Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

I’m standing in front of a cave, my assault rifle drawn. I’m shooting at a steady stream of identical aliens. I do this for an hour, hoping an alien will drop a good enough item so I can finally feel ok about walking away. That moment never seems to come. That’s Destiny.

I’m sprinting across a battlefield alongside two friends. A massive alien gladiator wielding an equally massive shotgun chases us all over, his minions appearing on all sides. We shift and manoeuvre, coordinate our defensive strategy on the fly, cry out for help, rush to one another’s aid. For 20 minutes we survive by the skin of our teeth, until the boss goes down in a tower of flame. We circle back to where he fell and start to dance. That’s Destiny too.

I’m urgently calling into the microphone to five teammates, frantically strategising against a series of challenges that are so demanding and mysterious that we initially didn’t have a clue how to proceed. I’m surprised to find myself more stiffly challenged by a video game than I have been in ages. We battle, we lose, we learn, and we regroup. We are becoming an increasingly well-oiled machine, split into squads, calling out positions to one another. Just when it feels like we’re not going to make it, a moment of calm emerges from the chaos. Did we… Have we… Yes, we’ve survived to a new checkpoint. We begin to cheer — throaty, honest cheers, shared between relative strangers, filtered over a network from six different gaming headsets. That’s Destiny, as well.

Destiny can be a cruel, exploitative game. It is deliberately unsurprising in so many ways, yet brilliantly bold in others. It’s usually a lot of fun, except when it aggressively isn’t. I can’t stop playing.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Destiny is an always-online first-person shooter from Bungie, the studio that created Halo. It’s set in our solar system, in the future, and puts you in the role of an anonymous Guardian, one of thousands of recently unfrozen action heroes. As you run around in the game, you’ll see lots of other identical Guardians going about similar tasks, each one controlled by a player like you. Thanks in part to the game’s popularity, there are always other people around. There’s always shooting in the distance. You’re no singular hero; you’re one of many.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

You’ve all been charged with going and shooting a bunch of aliens in order to help…save the world…or rather, help… well, it’s not quite clear what you’re really doing, actually. You’re shooting things. That’s pretty much what you’re doing.

All that shooting is glued onto a character-levelling structure a la World of Warcraft. As you play, the game provides regular drips of experience points, which allow you to level up, which in turn grant you new powers (like, say, a double-jump or a black-hole grenade) and the ability to access more powerful weapons.

So that’s what you do. Shoot enemies, get XP, and level up. Shoot more enemies, get more XP, and level up again. Once you hit level 20, you go and shoot enemies, get new gear, and use that gear to level up. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

Let’s get this out of the way up front. Should you play Destiny? Sure. Yeah. Totally.

Be warned, however: To play Destiny is to willingly give yourself over to a machine, a machine terrifying in the slickness of its construction and the single-mindedness of its purpose. You may find yourself hating this game as much as you like it, and unable to stop playing nonetheless. Destiny coaxes players into a carefully-wrought network of rewards, roadblocks, checks, and balances, pushing them ever onward into more challenging arenas while slowly rewarding patience with experience points, new abilities, and new weapons.

Submit, the game demands. Submit and you will be rewarded.

Well, you will be rewarded if we feel like it.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

When I think back to the 60+ hours I’ve spent with Destiny thus far, I generally think of all the ridiculous things I’ve done in an effort to get a leg up, some kind of leg up, on this massive, iron-clad machine. Sure, I completed the story missions, and I competed in the player-vs.-player “Crucible” matches. I’ve also spent hours running around the same field, shooting thousands of replicating enemies, hoping for an easy reward. In pursuit of an advantage, I have stood in front of a door and blown away hundreds of foes, letting myself be eviscerated only to rise, Groundhog Day-like, and blow them away again. And now, the Loot Cave.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Here’s how the Loot Cave works: The cave itself is located in one of the game’s sizable open levels. You stand outside and shoot the enemies that come out of it. If you kill all the enemies before they can leave, the game spawns more of them, creating an essentially unbroken stream of cannon fodder for you. Since every enemy killed has a chance of dropping some sort of weapon or armour, in about a half an hour the cave will be covered in gleaming rewards.

Word of the Loot Cave spread fast, and if you visited the cave any time last weekend, you’d find a bunch of players sitting out there, mindlessly slaughtering the aliens inside it. Not just sometimes — every time you passed the cave. How many players are standing there even as you read this, staring down a gun barrel into a cave, blithely pulling the trigger again, and again?

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

The Loot Cave is what’s known as an exploit, a trick the game’s developers didn’t anticipate that allows players to bypass the game’s carefully-scaffolded progression system and earn experience points and gear faster than the developers intended. That so many players would so eagerly latch onto an exploit like Destiny’s Loot Cave only makes sense, given the game in question. Destiny itself is brazenly, almost inhumanly exploitative, so it’s only natural that players would take every opportunity to exploit it right back.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Destiny has exceptionally strong fundamentals. That’s good news, since many of its most evident flaws could, in theory, be addressed with a patch, while things that are more difficult to alter post-release — feel, controls, physics, audio — are solid as bedrock.

With Destiny, Bungie has created the most physically satisfying shooter control scheme since 2006’s Gears of War. It’s essentially a hybridisation of the pinched, focused down-the-sights aiming popularised by Call of Duty and the more open, acrobatic shooting of Halo. Destiny‘s melee attacks, for example, fire off with a satisfying thwok, which makes the decision to move them from the thumbstick to the right shoulder button appear perfectly sensible. Everything is where it feels like it “should” be and works in concert with the game’s design to effectively connect players to the action on screen.

Everything in Destiny moves with a slight heaviness, and the player’s finger movements translate onto the screen with just a hint of a delay. That weightiness, combined with Destiny‘s 30 frames-per-second performance, makes the game feel more deliberate and substantial than most other first-person shooters. Timing and rhythm are everything: Each action stacks on the two or three actions before it, a significant change from the twitchier pace of Destiny‘s contemporaries.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Weapons and abilities all react according to Destiny‘s particular internal tempo. The fusion rifle charges and fires at a broken pace, launching a barbed fusillade of projectiles after a brief moment of clogged buildup. Interacting with an object requires holding down a face-button while a small circle quickly fills around the on-screen prompt. My character has a drifting double-jump that allows me to press X once to leap, a second time to boost myself through the air, and a third time to cancel my boost and ride my momentum up and over whatever obstacle I’m attempting to bypass.

