My beta impressions are here to give you pretty much a play-by-play of what I did during my limited time with the game. Whilst long, this article will hopefully cover most of what I experienced, so those of you who missed the beta can build a picture in your mind of what it’s like. Here goes.
Honestly, I’ve not been too hyped about Destiny. We’ve been reporting on it for some time – new trailers, screenshots, details etc. which all look and sound great – I definitely love the look of Destiny and what we’ve heard of its story, but that’s also how I felt about Bungie’s Halo way back in 2001. I tried Halo: Combat Evolved when it came out, but it just didn’t do it for me. I even bought Halo Reach years later to see if that would draw me in, because for so many people it’s such a great series I thought there must be something in it that would appeal to me - that didn’t work either. So, before I’d even tried Destiny I already had major reservations, simply because it was being developed by Bungie, the same studio that created Halo. Using my past experience with Halo as a wonky measuring stick, I entered Destiny’s beta with much hesitation.
The opening cutscene I was treated to set the story up nicely, explaining that the Traveller – the mysterious giant floating orb discovered by humanity – helped usher in a golden age for our galaxy and how it allowed us to expand our reach to other planets, and even triple human lifespans. Cue the ‘baddy’ of the game – The Darkness. This entity has been hunting The Traveller for eons, and now it’s found it in our galaxy, it’s destroyed all but one final human city, which The Traveller protects. This I love, the story, it’s my kind of epic ‘all or nothing’ battle of good vs evil vibe.
Once the groundwork of the plot was told it was time to create my first character, my guardian. Of the three available classes; Titan – your tank/assault class which has an ability that allows it smash the ground, dissolving enemies in an area around it; Hunter – your more agile class that favours sniper rifles and knife play with an ability which allows a flaming pistol to be summoned that blasts enemies with solar light; and finally the Warlock – your ‘caster’ class that uses its Voidwalker ability to fire a bolt of explosive light at enemies to disintegrate them on impact. Going purely on visuals, I went with the Hunter class, as I thought it looked the coolest.
Hunters - Sniper rifles and knives? Yes please!
Taken to a character customisation screen I could choose between three races; Human – self-explanatory really; Awoken – resembling humans in appearance, although their skin tones are pale pastel colours ranging from blue, gray and purple with faint light swirling over their skin; and Exo – an android type species with fully metallic heads boasting glowing lights from their eye and mouth areas.
I created my Hunter as a human, and attempted to make him look as much like me as possible, albeit with a younger, polished HD complexion and hairstyle. The usual changeable features are present, as you’d expect from any MMO type game; different heads, hairstyles, markings etc. Although the features to choose from weren’t plentiful, it’s hard not to appreciate how good looking and crisp the character models are, especially so close up in the character creator.
I won’t say much about the story here, but once I got past the opening area where I met my Ghost, a small robot-like companion, and the tutorial-esque initial combat sequences, I could travel between three different areas; The Tower, the last safe city; Earth and Old Russia, which is where most of my time was spent completing missions; and The Crucible, the multiplayer section where I could compete in player vs player (PVP) combat.
A female Awoken
Firstly the missions started off fairly short and sweet, seeing me touch down in Old Russia and taking out groups of Fallen – the alien enemies – whilst working my way to complete my objectives, earn rewards and loot, and level up my character. Most missions were like this, but as I progressed and became more powerful I could take on missions I had previously completed on a harder difficulty setting. The final part of the Old Russia area, a Strike Mission, was hard work to say the least – I was matched up with two other players and we entered a kind of instance zone – meaning it was only us in there, with no other players. We had to work our way through enemies until we got to a place where we had to defend our Ghost as it tried to make the next area accessible. Increasingly difficult waves of enemies attacked us, and it was pretty challenging. We had to make sure to revive each other if we died and also work out which enemies were best to take down first to stand the best chance of survival. Teamwork was key.
Eventually we came across a large open area where a Fallen Spider Tank lay in wait; this behemoth took 10 minutes to take down, at the very least. It was heavily armoured, boasted a huge rail gun, amongst other weapons, and despite shooting its weak points at every opportunity, was a bit of a chore to destory. I would hope Bungie do some tweaking in this area of gameplay, as even though it was fun, it did seem to drag on a little too long in order to move on to the next section.
The final area was similar to the Spider Tank, tasking us with destroying a huge floating orb-style robot that shot balls of purple light from the centre of its eye. Whilst attacking, drop ships would descend and deploy more enemies to distract you from your main objective. It was this bigger Strike Mission that really sold the game for me, although it has it’s balancing issues, I am genuinely excited to see what other raid-style encounters there will be in the full game. I look forward to calling up my friends and arranging a Strike Mission night to descend upon a planet and discover what lies in wait for us, and working together to complete our missions whilst building our characters.
A free-roam style Exploration type mode was available to, which did exactly what it said on the tin. I could roam around Old Russia, picking up small missions in the form of lit beacons, and take in the environment at my leisure as I sped about on my Sparrow – a hover bike that kind of looks like a Star Wars Speeder/Swoop bike.
