Destiny is one of the most hotly anticipated titles of this generation and thankfully after seeing releases like Titanfall living up to their hype machines it’s shaping up to be an exciting generation.
Make no mistake though, this ‘beta’ may operate under the guise of being a useful tool for Bungie to test their servers’ ability to handle the network traffic, but let’s call it what it is; A free taste of pre-launch goodness meant to hook you. So in that regard, how likely is Destiny to be your new pusher man after that first, deliciously free hit? Read on.
Classing it Up
Destiny is pretty no-nonsense about getting you shuffled into its expansive, sci-fi world with a quickness. Once you start you’re prompted to choose your class, sex, race and the aesthetics that differentiate your character from the hundreds of other players you’ll see running around the hub world once things get going. It’s pretty standard stuff, really, but the character models are detailed and despite only a handful of modifiers there are many, many options and a deluge of combinations with which they can be applied. I went for a female Exo Warlock that initially kind of looked like Eve from Wall-E but then I switched up the color scheme a bit to make her more sinister looking.
There are three classes available at the outset; Warlock, Hunter, and Titan. Titan’s appear to be the veritable meat-shields their name would indicate with powerful melee abilities and bumped defenses. Hunters can dish it out from a distance but also have some rogue-like characteristics that allow them to sneak up and do some up-close-and-personal damage. Warlocks like myself are masters of the void and engage enemies with a variety of magical attacks in addition to firearms, though they’re very much glass cannons that can’t take a ton of damage.
While anyone who’s played any kind of modern MMORPG will spot the advantages of each and the strategies that will work best, it seems like the more expansive list of available classes have been condensed into only these three options. There doesn’t appear to be a dedicated ‘healing’ role for groups looking to tackle tougher challenges, but then again it may not be needed on account of how damage heals pretty rapidly over time a la most shooters today.
After you’ve figured out what combo of awesome-looking and ass-kicking suits you best it’s time to dive-in.
Dinklage Helps You Find Your Bearings
An expansive landscape on a dilapidated-earth appears as the Fallen stalk a floating Ghost that is searching for something. Not a literal ghost, mind you, but Destiny’s answer to Halo’s Cortana- a free-floating tiny AI bot that accompanies you, the Guardian on your journey. The something Ghost is searching for? You, of course!
Upon finding your dead body you become re-animated and then out of nowhere TYRION LANNISTER is helping you along to your next objective. As you begin unarmed the first part of this mission is largely sorting out how to navigate your environment which is pretty standard. Before long you’re directed to your first firearm and then are able to start laying waste to the Fallen as they pursue you in your quest to get off-planet and to the safety of the City.
Combat and RPG Elements
While it’s novel and glee-worthy to hear Peter Dinklage directing you on your way, how’s the meat of the experience? Combat is solid if not wholly derivative. If you’ve played any shooter before your thumb will slam to X/square to reload before you ever need instruction to do so. In that respect the learning curve is more than approachable and you’ll be laying waste to the Fallen in no time. Depending on which class you choose you’ll have some different abilities to work with beyond your primary and secondary arms. Mine manifested in the form of a grenade that while active damages enemies within range which is helpful when enemies are clumped together, which happened frequently during indoor skirmishes. You’ll find this too easy on normal but appreciate it far more if you’re bold enough to play a mission on the ‘hard’ difficulty setting.
Enemy A.I. is a mixed bag. Of all the enemies encountered in the first few hours it becomes apparent quickly which will rush you head-on and which are used to flush you out. The issue we kept encountering though was that there are very specific zones to which your foes will gravitate and they’re reluctant to pursue you beyond a certain point. In many instances, even on the hardest setting, we were able to evade death by simply running far enough away and just waiting for our health/grenades to regenerate before storming back into the fray. We were happy to have the respite of course because the ‘hard’ setting is certainly a healthy challenge, but it also felt odd that we could just drop out for a breather like an over-played point guard at half time. Still though, everything about pumping rounds into your foes in Destiny feels polished and the levels are expansive enough that it stays fun.
For your performance you gain levels which unlock new abilities and new equipment to boost your performance and resilience. If you’re familiar with Diablo’s flavor of looted items needing ‘identified’ before they can be used, you’ll find the same thing here present in the form of new items needing decrypted before they can be equipped in some cases. Every item you find also appears to have a distinct look so of all the players you encounter no two should look alike. It’s very World of Warcraft-ish in that regard. Technically everyone is shuffling around very similar items but the combinations make sure you have the opportunity to make your characters unique and the fact that you can have multiple characters to play around with is a nice touch. You’d also be hard-pressed running around the city in 3rd person to not feel a sense of deja-vu that you’ve done this before in Stormwind or Ironforge.
Why You’re Fighting the Bad Guys
The Traveler, a spherical deity/intelligence that ushered in a golden age for humanity, is responsible for Guardians having their abilities. While the true nature of this thing is unknown, it’s somehow responsible for humanity surviving in this post-apocalyptic state.
That’s all well and good of course, but there’s something that feels painfully generic about the entire setup in Destiny. You’re fighting ‘The Darkness’. The Traveler grants ‘Guardians’ a mysterious power known only as ‘The Light’. All of these pretty bland names are dropped against a plot that isn’t very original and doesn’t have any major distinguishing element to make it feel especially meaningful. I realize this is only a Beta and we’re seeing only a sliver of what the full experience is supposed to be but I sincerely hope this is just initially basic for the sake of concealing the grander elements of a more complete story.
Ultimately Destiny is a whole lot of fun despite some minor gripes with the narrative so far and the interface.
How was your time with the beta?