If I aim while in the air, I’ll hover in place for a couple of seconds, just enough time to snap off a quick shot or two while slowly drifting along on my own momentum. It feels like flying, or somehow better than that — like leaping, falling, and somehow maintaining control. Enemy weapons fire projectiles that move through the air slowly enough to register and dodge, meaning that a skilled player can learn to sidestep enemy fire. With every firefight I leap, float, and weave my way through oncoming projectiles, pirouetting like a heavily-armoured ballet dancer. This is lovely stuff.

Everywhere you look, Destiny displays technical and artistic mastery. The vistas are astonishing, conjuring if not the actual view from the surface of planets like Mars and Venus, then what our imaginations suggest those planets should look like. The soundtrack, written by a gaggle of composers led by Martin O’Donnell, Mike Salvatori and C Paul Johnson, is at times distractingly good, full of the sort of soaring, reach-for-the-stars orchestral stuff that video games almost never get. Creatures, costumes, and weapons are all wonderfully detailed and conceived. The “sparrow” speeder bikes are my favourite form of video game conveyance in years, and if humans ever do make a levitating motorcycle, I’ll be disappointed if its engine doesn’t match the sparrow’s undulating whirr.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

To top things off, Destiny features some of the best video game hair I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately, that same level of craft was not applied to the game’s narrative. (If only it had been! Argh!) Alas, Destiny‘s story uncomfortably straddles the fence between wisely keeping quiet and blithely saying far too much.

The game paints its broad narrative strokes well: A massive white sphere called The Traveller arrived on Earth some hundreds of years ago, bringing with it great technological advancements and setting mankind on course to a new golden age. Humans explored and colonised the rest of the solar system before The Traveller’s nemesis, a vague power called The Darkness, arrived and destroyed most of civilisation in a catastrophic war known as The Fall.

The player, a nameless Guardian, awakens at some point after The Fall and is tasked with setting out from Earth, re-exploring the ruins of civilisation, and fighting back against The Darkness in order to save The Traveller.

Trope-laden though that may be, it’s not a half-bad setup for a sci-fi story. The fine musical score props up otherwise goofy cutscenes, while the phenomenal art direction lends the wreckage on each of the game’s four major planets an outsized, mournful beauty. Enemies are given discordant fantasy names, and while I initially raised my eyebrows at seeing aliens referred to as wizards and knights, the whole thing eventually begins to make a kind of sense. These strange robots are called hobgoblins, those beastly automatons are minotaurs. We don’t quite know why they’re called that, why there is a region on the Moon called “The Anchor of Light” or part of old Russia is known as “The Mothyards,” but our imagination does a pretty good job of filling in the blanks.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Critic Cameron Kunzelman calls that storytelling approach “the evocation effect.” As you navigate these spaces, you don’t spend too much time wondering why things are called what they are, why things look the way they do. Those things simply are, and in Destiny, they’re largely convincing. Or, well…they’re convincing until one of the game’s characters starts talking and ruins everything.

Most times, the person talking is Peter Dinklage. Poor, poor Peter Dinklage. Best known for his scene-stealing performance as Tyrion Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Dinklage plays Ghost, your little, flying robot friend and the unfortunate soul tasked with unravelling spool after spool of exposition in between battles. Much has already been made (by me, even) of Dinklage’s flat, aimless performance. Yes, the responsibility for that is partly on the actor — after all, his co-stars Lance Reddick, Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion, and Bill Nighy may be wasted in their roles, but they do manage to make all that chewy lore sound convincing. But the script is the real problem here. (“The sword is close…I can feel its power,” Dinklage intones. “Careful! Its power is dark.”)

For all of the technical and artistic prowess Bungie brought to bear on Destiny, they appear to have been unable to employ a person or persons capable of writing a coherent story or believable dialogue. The single most famous line of dialogue from Destiny — Dinklage’s “That wizard came from the moon!” — is actually no longer in the game. It became a meme during the game’s public alpha and was subsequently cut, as though it were a jarring lousy line in an otherwise decent script. The irony is that every other line in the game is just as bad as the moon-wizard line, if not worse. The best solution would probably have been to cut the majority of the game’s dialogue altogether.

For those who care, a great deal more backstory is revealed via unlockable “grimoire cards” that can only be viewed in a browser on Bungie’s website. I would have been happier if the bulk of Ghost’s exposition had been relegated to those cards and the game itself had let me take it all in at my own pace.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

I called Destiny a cruel game, and that’s largely due to the way it hands out rewards. I may never have experienced a role-playing game this parsimonious with material rewards for players, and Destiny‘s feedback loop often hops the lane-divider from tight-fisted to perverse.

Let me try to explain: For the first fifteen or so hours, players will follow a traditional sort of role-playing game progression. Shoot bad guys, complete missions, get XP, level up, get new powers. But once the player hits level 20, he or she must begin to obtain and upgrade rare armour in order to earn further levels. Bungie has audaciously placed the game’s first (terrific) six-player raid beyond a level 26 requirement, meaning that any player who wants to experience the game’s most exciting and challenging content must first agree to earn six levels’ worth of extremely rare gear and upgrade materials. If the raid is the carrot that provides much of the motivation for grinding through all those extra hours of repetitive (if generally enjoyable) combat, the more granular ways the game rewards your efforts is all stick.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Here’s how the abusive loot system works: A scant few enemies you shoot will drop a large dodecahedral(ish) gem called an “engram” that contains an item, sort of like a sci-fi Kinder Egg. After collecting an engram, you must take it to a special merchant in the game’s town to have it decoded, which will reveal what sort of item it contains.

Engrams are coded to one of three different colours, which theoretically correspond to the rarity of the item contained within. There’s green for uncommon, blue for rare, and purple for legendary. Almost every engram in the game is green; a few are blue; one in a hundred is purple. For most players past a certain point in the game, purple engrams are the only ones that are worth anything at all. So, seeing one pop out of the air after shooting an enemy sets off a rush in your brain, like spotting a $US20 bill on the sidewalk.

