In the modern gaming landscape it’s rare to see a first person shooter keep a hold on the community for more than a couple months after its launch, and Bungie’s Destiny started out the same way after it first launched. Most games in the genre keep the player base replenished with each new content drop, and Destiny followed pretty true to this formula. From the base game into the first two expansions (The Dark Below and House of Wolves), Destiny did not feel all too special, just rehashing old areas with a new boss at the end of each. Those who wrote it off likely felt their cynicism paid off.

But everything changed when The Taken King, the third expansion, came around. Compared to the last two major updates there was a new area, a plethora of new weapons and armor, and no more digging around for Grimoire cards to figure out the story. With the fourth expansion, Rise of Iron, Bungie maintained the positive buzz but with a twist. Areas that the player base knew from the beginning of the game were expanded and altered; Old Russia became more expansive than anyone would have originally thought.

With so much content behind us and a sequel imminent, what better time than now to give Destiny the full review it deserves, from initial release to year one Gjallahorns through Rise of Iron.

Awaken, Guardian

When gamers start up a new shooter, typically the last thing that comes to mind would be the story. Many shooters excel at the gun fights and set pieces but in terms of narrative you rarely get anything more than people monologuing every so often. As much as I would love to say that this is not the case with Destiny, it sadly is for the base game. While there are no impactful cutscenes (which instead mostly focus on exposition), much of the plot is conveyed during loading screens where your guardian is just flying into the mission area. While some of the plot is developed through your Ghost during the mission, you usually learn more outside of combat, walking between areas or when the final enemy has been defeated. If you really want to know any of the lore, and some of it is quite vital, you need to log onto Bungie’s website to look at Grimoire cards that you can collect by doing specific tasks in game.

As mentioned earlier, this laborious way of storytelling was changed with the arrival of Destiny’s final two expansions. These included a couple of fully animated cutscenes mainly featuring the ever-endearing leader of the Hunters, Cayde-6 for The Taken King and Lord Saladin in Rise of Iron. The expansion’s cutscenes offered a taste of storytelling that the base game would have benefited from immensely. That isn’t to say the narrative methods used in the base game don’t return, it is really just a step in the right direction by using a mixture of cutscenes and mission comms.

The Taken King also significantly changed the player’s Ghost in a way that also improved the experience, with Nolan North replacing Peter “Tyrion Lannister” Dinklage as the voice of your robotic companion. From the release of Destiny, many fans doubted that Dinklage was the right choice for the role due to how monotoned he sounded. Video game veteran Nolan North was welcomed with open arms by the community, who had hoped to hear someone with a bit of emotion taking on the role. North’s performance as Ghost changed the feel of many missions, breathing new life into them, even though sometimes I still do miss Dinkle-bot’s astute observations.

Resurrecting the Same-Old

The First Person Shooter genre has been in the lime light for a while now yet very few games have attempted to change the tried-and-true mechanics in recent years; one of the biggest innovations in recent times is the re-emergence of the double jump, after all. Destiny itself is no different, being a game that you can pick up and play instantly if you have any experience with any other recent FPS. That said, the real beauty of Destiny’s combat lays in two places, its weapon loadouts and the class system.

Within the complicated Light level system (which is basically a power level rating) are many different weapons. You are able to carry around three; a main weapon (pulse rifles, hand cannons, auto rifles, etc.), a special (sidearm, sniper, fusion rifle) and a heavy (rocket launcher, light machine gun or a sword). Each weapon will be imbued with an element, be it solar, void or arc/lightning.

Better yet, each weapon comes with its own linked ability. For example, you could pick up a regular sniper rifle, but once you have used it enough to gain some experience, it could gain the ability to reload itself if the last round in the magazine is a headshot. To keep things different, each weapon has its own unique set of abilities, save for exotics generally having the same set each time, with the trade-off being you can only equip one of each type at a time.

The other draw of Destiny’s gameplay is the class system, of which there are three to start off with; Titan, Warlock or Hunter. Each class has its own subclasses, with Hunter, for example, having Gunslinger (Solar), Blade Dancer (Arc) and, Nightstalker (Void). Each class has its own grenade, melee and super abilities, with most subclasses having multiple to choose from.

I went with a Hunter and the Nightstalker subclass, feeling its selection of abilities suited my play style – a Triple Jump, a grenade that casts invisibility on the user and the super, Gravity Bow, which itself had multiple options for how it worked. I stuck mostly with the option to tether enemies together so that when one takes damage, they all do. This flexibility to customize each ability according to your play style is what really makes your experience playing Destiny stand out from other shooters.

Now Loading to… Other planets

For the most part, you can explore unique sections of Destiny’s planets while on patrol. From Old Russia on Earth, to the Rings of Saturn and back, each planet has distinctive features that feed into the setting. Most of what you see is foliage but the remains of society are ever present and help you dive into the world of Destiny.

You can tell that each world had a careful design process between the artists and lore writers. Taking Earth for example, everything is run down and rusting, with the first mission of the game having you as a new Guardian make your way to the last city on Earth. On your way you see the remains of civilization, with ancient cars overtaken by nature and the wear and tear of time on various structures. And when you finally reach The Tower, you can look down upon human civilization and see how they built themselves up underneath the mysterious Traveler. Later on you travel to Venus, where you see the remains of a human colonization effort during the “Golden Age”, with a lab that is now encroached by a forest. The level of thought that went into each planet is captivating.

Destiny’s final destiny

Bungie’s first venture onto the PlayStation 3 and 4 did not have the best start, but through its three years of content and updates it has come into its own and become a game that has a level of depth than many shooters wish to have. The three years of tinkering and improvements that Bungie put into Destiny manifest in a variety of ways, all of which have fans hyped for the imminent sequel.

  • Deeply customizable gameplay
  • Wide variety of weapons and armor with abilities
  • Consistent stream of content through 3 years…
  • But it took those 3 years to find the right balance in storytelling
  • First two expansions reuse old areas

System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Categories: First Person Shooter, Role Playing
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie

Written by Tyler Beyer

After playing so many Kingdom Hearts entries, translating duck has become like second nature to Tyler, much like writing and playing games.