With a budget of 500 million dollars, Bungie has a lot riding on Destiny which has accumulated an overwhelming hype with a little more than one month to its release September 9.For those how missed out the opportunity to try out the Destiny alpha that occurred a couple of weeks ago, the beta has now been online for a week for those who have preordered the game. Beta access came with two extra friend keys, making the player base quite big for this last beta before the final touches before release are added. If you for some reason don’t know of Destiny yet, it is an online multiplayer action role-playing first-person shooter, as Bungie calls it. Set in a future where few human survivors are left after a golden age ended when something knocked us out and earth was saved by a mysterious sphere which still hangs silently above Earth, and you lay as a guardian protecting all of humanity from whatever threats are out there.
After the beautiful intro sequence following astronauts on Mars you start out in Old Russia on earth, the same area where the alpha took place. But instead of jumping into the action as the alpha did, you are now revived by a Ghost, a robotic cube AI following you throughout the beta with the unengaged voiceover of Peter Dinklage. And before delving deeper into the game the voiceover deserves some attention given that Bugie is selling T-shirts mocking their own dialogue. While it is has been improved since the alpha and lines such as “The Wizard came from the moon” has been removed, it is still far from what you would expect from a game this huge and an actor that good. In his defense he is acting as an AI, but this is something which could bring the final product down a little for those who play for the story.
With the voice acting aside let us dig down into the five story missions given in the beta. In contrast to the alphas where you started at level 4 we here get the chance to play from the beginning, leveling up our character while undertaking the first five story missions. The story missions are set in an instance single player mode which you can play with two other friends, and if you don’t have any friends paying, some random people can be seen in the game while moving towards the objective. The missions feel like a pure single player mode very much in line with how the latest Halo game felt. All missions are built on a similar structure, you move towards a building where an investigation is need, kill enemies on the way, enter into a field where you cannot respawn and are presented with a boss fight which ends the missions. While this is a beta and the first part of the game I do hope the following missions adds some bigger variations to them. The same goes for exploration mode, in which you are free to move around Old Russia in the beta taking on a variation of kill missions, but they do feel very much like a grind, the areas feel small and not as open as I had hoped and even the speeder bike taken directly from Star Wars doesn’t change that. All this is something which I hope is locked to the beginner zone and something which the rest of the game can and hopefully will make better, but I raises some warning signs for how the final product could turnout.
For those of you who missed it a couple of years back, there was a game called Hellgate London with a huge potential which sadly got lost in the process of getting the game out. The structure of that game, especially its explore and story driven missions are very much like Destiny´s, and I truly hope Bungie won’t fall in the same repetitive trap as Hellgate London did, and while the beta makes me somewhat more calm, there is I told before some issues I hope disappear later on. Playing the single-player\ cooperative part of Destiny feels very much like a combination of Halo and Borderlands. The music sounds as if it was directly taken from Halo, the character screams master chief with a cape, the aliens have both names and looks as those from both Halo and Borderlands and the loot and open map structure of Old Russia is very similar to Borderlands. So if you are a fan of any of these games, then you will very likely end up loving Destiny.
Lastly and maybe most important, Destiny have a very solid competitive component. If you get bored with following the story or exploring the semi-open areas, there are competitive 6v6 maps opening up at level6, where you can take your character as any MMO out there and enjoy Pvping with your own gear and your set of skills. While it plays as most shooters out there and especially its closely related brother Halo, it feels a bit more fresh and fun when you are playing with your own character. The gameplay itself does feel slightly stiff compared to its competition, but I´m hoping that is because of the control point nature of the game mode available in beta, where the final release seems to have a nice variation to it. What I really like about the maps are how the differ from one another in both level design and visuals, where you at one time are fighting on the moon and the next on Venus, this adds a level of variation which the beta does not show in the single player experience.
Destiny really feels and plays like a Halo game with a touch of Borderlands and that is something good and promising, while I initially would have liked Destiny to feel more like an MMOFPS than a cooperative single-player FPS, the beta has made me much more interested in game than before. Even if the graphics in the beta felt like a letdown considering how the new generation of consoles has to adjust and clearly have adjusted a lot to the older generation, I did see some enjoyable scenery and have fun while playing. The beta really shows that Bungie are very good at making games, and if this will be the same mega hit as Halo was when it first came out is something only time will tell, but the beta has made me very skeptical to this. If the game manages to open up more the deeper you go into the story and more variation is added in the story missions, that combined with the competitive section might keep a hold on me until its sequel sees the light of day, and in barely one month we might have the answer.Related: Bungie, Destiny, Preview, PvP, Sci-Fi, Shooter