Bungie’s latest project, the behemoth that is Destiny, has been one of the most talked about and played video games of the month. There have been lots of opinions expressed, videos uploaded and debates about the game’s current experience and what to expect from Destiny when it releases in September, further proving that as far as the video game industry goes, Bungie has struck gold once again in terms of creating a game that has a seemingly gravitational pull on gamers. For the first time in a long time, the video game world as a whole, not just industry insiders or the general public, has something to say about a title.
I am by no means excluded in the Destiny opinion having department. Over the course of the past week, I have spent a handful of hours exploring the Old Russian wasteland in Destiny’s Beta, taking in the sights, experiencing the early campaign and shooting as many aliens in the head as I possibly could. My thoughts on Destiny’s current state, and what I would like to see once the game is fully released are as follows.
The first thing I feel the need to mention when discussing my time with the Destiny Beta is that up until a week or two before the Beta period opened up, I was by and large Destiny ignorant. I had see the announcement of the game and was well aware of its existence, but outside of a simple acknowledgment of the title, I knew next to nothing about it. This, of course, comes with the caveat that I have no real experience with Bungie’s genre-defining Halo franchise. For better or for worse, I spent a considerable amount of time assuming that Destiny would just be Halo in a different setting. After playing Destiny’s Beta and immediately playing Halo 2 in order to compare and contrast, I am confident in saying that Destiny defied my initial expectations and manages to take elements of what originally made the Halo franchise so popular, while dredging out new territory for itself and setting the tone for console video game experiences to come.
Upon activating my Beta code and downloading Destiny, I was initially unsure of what to expect. As I mentioned earlier, I has spent much of the game’s development cycle blissfully unaware of all the things Bungie was doing in creating Destiny, and I had only just begun catching up on information regarding the game. After the download was complete, I took my first steps into Destiny’s world, starting with the character creation screen.
Creating a character in Destiny is the player’s first glimpse players will have into the rich and imaginative science-fiction world of the game. Destiny’s three playable races – the humans, the ethereal Awoken and the mechanical Exo – represent but a small slice of the brilliant universe that Bungie has created. After selecting a race, players will be able to delve further into the creator, selecting from a wide variety of facial shapes, skin colors and tattoo-like markings. Destiny’s character creation screen’s only fault at this stage in the game is that many of the human and Awoken hairstyles leave a bit to be desired. While there are a decent amount of styles to choose from, many of them do not fit within the sci-fi universe of the rest of the game. Humans, unfortunately, suffer from a selection of hairstyles that leave them looking like either Mass Effect’s Captain Shepherd or Canada’s worst import, Justin Bieber.
Outside of letting players customize their characters, the creator in Destiny also serves as a brilliant introduction to game’s impressive visuals. For a game of such shocking scale like Destiny, seeing the character models up close and personal for the first time is a wonderful way to show players just how much effort has gone into creating this game.
Once completing character creation, it was time to delve into Destiny’s opening mission. Amid a wasteland of abandoned vehicles and destroyed buildings, a small robot zips about. His name is Ghost, and it is thanks to him that I am brought back to life and able to explore Old Russia.
Ghost is voiced by the ever-talented Peter Dinklage, and his voice work sets the tone for his character exceptionally well. As Ghost revives your character, his words come across as both urgent, yet mechanical at the same time, establishing him both as a robotic entity and as someone who genuinely cares about your survival.
Ghost urges me – a newly revived Awoken Hunter – to move quickly, for the deadly Fallen are approaching our location. In a rush, I run through the car-littered road towards a large building, navigating its dark and tight hallways after being given a rifle to kill my Fallen foes. Throughout these moments, Ghost’s narration both directs me and informs me of the situation in Destiny. The Fallen are growing in numbers, leaving the playable races of Destiny a location known as the Tower as their last safe bastion. We are headed there, where all will become more clear.
Once armed, the main gameplay of Destiny opens up to me. With my rifle, I am able to pick off the enemies that attend to cut me down. Destiny’s gun-play feels responsive, and seeing the amount of damage inflicted from each round fired pop up was enough to get my inner RPG fanatic excited. In many ways, Destiny’s gameplay is markedly reminiscent of Borderlands 2 because of well produced shooting and RPG-like mechanics, as well as its similar dystopian worlds.
Outside of these surface similarities, Destiny and Borderlands 2, Halo, and any other game in recent memory are truly far apart. After completing the tutorial mission, Destiny truly opened up to me as I entered The Tower. There, I was treated to the pleasant surprise of the gameplay shifting from a first-person view to a third-person one, allowing me to see my character run, jump and explore along the city’s walls. After getting equipped and acclimated, I was off to Old Russia once more, on a mission to give our allied races an edge in a never ending battle.
Throughout the next few hours, I was able to play through the missions of Destiny’s Beta, all of which were enjoyable and presented a fair challenge. The majority of the missions played out simply, I had a location to reach, foes to kill along the way, and data to recover. While it is simple, and would leave many wishing for more varied gameplay, I cannot give Destiny a strike for this, simply because this Beta period only introduced gamers to the opening act of the game.
Exploring the ruined world of Old Russia was easily the highlight of the Beta. Bungie has done an unbelievable job in creating a world that truly feels apocalyptic. When exploring about the world, I was continually struck with a feeling of isolation. Other players ran about the map, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I stood about a land that time had forgotten about. This notion added a personal level to the game that few other titles ever manage to achieve. To feel this, in a game that is largely centered around a multiplayer experience, is a huge feat by Bungie, leaving me eager to experience more of Old Russia and Destiny’s other locations.
Leveling up my Hunter was another treat in the Beta. Each level felt hard-earned, generally always coming towards the end of a large firefight or at a mission’s close and each time I was rewarded with exciting and interesting new powers. As a Hunter, my specialty was long-range combat, and mastering the my class’s double jump allowed me to take my sniping skills to amazing locations. Additionally, my hunter was able to customize different aspects of his weapons, allowing for me to ultimately become a knife-throwing, ammo regenerating sniper who killed the Fallen long before they could ever see him.
After reaching the max Beta level of 8, I genuinely felt powerful and was itching for more.
Destiny’s exciting gameplay and immersive world created for a Beta period that will go down in history as one of the best I have ever partaken in. Few Betas ever manage to drive the game’s core mechanics home like Destiny’s did, while still leaving the promise of much more to come.
As someone relatively unfamiliar with Bungie’s previous work and largely unsure of what to expect from Destiny as a whole, I can say that after the hours I spent in the game, I am fully confident in saying the Destiny will be one of the best games of this console generation.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”