So it's been a few weeks since the Destiny beta closed its doors. It was... interesting. I spoke last time of the story and it's lack of personal agency; Bungie was doing a lot of telling instead of showing. There were hints to something bigger going on, but the glimpse we were offered helped to confirm what I had been thinking all along. Destiny is an MMO.
I had heard murmurings about this across Twitter after the Alpha rolled out, but I also heard dissenters throwing out the suggestion based on its presentation, both in style and substance. I can both quell and ignite those fears. Destiny is an MMO.
With limited access to Old Russia and The Tower throughout the majority of the Beta, to peel back the mechanism of future space tech and floating super spheres and expose the cogs Bungie had put in place. The Tower features a multiple faction setup, complete with Reputation meters to show how those factions felt about you. Getting a high enough reputation opens up faction specific gear. It was all on display and out of reach.
Old Russia sent you on missions across its landscape. Along the way, you will run into respawning enemies, both of the normal and elite variety. Your mission is instanced off from the rest of the world, keeping the story to only you and your fireteam, should you even choose to bring them. An open world version of Old Russia exists, with multiple small missions available that ask you to collect loot from specific enemies or even stand at a point long enough to “scan” the environment. Occasionally a public quest would start, signaling a tougher than normal fight fit for larger groups.
Each and every one of those systems can be traced back to an MMO. This structure holds when signaling the player to a quest giver in town, as they are marked with an exclamation point. Additional elements are unlocked as you level up, like bounties set to a timer, or even competitive multiplayer battle arenas which also reward points toward a faction. The way Bungie bends and weaves the known strands to produce a solid structure is noteworthy.
Where the core tenants of an MMO break slightly is in the class system. Having worked through all three available classes, my biggest fear is that, aside from small differences, each class is laid out in the same fashion. Each has a grenade, an enhanced melee attack, and a special attack that uses up a power meter. The specials are all quite different. The Hunter forms a powerful three shot pistol out of light, the Titan throws himself into the air before coming down with a Hulk-esque ground smash, and the Warlock launches a bazooka shot of dark energy. Each is effective at what it does, and it's easy to see how they would work well in tandem, with Titans holding the melee space, Hunters floating in and out of the middle, and Warlocks dominating from afar.
Separate them, and there is almost no difference in how you approach the game. No difference in play style. I don't know if I expected a jarring change, but when you name things "Titan" and "Warlock," there's an immediate association that's made that never is called upon. It's a missed opportunity for depth, and maybe it's something that shows up later (class specializations are hinted at on the character screen), but there was zero of it on display.
If Old Russia was a glimpse at the new, the Moon was a taste of the old. Open for a two to three hour stretch on the last Saturday of the Beta, the one mission available on our orbiting satellite set up interesting complications for the Guardians. As explained by Peter "The Dink"Dinklage, the Moon was abandoned to the Hive in hopes that they would stay there. They didn't, hence the “That wizard came from the Moon” line. Which, by the way, seems to have been cut. So yeah.
Regardless, the Moon introduced Destiny's idea of mounted combat, with a few standard Hive enemy types flying in on space bikes. I quickly shot one off of their mount, climbed on, and was pleasantly surprised to find it armed like a Banshee straight out of Halo. It made the approach to my goal, a ruined church, far easier. Had I not misjudged the terrain, I might have been able to solo a public quest boss that randomly popped up during my visit to the lunar surface.
While the terrain was darker and obviously less “alive” than Old Russia, the Moon's missions are quite the same as Earth. It opened with a “defend this spot” and closed with a “kill this dude” with a little bit of running and hovering in between. These aren't necessarily bad things, especially given the responsive, glorious feeling of combat, but the experience was just more of the same.
"More of the same." That seems to be the theme of the Beta that gives players enough of a taste to tease the palette, but leaves with far more questions. I didn't spend a lot of time in the multiplayer portions of Destiny, but my time with other people during public quests against armies of the Hive showed me that the online component was handled well. I have no doubt the competitive multiplayer aspects, while currently lacking character, will be up to the standards Bungie set for the rest of the genre with Halo.
It's the other stuff, the world stuff, that leaves me wondering whether or not there will be enough. We'll find out soon enough come September 9th.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!