Can you do a review of a game while it’s in beta? I don’t know what the philosophical implications are, but I do know that the Destiny beta was released for the PS4 (soon to be released for the Xbox One). And I can say that it’s absolutely enjoyable.
For those of you that, almost impressively, haven’t heard of Destiny, let me give you a small bit of backdrop. Destiny is the next major IP being worked on by Bungie, the creators of popular shooters Marathon and Halo. After Halo: Reach the studio gave the Halo rights to Microsoft in order to begin work on their next great creation. And I have stood before that creation and foamed at the mouth.
The Destiny Beta kicks off immediately into character creation, and as somebody who could spend years in character creator alone, I was surprised at how unique you could make your character look. You’re given a choice between playing a male and female Awoken—akin to fantasy’s elves or Sidhe—a male or female Exo—Terminator-like possible cyborgs, nobody really knows—or as a male and female Human—I hope you know what that is.
Each race and gender has unique options for appearance and customizations, making them seem more fleshed out and giving the sense that characters you create really are one of a kind. Once you’ve created your character and picked one of three classes—the upfront Titan, the gunslinger Hunter, or the magical Warlock—the game takes you into the first cinematic.
Cinematics are often given trouble for misleading people. Since a cinematic doesn’t require input during it at any time, developers are free to increase the graphical capacity as much as they want. However, I did not object to seeing the cinematic. At all.
It’s after the cinematic that you’re given first control of your character and you’re free to look around the environment. While it wasn’t as polished as the beginning cinematic, Destiny is an absolute beauty to take in. I ignored my objectives at first to explore the incredible scenery. Looking at the small details, such as realizing there are dragonflies hovering around when you peer through a scope, or at the grass as it bends in the wind, makes you realize how much of the next generation Destiny has utilized.
When you play Destiny, here’s what I want you to do. Find a puddle, or any small pool of water you can walk through, and then watch the water when you move. Do it. You’ll be entranced.
If you’ve ever played Marathon or Halo, then you know what to expect of the controls. Bungie knows how to lock down a control scheme and Destiny is no different. Turning, jumping, aiming down sights and the kick of the guns all feel natural, making sure you’re not distracted when combat comes around. And when it comes to Destiny, I was looking for trouble. Thankfully, there was plently of it.
This was only the beta, so Bungie wouldn’t let me start playing through the whole game—curses, I really tried to—so the only missions you can undertake are on Earth, specifically in what used to be Russia. The buildings there have obviously seen better times, but what fascinated me about the missions was that they weren’t their own self-contained levels. Similar to MMOs, Destiny allows players to interact with each other in the open world, taking down various enemies along the way until they reach instance points, or in Destiny’s case, Darkness Zones. Dying in a darkness zone brings the player back to a checkpoint instead of simply respawning, returning some feel of a proper shooter. It’s also in Darkness Zones that you’ll find out just how good your and your fireteam of allies are.
All the combat is intense and exciting, especially in Darkness Zones. Bosses feel appropriately tough and nasty, able to stand toe to toe with players and win, requiring you to take cover and time your shots. The three other major parts of Destiny—leveling, getting gear, and exploring—all come together with the combat and blend nicely.
Exploration in Destiny is something exciting. After progressing to level 4 in-game, I was given the option of simply exploring Old Russia without a specific mission in mind. It was in this time that I really discovered the intricacies of Destiny’s world, where you realize all of the gameplay areas from all of the missions are interconnected and beyond. I discovered places I didn’t know about and wouldn’t have likely found in a mission.
It’s especially during exploring that your Star Wars style speeder bike, referred to as a Sparrow, comes in handy. You can summon it wherever you have enough space, and while it doesn’t have any combat use at the moment, hitting the boost and taking off is a joy all on its own.
Perhaps just as fun is gathering loot for completing missions and killing enemies. Loot drops in Desinty aren’t particularly common, but when you do pick something up, it’s exciting to see what you got and compare it to your equipped gear. I was always looking for the next tough weapon or shiny new threads to put on during my fight for the City.
Leveling up and getting new abilities was the part that confused me the most. While getting my class skill as a Warlock was immensely satisfying, I still don’t understand exactly how the skill acquiring works. There seem to be a few skills that are unlocked by level, but the others remain a mystery. A lack of explanation on how to get those other skills was missing, and I found myself ignoring them in favor of shooting more aliens.
There are a few things I would suggest improving on, since Destiny is still in beta—explaining the skill system, adding some sort of map for open world exploration or perhaps waypoints to retrace your steps, and definitely letting me play more of the game while it’s in Beta because I’m impatient—but the game looks gorgeous and plays even better so far. I can’t wait for the final release and might combust from excitement before then.
Also, one more thing: After you’ve played in a puddle, I want you to hit the right on the D-Pad. Do it. You will not be disappointed.