Hands on with the Destiny PS4 Beta
Destiny certainly has a lot to live up to. Activision is taking a huge gamble with Bungie's new IP. $500 million is being pumped into the advertising campaign behind the new game in the hopes that'll be the next billion dollar franchise.
But besides the monetary aspects this is also Bungie's first title that's been released since they left Halo behind them. Can they escape the shadow of previous success? Or will they be doomed to be forever compared to the franchise they created? Well, we won't know for sure until Destiny is released, but if the Beta is any sign of where Bungie's new franchise will take them, then the sky's the limit.
Upon starting a new game it becomes immediately clear that this is not going to be your typical first person shooter. Your first steps into the Destiny universe are spent creating your character.
There are three different classes to choose from; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. When you're first starting out it isn't clear how one is necessarily different from the other. Each of them has a short description and different looking armor, but that's about all you have to go on.
The game describes the classes like this:
- Titan You are an armored engine of war. Control any battle with strength and strategy.
- Hunter You are a master of the frontier. Stalk and kill your enemies with ruthless precision.
- Warlock- The universe bends to your will. Manipulate its energies to annihilate your foes.
There are three different races to choose from; Human, Awoken and the Exo. Each of the three different races can also be played as either male or female.
Once you've chosen the race you'd like to play as you can begin customizing your character to fit your personal tastes. There aren't an overwhelming amount of options, but this is only the beta, hopefully by the time the full game releases there'll be a few more.
When you're done creating your character you're treated to a short video depicting humanity's first steps out into our solar system and first contact with The Traveler, the mysterious floating orb that has been featured in all of Destiny's cover art.
After some more exposition and another video showing Peter Dinklage's character Ghost scanning the Russian wastelands you're finally placed in control. The opening level of Destiny begins as a tutorial, button prompts come up on-screen teaching you how to aim, crouch, shoot, and all the other typical actions associated with a first person shooter.
The tight controls and play style immediately conjure up the familiar feeling of playing a Halo game and that's not where the similarities end. The two main enemies you encounter during the beta, The Fallen and The Hive are obviously descendants of Halo's Elite and Flood enemies.
The competitive multiplayer is another spot where Destiny seems to be borrowing heavily from Halo. The only mode of play available in the beta is called "Control". It's a 6v6 match mode in which players fight to take over three marked territories and hold them long enough to gain the points needed to win.
The PvP elements of the game were extremely fun and very fast paced. The two levels that were available during the beta so far were on the moon and Venus. The moon level allows players to summon their mount-like vehicles to speed around the immense levels and reach their goals faster.
Each character class brings in their special skills to the PvP matches and the guns acquired by players during story missions can be used as well. I don't know how Bungie managed to do it, but everything feels very balanced. I never once felt outmatched by some one because they were a higher level or because they had a weapon that was better than mine.
The player versus environment aspects of Destiny handle exceptionally well too. Early on in the game players gain the ability to summon a speeder bike called a "Shrike". It's summoned by clicking in the PS4's touchpad and holding down the square button. Once summoned, you instantly are mounted up and able to cruise the Russian wasteland with speed and ease.
Even if your "Shrike" is destroyed it just regenerates and you never have to worry about leaving it behind because you can just summon it to you no matter where you are. The inclusion of a mount-like-vehicle was a smart decision on Bungie's end, Old Russia is a massive area to explore and the "Shrike" makes it feel fun to venture out into the unknown.
If at any time during your exploration of Old Russia you complete your mission or just want to leave, players can click in the touch pad and hold down the triangle button to be instantly transported back to orbit.
Once you're in orbit you can set your destination to a number of locations, including the Tower, which acts as the main hub world of Destiny. It's here that players can buy new gear, check their mailboxes, accept bounties and buy new spaceships.
It's a clever set up that wouldn't be unfamiliar to anyone who's played World of Warcraft in the past. That's where the similarities to a WoW major city end though, sadly there's no auction house present in the beta.
There is also the inclusion of one Strike Mission in the Destiny beta. The easiest way to understand a Strike Mission is to think of it as an instance in World of Warcraft. You can take up to two other players into the mission provided in the beta and once you and your group are inside, you're shut out from the rest of the online community.
This means that you won't see other players running around killing enemies while you're inside of the Strike Mission. It'll just be you and your two friends testing your mettle against wave after wave of tough enemies and eventually attempting to take down the Strike Mission boss.
Strike Missions provide a unique challenge in that respawning is limited while you're inside them. This means that if all three of you are dead at any given time you must restart the Strike Mission from the last checkpoint you hit.
You can revive your team members, but sometimes your friend may have died in a compromising situation that makes you consider whether it's worth risking your life to get him back on his feet. This can make for some pretty tense situations, especially if you're the last player left alive during a boss fight.
The rewards for clearing a Strike Mission also depend on which difficulty you decided to play on, ramping up the difficulty yields better rewards and more experience.
In addition to being able to level up your own character and learn new abilities for him to use, some rare weapons and armor can level up as well. They don't necessarily have a fully fleshed out skill tree like the player does, but they do give some interesting bonuses, like allowing a player to reload his gun 25% faster.
The assortment of weapons and armor you find during the course of the game is impressively vast, especially for only allowing players to reach level 8 during the beta. Every time I gained a new weapon or piece of gear I found myself comparing stats and trying to decide if I liked the way a particular gun handled.
There are also three slots to equip different weapons in. The first slot goes to your basic weapon, the second goes to a more specialized weapon and the third slot belongs to your heavy weapons.
There's a variety of weapons to fill each slot but I found myself using a single shot, long range rifle in my first slot, a Fusion Rifle in my second slot that fired a burst of shots with the potential to vaporize close range enemies, and finally in my third slot I used a fully automatic heavy machine gun to help me clear out mobs.
This is just a small sampling of the different types of weaponry is included in the game. It seems like there's an almost never ending supply of different weapon types to try out.
Destiny is an impressive undertaking, that much cannot be doubted. With insane amounts of customization, the inclusion of competitive multiplayer, epic bosses to take down, whole planets to explore and player interaction on a massive scale there's something here for everyone.
Be on the look out for Destiny when it launches later this year on September 9 for both current and last gen systems. If the beta is any indication, this is one game you don't want to miss.