Welcome fellow game enthusiasts to this new series where we take two video games of a specific genre and explore their attributes to help us better understand how they compare with one another. I bring you… Juxtaposition!
Destiny vs. The Division
Now I am aware that many of you out there might already be scratching your heads saying, “What the Hell man? Destiny is a first-person sci-fi shooter and The Division is a third person military-style shooter!” And strictly from the casual observation one might deduce this. But here we strive to delve DEEPER into the minutiae than you were ever meant to go!
Once we begin to analyze these two games, we’ll potentially begin to recognize many core similarities that may unexpectedly draw Destiny and The Division much closer than you might have initially thought.
Activision’s Destiny is as I’ve mentioned, a first-person sci-fi action RPG. The focus of this game is to accomplish a multitude of missions and quests that are given to you as a Guardian, a futuristic super soldier brought back to life on a desolated Earth to help quell the alien evil that now threatens to destroy the remaining inhabitants and the entire Solar System.
Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division operates as a modern era 3rd person action RPG. In it you take on the role of an “agent” of “The Division”, a clandestine special operations group set up to safeguard the citizenry of the United States in the event that there is a major collapse in the infrastructure to ensure a semblance of order remains in a time of chaos. The game takes place in New York City after a deadly virus has been released upon the population that has decimated millions of people and force the quarantine of the city from the outside world. The goal of The Division is for you to work through missions to stop anarchistic factions hell-bend on taking over the city.
With just these brief descriptions it should begin to become clearer that these two games share a bit in common with their core elements. Missions in their various incarnations are central to building up your characters’ experience (XP) level in the form of Strikes, Bounties, Quests, Dailies, Weeklies, and Raids in Destiny. While The Division requires players to complete Daily Missions, Side Missions, Story Missions, Underground Missions, and Encounters. Both games contain public spaces where users can join together to take on multiplayer co-op missions of higher difficulty, as well as visit special item vendors where acquired loot found in the game can, such as weapons, armor, items, perks, etc., can be bought and sold to help you customize your character and better equip them for more difficult encounters.
Item classes are even shared between Destiny and The Division where they both utilize a nearly identical color code system identifying the value of any particular piece of gear in loot drops and their worth in working on upgrading for boosting that items stats.
With so much in common, Destiny and The Division must be like playing the same game, since they share so much in common, right? Not so fast. Though I do admit that they have at their cores a “similar” framework in many ways, I really think we should compare specifics of their design to better gain proper perspective.
One of the very first aspects to clearly differentiate these two games is their controls. I mean we are comparing a 3rd-person shooter to a 1st-person shooter, so that’s the most obvious difference right up front. Even so, after playing them both what you begin to understand is the extreme difference in the verticality of your character’s movement between them. Destiny, being set in a sci-fi futuristic universe employs magical physical attributes that have been bestowed upon your Guardian allowing for huge flying jumps and gliding across vast expanses that would otherwise remain inaccessible. Also to note, Destiny has an immensely refined, tight control scheme that is rock solid: clearly the beneficiary of years of Bungie and Activision’s expertise.
The Division on the other hand takes place within the confines of the world as we know it, and due to this, absolutely locks your agent to the ground illustrating a much more realistic depiction of movements and interaction. Unfortunately, not so long into this very realism that Ubisoft has worked so hard to convey, it begins to make The Division feel considerably more repetitive and uninspired next to the far more open and creative controls of Destiny.
When engaging enemies in the The Division, it absolutely nails the cover-based combat mechanic that rewards those who strategically employ it in conjunction with their unlockable “perk” sets, a group of attributes and items that when properly executed result in a fairly satisfying dominance of the enemy. You also have a few different enemy types that you will have to confront and overcome: Rioters who are essentially pseudo-organized street thugs and gangbangers; escaped Riker prisoners; Last Man Battalion (a well organized military contractor unit); and the insanely anarchistic flamethrower-toting Cleaners (who have deemed it their mission to eradicate anything they see as an “infection”). But how long can the fun last? At the start, and for much of the Campaign The Division’s combat is quite interesting and enjoyable, with probably the most satisfying aspect being when you cause the Cleaner’s gas tank to catch fire and explode.
