So Destiny, eh? What is it? Well, first and foremost it’s a first person shooter with a touch of light RPG and MMO elements. Though, the devs aren’t emphasizing the MMO dressing as much. This means that there will be leveling up, skill sets, classes, and stats of all kinds. While the game will feature open areas whereby many players can be seen roaming around you it doesn’t have as many people cluttering up the action. Instead, think of it as a few hotzones in which you may freely team-up and complete objectives or just go about your own business. If you’re familiar with Borderlands’ style you’ll probably fit right in.
Quests are doled out from little glowing beacons you find out in the field. Typically, these are your basic missions for easy XP. I was a bit underwhelmed at the offerings as I was running around either collecting X number of Y or killing some predetermined number of enemies. Mostly grinding. Of course this is a pre-gold build so perhaps their will at least be something more interesting besides fetch quests. You can also grab quests from a bounty board in the Tower (humanity’s last city) which can offer a bit more XP.
On a positive note, there were the occasional timed event that would require a bunch of players to team up to complete. These will happen in the open world and appear with a bit of fanfare. For instance, one that occurred caused the sky to suddenly darken while tons of enemies began pouring out of drop ships along with a massive insectoid tank. During these Public Events, you’re tasked with defeating all these foes with help from anyone else in the area. The few that I had a chance to experience were some of the most fun I had with the early access.
Additionally, there are more focused missions called “Strikes” which challenge a squad of 3 to 5 players to tackle a linear quest with more complicated objectives and bosses. The one in the alpha was a three part staged mission with a two boss creatures and a capture and hold objective. Afterward, you’re rewarded with weapons and other loot. Fairly straightforward for these types of games but fun nevertheless.
The high points were the enemy AI and arena style combat. Bungie is known for implementing some clever routines for enemies in the Halo games and it shows in Destiny. Falling back, combat awareness, and general self-perseverance make for fun fire fights. The nature of how you play the game and complete objectives in an open world allow for mobility and varied tactics besides your typical FPS. The alpha only showed a taste of this, but it was enough to keep me interested for the few hours I played.
In terms of combat, it’s nearly identical in feel to Halo. Shooting was responsive and kinetic with a fine balance between weight and speed. Jumping is a little floaty for my tastes, but that was kinda Halo‘s thing as well. You do have a second jump boost for added mobility. Where it deviates is with the added RPG trappings. Leveling up grants you access to varied abilities determined by your class. I tried out two of the three offered. “Titan” is the tank class with high defense and an area of effect explosion skill to clear out baddies when overwhelmed. I also checked out the “Hunter” for a hot second which was essentially the rogue equivalent from fantasy RPGs. High risk and high damage with a special move that could be used for massive hits on bigger, badder bosses. As you level, you’ll also have access to better equipment to fine-tune your alien murderin’ machine.
Finally, I want to quickly touch on the visuals. Destiny looked very impressive with some gorgeous scenery and modelling. Textures, lighting, and other bells ans whistles were some of quite stunning. Yeah, yeah early impressions and all but really it looked just great and the final game should be glowing example of what the new systems can push.
All in all I was left with an OK feeling about what lies ahead. Gameplay was surprisingly fluid and pretty fun (more so with friends) while the mission structure is pretty run of the mill for what I saw. Again, this is an early access impressions the future isn’t set and the final build could be epic. As I didn’t have a solid idea about how Destiny would initially play out, I was glad to get some hands on time before its September release. It seems that Bungie has something going on here and probably will do fairly well. For a staggering 500 mil budget, it had better be.