Destiny is not a perfect game. Its plot is vague, partly the result of a grand ambition to have a narrative that evolves over the next ten years, throughout the course of an entire console generation (and partly because, yeah, Bungie messed up). There are bugs, although most have been squashed by post-release patches. Some of the systems are poorly explained, perhaps the result of Bungie’s desire to keep players learning and discovering. And right now, there are only four environments, which has led many to dismiss the game as ‘limited and boring’. Yet, in spite of all these perceived faults, Destiny stands head-and-shoulders above any other game in 2014.
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I’ll tell you why I think this in a minute but first, here’s a number: 1064. That’s the total hours the GamesRadar editorial team spent playing Destiny, before The Dark Below expansion released. That’s a lot of play time for a relatively small staff. Some played for 100+ hours, and a guilty couple admit to 200+ hours. There are only a handful of games ever released that have hoovered up so much of our time as a team. And while this piece is about why I personally love Destiny, I know my sentiments are shared by many other people at GamesRadar because… well, 1064 hours!
Sure, time spent inside a game isn’t necessarily a measure of quality. I know so many people who have sunk hundreds of hours into Farmville and Candy Crush, and these are hardly GOTY contenders. In Destiny, the vast amount of time spent in-game doesn’t stem from resources grinding, or cynically addicting systems, as the nay-sayers would have you believe. It comes from collaboration, communication, and community. I’ve spoken to so many people within Destiny, and they all give different reasons why they’re so committed (besides just enjoying the game). They play to keep up with friends, they play because it fits their daily routine in between putting children to bed and slumping unconscious on the sofa, they play as clans to meet new people, they even play for therapy. And damn it, the community can be a truly amazing, truly generous bunch of people.
This social aspect elevates Destiny far beyond ‘just another shooter’. Combined with that sweet feedback loop that comes with playing the game to snag better gear and delve deeper into the game’s refined levelling system, it’s the reason why myself – and so many of my PSN friends – play for hundreds of hours. Indeed, gameplay elements like this are exactly what made legendary MMOs like World of Warcraft huge, and now Bungie has helped to open up this persistent, hyper-replayable, sociable experience to the console audience by wrapping it up in a game that’s accessible, yet great fun to play. It’s incredibly bold and forward-thinking.
And Destiny is an exceptional shooter. From level one to level 30 (and beyond), the action is wonderfully balanced, and a joy to play. The weapons each have a unique feel, and require different skill sets to master, while the abilities of each class combine with your loadout to make each character feel subtly unique. Being a Titan with a Pulse rifle is surprisingly different to being a Warlock with a Hand Cannon. What’s more, sub-classes strike a fine balance between offensive and defensive play, while superbly complimenting the abilities found in other classes. In other words, everything’s built on a bedrock of player cooperation and awesome shooting.