Destiny review – an alien invasion best tackled with friends

Destiny: ‘for a shared world, it can feel lonely’.

Some people like to play the lone hero, some like to team up with friends, and others prefer to test their skills by killing strangers. With its “shared-world shooter”, Destiny (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360), Bungie wants to gather these players under one roof, but that house is not as open plan as it would have you believe.

Destiny represents a dream, the first part of a 10-year story set in a post-apocalyptic future. After a Golden Age of space colonisation and subsequent Collapse, the only human survivors are in one Earth city, protected by a giant magical sphere called The Traveler. The concern is to tackle an alien threat, but Bungie plans to add content that will change that shared world – everyone will experience that ongoing story together, however they want to play.

At this early stage, however, things are disjointed. Take competitive multiplayer: when humanity is on the brink of extinction it doesn’t make sense for Guardians to turn their attention away from the threat to fight each other, even if it is – as the lore here insists – for “practice”. The competitive modes emphasise Destiny’s best features – the beauty of its environments and the quality of the gunplay – but they don’t feel part of the persistent narrative that Bungie is trying to mould.

Destiny does a little better at bringing different kinds of play together. In most areas you will come across other players, and maybe even fight alongside them during a random encounter, but often they will just be running after their own mission marker, or listening to their own flying robot companion, rather than paying attention to you. For a shared world, it can feel lonely.

For the important parts of each story mission, Destiny borrows an ingredient from MMOs and gives each player or group their own copy of that game area. It’s jarring to see other players disappear as you enter, but it does leave you free to tackle that section without interference, either alone or with a small team. Pick the latter and the game instantly improves. You won’t mind as much that the missions are linear when you’re racing someone to the next encounter, orthat the plot is uninspiring when you’ve got your buddies to entertain you instead. Like much in life, Destiny is best enjoyed with friends.

Dance Central Spotlight (Xbox One) has been designed to be fully playable with someone else. Each song (of the 10 that come in the £7.99 starter pack, or those you buy afterwards) has multiple routines, and the Kinect can track two players dancing to different tunes at the same time. You can even start with a high five.

The Sims 4 (PC) is another slimmed-down sequel, which makes the price seem excessive, but the core features have all been improved, and that desire to share has been considered at each step. The new Create-a-Sim and Build Mode tools enable easier creation of Sims and houses, which can then be uploaded to the Gallery for others to use, and the complex emotions system seems designed primarily to provoke funny moments that players will want to share.

There’s still room for solitary experiences. Hohokum (PS4, PS3, Vita) is vibrant in its aesthetic but minimalist in its explanation; this is a game meant to be played alone and unhurried, its secrets uncovered through a patient exploration that is almost meditative. For the millions throwing themselves into the shared world of DestinyHohokum should make the perfect secluded retreat.

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