It’s just that after the first 8-10 hours of playing it, I unfortunately found myself becoming rather bored with this functional yet mundane and repetitive gameplay. That and the fact that as hard as Ubisoft clearly worked to button down the very enjoyable play mechanics of The Division, they still have a lot to iron out. I discovered many environmental and player model glitches that locked the game up and shortly after release the PvPvE multiplayer area of the game, the “Dark Zone”, developed a micro-stutter in the game animation that recurs every 4-5 seconds. Not the worst, but definitely in need of further debugging.
As I mentioned above, Destiny allows your character to leap through the air while traversing the map, freeing you from the confines of the ground and even creating new combat dynamics when confronted by the different enemy types. The enemies here also have far more variation in their aggressiveness and strategies when attacking you. The Fallen are an aggressive, quad-armed humanoid race while the Hive seem to have crawled out of the pits of Hell with swarms of lower minions attacking while powerful Knights and Wizards pummel you. The Vex are a robotic race that share a consciousness and seek to conquer humanity, and the Cabal are a massive, armored race that overwhelm you with their size and power.
Because of the significant differences in enemies within Destiny you are forced to more frequently compensate and adapt, making battles a much more frenzied and visceral experience. Even though this game lacks The Division’s realism per se, constantly having to keep on the move and watch over your shoulder for attacks as well as the ability to literally fly over your enemies continues to be an absolute blast. This doesn’t take into account many of the platforming puzzles that Destiny requires players to accomplish most notably during the difficult Raids.
In The Division’s defense it employs a far more directly accessible open-world to explore and discover, allowing far more freedom to explore specific buildings…to an extent. The problems arise when you realize that even though the map is vast, this is really the only location the game has to offer for variety, besides the underground areas. The time of day and weather changes are effective and do add to the mood and atmosphere though.
All in all even though Destiny might not have the open-world accessibility offered in The Division, I still feel that it more than makes up for this with the far greater variety of locations you encounter, from a snow strewn Earth, to an overgrown jungle on Venus, to the desert wastes of Mars and the shattered Moon with it’s vast underground Hive strongholds. Destiny is constantly changing the variety, and that is a very good thing.
Gameplay: Advantage – Destiny
Weapons and Armor
I could go into how both Destiny and The Division use a similar class system to differentiate their armor, items and weapons that you collect throughout them, but I’ll simply cut to the heart of this matter: Destiny’s weapons, armor, and items just feel substantially more interesting and vital then anything any other developer, save Nintendo, attempt to do in a game before.
Just about everything that you acquire in Destiny has been given an inventive name or title as well as some form of quote either depicting it’s value, ability, history, or simply for comic relief. Each weapon and armor piece has unlockable perks with their won unique and entertaining names that lend a certain character to each and every item. When you couple this with the awesome effects, creative designs, animations, and unique sounds of each weapon it combines to create a far more fulfilling experience.
The Division counters by allowing each of your guns to be immediately more visually customizable , as with real weapons, by adding attachments to augment each gun’s attributes as well as visually altering each piece via paint skins. The Division also has high end weapons that carry unique names meant to denote how special they are…except, they really aren’t. Sadly it seems as though Ubisoft in seeing Destiny’s success might have gotten the idea to tack-on special names for certain guns that do little other then to sorta look cool. But there just is nothing special about The Division’s weapons in the same way as Destiny’s weapons.
Weapons and Armor: Advantage – Destiny
So far you might surmise that I have a bias towards Destiny, and since it is the title that I’ve spent the most amount of time playing I can see how my perspective might come across as “slanted”. But if there is one aspect that has been a thorn in my side regarding Destiny, it is how Bungie and Activision decided to incorporate the story aspects into the final game, or what you could call a story when it initially released in 2014. In an exceptionally frustrating move the developers of Destiny decided that combining all the crucial story elements, missions, and events needed to be broken up over 2 frickin’ years! And with 3 DLC packs each costing $39 to unlock what amounts to the COMPLETE Destiny experience, I cannot deny that I feel pretty aggravated at the developers for bilking it’s loyal fanbase so that they could release the Rise of Iron Complete Destiny edition with all DLC for $59!
That’s correct! I and millions of Destiny gamers like myself have spent upwards of $180 or more to then have the developers package the whole thing up and undercut us without so much as a howdy do.
