“Destiny” ($59.99; Rated E) is like nothing you have ever played, and yet it is instantly familiar.
Much of this has to do with Bungie, the celebrated “Halo” developer who left that franchise behind to make something new – something they could pour all of their design and development efforts into. “Destiny” feels almost instantly like a “Halo” game: a first-person shooter with slightly floaty movement, satisfying gun blasts, and a reliance on special powers.
“Destiny” shares almost as much in common, however, with recent console MMO games like “Final Fantasy XIV” and “DC Universe Online.” When you’re not running around and shooting the easily killed alien bad guys that show up to threaten civilization as we know it, you are going from place to place in a hub town called The Tower.
It is in this city, populated with both AI and many (for now) human players, that you discover most of your reason for being.
One location will give you “bounties” – MMO-style tasks like “kill 100 bad guys” or “complete 10 missions” with rewards of piles of experience and upgrades in gear. Other locations will sell you more gear, progress the plot and allow for communication with other players.
After three or four story missions you’ll hit level 5, at which point you are allowed to take part in the competitive component of “Destiny.” Given that Bungie is involved, it’s strange that this feels like the least imaginative part of the game. For the time being, the play lists and maps are quite limited and simple rehashes of the same first-person multiplayer modes you can play in other games: “Control” is your basic “capture the checkpoints” game; “Clash” is a kill-everybody death match; and then there are variations on those modes.
Where the multiplayer options start to get interesting is in the limited time “events” that Bungie will release at various points in the game’s lifespan.
A recent event included a play mode called “Salvage” that played like a version of “Control” with fewer checkpoints and longer respawn times. It’s not a huge change, but it keeps the play fresh. As for getting “through” the game, Destiny’s story missions are paced well and appropriately large in scale. There are few cutscenes to move the story along, but most missions offer some large events to take in for a minute or two, in between all of the shooting and taking cover.
In its worst moments, “Destiny” gets to be a bit of a grind. There’s an odd disconnect to playing through a game that feels so much like an MMO but doesn’t have a gigantic world to explore. It doesn’t help that neither the story nor the voice acting seem all too inspired.
There’s a good chance that feeling will go away in the coming months. When you buy “Destiny,” much of what you buy is potential.
Bungie seems committed to making sure that the world of “Destiny” stays “alive” for a long time to come – a commitment they are showing by scheduling a huge number of in-game events right off the bat.
The only catch is that you have to work yourself into the game’s schedule, rather than working the game into yours. If you can pull off that little trick, “Destiny” is bound to give you hundreds of hours of space-shooting enjoyment.
“Destiny” is now available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
New this week: A lot of sequels to smaller but well-established franchises make their way to stores this week. “Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution” (Xbox 360/PS3) is the latest in a series of colorful, underrated brawlers, while the 3DS offers “Cooking Mama 5,” where you’ll undoubtedly be chopping, boiling, and mixing more of the creative recipes in Mama’s cookbook.