Destiny is the brand new IP coming from Bungie, the former creators of Halo. You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past year to not have heard of this game and its high reaching ambitions. Destiny seeks to be a first person shooter RPG in an MMO shell set in a futuristic sci-fi setting. Is it serious faced Borderlands? Is it Halo the MMO? In a way, yeah.
The most important thing to bring up before going into any detail about my time with Destiny is that it is currently in Alpha, meaning it's still got plenty of polishing and balancing and whatnot to go through. The build that I played is very short and has only a fraction of the content that I'd expect to be in at release. In its current state it consisted of one very early story mission to get you acquainted with how the game works, one extremely large zone to explore and do randomized quests in, one pvp mode, a level cap of 8, 3 races for character creation, and 3 classes (which I'm pretty sure are actually each one specific subclass of their respective overarching classes.)
The best way I can describe Destiny would be to take the basic ARPG framework that Borderlands uses, apply it to a very Halo-esque setting, and make it massively multiplayer. In Destiny you'll run around in first person with your gun making numbers pop up when you shoot at enemies and having some pretty interesting abilities to toss around depending on your class. You'll pick up loot, do quests, and interact with other players (if you so choose.)
The 3 classes available to me were the Warlock, the Titan, and the Hunter. The majority of my time was spend with the lock but I made sure to try out all of them. There don't seem to be any gear restrictions based on your class, so the choice you make is purely about which special abilities you want available to you. As far as I can tell, the class specific abilities boil down to 4 things: your grenade (all of which auto-replenish on a cool down), your super ability, a melee augmentation, and a special jetpack depending on your class.
As a Warlock your grenade is one with an interesting void power. When thrown it explodes and leaves behind a circle of void that drains the health of anything still standing in its radius. Your super ability pulls the camera back into third person (as they all do by the way) and your character hurls a ball of void energy at the ground causing a pretty impressive looking explosion. The warlock melee is best described as using your void powers as if they were the force to blast enemies directly in front of you. Your augment for that gives it an absorption factor so that when off cooldown it will steal energy from foes and lower the cooldown on your grenade. The jetpack you get as a warlock is one that excels at hovering, good for getting a bit more distance from a jump.
Titans on the other hand are equipped with flashbang grenades. These still do damage, but also have a stun effect. The Titan super ability has your character leaping forward and slamming their fists into the ground causing a huge and deadly shockwave. Your melee with this class is probably the most uninspired, though surprisingly satisfying to perform, as you simply walk up and punch people in the face. The augmentation, fittingly, just gives the punch extra damage when its off cooldown. The Titan's jetpack works as a booster for helping you get get higher up.
Finally, the Hunter uses an incendiary grenade. This works exactly as you'd expect; it explodes and sets everything in its radius on fire. Your super ability summons an incendiary pistol which will essentially one shot anything, providing you hit with it, but only has about 3 bullets. The hunter's melee is a knife stab, and when its augmentation is off cooldown you can throw the knife for a strong ranged attack. Your jet pack as a hunter simply provides you with a run of the mill double jump.
When creating your character you are given your choice of 3 different races, each with a decent amount of customization. You've got humans (who are exactly how you'd expect them), Exos (who are essentially robots), and Awoken (who appear as sort of neo-humans with pale bodies and glowing eyes.) While overall I was decently satisfied with the customization offered, there was one major flaw: not a single person was capable of having a beard. Come on Bungie.
When exploring the world, or at least the zone available in the Alpha, you are given access to a speeder bike that can be summoned on the fly to help speed your way around. Different speeders can be bought and I'm sure there will be even more variety to them in the full game. After being given the reins to explore on your own you can do an assortment of pretty generic “sidequest” material, but there are also public events that can spawn in the world, though they could stand to happen more often. There is a hub area known as the Tower, where you can visit vendors, have encrypted gear decrypted (in a very Diablo “identify item” sort of way), and pick up bounties. Bounties are like personal challenges that reward you with experience and unique currency needed for pvp or pve specific reputations.
There was only one pvp mode available to me, which played like your typical 6v6 Domination match. The objective was to try and maintain control of the 3 labeled zones on the map. The pvp was very fast paced, with people on both sides dying relatively quickly. I played 4 or 5 games of it and only saw two different maps but they were complete opposites of each other. The first was on a moon base and had a large open area with a couple of small buildings and domes. There were also vehicles to toy around with, particularly the “pike” which is a weaponized version of the standard bike everyone is given for pve. There were also your standard stationary turrets to help protect a couple of the domination zones. The second map was a very dense set of ruins in a partially flooded, very overtaken with nature kind of area. It features a lot of narrow paths and corners to catch people off guard.
The pvp seems to be done in level brackets, but it was hard to tell exactly what was done to balance out levels. If I had to guess I'd say that gear is simply beefed up to match what that quality of gear would be like at the max level of the bracket you're in. At level 8 I played against level 4's, but they seemed to be just as effective as level 7's.
I'm fairly sure from my time looking through the vendors that the max level will be 20 in the final game, but if that's the case they may want to look into slowing down the leveling process. It could very well be that leveling was sped up for testing purposes but it certainly didn't take long to hit the Alpha max of 8. That being said however, I'm fairly certain that your character's level isn't actually tied to your abilities.
It seems that abilities are leveled up on their own, I would assume based on how often they're used. You have a full grid of abilities and upgrades for those abilities to look through, and each seems to have its own sort of experience bar. Similarly weapons and armor seem to gain experience of their own, allowing you to upgrade high quality gear with different scopes or effects. Again it's hard to say for certain as there wasn't really anywhere to go for specific details.
Overall I can say that I really did enjoy my time with this alpha build of Destiny. There will need to be a ton more content available at launch, as well as a few tweaks here and there, but the game really has been pretty fun and it definitely looks good in motion. Surprisingly I encountered very few bugs in my time with the game, just an elite enemy whose body continued to stand around after dying and getting disconnected from one of my multiplayer matches near the end.
If you enjoy Halo, sci fi, rpg shooters, or any combination of the above, then I would recommend keeping your eye on this one as it approaches release. The big question here, as with all MMO style games, is will the developers be able to deliver enough content to keep people playing? For the answer to that we'll all have to wait for September 9 when the game comes out.
Oh, and did I mention that Peter Dinklage voices your AI companion? That's a thing.