‘Destiny’ – One Month Later

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Destiny
Bungie
Activision
PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

It has been over a month since the release of Destiny and much has changed since Bungie’s latest released. Several events have come and gone, particular weapons have risen to fame and faded into oblivion, and the Crucible has been tailored and balanced several times over. Now seems as ideal a time as ever to reevaluate the new title from the developers of Halo.

In the month that I’ve spent with the game, one thing holds true; Destiny is massive. The initial play through of the campaign and the journey to level twenty is a straightforward one.  In about the same time it takes to complete the story I both reached level twenty with my first character and soon after fully upgraded my first subclass, the Warlock’s Voidwalker class.  Several things changed at this point.  The first thing is the option to spike the difficulty, offering the opportunity to experience the story on varying difficulties matching or exceeding the player’s level. I also unlocked the Strike playlist, allowing me to replay each Strike on higher levels complete with matchmaking so I don’t have to go it alone. Thanks to an update, replaying the Daily Heroic Missions and playing through the Strike Playlist is also a rewarding experience, complete with engrams, usable Vanguard Marks, as well as Ascension Material. Not only that, but suddenly all upgrade materials found on each planet become valuable as they help upgrade armor and thus level the players in general.  In short, it isn’t until after level 20 that the game’s MMO elements come into play.  

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The complaint has been made by several players that while there is replay value, tackling the same levels over and over gets repetitive. Perhaps, but I might submit that there lies the genius of the subclass development.  Once my Voidwalker subclass was complete, I began to level the Sunsinger class. Trust me when I say they could not be more different. To begin, the supers available to each are extremely diverse.  The Voidwalker is a super powered attack capable of whipping out many enemies at once. Radiance, the super of the Sunsinger, however, increases the usefulness of all powers and abilities while active, namely the special melee and grenade abilities.  I was suddenly able to throw unlimited grenades for a short time and my melee was capable of vanquishing many a mighty foe.  While it took some getting used to, I soon began to prefer the Sunsinger, and I hadn’t even reached its peak usefulness. With different perks and upgrades, the subclasses can change the way you approach the game.

Initial reviews for Destiny often underwrote the class system. Most viewed it as a matter of preference, what grenades the player enjoyed and how they wanted to shoot things. However, each of the secondary subclasses for each character type has distinct tactical advantages with arguably more supportive abilities. For example, the Hunter with its Bladedancer subclass (or Blade Runner as I playfully call it) can cloak when crouched, vanishing to the enemy eye, offering unique options for sneak attacks and reviving fellow players. Titan’s Defender class offers the player a dome shield with which to defend the controlling player as well as teammates, ideal for taking bases in PVP or providing a much needed reprieve from enemy onslaughts in Vanguard missions. Finally, the Sunsinger subclass provides the Warlock the unique ability Fireborn, which revives the player when they activate their super if downed. This ability has made me very popular at the Tower and a valuable asset on difficult Strikes and Raids.

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That’s without mentioning Exotic armor, which further tailors each players abilities to their liking.  Each piece of Exotic gear enhances certain abilities for a specific subclass.  If you are a Warlock who enjoys the Sunsinger’s Solar Grenades, the Sunbreaker gauntlets increase the grenades duration significantly amongst other increases to power.  If you prefer the Gunslinger subclass as a Hunter, the Achlyophage Symbiote helmet gives the Golden Gun super an additional shot.  In this way, a player can develop a strong character that plays how they see fit.  I personally alternate between the Sunbreaker gauntlets and the helmet Light Beyond Nemesis, which makes me an even more supportive character by allowing me to revive allies more quickly and generate more Super Orbs.

Finding the perfect piece of gear to fit your needs and build up your level remains as addicting as ever. The largest difference between Destiny then and now in this regard is how that gear is obtained.  As mentioned, Strikes and Dailies now have the added benefit of bestowing engrams or gear.  Several events have also made legendary gear relatively more obtainable. The Queen’s Wrath event gave players limited gear and reputation with each target eliminated. More recently, a player with a high reputation in the Iron Banner, a  player versus player mode, could buy legendary gear for relatively cheap. Conversely, the easiest way to get great gear has been shut to players. The notorious Loot Cave and its sequels have all been shut down by Bungie.  I view this as a positive adjustment for a number of reasons. One, it ensures that players are receiving gear at the intended rate and not surpassing one another based on how the gear was obtained. This results in a more even playing field in consideration of PVP as well as eliminates the disadvantage players were experiencing in being left out of Strikes and Raids because they didn’t have the best gear.  Two, it requires that people actually play the game.  Sure, you should be able to play the game how you like, but I have heard too many players complain that there is nothing left to do once they have reached level twenty-nine or thirty. My immediate response is to ask how they reached level thirty so quickly and to suggest that perhaps they start another character and try leveling as intended like the rest of us without the benefit of the loot cave.

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The Crucible also remains a fun way to spend some time, especially with some recent rebalancing.  The primary difference is that you will no longer be killed by shotguns with sniper-like range, which does make everything a little more enjoyable, and you might see some other primaries outside of the recently nerfed auto-rifles. The Crucible still remains a little limited in its offerings in terms of levels and game types.  It is tough not to compare Destiny to its predecessor series, Halo, which had such a complete, well-balanced multiplayer that offered countless regular game types, brilliant mechanics and balance for weapons, carefully toned vehicle usability and countering, as well as ways to track achievements against other players.  Many of these things Destiny still lacks, which might be acceptable except that they are so standard for online FPS titles that their absence still comes off as a huge oversight.

Hopefully with updates and expansions much of that will change, as new events and missions are certain to enhance and expand the Vanguard gameplay. With all that it offers and how well-crafted and enjoyable the game is, Destiny remains, in my eyes, an exceptional game. Equal parts RPG, FPS, and MMO, Destiny is undoubtedly a unique title that might not perfectly fulfill our expectations from each of those genres, but with time and development, and a little less unreasonable expectation, might start looking more like the game that many dreamed it would be.

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