Half a month has passed since the creators of Halo launched their new space-baby into our arms. In Internet Land that's practically a lifetime, and more than long enough for developer Bungie's dream project to be shredded and dissected like a hunk of pit cooked meat.
Some have shrugged it off as boring shooty-bang shite, while others have delved as deep as Destiny will allow – digging down to see what this ludicrously shiny space bollocks sim is able to offer right now (and also later). With vocal plans to keep us hooked on Destiny for the next ten years, it's wise to get this rabbit hole properly surveyed before offering a chunk of your soul as down-payment.
IT'S DESIGNED FOR IDIOTS
Gorgeous but ultimately very vapid, it's almost too perfect that Destiny represents gaming's first real "Instagram moment". For the last few weeks my social media feeds have been clogged with identical arty screen-grabs of people standing in front of The Traveller, Destiny's massive mystery moon thing.
There's something aspirational about Destiny that ultimately explains everything you need to know about it. It's a pointlessly luxurious product to delve into – perfect for that expensive console you've been struggling to justify.
The potential for depth is there in the future, but largely this is a game entirely designed to suit the needs of a mass-media audience. Clean menu options keep things obvious and neat, and complexity is hidden away with such zeal that some of it isn't even in the game – some of the deeper stats and systems can only be seen by logging onto Bungie's website.
They've taken the heavily skill-based shooter genre and massively reduced the entry requirements, as well as condensing complex MMO systems into something that, to experts, feels incredibly light. It's a formula designed to reach the widest possible audience, but it isn't a surprise to see critics divided.
SEO chancers Musga.fr were the first to post a scored review out into the wild, but the more considered opinions that followed didn't seem to be vastly different. On account of review score perceptions being fucked, Destiny's failure to break an average of 80 on Metacritic makes the game look like a total dud (more of that over here). Still, they've sold a ton of copies and idiots like me are still happily just gawping at it, posting up generic holiday snaps of the exact same landmarks as everyone else and roaming around on glorious jet-bikes being overwhelmed by how pretty it is.
It might be mostly designed for more casual fans cracking on towards their thirties or forties, but as I slot neatly into that bracket I'm going to be selfish and say that's fine. Also, a bonus for idiots like me is the lack of complexity in the game's competitive multiplayer – an irritation for seasoned players, but a refreshing change for those out of the loop. Same has to be said for the lack of voice comms; after years of putting up with smack-talk from toddlers, silence is an unbelievable treat.
THE STORY IS TOTAL RUBBISH
When people first got their hands on Destiny as part of a public server test, Peter Dinklage's floating robot character gave birth to a short-lived meme: "That wizard came from the moon!" exclaimed The Dinklebot with a degree of sincerity that triggered an immediate worldwide cringe.
"That wizard came from the moon"
Killing the joke before it had a chance to breathe, Bungie quickly released T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan and cut the offending line of dialogue from the final game. After blasting through the finished story, this decision feels like a mistake. What we're left with is a sprawling mess of po-faced nonsense, hurtling players through a gauntlet of silly gun-fun while churning out utterly meaningless plot twists and developments.
Once upon a time, there was a Dinklebot, scanning stuff…
You're dropped into a complex world of entirely unexplained alien factions and then immediately expected to give any sort of shit about the wacky fiction being enthusiastically spun out in-between missions. It's like someone hit Isaac Asimov with a brick mid-sentence, and then decided it was enough to just run with that. I've boiled down the general gist and tone of the story into the spoiler-free video above.
THE BOSS FIGHTS ARE ABSOLUTELY AWFUL
Honestly, guys, what were you thinking? Ramping up the difficulty on missions makes them vastly more exciting – forcing you to think on your feet, look out for your buddies and generally have a brilliant time trying not to die. Then you get to the boss at the end of the mission and everything becomes an unbearable chore.
You can only shoot the same man in the head roughly 50 times before you start to question the exact point at which your hobby became such a cruel and blatant waste of your time.
YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO DO THE FUN STUFF
With Strike Missions largely let down by those dullard bosses, all eyes were focused on Vault of Glass, Destiny's first six-man challenge that can only be tackled with actual friends. That's right – friends. You can't just hop in with a bunch of strangers, which means arranging to meet up at a very specific time.
The first team to crack Vault of Glass took over ten hours to achieve it, but murmurs about the quality of this hardcore experience have all been resoundingly positive. Packed full of puzzles, surprises and varied scenarios, it seems that despite the demonic difficulty so far it's the best part of the total package. It's a shame, then, that you won't be able to even scratch the surface before you're at least level 26. Even then, expect to be comprehensively battered to bits.
