Destiny’s Sword is an early access sci-fi adventure with a graphic novel makeup developed by 2Dogs Games and published by Bonus Stage Publishing.
Cypris needs our help, and you’ve been selected commander of an elite team dubbed the Protectorate. You’re ordered to take your team of peacekeeping soldiers and handle a series of riots as cleanly as possible, without any civilian casualties. But when the action starts, everything goes sideways and now you must decide whether to shoot or talk your way to get back in one piece. The story itself is composed by MD Cooper known for their work on the best-selling book series Aeon-14, and the game itself feels akin to Mass Effect in the regard to making decisions that are the best for not only your team, but for the people you are charged with protecting.
Immediately after your arrival, you are given a squad with varied personalities. Jimmy, your team’s captain is charming and a natural leader. Mags is a force to be reckoned with and is quick to show you, Aarav, Yuri, and Janni also round out your team and you get to know each of them personally before and after missions on Cypris itself. The aspect of most interest to me when playing this game was the importance placed on the mental health of your squad. A huge factor of the gameplay in Destiny’s Sword is communicating effectively with your team and understanding their struggles with things such as addiction, anger, and anxiety. This translates into gameplay by the player selecting the response that most often contains empathy, as it benefits the mental condition of your squad, found on a radial wheel with positive and negative emotions, and ultimately your mission.
The store page claims that the game includes an Insight Engine character AI system that gives infinite character diversity, and while the idea of intrinsic character backstory and “no two characters being the same” is a fantastic way to garner attention, the reality isn’t quite as appealing. The choice is nearly always cut and dry when concerning your conversations with your team. I felt that nearly every prompt from me was the black and white “Be a jerk who is purposely callous” or “ask and console about the glaring issues in this conversation”. There is very little in the way of surprise or intrigue when talking to your team, and it lacked the emotion that should be a huge appeal to people when deciding whether or not to play this title. The conversations with your team take place upon your ship, or hub, that you inhabit before undergoing missions. All rooms in your ship move slightly and feature nearly-still like backdrops for you to peruse while exploring. This area reminded me a lot of XCOM. You have a Squad Room, Repair Bay, Med Bay, Command Center, Barracks, and Ready Room. And while that may seem like a lot of variety from the list, at the time of this review there was little to no reason to be in most rooms save for the Barracks, Med Bay, and Ready Room. Once you’ve debriefed with your squad you will head to this Ready Room and select a mission to undertake.
At the time of review there are 5 story missions in Destiny’s Sword and around 3 side quests that rely on you clicking around your ship for objects. The story missions involve the same type of gameplay one can expect from a visual novel. Make choices and face the consequences of those choices. I would say 9 times out of 10 the choice for the best outcome is obvious. There aren’t a lot of nuances baked into the decisions you as the player make, and it makes for a relatively shallow experience that doesn’t balance out with the intended importance placed on the human mind and psyche after participating in combat scenarios. After a mission is complete, you’ll debrief with your supervisor and get right back into the cycle of exhausting your dialogue options with your crew (which sometimes is hard to even achieve), while trying not to negatively impact their emotional state. Destiny’s Sword is an early access title, and it certainly feels like one. The UI that accompanies this game looks more appropriate for a mobile title, let alone a Steam release. While most of the art in this game was intriguing and helped to pull me in to the world that MD Cooper and developer 2Dogs were trying to create, the experience lacks cohesion in most ways and never once felt like a polished video game. Full release for Destiny’s Sword is planned for Spring of 2023, and there is a lot of work to be done. Conversations don’t feel intuitive, and rather like a laundry list of things to do before setting off on the missions. Unused spaces in the ship make you feel more trapped, and less excited to command an elite team of peacekeepers. And the length of the story as it is makes it hard to judge whether or not the decisions you make as a leader now will affect your team in the long run.
Overall, while the premise and goals of Destiny’s Sword are intriguing and well worth your interest, the current state in early access does the game no-service and plays more like a demo. For these reasons, currently, I cannot recommend Destiny’s Sword.