Week one with Destiny, full review to follow
Destiny is a ‘shared-world shooter’ set seven-hundred years in the future in a solar system gone to ruin. It’s made by the creators of Halo and the publishers of Call of Duty, and it shows: that same, finger-twitching, trigger-fondling, glee is here in abundance.
You take the role of one of the mysterious Guardians as they fight against The Darkness. Players are imbued with the Light of The Traveller - a moon-like alien that floats above Earth, having arrived many centuries ago and initiated a golden age - before The Darkness followed it there and crushed humanity. Players can take up the mantle of a titan, warlock or hunter. Each has its own special skill and you unlock new weapons, items and skills as you defeat more enemies and complete missions, levelling up. It’s effectively a MMO-version of Halo. Players can also form cooperative groups together, ‘Fireteams’, with up to three players, fighting through missions and strikes, all of which end in a battle with a boss.
Destiny: Exploring the aliens and classes
Destiny: Exploring the aliens and classes
1/6 Hunter, Titan, Warlock
The trio apparently cleave to the tried-and-tested of rock, paper, scissors approach with the Hunters taking the agile/ranged slot; the Titans supplying the melee chaos and the Warlocks offering arcane buffs and area of effect damage.
In terms of supers the Warlocks can choose between a Nova Bomb (explosive energy hurled at groups of enemies), a Solar Flare (a similar grenade-like projectile) and Radiance (an ability that revives and buffs nearby allies as well as boosting stats.
Titans are the heavies of Destiny, and are best at getting upclose and personal to unleash the Fist of Havoc - a melee attack that sends baddies sprawling.
Hunters can choose between the Arc Blade (an up close attack that chains between enemies) and the Golden Gun – an outsized handgun that looks a little like Hellboy’s Good Samaritan and - delivers three thermally-boosted shots.
There are four classes of enemy: Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal, with each faction given a unique aesthetic (the variations are similar to those seen in Warhammer figurines), a backstory and a fighting style. The Fallen are hardy scavenger types, with “hints of a splendid sophisticated past” in their design.
The Cabal are “a professional military operation” with impeccable tactics and weaponry. "On every front we have found them on the march, they have already dug in and ringed their installations with razor wire. Now, it seems they've turned their eyes towards us."
Bungie, the developers of the game and fathers of Halo, know what it is they're doing. Activision also. They’ve created a beautiful, $500 million game which spreads out wide across all platforms. Although there are occasional texture pop-ins, and things don’t interact in a truly next-gen way, it is still a wonder to watch the swirling aurorae above Old Russia, or the storms of Venus as well as listen to the sci-fi-fantasy soundtrack, with its elements of Star Wars and Star Trek, as well as Lord of the Rings. But that's not what really shines - for that you have to look at the mechanics.
The guns have the same hefty weight to them as in Bungie's Halo and Activision's Call of Duty. Enemies crunch and squish and explode in whirls of fire. It’s a visceral experience and one that’s endlessly amusing. Although no gun created for Destiny is as iconic as, say, the needle-shooter in Halo, they still know their gameplay to a T.
‘Above and beyond conventional gunfire,’ one of my pieces of armour says in its description, ‘a warlock’s task is to disrupt the battlefield.’ In my day-one look at Destiny I talked about how my warlock, level 7, kept on getting mashed to a pulp. Long ginger hair flows beneath her helmet, though it’s never seen except in the occasional cut-scene. And when you think about it, of course that should be the case. Battles require concentration, protection, discipline.
It’s amusing but necessary, then, that if you leave your game idle for too long mid-mission your ship summons you back into orbit around whatever planet you’re on and asks you to begin again. It’s a requirement, in a sense, because it means when you’re mid-mission you have to keep going: there is a definite urgency here. My warlock is no longer the weakling she was before. We have flown from Venus’s jungle to the moon and to the asteroids. Now I can pulverise low-level grunts with a wave of my hand; initiate an explosion that rips through their bodies. But she is still a glass cannon, liable to cracking, though, that said, she can shred foes to pieces if she gets in first.
Sadly, though, the missions, so far, don’t seem to be that different from one another except their location. Enemies are just fodder, and that is fine for most of the time. But then you’re standing on Venus fighting enemies along the Ishtar Cliffs and realise that it’s all window dressing beside that. Boxes can’t be destroyed. That little child’s skeleton can’t be considered. Effectively you are rushing through a beautiful museum. In this sense it still feels last-gen.
The issue is I have very few friends who play games and even fewer who have a PS4. Despite Sony selling 10 million copies of their gizmo it seems it hasn’t penetrated my friendship group in the same way. Which brings me to Venus, the Ishtar Academy, where my warlock is dancing in front of another player, a titan, while I’m hammering the ‘OPTIONS’ button in an attempt to add them as a friend. You see, if you have friends you can invite them into what’s known as a ‘Fireteam’ and go on missions together destroying the evil that lurks within the abandoned academies of the jungle Venus. In this case, it’s the Fallen and the Vex. The player, most likely another journalist based on his level turns away, summons his glorious Sparrow hoverbike and blasts away, leaving me dejected like a wet cat.
I decide to keep going, though. I return to the menu and select a mission based in The Devil’s Lair - on Earth, in Old Russia. I’m joined by two other players, who complete the mission with me and who aren’t friends on my PS4. It’s the boss, Sepiks Prime - this huge glowing purple ball encased in glass - that makes me realise what this game is really about. When you’re fighting with people, strangers or friends, battling a common enemy and dying, having to be revived by people who do not even know you, it engenders camaraderie. When we finally, nail-bitingly, defeat that boss, the players add me on the PlayStation Network so we can go on more missions together, their ships gliding along mine through space. Now this is the kind of social gaming I could really get into.