Now we get to the cruel part: As it turns out, legendary engrams don’t always give you legendary gear.I have gone to the decoder guy with four purple legendary engrams, only to walk away with three useless blue “rare” items and a rare piece of crafting material. On the off-chance that a purple engram does net you a legendary item, there’s a 66 per cent chance it will be specific to another class and therefore still useless for your character.

I cannot fathom what motivated this design decision. Why on earth didn’t Bungie make legendary engrams always grant legendary gear, then just make them drop less frequently? Did they want to create a dysfunctional relationship between their game and their players? Did they want their game’s defining emotion to be resigned anger, to abuse us into distrusting their systems?

If so, they were successful. I no longer trust the excitement I feel at seeing a purple engram, because I no longer trust Destiny itself. Yet I get excited anyway, and before I know it I’m standing in front of that cave, shooting monsters and hoping for a jackpot. As it turns out, unhealthy game design begets unhealthy play.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Destiny‘s greatest failing, then, is that the activities that are the most rewarding for players aren’t the same as the activities that are the most rewarding according to the game’s stringent economy and arcane inner logic.

For example: Strike missions. Strike missions are some of the best stuff Destiny has to offer. Each of the game’s six included strikes must be undertaken by a party of three, and as long as you play on the proper difficulty level, they’re designed to be so challenging as to require teamwork and daring, aggressive play. Like every mission in Destiny, the structure is generally the same across the board: Go to a place, kill a bunch of tough enemies, fight one boss, go to another place and take on another, much harder boss.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

That’s a reductive description, though, and it doesn’t capture the enjoyable bedlam of a good strike. Each strike mission’s final showdown feels impossible to master — you’re never comfortable, never able to find a consistent strategy, always reacting and reviving and regrouping. There is some excellent level-design on display in these areas — wide open spaces with just enough cover and sneaky side routes to encourage improvisational play, all built to facilitate the deadly boss and its less-deadly minions as they pushes players around the room. I’ve replayed each of the game’s strikes many times on various difficulty settings, and I’ve never once been bored.

But here’s the thing: Strike missions don’t actually “pay” all that well, according to Destiny‘s economy. By and large, the rewards they offer are inferior to the rewards that can be gained by repeatedly undertaking other more banal, boring tasks. For example, some strikes pay in a hard-to-acquire type of faction currency, but players can earn an equal amount of that currency doing a single one of the far less interesting, copy-paste “patrol” side missions available on each planet’s surface. Other high-level strikes will earn the player rare crafting materials, but most of those materials can be earned in a commensurate amount of time by standing outside the Loot Cave.

At times, I’ve felt as though I’m playing Destiny “wrong” by farming exploits and choosing boring missions over enjoyable ones. But if I’m playing incorrectly, why has the game been designed to reward that style of play?

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

I float in my ship in between missions and ponder my next move. How shall I spend the next hour? I could undertake a high-level strike mission, probably have a hectic and fun time, and come away with a paltry reward for my trouble. Or I could spend the next hour standing at the Loot Cave, shooting into the slot machine and cashing in my rewards for much-needed currency.

The latter activity will yield better rewards over the same period of time, so why shouldn’t I go and do that? If anything, that’s playing Destiny the “right” way. One can only complete a thirty-minute raid with nothing to show for it so many times. It’s only natural that players will eventually turn into the skid and claim their rewards by other means.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

One remarkable thing about Destiny‘s mostly unremarkable player-vs.-player deathmatches is how well they’re integrated into the fabric of the game as a whole. At any time you can take on up to eleven other players in The Crucible, which is portrayed as a sort of competitive training arena for Guardians to hone their skills before heading back into the world to fight real evil.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

As it stands, the game includes only four basic PvP modes: team deathmatch, every-Guardian-for-themselves deathmatch, small-team deathmatch, and control-point domination. All of those are simple fun — the control point matches are generally the most enjoyable — but none are particularly exciting on their own. Bungie are old hands at competitive multiplayer, and while Destiny‘s battles bear some of the same hallmarks as Halo‘s best stuff — the varied, well-designed maps and a focus on verticality and agility over speed — they sorely lack that series’ intricate customisation options.

With each match of Destiny PvP, for now at least, what you got the first time is what you’ll get next time. Each match cannot be altered in any way, and the various modes don’t even offer private lobbies. Furthermore, while each player’s damage and armour stats are leveled out to provide balance, players with high-level gear still enjoy bonuses like faster fire-rates and more exotic special abilities. I’m not quite sure how (or if) Bungie has balanced all of that out, but it certainly doesn’t present the appearance of a level playing field.

The Crucible feels like an intro class in competitive multiplayer and only really works when viewed as a smaller part of the overall Destiny experience. It is, however, noteworthy how well the Crucible is folded into that overall experience. The Crucible can be accessed from the same map screen as every other mission, which makes it easy to casually drop in for a match or two, then pop out to get back to adventuring. You’ll earn loot and experience in the Crucible that directly translates over to the co-op story stuff, and with time can trade currency earned in battle for high-level gear.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

As you depart for a new Crucible match, your spaceship will be joined by the ships of the people you’ll be fighting alongside. It’s one of my favourite of Destiny‘s many small touches. Watching a flock of six spaceships speed toward a new arena is oddly charming, like watching six grade-school kids on their bicycles riding to the park to play cops and robbers. Be sure to come home before dark, Guardians!

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Destiny feels at times like a container, carefully crafted to leave as many empty spaces as possible. Critic Brendan Keogh calls the game “the IKEA Billy bookshelf of video games.” I like that, though I would peg Destiny as something better-made and longer lasting, maybe a high-end piece from Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn.

The game’s spaces will eventually be filled by whatever additional content Bungie and Activision decide to make. The development studio and publisher intend to support this series for many years to come, and the Destiny of 2016 will likely be markedly different from the Destiny of today.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

We’ve already gotten a sense of how the container might be filled over the months to come, and it’s an immensely promising one: A week after Destiny came out, Bungie released the Vault of Glass, a free cooperative “raid” designed for six players. The Vault of Glass is fantastic. It is easily the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding thing Destiny has to offer. After playing it, I understand why it isn’t more readily available to mid-level players, though I remain frustrated that the rest of the game doesn’t come close to matching it.

