Gaming: Destiny

Gaming: Destiny


Some people hate it, some love it. But just about every gamer I know has played it or, like me, is still playing it.

Destiny is possibly the most anticipated game to be released for consoles this year. In just two weeks, it has sold "tens of thousands" on all four platforms to retail shops, the game's Singapore distributor told Digital Life. It is selling three times as fast as another blockbuster shooter title, Call Of Duty.

The hype is understandable.

Destiny is made by Bungie, the highly respected creators of the Halo series. It is Bungie's first new game title since it was spun off from Microsoft in 2007. With the studio's rock-solid reputation of making great sci-fi shooters, surely Destiny would be at least as good as Halo.

On that premise alone, many gamers bought into the game. Bungie opened up a week-long beta access in July to gamers. The game was limited to one planet and players could not advance their characters beyond level 8. But it was enough to win the fence-sitters over.

I have spent exactly 47 hours and 38 minutes on the game since it launched two weeks ago.

At about 30 hours of gameplay, I completed all of the campaign missions across all four zones - Earth, Moon, Venus and Mars - and hit the "soft" level cap of 20 for my Hunter. Up till this point, the game was fabulous.

Centuries ago, astronauts on an expedition to Mars discovered a huge spherical being, known as The Traveller, which shared its advanced technologies with mankind.

Humanity entered a new golden age of discovery and space travel. Planets were colonised successfully. Human lifespans lengthened. But The Traveller's ancient enemy, known as the Darkness, soon surfaced and sought to destroy everything, pushing humanity back to the City on Earth, where it remained as the last bastion for mankind and all of civilisation.

You play a guardian, one of the last warriors who must band together to repel the Darkness and protect what's left of The Traveller from annihilation.

When the game starts, you must create a character from one of three classes. Titans are tough and can take a lot of hits. Hunters are more fragile but they can mete out huge amounts of damage. Warlocks are the wizards of the game, able to shoot powerful fireballs from a distance.

You also have a choice of three races, but whether you choose to be Human, Awoken or Exo, it is simply cosmetic, at least for now.

Your first few missions take place in Old Russia, a war-ravaged part of Earth, where you must find a spaceship and then warp engines so that you can travel to the moon and other planets to save the world.

Weapons galore

Halo fans will immediately recognise the familiar combat mechanics of gunning down enemies using a variety of guns, grenades and melee attacks. Unlike Halo, which lets you carry only two guns at a time, here you can carry up to 30, although you can equip only three of them at any one time.

Your primary weapon can be a continuous-firing autorifle; a pulse rifle, which shoots in bursts, a scout rifle, which is very precise but shoots only one bullet at a time; or the high-impact handgun, which can kill enemies with a single shot in the hands of a skilled player.

There are three choices of secondary weapon: the sniper rifle, the shotgun and the fusion rifle, which is powerful but needs time to be charged before it is fired.

A third slot called the Heavy weapon lets you choose between a rocket launcher and a machine gun. You can equip only one weapon of each class, and they can be quickly swopped in the middle of a firefight. To switch guns within the same group is a good idea only when the enemy sniper does not have its gun sights on you, because you have to open up your inventory interface to make the switch.

All guns can be used by any of the three classes. In addition, each class has its own type of grenade - from flashbangs to proximity mines to lightning grenades. Each class also has its own Super Attacks which can cause a dramatic destruction of nearby enemies, when unleased.

Unlike Halo, in which everyone plays the same faceless Master Chief, Destiny lets you level up and customise the look and powers of your character, so that you truly own him or her. When I earned my first piece of legendary-class armour on Monday, I was so proud of it that I just stared at it for a few minutes to admire its prowess.

Each gun and armour piece has a drop-rate attached. White items are common, green is uncommon, blue is rare and purple is legendary. But the most sought-after are the exotic gold items.

Grinding can be fun

The game plays smoothly until level 20. For casual gamers, this is probably the end of the line. At level 20, you no longer automatically level up when you get enough experience points from adventuring.

To get to level 30 requires plenty of grinding. You must repeat strike missions, face off against other players in multiplayer matches, run patrol missions over and over again - all with the hope of securing better loot. Higher-level gear comes with a new attribute called Light and when you have enough Light points in your armour, you can level up to 21 and beyond. At this point, this is where the monotony sets in for many players.

But not for me. l love the promise of greater power through grinding. Because you must be connected online to a game server to play this game, Bungie can introduce new content and quests as time goes on.

There are many short cuts and tricks to acquiring legendary and exotic gear more quickly, and trying out other players' tips is still great fun.

At the end of the campaign, the story feels unfinished. I think that this is deliberate. This is just the beginning of a game that will span years and keep fans hooked for a long time. An expansion is already in the works and is believed to be launching in November.

If Bungie is doing this to take over our time and money, they can take mine.

I am sold. I believe.

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