Sorry, did I get off track there? So how bad was Destiny’s story when it came out? I’d say implied is more accurate in describing it’s story since we really only got snippets and pieces of backstory through the initial campaign. But it was still one hell of an alluring concept that tugged pretty heavily at your imagination. The basic premise, which I’ve touched on, involves a mysterious force/being known only as the Traveler, represented by an enormous celestial sphere that upon it’s arrival in the late 21st century bestowed knowledge and great powers upon humanity, extending our lifespans hundreds of years and equipping us for a coming confrontation with it’s arch enemy: the Darkness. Even without as much exposition as I really expected from such a high profile title I must say that it still impressed me. Sparse as it was, when the DLC packs slowly marched out they began filling in the blanks, ever so slightly at first, until finally The Taken King DLC infused what have become a fairly repetitive experience into something far more interesting.
That being said, The Division takes a much more direct approach to it’s story by laying out what you could call a “simplified” plot by comparison to Destiny’s much more complex one. Some unknown entity during Black Friday in New York City infected US currency with a deadly virus that decimated the city and forced the government to activate The Division, an ultra-secret branch of “sleeper” covert operatives whose sole purpose is to bring order to chaos in the face of some unforeseen calamity. I do admit that this concept being grounded in our modern day era does have a significant appeal of it’s own. Taking the role of a Division Agent and patrolling the nearly vacant, snow-strewn streets of New York ready to put down injustice on your own if need be is pretty damn cool. And following the linear progression of the plot is about as uncomplicated as you can get. It’s just that even though the story of The Division is there, it’s kind been done before. Oh, not exactly per se, but it does feel as thought the developers might have been picking plot points out of their “Idea Had” in a meeting to decide how to proceed. Vanilla. Not bad, in fact quite good but missing variety and causing one to look elsewhere far sooner then they should!
If I were to compare these games based solely from Destiny’s most recent Complete Collection with all DLC included, it would have easily had the advantage here, but…..
Story: Advantage – Tie
Um… well… not so fast.
As enamored by Destiny’s design, its eventual story progression and its solid gameplay, I must admit that as pretty as it looks, it does not even hold a candle to The Division strictly on the grounds of graphical fidelity and level of detail! Case in point here is a screenshot of Destiny’s Plaguelands Patrol in a snowy area on Earth…
Quite impressive on it’s own, but once you compare this to a similar shot from The Division you begin to realize that Ubisoft had a substantial advantage in developing The Division on a next generation graphics engine as opposed to Destiny requiring it’s engine to continue to function on the PS3 and Xbox 360 per their respective released versions. Let’s see what a more advanced engine can do…
Revealing to say the least. Even so it’s not as though Destiny is an “ugly duckling”. By no means. It’s just that The Division has incorporated details that lend themselves to the realism and grittiness of it’s setting and do so in stunning fashion. Advanced lighting effects and anti aliasing are also incorporated here giving The Division a crispness that Destiny just can’t seem to match.
Now presentation isn’t simply explained in graphical capabilities alone. Both Destiny and The Division do an exemplary job of incorporating intuitively navigable menu systems and user interfaces that help manage your characters gear and abilities in ways that lend themselves to a seamless gaming experience. I’d have to say though that The Division’s systems of Perk management might come off just a bit more complicated than Destiny’s ability manager. This could simply be personal preference. Overall though the polish of The Division’s layout and interfaces as well as it’s superior graphic fidelity and capabilities show promise that Ubisoft has come a long way in competing with veteran juggernauts such as Bungie and Activision!
Presentation: Advantage – The Division
So, between The Division and Destiny which RPG-shooter would I consider to be the winner?
From my personal perspective I have to admit that even with The Division’s graphical advantages and it’s excellent interface, it just left me cold in the end. So much about the game is done well that I really wanted to like The Division more, and with some tweaking I believe that Ubisoft could draw me back into the game. But there is just something missing from this game that keeps it from really being special.
Destiny is infused with an imaginative vision that has you yearning to learn more about it’s people. You want to discover what this Traveler is and why he chose humanity to stand in the breach against the Darkness. The enemies are strange and unique in ways that draw your interest to learn why they have been driven to the point to do battle with us. Even your weapons and armor have stories of their own to tell and give their own sense of satisfaction once you master them. Destiny has continued to successfully bring players back by offering a distinctly different universe then most games available, and rock solid gameplay control that has been refined to near perfection.
Winner – Destiny
Congratulations: you read my wall of text! That’s all for today, be sure to follow me on Twitter! See you all on my next article in the Juxtaposition series!