The Vault of Glass has a laughably high bar for entry. The suggested starting level is 26, and the amount of boring repetition necessary to achieve that level should not be required of any player hoping to experience the best part of a game. The raid’s other requirement, that you organise your own team of six rather than relying on built-in matchmaking, is more understandable. Unlike the more straightforward strike missions, the Vault of Glass would be unbeatable — hell, it’d be nigh un breachable — without careful teamwork and communication. A group of strangers would be stymied from the get-go, at least until there’s some sort of comprehensive guide everyone can follow — but that would rob the raid of a great deal of its mysterious appeal. It’s not a fair setup, and players should not be required to know and coordinate with five other equally dedicated players with the same console just to experience this stuff. But that’s the way it is, at least for now.

The raid begins in the jungles of Venus, where a massive circular door stands in the side of a mountain. There is no explanation how to get the door to open, so each team must determine for themselves what to do. As it turns out, players need to simultaneously occupy three control points set across three different cliffs, fighting off waves of extremely difficult enemies for an extended period of time without letting a single point drop into enemy hands. Hold out long enough and the door will open, after which point the raid begins in earnest.

The first time our group attempted this, several of our number were lowly level 24s. We got absolutely crushed, and realised after about an hour that we stood no chance of succeeding. We returned almost a week later, higher-level and ready to try again. We were crushed once more, but we didn’t give up. We spread out, adjusted our tactics, took careful stock of who was standing where. We began to aggressively communicate, to tweak our formation.

We failed and reset, failed and reset, until finally, we did it. We held the points for long enough, and the door opened.

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

I won’t spoil what followed, because figuring out how to proceed is one of the raid’s great pleasures. Suffice to say, I can’t remember the last time I played more than 60 hours of a game only to enter a new area that completely upended my expectations and substantially altered my view of the overall experience. The Vault of Glass has done precisely that.

Where Destiny holds the player’s hand to a fault, the Vault of Glass offers absolutely no explanation of what the team should do next. Where Destiny often repeats encounters multiple times within the same mission, the Vault of Glass offers an entirely new challenge at every turn. Where Destiny talks the player’s ear off with useless exposition, the Vault of Glass is silent, austere, and genuinely evocative.

But then, it’s not as though the two are separate entities. Destiny contains the Vault of Glass, and the Vault of Glass is a part of Destiny. So I have to ask: If Destiny is able to turn on a dime to become this interesting and challenging, what else might it become in the future?

Destiny: The Kotaku Review

Every hour or two, something amazing happens at the Loot Cave. One minute, we’re all standing there, shooting the aliens in the cave, business as usual. Then, out of nowhere, a handful of enemies starts attacking from a different direction. This has an effect like staring at a traffic light for two hours, only to see it turn turquoise. What the hell is going on?

In a matter of seconds, an absolute mess of monsters invades the battlefield. They’re relentless and overwhelming, and they come from all sides. Our carefully coordinated firing line disperses in all directions, each of us fighting to stay alive amid the chaos. Most of the players who have been shooting into the loot cave have powerful, high-level characters, and the resulting fracas is like seeing three crossover superhero comics scanned onto a single page.

Special powers are detonating left and right, and the shadowy corners of the battlefield explode into the world’s most dangerous discotheque. For the next few minutes, Destiny is at its absolute best: Six or more players, working in unison, fighting off a seemingly unstoppable force. No one speaks a word, but everyone knows what to do. They will be sorry they messed with us.

The enemies grow ever-more numerous and powerful, until it almost seems like the game is broken, or bugging out. But eventually, the battle does end. The final enemy vanishes, the final superpower is spent, and silence settles across the field. Without a word, every player lines back up in formation, aims, and begins to shoot into the cave once more.

In the space of about five minutes, Destiny has summarised itself. The pull of the slot machines may be strong, but this casino has a hell of a dance floor.


  • It’s like every single reviewer for Destiny has never played an MMO before, the end game reward system is extremely generous compared to any other game with a similar system.

    The rarest items can be bought straight up no RNG, the average gamer can get a full raid viable set within 2 weeks. That’s incredible when your average gamer would take a month or 2 to be raid ready in almost every other MMO.

    • Bungie themselves said that Destiny is not an MMO. The reasons why the game is getting flak is because the game has some seriously poor design choices which deprive the player for 20 hours of an innovative and satisfying time. The story is regarded as lacking so there is no sustenance worth in that time, honestly. Having a game say “you MUST play x amount of hours before you truly enjoy the game” is a ridiculous thing. The game should be designed in such a way where those x amount of hours should at least be amazing. And worst of all, Bungie did this. With the success they have had with Halo, they somehow under delivered with Destiny. It’s a great game, don’t get me wrong but it just feels like some things could have been done better.

      Edit: talking about single player and PVE here. The Crucible is great 🙂

      • I’m talking about the comments about the loot system specifically, which is mentioned specifically in the review. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the story, don’t know why it was a lot of fun.

        • Whoops, I went on a tangent. You’re right, but the criticisms on the loot possibly arise from the other FPS RPGs that exist, namely Borderlands. When people compare Destiny to a game, I’ve seen people first draw comparisons to Borderlands or even Warframe, not towards other MMO RPG titles.

      • Having a game say “you MUST play x amount of hours before you truly enjoy the game” is a ridiculous thing.Nonsense. Everyone absolutely loved the first 20 hours of Final Fantasy XIII before it let you start using its systems in full. ^_-

        • Everything basically being a tutorial until you reached Pulse was pretty bleh. I guess I was pretty invested into the story though, so when I was playing that skipped my mind. However, I felt that Destiny’s story doesn’t intend to cater to player attachment or investment but rather setting the premise for future expansions ^_^ (which may or may not have more in-depth story development. Hopefully the former)

    • Yeah I got Destiny 3 days ago and I’m loving it, this is the first review I’ve read that was actually positive for more than 50% of the time, every other review has slammed this game for what ever reasons. Blame Bungie hyping the crap out of it, blame Sony and Microsoft for using it to sell consoles, regardless I’m loving it, I’d almost call it Game of Thrones meets Borderlands in an MMO.

  • Great review for a great game that will be even better when some of the minor annoyances and exploits are fixed. I don’t think the loot grind from 20-26 is as bad as this review makes it out to be but everyone’s luck is different.

    Attempted the vault last night for the first time and we made it to the final boss before calling it quits for the night. Amazing fun and incredibly rewarding, I walked away with my legendary warlock chest piece and I’m excited to try again this week.

