Hi all. You may be asking: How did this chump get his hands on Destiny early? The answer is this chump is from Australia and Bungie decided to throw us a bone and release the game on our September 9th, which is about 11-12 hours ahead of North America. I started playing the game last night and have sunk about 6 hours into it.
Here are some early impressions:
The game plays beautifully. If you played the alpha/beta then you know what to expect. The first area of the game is exactly the same as the content we played two months ago, although you get access to the Moon fairly quickly. I was totally fine with seeing that stuff again because of how right the gunplay feels. The level design in the missions is also stellar and allows the kind of tactical movement and positioning that made me fall in love with Halo. It's not nearly as intuitive or as rewarding as Halo though, as the visual language of the combat has been garbled by the fact that enemies don't move and react as they do in Hale because all you're doing is lowering health bars. I still have trouble distinguishing particular enemy types by sight, which was never a problem in any of Bungie's previous games. The feedback on the guns and your hits is great but it's missing that sense that I always had with the Halo games of being able to read the battlefield like a book. Still, doesn't stop it being good fun.
I'm playing a Hunter and she's pretty cool. I have a dope throwing knife and a grenade that sends out homing energy blasts, so that's nice. I'm interested in how many subclasses I will end up having access to, because frankly the abilities on the horizon for my Gunslinger subclass seem a tad pedestrian. I do like how long it takes for you to level up and how much of a difference that makes. A 1-2 level deficit compared to your enemies is almost untenable without help, so when you level up it feels impactful. Games trivialise leveling up these days so I really appreciate how significant an extra level feels.
I think the way they handle loot and leveling is really interesting. The fact that you can level up your uncommon drops with enough use and pick different perks to suit how you play is sensational. However, everything I've seen has been much better than my current gear. There are no real trade-offs to speak of and trade-offs are what make a loot game like Diablo work. Everything is uniformly better than what you've got, with the possible exception of your uncommon gear which you may have leveled to the point where it outclasses the higher-level stuff you're finding
But man, do I not care about ANYTHING that is going on in this game! It's perfectly okay to be mysterious and obtuse with your narrative but you have to give me something to grab hold of. Interesting characters? Nope. A unique plot hook? Nada. It's all cryptic mystical nonsense. You can practically hear characters verbally capitalising every noun Bungie has appropriated into their fiction. I don't even know what I'm doing or why I'm doing it. I met my Ghost, went to the Traveller and spoke to the Speaker and now I'm looking for The Sword. I think? Enough good science fiction has been written in the medium to make this seem painfully dull, even by video game standards. Half the vendors in the main hub seem like more interesting characters than anyone with any degree of agency in the story.
For a game about Earth's last struggle against some mysterious malevolent force, it lacks any kind of sense of impending doom. I guess part of that is how jerky the pacing is. When every mission is structured to involve multiple people and eventually concludes with a fat mission-end countdown to you being warped back to your ship, there's no feeling of consequence or importance to anything you're doing. It feels like an MMO, but not enough of the awesome emergent shit that results from having lots of people on the same server in a single area happens to justify the busywork for me. The loot is cool but there's not enough of it to pull you through in spite of the stale mission design.
The best stuff I've seen so far has been the strikes, my first of which I completed this morning. The strikes throw the book at you in a way that really forces you to work together and take advantage of your various class abilities. Bungie also layers on the bombastic tunes to make it feel slightly more important that the flat tone that manifests itself in most of the other missions. The strikes are also custom, something that isn't true of the other missions. You'll often find yourself going back to old areas, which brings me to the patrol missions.
If you want to get sweet rewards from the various factions and vendors, you need to level up your reputation with each. You do that by doing these randomly generated miscellaneous quest style patrol missions out in the world. My issue with this is that to level up my reputation with the Vanguards to Level 1, I need to grind out 1500 vanguard points. The patrol missions give me 10. I haven't figured out if there's another way to get them yet, so if that's the only way to get the higher-tier equipment and armour sets, I'm out. Also there's the sense that the mission areas are less interesting as a result of Bungie wanting to make areas that you could spend hours in doing trivial nonsense. I like the overall look of the game but the structures and buildings you explore are kind of dull.
I don't know anything about the crafting system beyond the fact that I think there is one. They haven't explained it yet. I don't know. Spinmetal.
Anyway, I'm going to keep playing. I've barely scratched the surface of the Moon at 7 hours in and at the glacial pace the story is progressing there seems like there's a lot of game here. I also love shooting stuff in this game and may even dip into the competitive multiplayer, even though that's not usually my thing. There's just enough gameplay hooks to keep me engaged so I'm hoping either the story or the mission design picks up later on. It's a pretty game that plays superbly right now, I'm hoping it evolves into something more interesting.
And boy, Peter Dinklage does not care.
EDIT: Destiny may be the Dune movie of video games.