Some guys being bad at Vault of Glass, the other day
It's a buzz-kill for those who don't have the time to earn all the gear needed to even gain entry, but it's an exciting glimpse of what the game might be a couple of years into the future. As for what it is right now? The answer to that isn't exactly glamorous:
IT'S A FRUIT MACHINE
Beneath the sci-fi bombast and orchestral pomp, Destiny is an endless sea of shiny bells and cherries. In fact, the only real difference here is the entry fee – £40 gets you as long as you want in the shiny intergalactic casino, and after that the only real investment is time. After 15 hours of naive gun-fun the core of Destiny slowly becomes apparent, with the steady conveyor belt of levelling and XP replaced with the fuzzy and seemingly staggered world of hunting for loot.
You're loosely told by pop-ups in the game that it's time to form a Power Rangers-style troupe to earn rewards by beating new, tougher challenges. But currently that simply isn't the case. Ditching meritocracy in favour of A-for-effort rubbish has naturally left many feeling very pissed off.
Watching the 28-death dingus on your team walk away with better shit than everyone else can sometimes make it feel like the best way to get a legendary helmet is to actually be one. I can imagine it must be hugely aggravating if you're genuinely brilliant at games, but as a man who's spent the past five years being dicked-on by children, I'll happily take whatever I can get.
Ensuring muppets like me can still get shiny toys is a decision I'm completely behind, but at the time of writing (since patched, only to be born again, sort of) the most effective way to earn the loot you need to tackle the coolest missions Destiny currently offers is to spend hours pointing your gun at a hole in a wall.
RIP, original loot cave
The "loot cave" is a simple exploit that exposes the core of what Destiny is. Packs of enemies rush out of this cave whenever they've been killed and need to be replaced. Kill them before they've even left the cave and you've got yourself a constant bloodbath. Once everyone runs out of ammo you all dash into this Aladdin's cave of ill-gotten goodies: green glowy things are fairly useless, blue ones are good, purple ones are great.
It's evident that something somewhere is fucked when I'm actually farming the loot cave right now. You don't even have to shoot at the hole in the wall to earn goodies, which means the most effective way to progress in Destiny is to wander off and have a cup of tea while some other mugs shoot at aliens for you. Sure, they'll probably notice and think you're a prick, but if you're like me you'll probably feel awful about yourself at this point anyway. Get your hands on whatever you can, maybe feel dirty about it later – it's a Pulp song in video game form.
It should be easy enough (and proved as much) to patch out stuff like this, but in a way the damage has already been done – once you've seen the whole system boiled down to the bones you can't ignore how much of the game's appeal is built on wafer-thin Pavlovian bullshit. When a friend first introduced me to the loot cave he expressed that he didn't know what made him feel worse – that he was willingly taking advantage of an obvious exploit, or that shooting a gun into a hole in the wall seemed to be just as much fun as playing the game properly.
The loot cave takes us behind the velvet curtain, punches the puppeteer in the guts and screams at the kids that they've been lied to with wires.
IT'S BLOODY FABULOUS
Once you've accepted the madness of willingly signing up to what is essentially Farmville directed by JJ Abrams, it's worth noting that Destiny is an absolute blast. The magic of the original Halo – as explained by developer Bungie – boiled down to the perfection of a 30-second loop. Shoot stuff in the face, throw a grenade, punch a dude, jump into the air, shoot stuff in the face, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Destiny's repeating loops of fun are designed to keep you hooked for a far longer period – and because of that often come across as insidious – but it's impossible to underplay just how beautifully they've nailed the basics.
Shooting things in the head feels absolutely superb. I've been using the same gun for almost a week, shooting literally thousands of aliens in the head with the exact same pistol, over and over. Endless, pointless, beautiful repetition. If you really, really like shooting things in the head, then Destiny's appeal can't be understated.
Shooting stuff in the head feels incredible. I love it. I could do it endlessly, for days. I have been doing it endlessly for days. At times it doesn't feel like there's a lot more to it, but incredibly for some reason my brain has decided that this is absolutely fine. The joy of murdering aliens in just the right way to expertly tickle the right bits of brain.
It's a shamelessly shallow but impeccable machine wrapped up in the shiniest paper I've ever seen. It's almost a shame to see such a vast amount of budget having been pumped into something so rudimentary, but I'm having too much fun to care.
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