Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Destiny (Xbox 360 / Xbox One) Review

To close out 2014, I figured I would review the most hyped game of the year.  I've spent many hours in Destiny, on both 360 and the Xbox One, so it's time to see how fun the half-billion dollar game really is.

First off, the game looks really good.  Even on the 360, the scenery, models and effects are top notch.  I'd say the scenery is some of the best and most detailed I've seen in a console game.  Of course, the Xbox One version is slightly better, but the difference isn't as big as you might suspect.  The biggest graphical addition there is the light effects.  The loading screen ships have little blinking lights, and the areas have much more dynamic lighting.

Second, the gun play is pretty solid.  It's not the best ever, as I've seen some people proclaim, but it's fairly satisfying.  I played the beta on the PS3 and 360, and the full game on 360 and XB1.  The 360 controller was definitely the best fit for me, and felt the most comfortable for the controls.  The only problem I had with the guns is the damage.  As you get further in the game, and notably in the Strikes and Raids, the enemies start to have JRPG levels of health.  This means you are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, or rounds into them before they die.  It gets boring having to shoot things so much.  So while the controls and guns work well, the damage they output doesn't keep up.

The game is an MMO in all but name.  You have to be online to play, and there are several other players around.  You will probably want to play with friends, seeing at how cumbersome it is to invite others to play in your party, or "firesquad".  It's also nigh impossible to communicate with others.  You get 4 different emotes, but you will probably only use 2... and one of them is to dance.  They added a firesquad chat channel, which could help, but this was so late into the game that most people don't use it, and instead play with friends and use party chat.  It's a strange decision to release an MMO with little to no way to communicate, but that's just what Bungie did.

There is a story mode that takes you through and unlocks each area of the game.  It spans multiple planets (and the moon!), with each having about 5 missions.  While broad in scope, it is light on duration.  My friend and I completed the story mode in two days.  Even if you do it with all 3 character slots, it still isn't much.  There are Strikes on each planet to give you a group-oriented challenge, but there are still only 5 total.  The Strikes are pretty fun, but they get old fast, since you are expected to run them many, many, many times.  There's also a Raid.  Yes, only one unless you buy DLC.  It's not very fun at all, at least to me.  It's long but with checkpoints that stay up for a week in case you cannot finish in one go.  That's about the only positive thing I can say about them.  Although other people think it's the best part of the game, I think it might be the worst.

Once you reach level 20, the experience cap, you will need to gain "light" to level up further.  Light is a stat on high level armor that will increase your level up to 30.  It's a nice, new concept, but inherently flawed.  While before you could chug away and earn experience to get new levels, now you are the mercy of a random number generator for loot to get those levels.  I'm one of those people who rarely gets good drops in games, which causes me to lag behind others for no reason other than the game doesn't want to give me better stuff.  Not skill or time based... just random luck.  Yuck.

The alternative is to buy some better equipment, which has me commit days to get enough "marks" or "strange coins" (which are also subject to the RNG) to get them.  This would be less of an issue if they game had more content.  This is probably my main complaint with the game.  It simply asks you to play so much, and offers so little to do.  Sure, there are daily bounties to kill certain enemies, or other such things, but by the time you finally get some good gear, you've done them all several times already.  There's even weekly caps on the marks you can earn.  So they want you to play too much already, but then punish you for playing a lot.  Whoever made such a terrible decision shouldn't have a job.  At least they fixed the unidentified items, now maybe the rest of the game?

If you want a better chance at better rewards, you can do harder versions of the Strikes.  These have minimum level requirements, so you can't be boosted through them to catch up to other people.  Some of these are entirely doable, but some are ridiculously stacked against you.  That isn't to say they are impossible, just close to it.  While there is the Dark Souls crowd that loves to overcome those odds, there are people like me, who have nothing to prove, that will just move on.  I'm fine with a challenge, but I hate unfair odds.  It's artificial challenge if they just let enemies one shot you, but take 1200 bullets to the head to kill.

Destiny is best played with friends.  Even then, it's not the best recommendation I could make.  The game is really pretty and has some good shooting, but falls flat in just about every other area.  It has not nearly enough content for how much they expect you to play.  There's some timed events and other things to try and add variety, but it's all based on the small pool of things already in the game.  It's even harder to recommend it if you are going to play by yourself.  Destiny is a collection of missed opportunities and a mystery of where its massive cost went.  There's at least a decent core to build upon for the inevitable sequel, which will hopefully address its issues and make it a great game.

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