    For anyone on the fence about this game, give it a try, don’t listen to the mediocre reviews on IGN etc.

  • This game is pretty much the opposite of what I look for in a game. Not a fan of MMOs or first person shooters on console. And I’m a huge fan of games with great stories. To be honest, I doubt I’d have ever bought it.

    My girlfriend got it for me as a present, and I haven’t been able to stop playing the bloody thing haha. I’ve only had it for a couple of days so I’m only level 11, but so far I’m having a blast just wandering around by myself, jumping in to help people in those events that pop up. Good times. I feel sick… Maybe I should leave work and go home… For reasons…

    • I’m in the same boat – I’ve tried to get into MMO’s before, and just couldn’t find them enjoyable. Big fan of a good story and lore, Elder Scrolls Online I thought would be perfect for me, but I returned it two days in. But this… there’s something about this game, and I love it. I purposefully ignored all the hype surrounding it, avoiding another Watch Dogs scenario, and I’m pretty glad with how it all turned out. Definitely don’t get the negative reviews, it’s an absolutely stunning looking game, and the gameplay is, in my opinion, brilliant. Has me hooked for sure.

  • @piat
    Exactly, I have not received a single purple from looting but I am now raid ready (Ish) from a little over a weeks worth of work, with 3! exotic bounties on the go.
    The rng is harsh but there are other, better, more fun ways of getting that gear.

    • lol 3 exotic bounties thats nuts, i got my second one on Sunday for Bad Juju. Good luck if you chose Thorn, its a formidable task, let me know if you need help with the final stage.

      • @piat
        Yeah man, that’s where I’m up to with thorn. Would love the help.
        Just got Bad Juju so need a weekly strike for that. Pocket Infinity I’m at the mercy of the loot gods with 9 rare fusion rifles to find.

      • @bondles
        When you hand in regular bounties there is a chance you will be offered one. Might have to be level 20?
        So yeah, smash them out and it will pop up eventually.

  • Kinda think the slamming Destiny is getting in reviews is similar to Fable. Not a bad game by any means, just doesn’t live up to the hopes and dreams of some people coming into the game.

    For what it’s worth, I like Halo, I like MMOs and I like Destiny.

  • I’m standing in front of a cave, my assault rifle drawn. I’m shooting at a steady stream of identical aliens. I do this for an hour, hoping an alien will drop a good enough item so I can finally feel ok about walking away. That moment never seems to come. That’s Destiny.

    Good work, one paragraph and you invalidated pretty much everything you could write afterwards.

    You’re abusing a gameplay mechanic in the hopes of fooling an RNG generator… That isn’t playing a game so why are you surprised if you didn’t have a good time?

    • Blame Bungie for making the RNG so hilariously exploitative.

      If they don’t want people to farm or exploit the game mechanics, buff the rewards from the more interesting content. There’s almost no incentive to do well in Crucible, or to do higher level strikes and heroic missions because you get sweet F all from it.

      There’s RNG and there’s Destiny RNG. First, you have to hope you actually get a decent Engram. Then you have to hope you actually get a decent item out of it. THEN you have to hope it’s even the right class. It’s RNG within RNG within RNG.

      Compare that to say, Diablo III. Yes that game is also based on farming, grinding and RNG, but the rewards come consistently enough that there’s always an incentive for doing it.

      Locking the best content in the game behind a level 26 wall doesn’t help anyone either. I’m not saying they should give everyone full sets of Legendaries and Exotics at the drop of a hat, but I honestly think if more people were able to even do the raid, you’d see some higher scores. It really is THAT much better than the main game content.

      For what it’s worth, I farmed the cave for about an hour and then got bored. Now I’m concentrating more on faction/Vanguard/Crucible marks and Strange Coins so I can just purchase Legendaries and Exotics instead. It’s even more grindy, but at least I know what I’m getting.

      • I don’t care if people want to farm for engrams, but you can’t decide you’re going to do nothing but farm for engrams and then complain that you’re bored of farming for engrams.

        There’s enough elements of incremental rewards that ensure forward progress in almost every aspect of the game, if you just play you’ll be able to get yourself fully decked out in gear from factions without any RNG at all.

        Here’s the rub, loot should be a cool thing that happens every so often and give a bit of positive reinforcement. But if you don’t enjoy the game… Then why the fuck are you trying to get loot?

        The cave is for min maxers who will put in the hours necessary to make it viable time wise. Arguably it’s only worth doing once you cap Vanguard and Crucible marks, even then grinding public events has decent returns on ascendant materials.

        Of course if you really want to min-max do what the first guy who got to 30 did. Make three characters all of the same class and shunt your gear between them, that way you can grind out the daily heroics and strike three times per reset instead of once.

        Judging a game based on those metrics is stupid. If you don’t enjoy the cave don’t go there, go do something you’d like to do and worry less about some nebulous reward.

        If you don’t enjoy anything else in the game… Then go play something else.

        • Kirk didn’t just farm for engrams. He also did the raid, the best part of the game so far. That’s far more than many other reviewers have done. The problem is that even reaching the required level to do said raid basically requires you to either pray at the altar of RNGesus, or farm.

          You wrote off the rest of what was a well thought out, balanced review based on one sentence.

          Like @PiratePete said, the loot is a means to an end. That end being the most enjoyable part of the game. The fact that repetitive farming is practically a necessity to do the enjoyable parts shows the loot reward system is off. Like I said, just buff the rewards for the enjoyable content (heroic missions, high level strikes etc) and you solve a lot of the game’s loot problems.

          • He summed Destiny up as “Let’s do something mindless for our in the hopes of it getting fun for hours, but it doesn’t” by referencing a boring exploit of dubious merit and then doesn’t expect to turn anyone off reading it?

            Again the issue is with the treasure cave and the certain type of people who favour it, by equating the game with an exploit it’s an unfair comparison.

            Whilst I might agree to a buff to strike playlist rewards, that’s an irrelevant point.

            He assumed the loot cave is the fastest way to skip the gearing phase and head to the raid (It’s not by the way) and then suggests that is the entire experience. Where as if he’d just played the game he would have got there nearly as quickly, without the headaches of RNG.

            The truth is the best way to level up gear is using the timegated steps, bounties/dailies and weeklies. But since it’s timegated he attempted to brute force past it and had a less than stellar time, most people aren’t likely to have that issue.

