I was one of the many gamers that got their hands on the Beta for Bungie's newest project: Destiny. I have been anticipating this game since it was announced back in 2013 and I have, since then, devoured every scrap of information about the game available. I am a huge fan of both First Person Shooters (FPS) and Role Playing Games (RPG) equally. Over the last few years, I have begun enjoying the worlds and interactivity that Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games have to offer. Destiny blends many elements of good shooting action, role playing elements, with a MMO-like community while creating an intriguing world that is brimming with enemies to kill, friends to rescue and places to be explored. My time with the Beta was not long enough and spending well over 40 hours playing the Beta has only heightened my anticipation for September 9th, when the full game finally arrives.
The introduction video brings my character back from the dead; resurrected by a Ghost which is voiced extremely well by Peter Dinklage. From the opening cinematic of the game to the point where my Ghost found me my first gun, I felt the addiction settling in. The vistas that Bungie created utilize the power of the PlayStation 4 -- my console of choice at the moment -- and show the beginnings of what the “next generation” of games will bring. The world felt vast and alive. The views atop buildings stretch for what look like miles onscreen. This encouraged me to explore every crevice, traverse each hill, and fight my way through each abandoned building. I hopped on my Sparrow and took off into the world.
The beta brought up some good narrative related questions: What happened to humanity? What is the Darkness? What is the story behind the Guardians? I am happy that I have questions regarding the story; it gives me hope that it will not simply be a mindless shooter where people congregate in Player versus Player (PvP) to sling racial slurs and curse words at one another, but a place where challenges are accepted and the awesome gear players earn is praised and envied simultaneously. I have hope for this. Destiny encourages teamwork during exploration or during PvP. My character is my own creation and this creates a certain attachment that many online shooters have not been able to achieve.
The character creation is not as vast as some MMO's, but far surpasses many of the staple online FPS games. There are three races: EXO, Awoken and Human. The EXO are a robotic race that were once artificial intelligence, but after the collapse of civilization, have begun to think for themselves. The Awoken are an alien humanoid race that are as intriguing and mysterious as they are awesome looking. Last, but not least, are the Humans and they are, well, humans.
There are a good amount of choices when it comes to creating your Guardian, but I would have liked more. I really enjoy the character creation aspect of games. I like the feeling of creating my character and taking them out into the world. I was able to change the color of nearly every facet of my character. There are seven face types to choose from and then I had fifteen different hair styles to play with. The hair styles seemed very anime inspired, which, I do not consider a bad thing, but I found myself looking at a few and thinking “really?” Some are just too ridiculous looking on a character that is supposed to be a resurrected bad-ass come to save humanity. Hopefully there is something out there for everyone because, even as I gripe about the hair, I was still able to create a character that I wanted to play as for many hours.
All of the races look great and the only thing I felt that was really missing from the character creation was the lack of ability to spin my character around to see the back of the hair, since that is the main part I looked at as I ran around the Tower talking to vendors and turning in quests. This irked me to no end. I was shocked that a developer as experienced as Bungie would not place the ability to rotate the character during the creation process. Some people may say that that is something small, but I want to see every angle of a character before I spend the next 100 hours staring at them.
I chose to create one of each race and one of each class: Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. These classes all feel great and are all fun to play. I tried to spread my time equally between the three classes, but found myself leaning towards the Hunter. The throwing knife was too much fun in PvP and story mode alike. Each class all possess their own special attack that can change the tide of the battle with two pushed buttons, as well as, different grenades that all have their uses. Each character has a jump style that allowed me to get to high ground for a better look at a situation or to gain the upper hand in PvP. That being said, I could never fathom having to choose one class to play with. All three are different and fun in their own way and I think, to experience Destiny fully, they should all be played with. I think that Bungie has the same idea as they have three character slots available.
I have spent a lot of time playing FPS games. I do not do tournaments or anything like that, but for a long time they were the only games I played on console. This game handles extremely well. The movement of the character is fluid and I never felt hindered as I battled my way through hoards of enemies. The guns have a great feel to them. All the different types of guns have different physics and even guns of the same class can feel very different depending on their rate of fire, clip size, impact, reload speed, and recoil. Bungie also made it easy to compare the weapon I had equipped with one I just picked up or a gun I was thinking of spending my Glimmer on. Simply reloading an Auto Rifle had a great click and snap to it as I slammed a new clip into the bottom of the gun and pulled the cocking mechanism. There is a gun for any play-style, any player, and any situation.
I, personally, prefer to have a gun for any occasion in my inventory. A Hand Cannon for fun, an Auto Rifle for spray and pray, a Pulse Rifle for places the auto rifle does not cut it, and a Scout Rifle for long distance or close distance encounters that require more precision. In the Special Weapon category there are Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, and Fusion Rifles. I really enjoy using a Sniper Rifle, so I equipped the first one I found. That first shot I took felt great. Head-shots are challenging but attainable with a steady thumb and the handful of Sniper Rifles that I used all felt a little different from one another, but in a good way. I also really enjoyed the Fusion Rifle. It is this hybrid shotgun/rifle that shoots energy and has a small charge delay before the shot, but it does some serious damage. The Fusion Rifle was tricky to use in PvP, but during the story missions it was a lot of fun and something different from a lot of the guns within the game. The last class of guns are the Heavy Weapons. These consist of belt fed Light Machine Guns and Rocket Launchers. These are the guns that get you out of a tight spot and make a big boom as they come into play. I leaned towards using the Heavy Machine Gun, but sometimes a situation just needs to be handled with a Rocket Launcher. I always had one of each on hand.
