“Guardians are fighting on earth and beyond. Join them, Guardian. Push back the Darkness”
Hype for Destiny has been both massive and drawn out. Not long after Bungie launched Halo: Reach back in 2010, rumours of a new IP brewed by the masterminds behind Master Chief started spreading throughout the gaming world like wildfire. Bungie then gracefully hung up their boots and passed the torch of the Haloverse onto 343 Industries and began bringing their new idea to life. Fast-forward 4 years and here we are as the Destiny Beta has come to an end, only to be revived through its full release on September 9th 2014. But was the hype justified?
So what is Destiny?
Developed by Bungie, and published by Activision, Destiny is referred to as an open-world, multiplayer first person shooter doused with MMO and RPG elements. As for context, what we know thus far is that Destiny is a sci-fi fantasy epic that takes place in our universe. The arrival of The Traveller, a large globe shaped alien structure, set in motion the proliferation of human technological advancement and propelled us into what is referred to as the Golden Age. Humanity expanded and colonized the solar system. After hundreds of years of prosperity, an event known as “the Collapse”, propelled by the Traveller’s ancient enemy, the powerful Darkness, destroyed the colonies and pushed humanity to the edge of extinction. The Traveler saved those on earth and allowed a single, protected place, the City, to rise from the ashes. Through this darkness the Guardians were born, set to fight back those who wish to destroy Earth and all those who reside upon it.
The beta showed us a tiny slice of what to expect in this expansive, open world shooter. We got to sprint, drive and battle our way through the ruins of Old Russia while returning occasionally to the Tower, in the City, the last safe place in our solar system. The Tower acts as a social hub for Guardians where we can join our friends, dance with strangers, browse high-powered weaponry and armour, collect new missions or just sit down and take in the breathtaking view of The City.
Bungie also gave us a preview of Destiny’s competitive multiplayer in the game mode “The Crucible”. Similar to CoD’s Team Deathmatch, or Halo’s Slayer, the Crucible is where Guardians get to engage in PvP while tracking their K/D score. The Crucible is more reminiscent of CoD competitive play for it’s quick, twitch shooting rather than Halo’s long, drawn out battles. Because Destiny’s main focus is the levelling of your characters, my only qualm is how will Bungie make for equal playing ground? Will there be PvP balancing issues? There are no loadouts; you enter as you are, whether you’re a level 8 or 20. If you have a Scout Rifle that does 23 damage and come face to face with a Pulse Rifle dealing 51 damage, guess who comes out on top? There is a disclaimer before the game begins that level advantages have been disabled, but the details of what that actually consists of is still shrouded in mystery.
Choose your Destiny
The Guardians are split into three races, Human, Exo and Awoken. In RPG fashion, you get to choose your gender, face, skin tone, hair, eye colour etc; this is purely cosmetic however and has absolutely no effect on gameplay.
The Guardians are then further divided into three separate, SPECIALIZED classes:
Titans – Specialties lie in aggressive, heavy damage and high armour ratings. It’s the Spartan class of Guardians.
Warlock – They utilize special powers granted by the Traveller, mixed with weaponry. Classic RPG fans will relish in the class for its good balance between fantasy elements and sci-fi shooter.
Hunter – If you enjoy being sneaky, the Hunter is your class. It’s known for stealth and speed and has a sick melee attack that eventually get’s upgraded to powerful throwing knives.
Class specializations, however, mostly lie in the special abilities such as the Warlock Glide or the Titans Fist of Havoc. So far, I haven’t come across weaponry that one class couldn’t use over others. You want to be a Titan with a sniper rifle? Cool. A Warlock with an Auto-Rifle? Fine by me.
Your skill tree upgrades through battle, and when you level up, you can upgrade a specific class skill, allowing you to upgrade your hunter, titans and warlocks for more class-specific roles. I’m hoping for more class differentiation going forward, but we’ll have to wait and see for the full release. For now, the Beta level capped at 8, hardly high enough to give us a good feel for the Guardians.
Battle Out: Pulse Rifles, Sniper Rifles, Shot Guns, Oh My!
If it’s one thing Bungie does well, is its weapons and gunplay. They are pretty diverse (albeit a bit run-of-the-mill) and are sensitive and intuitive, giving a good feeling of control when you’re battling 20 Dregs at once. As I’m a fiend for precision weapons, the Scout Rifle, Sniper Rifle and the Pulse Rifle are going to quickly become fan-favourites, with the latter reminding me of my favourite gun of all time: Halo’s Battle Rifle. Shooting is seamless, and both level and skill matter; more efficient, precise shooting will do more damage. As for in-game gunplay, Destiny borrows heavily from Halo combat mechanics, but sets it an in open world framework. You can face groups of enemies solo, or find a buddy/stranger to hop on and take them out with you.
There are also Strike missions that remind me of dungeon raids. You suit up with 2 other buddies (or strangers) as a fireteam and battle your way through the final boss all while collecting loot along the way. The taste we had in the Beta was called the Devil’s Lair, where we had to battle this mechanical spider-like creature called Devil Walker. While it was fun, it was way too long, and oftentimes it acted as a bullet sponge. To kill this boss (which is not even the final enemy) can take up to 30 minutes and all he actually does it stand there and shoot red lasers. Not exactly exciting. Speaking of loot, you get to pick up ammo, guns, gear, glimmer (money) and encrypted codes throughout the game. As it stands, it’s kind of hard to see what you’re actually picking up, a detail that will hopefully get tweaked on September 9th.
Welcome to the Border Lands
It’s hard to pinpoint what Destiny is, as a game and where it lies. The gameplay rests somewhere between Halo and Borderlands; with weapon and gear upgrades reminiscent of Diablo. The sci-fi elements has clear Mass Effect qualities while the post apocalyptic world of Old Russia launched me back into the Fallout Universe. While nothing that Destiny has shown us has been revolutionary thus far (it IS a beta, afterall) it does borrow, tweak and play upon many different games to create one massively diverse FPS.
The Verdict: The Good and the Beta
There have been minute details of the beta, that are quite, well, beta. The voice acting of Mr. Peter Dinklage as Ghost is pretty horrendous, rendering your companion robotic yet empty. I can’t pinpoint what exactly about his voice that doesn’t work; all I know is that it just doesn’t feel right. The crisp and stylish menu is rendered uselessly complicated through the use of a cursor. It leads it to become sluggish and not particularly accurate. I’ve missed my mark in the menu a few times while trying to click a gun, or a piece of gear. Maybe this is a case of having to get used to it, but for now, I’m no fan of the menu. Also, there was no story context whatsoever as you entered the Beta. All you know is that you’ve been sleeping for a very long time when Ghost wakes you up. The game kind of just throws you into it without explaining the whys. Also, you cannot interact with any NPCs except for shopkeepers. Bungie needs to meat out their story if they want to keep gamers engaged or else it’ll fall to the same criticisms as Titanfall.
Nevertheless, the Destiny beta was absolutely awesome. The world Bungie created is visually breathtaking. There were no drops in framerate, no weird textural hiccups even in areas with a lot of commotion. Bungie’s mix of both competitive and cooperative gameplay is sure to satisfy an array of gamers, while the combination of sci-fi and fantasy by bringing in gun-wielding Warlocks gives Destiny a unique spot in the world of FPSs right now. Combine that with riveting and thumping music that has a John Williams feel to it, and I think we have a clear winner of what game people will be discussing, playing and interacting with for years to come.
Destiny is set to be released for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PS3 on September 9th 2014, with a tentative PC release date of March 2015