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The Icon Bar: News and features: Review - Destiny

Review - Destiny

Posted by graham on 00:00, 30/10/2000 | , ,

Home grown walkabout action from Robert Templeman. Reviewed by Graham Crockford.


Destiny was one of the most eagerly awaited games in the history of the Acorn games market, but the release date was put back and back, until it was finally released last year. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly the most well received of games, so there have since been several updates. Acorn Arcade have brought you a fresh review with each update. The most recent version is the CD version (the current and probably final release), and that is what is reviewed here. If you want to read a second opinion, you can find Dave Sloan's review of the previous (non-CD) verson here.

[Screenshot!]The story behind this final CD release of Destiny is long and convoluted. Dave at Acorn Arcade has reviewed all the various incarnations of the game as they were released, but now it's time for the complete review on the normal scale. Let us cast aside what we have previously heard, for now the judgement cometh. Does it fulfil its promise?

Destiny is a first-person walkabout, similar in concept, graphically and in its gameplay, to Doom from RCI. However, the Author, Rob Templeman, promises far more depth in gameplay and a far more open style of play, which is apparently better. At least, that's the idea. It has a storyline, which roughly translated reads 'Lost with gun. Got to get out via baddies with bigger guns.' I won't attempt to soil your minds with the rest; it took me a good couple of days to recover from the literary shock.

[Screenshot!]The game arrived in what, for a RISC OS game, is relatively smart packaging - a simple CD album box with full-colour glossy inlays and a vast fold-out manual, again in full colour. We'll forgo the nasty cover graphic, as the artist responsible had clearly made the best of bad material - hardly his fault as we'll discover. Even the CD itself was printed clearly. Overall, it seems that Tau Press have done a fine job presenting the product. Oh dear.

Installing the game is laughably simple (hurrah) but it is on loading the frontend that one catches the first whiffs of turd in the alleyway. Bug-ridden and confusing, with scant regard with RISC OS conventions, I was glad to just get through it and into the game proper. I find it hard to believe that Tau published the game without first getting someone to finally sort this out. That said, the author has to be congratulated on providing such a wealth of options for setting up the game to your exact specifications, including 3 different screen resolutions and a whole series of texture resolutions, allowing a 64MB machine (yes!) to be taken full advantage of if the power is there.

[Screenshot!]And there lies a small problem. You see, Destiny runs like a dog on old machines (read: anything without a StrongARM processor in it) even with all the options set to a minimum level such that there aren't even any textures on the ceiling and floors.

Whereas games such as Wolfenstein 3D could be played on an old A3000 if you reduced the screensize, and Doom plays perfectly happily on an old Risc PC, Destiny quite definitely needs a StrongARM. To add insult to injury (for who would be truly annoyed if the game were a graphical wonder?) the complexity of the game's graphics, in computing terms, are little more sophisticated than Doom.

"Oh stop whining", I hear you cry. It's a StrongARM-only game. Fair enough. So let's wheel out a StrongARM machine and put it on high resolution screen and textures, with all the bells and whistles. Guess what? Aside from a vaguely irritating menu screen, the opening room is enough to perk me up. Piles of stuff to pick up and I set about trying them out. Whoops.

You know I mentioned a fold-out manual? Well, you will know that when it comes to reference manuals, for irritability it's a straight competition between big thick books with spines that snap shut when you remove your hand, and bloody big bits of paper that won't fit on the desk. Enter the Destiny manual. An unstapled masterpeice of oversight from which one must fathom the depths of the most ridiculously complex control system in the history of computer games.

[Screenshot!]Not that I would mind normally. There are all kinds of ways to balance a metre-long ribbon of card on a packed desk, even if it is printed on both sides. The problem is, the default controls are utter bile, with no apparent pattern to them at all. All kinds of different controls for jumping, crouching, lying down, climbing, swimming, throwing, throwing hard (Allah be merciful) and other ridiculou moves mean that you need to be a fluent touch typist to get out of the first room.