Controlling vehicles is simple, fun, and they get you where you need to be, fast.
Sound wise the game mixes things up a little – one moment you’re treated to orchestral symphonies, the next it’s a fusion of dance and metal - but it’s executed well. It seems to lend the orchestral music to cutscenes or significant moments, whilst the up-tempo stuff is saved for combat and tense fire fights.
You’ll also be glad to hear that Peter Dinklage’s (Tyrion Lanister, Game of Thrones) performance as your Ghost companion has dramatically improved since that footage from the Alpha emerged. Instead of dull, monotone droning, his voice has been given a robotic, electronic sound. Which I’m sure was the intention from the beginning anyway. All the other voice acting is solid too.
I did play on Xbox 360 too, to compare both versions, and the only real difference I found was the graphics. The 360 version obviously isn't as pretty as the Xbox One version, but the game still looks good. On Xbox One you've got the crisp character models I mentioned earlier, to the detailed environments that tease great expanses and ruins in the distance - this is a beautiful game. The lighting in the pitch black sections of the underground tunnels is also good, and creates a sense of fear as you slowly make your way through the darkness, only for shapes draped in blackness to become clearly revealed as level ‘??’ enemies, and by then it's too late.
Speaking of the tunnels and level ‘??’ enemies, I did go off the beaten path a little, and they’re some of what I found. In most MMO titles when you see ‘??’ or a skull above an enemy’s head, it’s a warning, a warning to turn around and run, because whatever it is, it’s going to kill you. Of course, in the interest of the beta, this article, and my own curiosity, I felt it only right that I engage those enemies I found lurking in the darkness. OK, yeah, I died with one shot of their weapons, but at least it was a glimpse into what we can expect in September when the game is released. The chance for exploration and discovery of things we don’t expect, and encounters that will test our skills, or ability to run/not run.
The Crucible is where Destiny’s player vs player (PVP) combat takes place. The first couple of matches I played I didn’t do well at all, even though the game balances all players’ levels and stats to make for a fairer fight, my hunter had a crappy semi-auto rifle that I just wasn’t used to, and a pulse rifle that needed me to be fairly close to do any significant damage – I was toast. After those first matches I went away and levelled up some more, acquiring new gear and weapons (automatics) more suited to my play style - I did much better in my second stint. The game mode I played was a three-point capture mode, like Domination in CoD for example, and combat felt just as good as in CoD.
The Moon begs to be explored.
On Saturday night Bungie called for as many players as possible to play Destiny, to test their servers to the limit. As a reward players who showed up on that night will be given an exclusive nameplate for use in the full game, plus we were given the chance to explore another environment, the Moon, but only for a couple of hours.
The Moon, whilst only allowing for one mission to be completed, did show how different the environments will be. The bluish gray rock and dust of its surface was a far cry from the wastes of Old Russia. It’s an amazing looking landscape, and looking up into the darkness of space to also gaze at Earth gives you a glimpse of the game’s scale. Fallen were there, riding their own hover bikes called ‘Pikes’ which had front-firing blasters, so naturally I hijacked one and took it for a spin, blasting fallen out of my way as I sped along the dusty surface. The moon is definitely my favourite of the environments I explored during the beta.
Just before 10pm on Saturday I made sure to be on Destiny, for the big test event. An influx of players meant the Tower was much busier than I’d seen it all week, and amidst all the seriousness of saving the galaxy and thwarting the Darkness there was the inevitable use of emotes – press right on the d-pad and your guardian will dance, and players did this a lot. Dance at the Tower, dance on dead enemies, dance for dancing’s sake. The flash mob we created at the Tower was brilliant. MMOs everyone, MMOs.
Come 10pm I made sure to I was at the Tower, and where there were many players congregating just moments ago, there was only myself and the NPCs. Bungie did suffer some issues with the big test that night, such as empty areas, and problems joining the Crucible PVP matches, but it’s to be expected and exactly why such a beta test is performed, to stomp out any bugs before launch.
Old Russia on Earth has random events that players can join in on, with drop ships unloading enemies onto the ground.
The gameplay of Destiny, whilst pretty solid, is not what has me most excited – it’s the story, the environments and the lore that will be fleshed out as we get our hands on it in September. Although the beta told little of the story, hopefully as to not give away spoilers, I do want the full version to be a little more open with the way it sets the scene and tries to draw players in. My experience did tend to feel a little rushed.
Destiny mixes up gameplay from many different, well established, games like Borderlands (for its random loot drops), Call of Duty and Halo (for its multiplayer), and big MMOs for its open-world feel of exploration and the satisfaction of kitting out and levelling up your character. Destiny might not be the most original game ever made, but man it makes me want to get right back in and uncover more of its story, and engage in it’s satisfying combat. This is definitely a game worthy of some of its hype at least.
Destiny is due for release on 9th September for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Be sure to stick around with HITC as we bring you more details as they’re revealed before launch.