Up until E3 of this year, there was not a lot known about Bungie's newest game, Destiny. There were a lot of ideas garnered from the few videos that had been released up until that point, but no solid facts. Though having the option, I didn't jump into the alpha. Such a short look at that time wasn't a huge priority, but when I was given the chance to dive headfirst into the PS4 Beta this past weekend, I recognized it for what it was... a chance to deliver a really bad pun about Destiny. Being the better man, I'll simply call out that pun instead of using it.
Logging in, the first thing thrown your way is a character select screen. Offering a choice between the man and woman versions of three different races, humans, the glowy Awoken, and the robotic Exo. Being of natural human birth, I decided to try my hand at the slightly more enigmatic Awoken, whose choices of skin start at serene blue and end at a rather peaceful purple. Going through the options, I ended with a light blue skinned, purple mohawked Lady-A. She looked pretty awesome. My wife approved.
I was then given the choice of three classes, Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. I went Hunter (of course I went Hunter) and set off on my merry way. Or rather, was raised from the dead by the disembodied voice of my “Ghost,” Peter Dinklage, who was sporting a much more nuanced and robotic sounding voice this time around. While I might not have played the beta, my head would have had to be buried in the sand to miss all the articles about the “wizard from the moon” and Peter's truly dry delivery of everything. Personally, I don't like dirt in my ears.
Getting run through the early tutorial level, it wasn't long before I was armed and picking off fallen with an auto rifle. Having another “buried in the sand moment” I was not surprised that Destiny was a shooter, but I was quite pleased that it dropped the “click the stick to zoom” combat of their previous Halo series and replaced it with an iron sight system. The shooting felt weighty and satisfying, and the bright spark that accompanied taking the head off a Fallen Dreg, the first enemy type I faced, made knowing when I hit the mark both enjoyable and easy to identify. Sure, the numbers popping of the mob in my sights helped too, put I would take that satisfying spark to the number any day of the week.
Upon finding a ship, my Ghost, you know The Dink, flew me to the Tower, a refuge for Guardians, what I was apparently, that lay with spitting distance of the large white globe known as “The Traveler.” A sucker for ridiculous fiction, I enjoyed the rather standard tale of darkness closing in on the world, awakening all manner of evil denizens, and the final action of the Traveler before falling silent, sending Ghosts out into the world to find Guardians to wield it's light in defense against the encroaching blackness. Given the state of games writing for epics such as this, I imagine before long, my Guardian will be drawn into the galaxy spanning conflict, and my actions alone, never mind the hundreds, nay thousands of other Guardians, will lead to some kind of peace.
Surprisingly, it's the presentation of this fiction that feels the most lacking. While this is only a beta, and more likely then not working on an older build of the game then the one currently being worked on, I was disappointed that there was no real interactions between my Guardian and The Dink. Being literally awoken from death by the floating mini-robot, one of the first things I am told is that I must have a ton of questions. Yes, Dink, I have a veritable smorgasbord of queries for you, oh ever knowing robot and bringer of life. Thanks for noticing. Also, thanks for letting me field ABSOLUTELY none of them. In fact, I don't actually hear my character's voice until after my second mission, when I am presented to The Speaker, “he who speaks for the Traveler.” I don't think it would have killed anyone for some back and forth dialog, especially given it's relative ease as my Guardian's questions about her surroundings would have been hand in hand with my own. No need to even offer a choice in dialog; a simple “Hey The Dink, what's that thing over there?” or “ Who are these Fallen dudes, and why do they have this hate out for me?” or even, “Why does everyone have an English accent?”
Lack of voice aside, the Tower itself serves as more of a hub world, gathering a full gamut of vendors, willing to sell a wide array of equipment for those with enough Glimmer, the currency of the realm, or who curry enough reputation. It's this mention of reputation, and my shocked look of horror when I hear my inner obsessive stir, that I begin to realize just what it is that Bungie has created. I'll keep the words safe and secret for the moment, as there is still more Beta to come, but the similarities between this and a certain style of game stick out more and more in my mind as I work through them.
Without much work, and over the course of a few hours, I work my Hunter through the 5 or 6 available missions, leveling through them and some open world play to the Beta's max level, 8. Armed with a grenade, a double jump, and a throwing knife, I feel like a bad ass making my way through the wilderness of Old Russia, the Beta's setting, even managing to find a rocket bike along the way. All the missions were solo-able, though many of the missions fell back on Halo like tropes, such as a defend this spot from waves of enemies section, or being asked to beat back charging zombie like enemies while fighting a main baddie. They all played fine, and were actually kind of easy once I got the flow of combat down, but it was a little disappointing seeing Bungie fall back into old habits.
I was also struck by the notion at how much fun I might have doing this with a friend. I am a solo hunter by nature, and I enjoyed my time alone scouring the wilderness for its hidden treasures, of which I am happy to say are many, but coming back to those missions three times as one of each of the available classes, the want of companionship for those, sometimes quite literal, instances was not lost on me.
With more Beta left to go once the servers reopen on Wednesday, I look forward to testing the group game out. My plan, if my characters are still around, is to try out the instances, test out the multiplayer in the Crucible, Destiny's in game multiplayer arenas, and see if they actually let me play on the Moon, as the final area map showed a mission sequence taking place on our lovely satellite. I'll also save my thoughts on the class system for my next preview, in hopes that I might see something that really differentiates the three available options.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!