(Because this first impressions article is being released well into the Destiny Beta cycle, it will cover a more overall impression of the game’s beta build along with the preliminary feel of what Destiny will become.)
Destiny’s Beta is well into its Open Beta phase and I’ve had the opportunity to play each class and mission to their maximum levels, delving into every little mechanic available to the public right now. With the massive amounts of hype being poured into the game since its initial announcement and subsequent concept art reveals, Bungie has delayed Destiny in order to fine tune and polish the game to match its audience’s expectations. After playing the beta thoroughly, I can confidently say that if the beta is any clear indication of the final product, Destiny is a strong contender for game of the year.
When I first jumped into Destiny, I was expecting something akin to Borderlands, another game in the hybrid FPS/RPG genre. But after going through the beta, I would say the game is more accurately akin to the Gamecube game Phantasy Star Online Episode 1&2 Plus. Both are set in a sci-fi universe that includes humans, humanoid aliens and cybernetic lifeforms and their struggle to colonize and survive in space and both have roughly the same gameplay design: the player enters a hub city where they heal, trade and acquire missions and then explore the environment looking for encrypted loot that must be identified back in the hub city. Phantasy Star Online, or PSO for short, was one of the first games that introduced me to loot-based games along with Diablo and Destiny scratches that loot hunting itch again brilliantly.
But these similarities and references focus on story premise and design and not the actual controls or gameplay. To put it bluntly, Destiny is basically Halo the RPG. The game controls and feels exactly like if you were playing a round of Halo, from the haptic feedback of the guns to the physics and driving capabilities of the vehicles to even the look of the environment and the characters. For example, the beta drops you into Old Russia, the first area of the game and the only area of the beta, and gives you a hover bike called a Sparrow. Immediately when I pushed down on the gas, it was almost identical to controlling a Banshee from Halo. Now, none of these Halo comparisons are a negative; given that Bungie’s biggest success was Halo, there’s no surprise there would be some similarities in gameplay as a majority of their gameplay experience and design practice has been with the Halo franchise. But I will admit is a bit staggering at just how similar they are, as if they just took the physics engine and design codes from Halo and plugged them into Destiny.
One of the systems Bungie emphasized while promoting Destiny is the drop-in/drop-out co-op that allows both a uniquely singleplayer and multiplayer experience. Specifically, how it works is whenever you enter an area, other players may join your session and roam the landscape with you helping with random boss/quest encounters that spawn across the map. When you eventually reach your mission destination, however, it will create a solo session where you tackle a story quest on your own or with a pre-made party. It’s an interesting inclusion to the Destiny formula, but one that so far in the beta hasn’t really made much of a significant difference. Sure they come in handy when certain daily events occur, but other than that other players are just there minding their own business or taking experience points away. This is not to be confused with the dungeons of Destiny, which there is one in the beta for testing. I’m wondering if Bungie will expand on this system and introduce more compelling uses of it, but seeing as this is the end of the beta phase, I highly doubt it.
The Destiny beta, in addition to crowd sourcing gameplay testing and server loads, has accomplished another feat which is crucial in the gaming world: it has proven its brilliance. Destiny is extremely polished and an immensely enjoyable experience that combines fluid, well-founded FPS action with the excitement of discovering loot and becoming the best Guardian among your peers. As per usual, I’m skeptical with each game until it is released and that was no different for Destiny. However, after playing the beta, I’m very excited to dive into the full breadth of the Destiny universe.