          • Considering you’re the only one so far who has equated the entire review to that sentence, then I’d argue no, he didn’t expect it. I’ll reiterate: Kirk is one of the only reviewers I’ve seen actually do the raid. That gives his opinion more credence than the likes of IGN, Gamespot et al. And I don’t even necessarily like Kotaku’s reviews most of the time.

            The fact you find the treasure cave such a massive issue probably says more about you than it does the farmers. Again, I only did it for an hour before I moved on to other methods, so I’m not a hardcore cave farmer by any means.

            Buffing the strike playlists isn’t irrelevant. The only reason people farm the cave is because they view it as more efficient than playing the game “properly”. Why bother doing high level strikes when you get nothing from killing a tough boss? Adding incentives to the more interesting content removes the inventive to mindlessly farm.

            As for “the truth” as you put it being that other methods are quicker, they really aren’t. And I’ve done both methods. Particularly because of Bungie’s decision to cap marks weekly, it would take you at least a couple of weeks to earn enough to purchase the requisite Legendaries. Plus the fact a great many Legendaries and Exotics only come through RNG. I’ve seen people gear up far quicker with the cave, and I’m not even a fan of the method.

            Finally, your argument that it’s only min-maxers exploiting the cave, and therefore most people won’t have this “issue” doesn’t really hold weight. Every server, every single one, there’s always a group at the cave. Look at Reddit. Look at the forums. Read the reviews. I like Destiny, I like it a lot, but it has issues.

            Cool, you haven’t had a problem with the loot system. But enough people have that Bungie really should at least look into making the system more consistent.

            RNG is fine. RNG within RNG within RNG is not.

          • I don’t think it’s an issue in game, I just don’t use it. Because it’s boring and it’s not playing the game… Would you judge a game if the easiest way of getting loot was AFKing in PvP? Judging the game on an exploit is wrong.

            The faster method I was referring to is another exploit, it’s just much more effective than relying on pure RNG. It’s how there’s already a player at level 30, it relied on using three characters of the same class sharing gear and grinding out all the timed quests because they give proportionately better rewards than any other method.

            You can also max out vanguard marks doing public events in a couple of hours if farming is really your thing, also gaining ascendant materials which you’ll need once you get your legendaries anyway.

            The cave only starts becoming worthwhile after you’ve maxed out your marks, since progress to a guaranteed legendary is better than low RNG in most cases. Of course that’s still somewhat debatable a fact and in a couple of weeks reddit will insist a new way is best.

            Which is the problem when you define a game by a single player created exploit designed to circumvent timegates, especially if most people aren’t going to play enough to make it worthwhile.

            Yes if you go to the loot cave there will be a lot of people there, because people are sheep. There’s probably only a small number of people doing it who it’s actually beneficial for, the rest are probably doing it because someone told them it was the best way.

      • The D3 comparison is interesting. Wasn’t the D3 RNG broken initially, giving stupid spec combinations making the gear usually worthless.

        It was only after they patched the loot system that it got the acclaim that it now does. Comparing like for like they were/are both average at launch. Here’s hoping a simple patch for the gear system to Destiny will do the same thing.

        • This is true, D3 had some pretty funky loot problems at launch. Remember the Auction House? Like you say, here’s hoping Bungie might patch the system. Even if it’s just for better consistency – e.g. Legendary engrams will always give Legendary items, but they drop less frequently or something.

          • I didn’t use the AH once and the whole loot system worked fine for me. As soon as friends joined me however, it went downhill rapidly! Made such a massive difference when people walked in with imbal weapons. You’ve reminded me I should play D3 some more whilst waiting to buy a PS4 and Destiny ^_^

          • Haha you dodged a bullet with the Auction House then! That thing was…yeah. Agreed with some of the imbalanced/OP stuff early in D3, but I guess the main thing to take from that is Blizzard DID manage to sort it out. So there’s hope for Bungie and Destiny at least.

            Damn, now you’ve made me want to go and play some D3 too. :p

      • Yeah I was playing crucible and the guy in last place got a purple, you’d think there would be a colour bracket for how well you went.

    • @adam_jc88, @PiratePete, @Bondles:

      I need to ask, what do you actually disagree with in my statement that you downvoted me? Do you think he should focus on one gameplay mechanic he doesn’t enjoy because some guy on reddit says it’s the fastest way to get loot?

      Or do you think the idea that you should actually game for enjoyment and not some digital shiny is stupid?

      • I think the point was made that the fact that this is something people would rather do means the loot system itself is flawed.

        The loot wasn’t the fun part, it was a means to an end to be able to participate in raids or other content.

        The main reason I downvoted the comment was that I don’t believe that you can take one point you don’t like and use it to invalidate a well thought out review.

        • It’s something a handful of min/max players are doing. They’re doing it because they think it’s the fastest way to gear up, starting off it’s based off a false assumption some guy on reddit figured out.

          After the last dozen “best” farming techniques, it’s just caught on because it’s the easiest.

          Literally so easy you can hardly be considered to be playing.

          The people who are farming it are so obsessed with the fastest way that they’ll break the game systems any way they can, so why should we judge a game based on that? The loot system isn’t flawed because of that and there are plenty of more interesting ways to progress.

          As for invalidating a review, think about an opening paragraph. It’s meant to draw the reader in, if it’s so bad that it turns a reader off then something is wrong.

          Reread it again, he’s not talking about waiting for a drop so he can do something fun. He’s doing something he finds meaningless and painful over and over in the hopes it will eventually turn out to be worth it because of some piece of loot.

          He sounds like a domestic abuse survivor, or someone with stockholm’s syndrome. All because he decided that he had to listen to some idiot on the internet in order to do what?

          There’s plenty of reasons you can be critical of Destiny and if you don’t like the game don’t play it. But to do something that’s actively working against the designers intent in order to attempt an exploit, then complaining that it’s boring?

  • Loving it but the game still loses points for no beards. Should at least give the option to hide my girly-no-beard man face in the tower.

  • This review basically sums up my thoughts on Destiny. I love it but hate it so much at the same time.

    Actually one of the most frustrating parts about the story, is there’s actually some really interesting content out there! It’s just buried away in the Grimoire cards, locked to the website or app. I get Bungie want to do the whole “integrated multi-platform experience” thing, but adding an in-game codex like Mass Effect or Diablo III would open up a whole lot of fascinating lore.