Haha, you think. I will reconfigure the controls, and you emerge from the reconfiguration with every digit poised over a tactically essential key, with the others arranged logically and within easy reach. The basics of swimming while lying down, jumping and throwing hard simultaneously are now at your command, or so you think. You finally feel ready for the challenge.

Unfortunately the frontend is so bug-ridden that actually setting and saving these controls crashes the whole thing, destroying 20 minutes' work. You soon discover that, yes, it is not possible to reconfigure the keys, so employing additional limbs and 'other organs', it is eventually possible to encounter your first enemy, hopefully without someone walking into the room and catching you astride your keyboard gasping 'Shoot! Shoot!', between your teeth.

The fact is, 30 percent, at least, of the keys in the game could be done away with altogether if the control system was rethought a little. Separate keys for throw and throw hard is sheer madness, as are the use of separate keys for locking on and firing missiles, or jumping and swimming up. When you can't even reconfigure these bizarre insanities, it becomes something which severely damages one's enjoyment of the game. When 'mouse look' is available, why the game insists on your setting elevation sights before throwing an object, I have no idea.

[Screenshot!]The enemies look pathetic. I think that just about sums them up. Just look at the screenshots. They also animate jerkily, and their positioning and overall behaviour are just plain annoying. Add to this the fact that most of the time it's impossible to tell where you are being shot from, and that it's impossible to tell your enemies apart to decide what weapon to use, and finally we begin to see why Destiny lacks something.

Doom's enemies all look vastly different, so you can choose on sight which weapon to use for each, whereas Destiny's all seem to look the same from a distance. The way Doom's enemies flash when they fire means that you can see who is shooting you from miles away, whereas in Destiny you can be walking across a chasm and start being shot be an enemy you can't even see, let alone shoot back at. Destiny's weapon system is hopeless - the inventory system is so bug-ridden and the ammo indicators so unclear that it's usually unclear what weapon you are holding, let alone which button to press to choose the right one. I, for instance, was unable to hold two guns at all because I was holding about 20 half-empty clips and you can only change to two guns when you have two completely full ones. Bemusing at best, violence-inducingly irritating at the worst.

It's not all negative by any means - the level graphics are quite appealing most of the time and the rooms look rather nice. Even the enemies are not ugly, just confusing. However, because of the way the enemies act, the huge vast levels which you have to run back and forth across become a complete pain, and you soon lose any wonder for the visual confectionary. Just to compound the problems, the sound and music are dismal to the point of turning it off and putting on the hi-fi. The sound effects especially are almost useless and have much to do with the lack of orientation and atmosphere - a surprising omission given that producing sound effects is so easy these days. This lack of atmosphere means that what can be such an easy way of giving a product lasting appeal has been skipped over - like most aspects of the game.

[Screenshot!]It cannot be denied that for someone new to the genre of 3rd-person shoot-em-ups, Doom is more fun and looks and feels far more polished. Certainly if you don't have a StrongARM, then Destiny is not an option. However, there are a growing number of people for whom the mindless killing of Doom is becoming boring, and these people are looking for something more. This is spawning titles such as Half-life on the PC, which make this attempt at an elaboration on the first-person genre, as it lacks the finesse of such finer attempts, dismal to the point of embarrassment.

Overall, a project that had potential, but which was let down by almost complete ignorance of all the comments returned by playtesters, several of whom where Acorn Arcade writers, and an ignorance of many important game features. The RISC OS games scene is getting dry as a bone, and if we are to be honest, it is unlikely that we will see anything remotely on the scale of this project again apart from Artex's TEK.

Mountains of work has been poured into it and the author has good cause to be proud of his baby, but £30? At £10-£15 it would be an amusing enough lark, but at the current price it would be difficult to play without thinking of all the other things you could have spent the money on.


To sum up

The good...
  • Huge levels
  • Long lifetime
  • Lots of setup options
...the bad
  • Poor monster graphics
  • Misleading level design
  • Poor monster AI
  • Bug-ridden
  • Overcomplicated controls
  • Dire audio


Rating: OKRating: DIRERating: OK


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The Icon Bar: News and features: Review - Destiny