Very few studios have ever had the same amount of success off of a single franchise as Bungie Studios, and even fewer have been able to rise to the challenge a second time after launching a completely new IP. But, after getting some hands-on time with their upcoming first-person action-RPG, Destiny, I can honestly say that I think that they might have not only lived up to the hype, but broken completely new ground.
Set in the future, seven hundred years into a post-apocalyptic world, Destiny looked and felt as if you were visiting a planet that was once forgotten in time, a world that was once ours but now belongs to those fighting for control over its landscape. With the human race having spread out across the universe on the brink of extinction due to a disaster known as The Collapse, it is up to the Guardians of the City to defend the last of us remaining from the growing hostile alien presence.
From the moment I sat down and got to check out the Alpha build of Destiny, it was readily apparent that this wasn’t a game that’s being designed to simply carry a protagonist through a series of events that will allow him or her to shoot everything in sight — it was about a universe that existed far beyond a single person, a universe filled with other people taking on the same challenges as you. This simple, but delicate construct, felt like the heart of the experience, as each player or group was on their own path but the ability for them to overlap was completely organic. This is something we do see more in MMO games, and if we look at various parts of Destiny, it is easy to see that it has taken a number of its cues from the genre, but has used them to develop a voice of its own.
Much like with many RPGs and MMOs, Destiny does allow players to pick their race, class, gender and look, but it never matched the overly ‘grindy’ feel usually associated with those types of games. Most of the alpha is spent wandering around the same few areas trying to locate new missions, killing the same bad guys and collecting items, so there did feel like there was a significant amount of repetition. But, none of the quests took an exorbitant amount of time to finish, so the alpha didn’t feel like it was ever over staying its welcome by lingering in specific areas. If the whole game continues down this path, there could be a reason for concern, but with the solid mechanics of its gameplay, it will take some time for any task that involves dispatching hostiles to become arduous.
From a visual standpoint and based on who is developing the title, it is easy to see why there are so many comparisons to the Halo franchise, but personally I find it difficult to make the comparison, as the only things they have in common are guns, aliens and space travel. The shooting mechanics for the Destiny alpha felt very solid and grounded in human technology, but with enough science fiction to really give some weapons a unique feel and look so that not all of them were the same. Adding to the diversity of the experience was the ability to level up your weapon or armor, so players will have to figure out if they want to stick with their trusted piece of equipment or start over with that new rare loot drop.
Also adding to the breath of content is the ability to chose one of three classes, and one of three races, each with their own look and style. You can be a human, a blue skinned Awoken or the robotic Exo. Between the classes you get to choose from The Hunter, a deadly mix of both long and close range, besides being the only class able to use a knife, their Super Charged ability allows them to use a powerful pistol that can kill with a single shot. The Warlock, being the closest thing to a wizard in space he/she is able to use arcane abilities to knock back enemies with their melee, as well as fire a ball of energy with their Super Charged ability. The Titan, the games heavy class which allows them to use heavy artillery, whose Super Charged ability is an area effect caused by slamming the ground.
As much as I would love to say that my time with the Destiny alpha was flawless, that wouldn’t be true. As one of the pillars for the game revolves around your Ghost, a personal AI that will hack terminals and guide you where you need to go. While the mechanics for the personal assistant work very well and without issue, the voice work for the Ghost simply did not match the rest of the game, which is sad as it is voiced by one of my favorite people Peter Dinkladge, who is best known as Tyrion Lannister from HBO’s Game of Thrones. The personality of your Ghost doesn’t seem to ever follow a set path, as it is neither emotional or completely robotic, as it sounds like it is trying to care about the situation ahead, but comes off as it is halfheartedly reading off of a script.
Once you are able to level up your guardian enough the multiplayer portion of the alpha unlocks. Using all of the equipment you have earned throughout your travels, it is a great way to test your loadout against other players to see how your character is coming along. But, ultimately it was difficult to get into the matches, as only a single match type was available. Most widely known as ‘Domination’ or the three-way king of the hill mode, players fought for control over a relatively small map while killing or being killed over, and over again.
Overall, Destiny is shaping up to be one of the best games to launch this year, but as we were only able to see a small glimpse of what it will have to offer, we will have to wait and see if this one is really destined for greatness or not.