by Terry Randolph and Ryan Goddard
Bungie will always have a problem whenever it releases a game; Halo. Every game the studio makes will always draw comparisons to it; from the way guns handle to art style and everything in-between. With Destiny, Bungie is hoping to create something “revolutionary” and “nothing we’ve seen before” (aka buzzwords). Currently, there is a beta of the game for gamers who pre-ordered it to get acquainted with this universe and get ready for the entire product’s official release on September 9, 2014. I’ve gotten the chance to play it for a good 2-3 hours twice.
If there’s anything to gleam from the beta, it’s this: Destiny just needs a little polish, and once everything is revealed it has the potential to be great. Otherwise, even though it’s only a beta, it feels a little underwhelming. Also, Destiny will continue to draw comparisons to Halo and a little bit of Borderlands. Halo simply because it’s Bungie and Borderlands because of how the enemies are laid out on the map, weapon/armor progression and pick ups on the field. However, with a little polish, there is something promising lurking within that has me ready for the full game.
Most of the issues with Destiny are gameplay oriented. Guns have no recoil, so there’s no punishment for rapid fire without accuracy. They also feel weightless, and while a number flashes indicating how much damage you’ve dealt, each shot feels hollow. “Precision kills” are too easy because the enemies are either slow or predictable in movement. Skirmishes lack the sense of urgency and tension that games like Dead Space excel at. Essentially, the novelty of the game wears off and battles can be boring. That’s a problem I hope is addressed in the full retail game.
Enemies are very reminiscent of the Covenant in Halo. For example, whenever you’re facing a higher level enemy with a shield, they are willing to bring the fight to you…until their shield depletes. Then they run away and hide until their shield is restored. Sound familiar? It’s exactly like the Elite…except the Elite would surprise you at times by charging at you like a kamikaze fighter plane. Dregs feel like grunts (fodder) and Vandals feel like the Kig Yar (the snipers with the annoying shield). Maybe that comes with the bias and synonymy I hold between Bungie and Halo.
The map design also feels very repetitive; a lot of the exterior is exactly the same layout and design. Enemies are placed in the exact same spots in each mission, and each place is one you’ve been through before with little reward to do so. With Destiny having such huge maps to explore, there’s an expectation of having little secrets to uncover by exploring the terrain. There are some secrets to find, but not a lot; treasure chests are mainly scattered throughout the terrain. Some simply contain the currency of the world, and some also contain either armor or weapons. It’s also very similar to Borderlands in that regard. During my playthroughs, I felt like I just wanted to get from objective to objective and didn’t care about the loot chests.
Overall, the beta feels like it has too many limitations and not enough variation in every facet of the game. Granted, Bungie may be saving it’s best stuff for the game’s release, but they needed to give just a little more to give fans something to be really excited for.
At the same time, in good ol’ Bungie fashion, Destiny‘s overall mechanics feel pretty balanced. For example, the boss fights sequence offer up an interesting challenge, particularly with the respawn restriction. The respawn restriction forces you to start the boss battle sequence all over again if you die, forcing you to pick your shots carefully and using the environment to your advantage. Some boss battles involve hordes of dregs hurtling toward you at full speed, moving on to vandals and captains, and so on. Other boss fights have you fighting a super enemies with tons of health. It also emphasizes an importance on weapon and armor choice.
The emphasis on the role-playing aspects of the game is something different that Bungie is trying out, and it’s commendable they’re stepping out into a genre they’re not known for. However, that’s both testament and challenge to Bungie; they want to revolutionize gameplay by creating a giant MMORPG that is both balanced and fun. This is something Western RPGs tend to have a hard time executing; finding a balance in their elements, especially shooter/RPG hybrids. Destiny feels pretty standard with the stats building for both armor and weaponry, but like the overall experience, it shows promise with a bit of polishing to really stand out.
In the game, there are the three classes to choose from: Titan (Soldier), Hunter (Sniper/Assassin), or Warlock (Mix between Magic and Soldiers, similar to Vanguard). For my playthrough of the beta, I chose to play Warlock and enjoyed it. The Warlock feels balanced in the damage dealt between weapon and melee/magic. Especially in fights, it was a lot of fun switching between using the gun and running towards an enemy to melee them. If this just a small taste of what’s to come, I’m looking forward to what Bungie has in mind when the full product comes out.
Visually speaking, this game is gorgeous running at 1080p on the PlayStation 4. The lighting feels natural and colors jump out thanks to the contrast of the colors. Bungie is known for consistently great visuals, and with Destiny they continue that trend. That also includes the bad; most of the artwork is still reminiscent of Halo. It leaves a bad aftertaste in the mouth.
Also, Peter Dinklage wasn’t that bad at all as a voice actor; the way he read his lines made A LOT of sense.
Still, the biggest selling point of Destiny is the social integration. Bungie has been adamantly enforcing the idea that the game is all about building a living, breathing world for multiplayer gaming. Players can come into a mission that you’re in and start on their own while you’re halfway through. Others can join in at the same time and work with you to complete the mission. Or you can have your party play together on a mission while potentially encountering others along the way. Part of the promise behind Destiny is there; you do run into people and can work with them to finish missions…but we’ve really yet to see how having all these live players affects the world
Overall, the beta feels rushed out; level designs are too similar with each mission to the point that the unfolding story is lost in the background. The rushed out feeling for the beta is more prevalent especially since the alpha wasn’t too long ago. Compounded with that is the frustration of how apparent it is things were left out for a reveal when the game actually releases. I’m holding out hope because underneath all that Halo-y goodness lies something promising that I want to be part of. Because deep down, I want to believe in the hype this time. When September 9th comes around, we’ll really know if Bungie can live up to its promises or not.
Hi all. Ryan here. After reading Terry’s impressions, I thought I would share a few of my own. You never can have too many right?
So here is the deal. The Destiny beta hasn’t really been a letdown so much as a quick look into what might be a great title. I wouldn’t say the title so far is revolutionary. It will however scratch that Halo itch. What do you expect from a game made by Bungie, right? You can tell the influence no matter how much people try to say there isn’t one. I only have a couple minor gripes. I won’t go super in-depth in a couple of them because Terry did a great job of explaining a few.
The biggest issue for me is the lack of weight when it comes to weapons. Some of you seasoned FPS players will know what I mean. Every weapon felt and handled exactly the same outside of being a different class. Pistols handled like pistols, and rifles had the weight of pistols. It was as if every weapon was made out of plastic. Not to mention bullet drop is non-existent when firing on a target from far away. There is very little adjusting you need to do to hit your target for a clean headshot. I’m sure they will change this coming into release to give it a bit of a more realistic feel.
The indoor level design leaves much to be desired. It was the same thing. You knew where an enemy was going to pop out. There were no surprises. Kill the enemy behind the crate, go collect his ammo, rinse, and repeat. That was my experience. It never felt like I was going to be caught off guard. I know this was a Halo issue as well. I’m assuming this is one lesson Bungie still hasn’t learned. Once you got to the outside world, that all changes. The environment is open and pretty lush. You aren’t going to come across meadows or anything. However, the destroyed world in which you are involved in fits perfectly. I will say though, they need to really clean up some of the detail in various little things. Once again, I have to remember this is the beta.
As a whole, the game will be a lot of fun I’m sure. The beta story gives me hopes that the single player campaign will be enjoyable again. Bungie knows how to make a great story and you never felt like it was tacked onto a multiplayer game. Narration could use some work and it is. Graphically, the game looks great but needs some polish. There are technical issues and realism issues to work out. Other than that, I’m excited for the release. It will no doubt sell very well. I’m leaning towards buying a copy at some point, although I won’t be preordering it.