With all the hype surrounding Destiny it’s hard not to be curious and excited for the games release, even for a gamer that really has no interest or experience in the FPS/MMO genres Destiny largely belongs to. I went into the Destiny Beta with next to no knowledge of the game except knowing that its creators were Bungie, the developers behind the original Halo Trilogy, and while I know that series is held in very high regard I had never taken the time to play any of the Halo series myself. That being said, I went in with an open mind and dived straight into this unique sci-fi world not knowing what to expect. I can now say I was pleasantly satisfied with the time I spent with the game and am now much more interested in the final product than I was before. For the record this impressions article is based on the PS3 version of the Destiny Beta.
Right from the game’s title screen, the first thing that instantly strikes you about Destiny is the quality. This game is the epitome of a big budget, high quality, AAA game. The presentation, graphics, music, sound and even the the user interface are absolutely outstanding. Destiny draws you in to its high quality world and it’s a pleasure to be there.
You start off with an intro detailing how the human race expanded into space but a mysterious Darkness took over and forced a new beginning, which basically leads to present day in Destiny where there a few remaining remnants of that glorious culture. Pretty standard sci-fi narrative here but the story does become more fleshed out and intriguing as you spend more time in the world and start to learn more about its history. Once the history recap is over the game skips to present day where the scene opens with a small ‘Wall-E’ robot like creature scanning through old abandoned cars in Old Russia seemingly searching for your created Guardian who has apparently been dead for a long time. The robot reveals itself to be a ‘Ghost’, specifically your Ghost, and will be accompanying you throughout your journey, guiding you through the world, turning on lights for you and just being good company. Your Ghost is voiced by renowned Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage, and while you can hear his voice in their it has been modified quite heavily to sound more robotic but still sounds great, even if his attempts at humor are no where near as strong as they are in Game of Thrones.
One of the big parts of Destiny is creating your Guardian and choosing a class for them. You can choose to make your Guardian one of three races including human, Awoken (humanoid like alien) or Exo (Terminator like robots). You also choose one of three classes that will have a huge impact on your abilities and play style. The choice here are Hunter (focused on long range killing or sneak up attacks), Titan (balanced class of offense and defense) and Warlock (more magically inclined). Each of these comes with their own advantages and disadvantages as well as unique skills that are acquired by leveling up. The character creator is rather well done, allowing you to change gender, skin tone, hair type and colour as well as eye and lip colour, each of which have a decent array of options. The only annoying thing I found about the creator is that you can’t spin the camera around so you don’t know what your character will look like from the back (which annoyed me a bit because when I finally got to see the back of my characters head I wasn’t a fan of the hair style I had chosen and their doesn’t seem to be a way to change it thus far.) I chose to play as a blue skinned Awaken Warlock but it is worth noting you can create different guardians and play as them as well during your campaign, so you aren’t locked into playing as only one race or class your entire adventure.
The controls here all felt intuitive, accurate and responsive. The guns on offer are fun and easy to use and there seem to be many varieties of weapon with even more sub varieties within them. The first story mission provides you with an automatic rifle and a shotgun which proves very powerful at close range. It doesn’t seem like Bungie have reinvented the wheel here when it comes to weapon types, but there may be some new weapon types present within the full game or hidden away in the Beta. As a Warlock you also have a powerful melee shock wave attack that your fire from your hand, but it is worth noting melee attacks are different for each class. This attack feels very powerful early on, one-shotting enemies at a close range that would normally need 5-6 bullets in them from the auto-rifle before they go down but obviously it is harder to get in close range without being bombarded by enemy fire yourself and the move has a rather long cooldown time so can’t be called upon repeatedly in the heat of battle. The only major gripe I have with the controls is holding down L3 to run, which just feels a bit awkward due to the limited amount of movement you can get on the control once you push L3 in and it is also hard to push the button in if the control stick isn’t centered. With more game time this issue will probably become less apparent and you do have to question what other button they could bind run too as all the other button seems to be in use.
Towards the end of the first mission you fight a mini boss that is a bit stronger than the grunts you have been disposing of until now but he still isn’t too hard once you get his shield down. Defeat him, and your Ghost will fire up an old spaceship and transport you to The Tower located in The Last City on Earth. The Tower is overwhelming at first, but the simple on screen prompts will help keep you informed of where you should be heading next and serve as notifications for shop fronts (such as the post office being highlighted green when you have new mail). The Tower serves as your main hub where you will shop, collect your mail, store loot and more. This is also the place where you will meet the most with other players and are able to ask them to join your team, check out their profile or check out their character in more detail.
One of the greatest details about Destiny is just how full of life the world is. ‘The Fallen’ (your main enemies in the Beta) are constantly searching the grounds for material but won’t really bother you unless you bother them first, ships warp in and out of the atmosphere, sometimes bringing along optional missions with them that you can complete for rewards, and perhaps most impressive, is that other players completing their campaign are often found wandering the map, which really gives you the feeling you are not alone in this open world. It’s really cool to be able to join up with someone on a whim and help them out in a firefight against the enemy knowing they probably have similar objectives to you based on their level and location. Likewise it is nice to receive that help if you are in a jam. Of course you can also choose to ignore the other players if you like and just carry on with your own missions if you’re more of a solo player. Another item of note is that the game is not strictly linear and after the first few story missions paths will start opening up for you to take alternate routes in the order you tackle said missions. Another great feature is that enemies scale to your level in most cases, keeping the game challenging.
Not only is the game full of life but it is also full of loot, and it is easy to see this will become one of the major aspects of gameplay as players compete with one another to find and wear the coolest looking and strongest equipment. There are many, many variations of helmets, arm guards, chest plates and leg armor as well as an arm band for Warlocks (each class has something special they can equip and have unique armour as well). All this equipment changes your physical stats (strength, defense and movement) and also affects your appearance. Some gear even come with bonuses such as strength +8 and all have a certain level of rarity. You can obtain loot from treasure chests, mission bonuses and store fronts at the Tower. The constant stream of loot and experience points make Destiny a rewarding experience as well.
As this impression of the Destiny Beta comes to a close I have some feelings I’d like to share on which version of the game players should buy. Those thinking that they need to upgrade to next gen before Destiny comes out should really reconsider their choice if Destiny is their sole reason for doing so. The PlayStation 3 version ran superbly and the graphics were very impressive. While the PS4 screenshots and video I have seen do look better by a small margin mostly in part to increased texture resolution, it isn’t enough for me to justify the PS4/Xbox One version if you don’t already have one of those consoles. With the PS3 version you also won’t be subject to the monthly costs of PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live to play online which is a factor to consider if that is an issue for you.
If I had one word to describe Destiny it would be engrossing. The game lures you in with it’s production values and keeps you around with its explorable, living, rewarding world. Add in a strong narrative, seamless multiplayer integration and solid gameplay and Destiny does indeed look like it will be able to live up to the hype it has created come release. Check back around September 9 when the full game is out for our full review.