I have been patiently waiting for Destiny to release since I first heard of it back in the summer of 2013. So, I was thrilled to have a chance to help Bungie by playing the Beta test in the last few weeks of July. Overall, it was one of the better gaming experiences I have had over the past year—even though this was just an abbreviated test format. As an average gamer who has had experience with many different systems and game types over the past 20 years, I was curious to experiment with the different classes and races of characters the game offered. Initially, I wanted a character based on precise aiming to motivate me to be a better Guardian, so I chose to start with the Hunter. I also played as a Warlock to experience the space magic I’d heard so much about. I felt that even though the Warlock had powerful magic, I still had to be a master marksman in order to keep a competitive edge. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to play as a Titan, but the class seems to be based on sheer attack power in order to take out multiple enemies at once. With a little time and possibly some soul searching, players can find a perfect class, race, equipment set up and even mode of play to feel like they are playing their role as a Guardian in defending the Earth.
The Start of a Story:
Upon creating a character you are thrown into a science fiction/fantasy action scene, taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth, only to be greeted by a mysterious floating robot called a Ghost. The Ghost talks just like a human and even looks like he has some kind of an eye that seems to express emotion. Your Ghost leads you into the rusted innards of Old Russia and you are forced to fight your way to a ship and escape the enemy. You were then dropped off at what is considered the last safe city on Earth. The city is guarded by a large and mysterious floating structure called the Traveler. You learn while in the city that you are a Guardian here to help defend Earth against the evil that lurks in the darkness. There were other more experienced Guardians there to help gain power and knowledge to help defeat your enemies. From arms dealers and bounty services to players just like me and you, the world that Bungie created seemed to buzz with life, diversity, and energy.
Gameplay and Controls:
When you gained enough power as a Guardian and were able to jump in and out of orbit, a competitive player may have wanted to challenge other Guardians head on in the Crucible. The Crucible held the 6 on 6, play versus player mode, which took players to the moon and beyond to battle it out and hone some skills. The gameplay, like in the story mode, was similar to many other first person shooter games with a few minor adjustments for the shared world aspect of the game. The right thumbstick click (R3) is used to target another Guardian for social interactions like inviting a player to a fireteam. The R1 button acted as the melee button, which was quite useful in this game. When the Warlock, for example, leveled up enough he was able to drain power with the melee attack to recharge a depleted grenade. This adds a bit of tactics to the game that wasn’t possible in any other shooter I’ve played to date. The directional pad controlled the dance party and friendly waving that was experienced all over the battlefield and social settings in the city. These emoticons were fun and quirky but did not help with winning the game. I think a set of battle emoticons would help rally a team to victory, but then again a dance party did add comic relief after a tense boss battle.
As a player levels up his or her Guardian a charged attack became available which offered an edge in battle to gamers like me with developing aim. Each weapon and grenade type had a different weight and fire rate that had to be learned and mastered in order to be a successful Guardian. Aiming and pulling the trigger is not enough in this game. No, one must spend time with his or her weapon of choice and learn reload speed and what rate of fire will give the best accuracy. The challenge and wonder of discovering a weapon or earning it in the Iron Banner challenge made the rewards feel special and… cool.
Amongst the Iron Banner Challenges and the race to be top Guardian in the Crucible, a random event appeared on the Moon. This was no scheduled event, at least to my knowledge. I couldn’t even tell you what day it was held, but it was only available for a few hours. I set my destination to the moon and entered the newly opened level. I was faced with many enemies with blades, pulse rifles and tough shields. I fought my way through these enemies in search of a Lost Guardian, I believe. It seems that this event was a test to see how many people would show up and play, or should I say how many people could show up and play. So far this test has been a success.
Second Screen Option:
It’s the little things in life that make me happy. Those little things can also make your life easier so you can have more time for fun. I was inspired to cover the Destiny Beta when I equipped my Trax Mallus III to my character from my phone. Some of you might be thinking, ‘big deal, I could just do it in the game’s menu screen.’ You might be right, but while the screen was loading, it was easy for me to pick up my phone and open up an application to toggle equipment and even track my in game statistics. Like I mentioned before, Bungie has jumped on the second screen bandwagon. There will be mixed feelings and on the fencers about the second screen option for this game and others. Keep in mind that a second screen is meant to help the player and up the level of interactivity even when you are away from your console.
The equipment list was endless in the Beta. I always looked at other people’s loot at the end of a battle and there were weapons listed for levels we could not even achieve. It makes you want those weapons even more now that you know they have a 257 attack power as opposed to your current 51 gun. The upgrades kept coming after the level cap, which kept me playing hard through the afternoon and night. These upgrades gave me a taste of what is to come with the game’s release.
Because every player was truly a snowflake in a blizzard of space magic and gunfire, the game provided a balanced experience of chaotic battle skirmishes and calculated combat tactics. While the Titans charged through a group of the Fallen in Old Russia, a Hunter stood on a roof of a building sniping incoming grunt soldiers. I observed Warlocks defending Titans using space magic and heavy weaponry. The various rifles and guns as well as equipment played well into different gaming strategies and classes. When Guardians worked together, the game seemed more like fun than work. Playing as a Hunter in the Crucible matches for example, I tended to find the Titans to follow. While the Titan would head to each zone to capture it I would skulk around corners taking out defenders of the target zone. I had to trust the other players around me to follow suit. This cookie cutter style domination match would have seemed dull without the Guardians’ unique abilities and advanced weaponry.
When I felt I had completed enough of the story to relax a bit, I headed to the tower located in that warm and welcoming city. I enjoyed the bustling and busy town atmosphere. I explored the tower and found many rare items for sale in the nooks and crannies. I even found that purple ball I saw a few other players experimenting with. The tower’s music had a relaxing atmosphere that reeked Bungie. I could imagine this town growing with time and offering many useful items to aid in fierce combat. I usually traveled to the last safe city on Earth to soak up the scenery before logging off.
Aside from a few disconnected games and an occasional lag, the game was very playable. If you ask me, I think Bungie has passed this Beta test. I could feel the game being tweaked and fine- tuned so I am sure the company will find the perfect balance of awesome in this last month or so leading up to release. Now, at least 48 hours after having the curtain shut in my face and the Beta closed, I want more. I am hungry to see how far I can level up my character. I thirst for the rewards and bounties of a well -traveled sojourn across Old Russia and beyond. I will still be tuning in every Friday to experience the mail sack on Bungie.net. Hey, I might even write in a question. The Beta has me convinced that Destiny will stand out amongst the ever growing Playstation and Xbox libraries.