One catch with the weapons is each class is that Primary, Special, and Heavy all have their own ammunition. As I killed baddies, I saw white ammo drop for the Primary, green ammo drop for the Special, and purple ammo drop for the Heavy. The only catch for the Special and Heavy weapons is that if you switch from a Sniper Rifle to a Shotgun, the Special ammo does not carry over between guns. I did not find this as annoying as some may have. I felt that this made me think about which gun I was using at the time and also think ahead to the situation I was moving into. If I was entering a building, a switch to the Shotgun or Fusion Rifle was a must, but I had to prepare to not be able to use that weapon until I picked up the correct ammo.
As I found “uncommon” guns, I was glad to find that each gun has a set of perks that you unlock through using said weapon. These varied depending on the gun, but one Sniper Rifle that I found had a perk that allowed me to shoot ammo drops versus picking them up; that perk came in handy many times. A perk on a Hand Cannon that I found gave the last bullet in the clip more damage whereas a Fusion Rifle I obtained had a perk that gave more damage for a short time after reloading. Each different perk was exciting to uncover and it only piqued my interest in what is to come as I find “rare” guns and higher. These little perks and vast variation in gun choice made shooting the enemies that much more enjoyable.
The enemies bring a solid challenge when the difficulty level is ramped up. Many times I found myself running backwards as a swarm of Fallen or Hive rushed towards my character, while I shot my Pulse Rifle frantically cursing towards my television. Challenge accepted. The enemies are never stagnant and they quickly move to cover as you begin an engagement with a group. Different enemy types act differently on the battlefield and thus, require different tactics and approaches to engagements. Playing the game on Normal difficulty is a challenge as a single player, but with two or more players it becomes too easy. Switching the game to Hard put me and my friend up against enemies that were sometimes three or four levels higher than us; this proved to be a challenge while still remaining fun.
More than once I careened, gun blazing, into the middle of a fight between the Hive and the Fallen; both sides became hostile towards me as well as each other. The fights between enemies were interesting and gave the world more life and it felt as if the game world was living and changing even while I was not present. Naturally, I came in and destroyed both sides of the fire fight. The beta only had the Fallen and the Hive enemies to battle against, but if their diversity and battle prowess is any indication of what the other enemy types will be like, consider me enthusiastic about my adventures and imminent death before I come out victorious.
As I toppled over hundreds of foes I never felt like the weapon and armor drops were happening too often. When a weapon or piece of armor dropped from an enemy it felt earned. Even more so, it felt exciting. I would spot the drop and immediately run and grab it off of the ground, sometimes into a group of enemies that I was currently battling. I never felt like I was cleaning out my inventory of garbage drops on an hourly basis like some games, which was refreshing in many ways. I could spend more time out in the world, looking for hidden chests, fallen Ghosts, and new enemies to fight versus constantly traveling back to the Tower or just skipping drops all together. When I was done exploring of Old Russia the Crucible beckoned me to come and test my weapons and skills against other Guardians.
The Crucible is where the PvP magic happens. Players bring their character over from the central hub called the Tower, and battle it out on beautiful and diverse maps. During the Beta, two PvP maps and one game mode were made available.
The game mode that was primarily playable was Control, which plays like a king of the hill or domination style game. There are three points and teams must capture points which, in turn, cause kills to award more points. The more points you control, the higher score you get when killing a player. Each players score is then added up and that is how a winning team is decided. This game mode requires teamwork and not just mindless running amok. Sadly, the beta offered little teamwork and lots of players not capturing points. I am sure this will change when the full game is released in September, but I found that when I was playing with a group of friends and communicating over the headset, we were near unstoppable.
Two maps were available in the beta called First Light located on the Moon and Shores of Time on Venus. First Light is a fairly open map with vehicles that can change the tide of a match quickly. It has close quarters and long lanes for snipers to take advantage of an unsuspecting Guardian. Overall it is a good mix of close up firefights and long range shoot-outs. Shores of Time is set on Venus and it seems to be set amidst the ruins of some ancient building that has been overtaken by the lush green jungle it resides in. This map is more of a close quarters map with spots for snipers or Scout Rifle users to find and use sparingly. There are many avenues to flank the opposition and different levels to attack points from. Each map offered something different in look and play-style, but both were fun once I learned the little ins and outs of each map. I definitely look forward to playing more maps and game types in the full version.
I was also lucky enough to be online during a few of the Iron Banner events that Bungie opened up for a few two hour increments. These Iron Banner events differed from the normal Crucible matches that were available. In the Iron Banner I was able to bring in my player with all their abilities unlocked and weapon stats intact. This brought forth a new challenge compared to the regular Control mode where guns and armor are evened out so players of a higher level are not overpowered. During the Iron Banner event two new maps were opened up: Blind Watch which took place on Mars and Rusted Lands which took place on Earth. Both maps were fun and different with new lanes of play to explore and corners to hunt. I am excited to see the other maps that Bungie has in store for the Crucible.
After spending many hours within the Destiny Beta, I can safely say that I will be playing this from September well through Christmas time. I simply want more now that my eyes have feasted on what Bungie is creating. I have questions that desire answers, and fingers that desire to pull triggers on new and exciting guns. I simply want more Destiny and September 9th seems too far away at this point. So, gather your Fireteam and be ready. I hope to see all of you in the world of Destiny.