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Destiny first impressions: Blinded by the hype

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:51PM EST
Destiny First Impressions
Image: Bungie

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I’m glad that I invested some time into the alpha and beta tests of Destiny, because I know I would have been disappointed with the game otherwise. Destiny isn’t what I expected. I don’t know if it’s what I was promised, but the ideas are spread so thin that it only seems to scratch the surface of what I’ve come to expect from an MMO, a shooter or even a Bungie title. But I think I’m enjoying it regardless.

It’s an odd dichotomy — Destiny doesn’t hold up against the best shooters on the market: the loot isn’t nearly as fun to collect as it is in Borderlands 2, the gunplay isn’t as smooth as Call of Duty and the world isn’t nearly as alive as Skyrim’s or WildStar’s — but it works… sometimes.

What I learned in my first five or six hours of Destiny is that the key to having a good time is getting into a groove. I saw someone on Twitter say Destiny is all about rhythm — they were right. When you start learning which weapon works best in which situation, when to fight and when to run away, when to take a break from the story missions and head to the Crucible, you lose yourself in the machine that Bungie has built.

It’s when the machine breaks down that the cracks start to show. After toiling through one excruciatingly difficult mission that was built for characters one level higher than mine, I had reached the very last enemy. I had him down below 10% of his health after repeatedly chipping away at his rechargeable shield, but as I went in for the kill, he struck first. That lethal blow sent me back to the beginning of the firefight, every enemy standing exactly where they had started. I was thrown out of Bungie’s fantastical version of our galaxy back into the real one, and I turned the game off.

To be fair, this was the end of a four hour play session without a break. It was time to get off the couch, but I wanted to leave on my own terms, not because Bungie arbitrarily decided to include an archaic mechanic in its 2014 release.

This is just one example of how Destiny falls short of its potential. The social aspects of the game are lacking as well. Although you can join a Fireteam to travel from planet to planet with, Bungie has built Destiny so that other players will show up while you’re in the middle of a mission. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have the same objective as you. So you might cross paths, but you’ll rarely be headed in the same direction.

This meant I would be going solo, which the game graciously allows. I’ve faced my share of challenges during my time with Destiny, but anything on my character level was surmountable while playing solo. I would have loved more incidental interaction, but I just wasn’t seeing much of it.

I also spent some time in the Crucible, Destiny’s hub for PvP. I won’t make a judgment call this early, but the maps I saw didn’t feel nearly as meticulous or iconic as the maps from the Halo series. I can still picture those maps in my head — I couldn’t even begin to sketch a map from the Crucible. That said, I had some success once I became accustomed to the mode. It started to click. Bringing in unique weapons and armor that I acquired while adventuring through the solar system gave me a vague incentive to prove I’d equipped my Warlock with some killer equipment as well.

Overall, I’d say I’m confused. I still don’t know what Destiny is, and I don’t think I will until I’ve completed the story (which is as indecipherable as it is sparse). But when I fall into a pattern, the game starts to flow. Despite all of my gripes, I can’t wait to jump back in and plow through the last half of the story to see what lies on the other side.

If you’d like to see what the game has in store before you decide to pick it up, we’ll have a full review up soon. In the meantime, why not watch four hours of gameplay?

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Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.