During E3 last week Bungie announced that the Destiny Alpha would be coming to PS4 for the coming weekend and that all those who signed up for it where pretty much guaranteed entry. Naturally upon seeing this on the video of the PlayStation Press Conference I leapt at the chance to play some Destiny before the Beta in July.
The rest of the week was long but on Thursday night I received my code and downloaded the client. Sadly I wasn’t able to play it until Saturday morning but the wait was worth it.
My god it was worth it.
The Destiny Alpha was the smallest of small slices of the whole game. Stripped of any story sections beyond “Go here, do this, shoot these” and only containing:
– The main Tower hub area
– One Story mission
– One Exploration mode
– One instanced Strike
– One PvP game type on two maps
All the none PvP stuff is all on the same giant map of Old Russia too. The level cap for the Alpha was 8 as well so content wise you could get through it all comfortably in a couple of hours.
Just breaking it down like I have above makes it seem like there was nothing to it but my god, I was blown away. Designed as a way to pre-test things like server strain before the Beta goes live and the wider public get their hands on it, the Alpha only needed to have the bare bones in it. The good thing is though that those bar bones are probably some of the most fun I have had playing a game on my PS4 since I got it at launch.
The easiest way to sum up Destiny is to say it is a mix of equal parts Halo, Borderlands and World of Warcraft. Halo for the classic Bungie style of FPS gunplay which they have vastly improved over what they achieved in Halo: Reach. (Yes I am one of those people who love Reach) Borderlands for the basics of the co-op and nearest game to compare it to on consoles, there are similarities but Destiny does things in a very different way. WoW for the MMO trappings that are all over this non-MMO-but-actually-MMO-game. Also from WoW comes the sense of a living breathing world full of history and detail. Even though such details as lore, characters and story were cut out of the Alpha what is there has got me very interested. Humanity is on the back foot walled in one city and Earth is a wasteland covered in competing factions of aliens that all have their own motivations, look and feel. The reasons for the Guardians being who they are and where they get there abilities are pretty cool as well. I want to know more abut the setting, characters and lore.
Over the weekend I put as much time into the Alpha as I possibly could levelling one character, a Warlock to cap then a Hunter and Titan to around level 5 to see their abilities and play styles. I also spent a large amount of time in the Alpha’s equivalent of end game content with my Warlock, trying to get him the best gear and getting into the PvP stuff. I played solo, in random groups/teams, with friends. I basically did everything I possibly could in the slice of the game that the Alpha provided.
Old Russia as a map and game area blew me away. Surrounded by beautiful views that stretch for miles and lots of little nooks and crannies to find. I spent the majority of my time in the Exploration missions just wandering around the map, meeting other players, helping them out and then moving on. There was a sense that other players all had their own objectives and reasons for crossing paths with you. The game’s mission system bounces you around the maps causing these moments of meeting to be guaranteed. If you just follow mission you would mostly likely have seen the majority of Old Russia but if you took the time to go off the track a bit or try some of the further out mission nodes you would have discovered areas and routes untouched by other players. From stumbling across the area from last year’s E3 demo (sadly empty of enemies or any content) to ending up on a long-winded path through ruins and buildings to the shipyard with a friend. It all had a sense of adventure and excitement to it. You want to look around the next corner for enemies, loot and the next breathtaking view. You want to try and reach that point in the distance that looks interesting. You want to come across other players to see what will happen and what they are doing.
The game is also very immediate and cuts out the problem that many MMOs have, which is getting the player from A to B quickly and easily. You get your kick ass speeder bike early on to help you zip about the open terrain (and through buildings provided you don’t dismount). Also the game’s more menu centric approach to getting to places and other maps means that at any time with just a few button presses you can jump from what you are currently doing to another map, game mode or the game’s hub, The Tower. No backtracking to a specific point on a map to get back home. No long waits to get to were you want to be. It is all there for you as soon as you login which makes the game slick and easy to navigate. It just leaves the player with the reason they are playing the game, the gameplay.
It will be interesting to see how the game’s more time consuming systems and loops play out in the beta and whether or not Bungie have managed to work their magic on things like grinding reputations with factions and true end game content. For now though I am very impressed and my excitement for Destiny and the promise of it not only being a truly next-gen game but the evolution of both online games and MMOs is high. It feels right. It feels good. So good that you actively look past the more negative aspects of the game such as Peter Dinklage’s much criticized voice over for the robot companion every player has in their journey through the game. Or that some of the loading times can be extremely long, something which should improved with the move to Beta and then Release.
This small taste has been enough to get a lot of people talking about the game and I am sure the large scale Beta will increase the hype level even further. Personally though, I cannot wait to jump back into the world Bungie have created and the super slick gameplay that accompanies it.