Screenshot captured by Hatm0nster (yours truly)
I’ve never been happier to be wrong about a game. Never.
I was all set and ready to write-off Destiny as a game I wasn’t going to like. Aside from its universe and setting, it seemed like most everything else coming out about the game was giving me reason to balk. Borderlands-style open world? MMO mechanics? “Deadlier” multiplayer? It was sounding like a mash-up of several kinds of gameplay I personally dislike; twitch-shooter meets pointless wandering, meets busywork and level-grinding. So it was only that last bit of curiosity that got me to sign up for the Alpha.I was fully expecting it to confirm my suspicions, but that’s…not what happened.
I’ll just say this right now. My assumptions about the gameplay were entirely wrong. While there is a vast open world to explore, many people around as one traverses it, and quite a few small quests that send your character going here and there collecting this or killing that, it all felt worthwhile. Your character advances at a satisfying rate, and does so in accordance to your play-style, leveling up the weapons and abilities you use most often in combat. Not to mention that everything achieved in each of the game’s modes: story, explore, strikes (raids), and PvP; can be carried over and used in each of the others. Everything is connected and your character is what brings it all together.
The alpha only gave a glimpse of the story, but even the little slice we got spoke of high-stakes and the weight of the world being placed on your shoulders. It was just a glimpse, but it was enough to ignite the spark of interest. There was only a small glimpse of the strike mode as well. I’d call it a raid but that doesn’t really feel right. the example we got played out as a sort of side-story to the main overarching plot. It wasn’t directly connected but it helped make the world seem more complete, setting up the idea that many of these are going on as your own story plays out. The strike itself played out as a succession of endurance challenges: first multiple waves of tougher and tougher enemies, a large boss-level enemy, and finally a boss-level enemy along with respawning waves of lesser enemies. It was always intense, even when it got a little repetitive.
PvP had only a stationary territories-style mode available, and only on two maps: a smaller, more enclosed map somewhere in ruined Russia, and an open one with vehicles on the moon. It was fast paced, intense, and felt reminiscent of Halo, albeit with slightly less durable characters. It was frustrating at times, but was somehow still balanced also. Great fun all around.
Aside from the incredibly absorbent atmosphere, sound design, music, character and weapon and menu designs (seriously, when has a menu ever been impressive before?), the biggest impression this game made is that it’s going to be at its best as a social experience. Exploring, battling, striking, and gearing up were enjoyable by themselves but when done with a friend it just felt all the more purposeful and fun. Those who enjoy coop elsewhere and mmo’s will find all the fun of comparing drops, stats and coordinated cooperation alive and well in this game; all combined with their like usually found in FPS: kills, crazy deaths, crazy happenings and the like. The story, strike, and exploration modes all sort of bleed into one another as you often find people exploring in the very same area your strike is taking place in and vice-versa, maybe they’ll even give you a hand! The penultimate evidence of this social intention come in the form of random “public events”: big intrusions into the normal game that beckon everyone in the immediate area to come running in the hopes of extra experience and unique loot! Drops are even unique to each player so there’s no reason to fight over who gets what!
Finally there were just so many little touches that just made me smile. I won’t list them all but things like seeing your ship fly to your destination in formation with your friends or team, or enemies actually getting brought in via dropship rather than always just respawning made the world just feel so much more alive. The attention to detail, even in this alpha state was exceptional!
The point of all this is that Destiny has surprised in way I didn’t think a game could. It’s taken elements that I normally wouldn’t touch with a nine-foot-pole and actually made them incredibly fun and engaging. If you are or were ever at all interested in Destiny, don’t do what I was going to do and write it off based on the descriptions. They don’t do it justice. Do yourself a favor and put the $5 down for the pre-oder to get into the beta so you can see for yourself. You can always cancel if it turns out to not be your cup of tea right? At worst you’ll be out $5, but more likely you’ll have a game coming out in a couple months that’s really worth getting excited about!
Please if you too got to play in the Alpha, what was you experience like? What surprised you about the game? If you haven’t played or aren’t interested, what about it is giving you doubts?