPC’s, lucky enough to have a name. I have largely come to the conclusion that the whole RPG/ progression system has just been draped over a Halo game in place of a story. Like, this is enough to make it different. At the very least, they should put in a Guardian Nightclub. Somewhere you can show off those dance moves together to your own MP3’s. They should do that. Because I don’t understand why my nameless Guardian dances. Especially after slaying those Hallowed Knights. Was I in a Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo tribute act before I died? I guess I’ll never know.
So should you buy it? If you ever wanted to play Destiny then I am sure you probably already are. If you’re not, then get on it quick. Because it’s fun and everyone you know is playing it. I just don’t know how many will be playing it in 6 months or whether you would be able to ever catch up to your mates level. You’re certainly going to be blocked out of joining him on his adventures until you have. But if you’re looking for deep customisation, character development, and a thrilling decade spanning story, then you’ll not find it here.
Derek: Even with its lack of plot explanations and absent story, the gameplay more than makes up for its shortcomings. If you are a fan of First Person Shooters, this is a fantastic purchase and I would recommend to anyone who asks.
Dave: I’m not sure I could justify it to someone who games alone, possibly when it drops in price. But otherwise I would recommend it, it took me a while to get into it but I do really enjoy playing now and no doubt that enjoyment will increase as I hit level 20 and can’t start to play with legendary gear.
Matt: Let’s face it, if you were even vaguely interested in Destiny you’ve probably bought it by now. From my perspective though, I’ve not put this much time into a game for years. It’s perfectly good on your own, brilliant fun with friends, and the Raid is one of the best and most challenging multiplayer experiences you’ll ever have. Buy it, round up a few community friends, and enjoy.