    Look up the Cayde-6 Fallen card in particular, it’s fantastic.

  • Special powers are detonating left and right, and the shadowy corners of the battlefield explode into the world’s most dangerous discotheque. For the next few minutes, Destiny is at its absolute best: Six or more players, working in unison, fighting off a seemingly unstoppable force. No one speaks a word, but everyone knows what to do. They will be sorry they messed with us.

    I’ve seen this a few times now, and its still so cool every time it happens. It’s a shame it happens so infrequently, meaning that unless you go past at exactly the right time while you are levelling, the only way you will ever really see it is if you are farming at the loot cave.
    And I totally agree with the harsh nature of the RNG. I’m level 25 at the moment, have looted 4 Legendary engrams so far, and have levelled up the cryptarch a number of times as well (each time he ranks up after a certain level he gives you a legendary package – that package normally contains 2-3 items that can be purple or blue). After all of that, I have only gotten a single purple item.
    It’s so frustrating to get a purple engram, and know that it likely won’t be anything good, but still get just a little excited about it – only to find another blue item that will immediately be recycled for parts.

  • Great review, agree with all except the PvP comments. I’m probably having as much fun with Crucible as I ever have in a shooter and spend about 50%+ time there. There appear to be more maps popping up now than there were at launch, I’m thoroughly satisfied with it, I just wish the loot rewards were based more on performance than completely random.

  • Not sure about the comments that it’s a grind to get to level 20 either.

    I’ve been going through the story missions, lobbing in an occasional jaunt round one of the patrol missions. Did two strikes last night (and had a blast, thanks to two committed strangers who persisted with the Moon strike despite us getting wiped out by the super-ogre and its minions 3 times – we cracked it on the 4th). Made sure I have my bounties maxxed and relevant to what I’m doing. I’m on to Mars and up to level 19. This seems about right, balance wise. I also have a bunch of fully upgraded weapons in my vault to help my other characters out when I start bringing them up the ranks, and mostly I’m picking up weapons fast enough to stay with my level without having to buy. All this and no farming (yet).

    Seems pretty well balanced to me so far…

    Also can’t stop playing. Thank goodness SBS is streaming the UCI world champs so I can watch those on the laptop ’cause the telly belongs to the Guardians.

  • It’s not game of the year material, but it’s still a good game. There’s a fair amount of little things that bug me- it can be obscure about things (how much light you need exactly to level up past 20, can only check faction ranks in tower) or doesn’t tell you outright (you can slide, upgrading items gives you more light, etc.) This is fairly minor stuff, so while a bit odd, it’s certainly not a major factor. The story can certainly be blitzed through a tad too easy, and I can never tell if PVP is balanced or not, but I’m having great fun with it. And as for ‘the grind?’ well, as some has said, it’s a lot fairer than other MMOs. But that’s the thing- it still exists. You *will* have to grind for those marks, the reputation, that coveted purple engram. It *will* feel repetitive, and the thought of sitting outside a cave shooting for half an hour will be appealing.

    *shrugs* I dunno, really.

  • Oh FFS. Peter Dink plays a robot. A RO-BOT. Thats why he doesn’t sound like Tyrion Lannister with all that ‘tude that you know and love. fark.

    I think Destiny (this current Destiny, because it will change over time) is an intro, it has to be. There’s so much lore in this universe that you’d be saying the same things about the story if they tried to smoosh it all in one game and had to leave things out because they didn’t get time to weave it in. This is the start of a very big game and much larger story arch, I hope………………..pfft I KNOW. Bungie pride themselves on telling stories and I cant see this as an end product for them. Its meant to get better.

    This is the intro. Cant wait for the rest.

  • For everyone complaining try work towards rank 3 reputation. you get a guaranteed free legendary (not engram) as reward and for every level after. Sometimes it’s better than what they sell or can even be a totally different weapon type not even for sale. Chuck on a class item of any faction you like the colour of as soon as you hit 20 and by playing any thing pve orpve you are gaining rep. No rep for shooting a hole though unforts.

  • For everyone complaining try work towards rank 3 reputation. you get a guaranteed free legendary (not engram) as reward and for every level after. Sometimes it’s better than what they sell or can even be a totally different weapon type not even for sale. Chuck on a class item of any faction you like the colour of as soon as you hit 20 and by playing any thing pve orpve you are gaining rep. No rep for shooting a hole though unforts.

  • The leveling system is just weird – At level 15 you get the opportunity to change to a subclass and instantly ‘forgot’ everything I had learnt from the beginning of the game. – That’s just stupid. I’m surprised I remembered how to breath given that amount of memory loss. But seriously, no other game does this – if you choose a subclass you should at least remember some of the more basic skills – throwing grenades etc.
    Skills do not level up with levels – they level up on their own – uh.. great.. Why even have character levels then? A Level 15 new subclass character is significantly under powered compared to a level 15 base subclass with their dozen skills/abilities..

    The ‘story’ (loose definition) is not very interesting/descriptive and (ultimately) leaves you feeling a bit ‘is that it?’.. I’m sure there’s more missions coming with DLC.. but seriously this story arc could be described as DLC length..

    The level cap – Seriously? Level 20? You reach it within no time (it feels like) and suddenly you have to resort to grinding out random, low % chance loot better items to level? So it’s not really an MMO, it’s an MMO minus the 50+hour storylines, class quests and general depth.. If you minus a long RPG based story from and MMO you’re left with – Grind.. the uninteresting part of the genre and the endgame content – which in this game is unrewarding/random/more grind.

    The AI is awful, to the point of exploitation.. It makes almost every encounter trivial by doing one basic thing: Leaving the room = “He’s gone, lets ignore the fact he came in and shot me in the face.” Seriously.. 95% of missions if you’re having issues getting past some room while waiting for the Dinklebot to finish doing his maths or whatever, remember the door you came from? Go back through it. They dont follow, they wont gather around the door screaming for your blood, they wont attack the little robot or hold him hostage, heck they dont even mourn their fallen comrades.. They forget all about you, they dont regen health and they dont respawn. Sit, regen your shields and maybe grenade timer and off you go to whittle their numbers down once again..

