|a game by||Interactive Magic|
|Platforms:||XBox 360, PC|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||7.0/10 - 2 votes|
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Gamers have long dreamed of an experience that blends elements of massively multiplayer online role-playing games with first-person shooters. Numerous attempts have been made toward satisfying that dream--especially on the PC side--but there's this unshakable feeling that the one game to really, truly break the idea open still hasn't come along yet.
Destiny could be that game. After unquestionably helping establish the FPS genre on consoles with Halo, Bungie has now turned their attention to something grander. They're promising a lot with Destiny: a vast open world, deep character and equipment customization, and a method of online play that will seamlessly allow for richness in both single- and multiplayer scenarios.
The biggest potential Destiny looks to hold is size. While MMOs of the RPG variety have made headway in presenting worlds that offer up vast stretches of land that don't feel barren, that's been much harder for first-person shooters making the same attempt. Why? Because, typically, the goal is to have people meeting up to kill one another--and if it's too hard to find those pockets of activity, boredom can quickly set in. That's why Destiny's push for exploration is so welcome and its well-crafted.topography so inviting. Even when it'll just be you versus the environment, there'll always be something to see and do. In fact, Bungie promises landscapes so big that vehicles will be an important part of the game. These rides--also customizable, naturally--should prove essential for all Guardians, no matter if you're racing to lend assistance to friends engaged in an enemy encounter nearby or simply wandering the world to take in the sights.
When you do come across others, you'll do so dynamically, since you're traveling the ruins of Earth instead of by means of a quick-match menu. Bungie calls Destiny a "shared-world shooter" that harnesses the power of human interaction without needing to always base everything on that singular concept. That's one of the game's most exciting elements--knowing that, in the dimly lit depths of a crumbling building, you might suddenly run into another stranger on an excursion similar to yours. Their armor, weapon, and ability customization choices may greatly differ from your own, but their goal may be the same: finding the unknown and conquering it.
Fans of Civilization-type games will quickly recognize the premise in Destiny. You are in charge of bringing a small group of prehistoric people through the changing world, from the first crude working with stone tools to space travel, developing them from a simple tribe into a successful modern society. Along the way you race against up to seven other tribes, all reaching for the same goal. As you progress through the game, you must lead your tribe to victory using diplomacy and conquest. Options include real-time or turn-based play, traditional 2D or new 3D views, full campaigns or mini-scenarios, and military or scientific victory conditions.
The gameplay in Destiny starts slowly compared to other games of its kind -- there are no barbarians to fight off, no caches of resources or information to locate, and little exploring to do. You are not informed of events that occur in opponent civilizations, and there is no way to find out how your civilization stacks up to the others. Even expanding your empire can quickly become tedious -- each city you build requires a lot of management. Even after you reach the point that you can hire local governors to handle the basics of city management like food, shelter and educational facilities you need to constantly check each city to manage construction, resources and production. Successful management of your cities involves an often overwhelming process of building, upgrading, maintaining, selling and mothballing some structures, in addition to using workers, materials and research. Complicating this task even further are all the windows in Destiny. There are dozens of windows and pop-up information screens -- the dialog for a city has ten separate pages, none of which provides a quick overview of the total city status.
Destiny does have some improvements over other games. Unlike previous "god" games where players are only able to focus on one invention and building project at a time, Destiny allows players to divide their resources among multiple activities in a real-time environment. Each city can be constructing multiple facilities at any time, and production of new materials must be balanced with the resources available. Your research can be focused on a few key areas, or you can elect to spread your efforts into several fields. Once you meet your opposing races, you can choose how to approach them. Destiny allows you to send emissaries to opponents proposing any type of agreement, from trade arrangements to declarations of war. The computer-controlled players respond realistically to these offers. These offers can also be made in multiplayer games. With built-in support for up to eight players on IPX and TCP/IP networks and an announced on-line version to be released early this year, Destiny's multiplayer support is very well done.
The one area where the real-time game flow breaks apart is in commanding forces in a battle. The computer opponents make their moves too quickly, and since you must give orders to individual forces (group commands are not available), you are usually defeated. The option to have the computer automatically calculate the results of a battle isn't as satisfying; all you get is a message box telling you if you won or lost, with no detailed information on forces lost or even what forces you fought against. Another annoying feature is the way forces and structures available to build are listed. Each list is alphabetical, and includes everything available from stone-age War Parties and Adobe Huts to high-tech armored vehicles and structures. There is no option not to display outdated options, so you must wade through the entire list looking for the item you want.
Destiny has been plagued by bugs since its release, ranging from lock-ups when playing in turn-based mode to problems closing information windows or pop-up menus. Interactive Magic has released several patches to correct these problems, and is continuing to address issues reported by players.
Overall, Destiny requires too much control from the player. A moderately-sized empire cannot reasonably be managed with all the tweaking that must be done. Recent patches have added many features to reduce this, but there is still a way to go before playing Destiny becomes a fun rather than frustrating experience.
Destiny includes 3D views not found in other Civ-type games, but these really don't add to gameplay and aren't that impressive anyway. It's much more difficult to determine relative positions of units and cities in the 3D modes. I turned them off and went with the standard 2D views for better control. Destiny also lacks a decent-sized view window. Even at 640x480, the world view window doesn't fill the screen. It can be maximized, but this doesn't increase the area you can view; it just stretches it to fill your screen, usually distorting the display. It's also not easy to tell the difference between your cities and units and your opponents in many of the views. All the cities always look nearly identical, and units only appear in different colors in some of the available views.
The sound in Destiny is severely deficient compared to other games in this genre -- there are only a few effects, mostly units moving from place to place, and sound in the battle sequences. There is also well-done music for the game, but this is turned off by default, and with good reason. When enabled, the music jumps tracks constantly, playing only a few seconds of any one track at a time.
The printed documentation for Destiny is fairly complete, although it can be difficult to find information you need, as there is no index. One of the most glaring omissions in Destiny is a context-sensitive help system. No information on any of the options or commands is available in the game. The game does include an online manual in Adobe Acrobat format, but finding the information you want in that manual is as difficult as finding it in the printed manual. With all the complexity in the gameplay, the lack of easy-to-use documentation and context-sensitive help can become very frustrating. The one place where good help is available is the Destiny Academy on Interactive Magic's web site, a discussion forum where you can talk to other players and Destiny experts.
Windows: Windows 95, 486-DX2/66 or faster, 8 MB RAM (16 MB recommended), SVGA video, 2X or faster CD-ROM drive, 12 MB disk space, Windows 95 compatible sound card.
With its superior multiplayer support, Destiny is in position to become the game of choice for fans of Civ-type strategy who want the ability to play against live opponents. But until Interactive Magic has released more patches to take care of the game's many defects, playing Destiny is more frustrating than fun. I give Destiny 48 out of 100.