    Going back to the looting system – I’ve been playing for probably close to 30hours or so (I maxed vanguard points this week doing the highest level strike missions from the playlist – plus did all SP bounties every day) and I have YET to see a legendary Engram (I’ve seen notifications of my team mates getting them off random AI – sometimes twice in a strike – and yet I never get anything – and yes I’m killing my fair share AND scouring every kill in case it rolled off down a hill unnoticed (seriously who makes loot ROLL???). But from what I read even if I get one, my chances of getting something worthwhile from it are slim to none.. I haven’t resorted to cave camping or whatever, but I can see why people would. I’ve only got Legendaries from buying them from my class vendor with the vanguard points from doing all those Strikes – which feels cheap, despite having earned the points. Shoot – Kill – Random loot – Happy face when you find out it’s legendary.. the cycle of how the loot system should be. Nothing like spending up to10mins (just in this one fight) killing a 100 ton armoured beast that shoots deathrays out of it’s face, while being attacked by 3 dozen of it’s angriest followers to be rewarded with ether seeds/black wax/some other tiny trinket – which are worthless..

    Exotic weapons – I got one from the bounty vendor! Sweet (I thought) it’s gonna be aweso-.. uh.. wait, I cant use it until I grind out kills? 500 points of baddies on the moon – hm, ok.. done.. Finish Strike Mission: ‘Blah’.. sigh, ok.. oh wtf, 500 points worth of kills (5 points per kill) in multiplayer (losing 2 points from that total every time I die)… you cant be f’ing serious? I’m not a huge fan of vs multiplayer anyway, but in addition to the kill count it has to be done with a weapon type I don’t have (fusion).. and I can’t just go buy a decent one (see glimmer below) so.. that screws me over being able to just go out and force myself to do it.. The time it takes to get a decent weapon of that type and then get the kills, plus squeezing in my dailies and vanguard strike missions – all seems too much effort for what will likely be a gun that isn’t worth it..

    Glimmer – What a waste of time this is.. you can only buy crap with it and it caps out at 25k (where mine has been for the past week because there’s nothing to spend it on). I can buy a new vehicle – which works the same (different colour and slightly different speeds – not really noticable), or a new ship (pointless?) or uh… some crappy weapons/armor colours.. I wish I could buy some decent stuff with it.. The only thing I spend it on at the moment is to buy an engram or 2 to lower my Glimmer total so I can cash in the trinkets mentioned earlier so I can get rid of the goddam Green exclamation mark from the vendors head when I go to the tower.

    Literally the only pro’s I have for this game is it graphically looks good and the character/movement/gunplay actually plays well (it doesnt suck!). Shame there’s little encouragement/incentive for the players to actually play.. Suprisingly the players I’ve met online have all been helpful and good natured. Which is a bit unusual (for xbl and an mmo), but not sure the game gets the credit for that…

  • My preferred character is my Warlock however I have managed to get 3 legendary armour drops. 2 for a Hunter and 1 for a Titan…….so what I’ve done is just created one of each type and levelled them to 20. This way, no matter what happens, I won’t be disappointed anymore when an item doesn’t suit the class I’m playing.
    I think this article really summarises things well and I’m in the same boat as a lot of people – I can see things that I would change in the game, however I’m having too much fun to care. I’ve also met some really great new friends and we’re constantly meeting up and talking about our (mis)adventures/(lack of) loot drops. One of them last night got four purple engrams in ten minutes and got two pieces of legendary armour, 2 strange coins and 2 motes of light from them. I was jealous as my last five purple engrams gave me 3 throw away blues and 2 disgustingly useless greens.
    I’m finding the time from 20 – 26 a bit of a slog, however I’m happy doing strikes and so fourth – they can be really really challenging when the difficulty is turned right up!
    I would endorse this game because despite it’s failings, I’m enjoying the crap out of it and you can really see the love and care put into the worlds.

  • I’m probably going to get some interesting responses to this (well I hope so!).

    Is this worth getting a PS4 for? I will no doubt get a PS4 at some point, but right now I’ve just got a new TV and have a bunch of mates clamouring for me to join them. Will I feel a bit silly sinking the 500 odd dollaridoos or is it worth jumping on the bandwagon for what looks like a great shooter to play with mates, but also be able to while away the hours on my own?

    Background, caught the WoW bug properly for the first time last year after playing for spurts since vanilla (sounds odd right?). I’m normally an FPS player on PC so twiddly sticks give me a little discomfort but I also clocked the original Halo in one long day and have done it for other shooters in the past so I’m sure I’ll be able to adapt.

    Should I take the plunge?

  • “I’m standing in front of a cave, my assault rifle drawn. I’m shooting at a steady stream of identical aliens. I do this for an hour, hoping an alien will drop a good enough item so I can finally feel ok about walking away. That moment never seems to come. That’s Destiny.”

    Having never farmed. I have 3 exotic weapons, 2 exotic pieces of warlock armour, full legendary warlock armour, full hunter legendary armour, and 3 or 4 legendary weapons.

    So no, that’s not Destiny.

  • Would love to be able to play this on PC, doubt I’m going to get a console just for this game. Any idea if they had plans on releasing it on PC at a later date?

  • When there is grinding to be done you can either do it via farming and engrams, or by earning enough currency to buy high level items off NPCs. So you can either re-play strike missions, patrols etc and earn the required currencies to buy the items or you can farm engrams and hope to hit it lucky. Your choice of boring farming or fun replaying of levels which may take more time.

    I liken it to progressing in a Gran Turismo type game, often you can buy the biggest badass car and dominate the mid level races to milk credits. Or you can enter the challenging races and earn credits in a less reliable and less robotic way but a method that is infinitely more fun and more like the way the game is designed to be played.

    It’s up to you really whether you want to take the quicker yet extremely boring and hollow shortcut, or play it out the way it was intended taking a bit longer but enjoying the ride along the way. Your choice.

  • Good review.

    I’m loving Destiny, but then, I’m not one of those guys that has to rush in and complete the thing in record time.

    I’m astonished how many people don’t seem to want to wait. Bungie have explicitly pointed out that they’re in it for the long term, but everyone seems to want everything now. It’s not perfect…and maybe, given Bungie’s pedigree, we didn’t expect anything less….but it’s a cracker of a game, with potential for much much more.

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