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The Good, Bad and Surprising in the “Destiny” Alpha

Posted on June 18, 2014 AT 12:17pm

Having missed the PlayStation Plus signup opportunity for the Destiny alpha, I had resigned myself to waiting for the beta taking place next month. The email I received stating I had gotten in was, therefore, a complete surprise. Rushing over to my PS4, I immediately downloaded the early version of this MMO shooter and spent a good chunk of the weekend enjoying it. What I found ended up surprising me, delighting me, disappointing me and impressing me all in one giant package. Let’s take it by each separate reaction and go over my time with the Destiny alpha.

The Good -
Immediately upon loading into the game, how gorgeous this game is struck me. Bungie has put a lot of time and care into making sure that the world they’ve created is both vast and beautiful, in a post-apocalyptic kind of way. The art style feels like a good marriage between realism and cell-shading by providing a great amount of detail without overshooting itself by going for hyper-realism.

The character classes, though not all perfect, were quite enjoyable. Having experimented with all three available in the alpha, I can say my favorite was the Hunter. Offering a powerful ranged attack and the always fun frag grenade, it ended up being right up my alley. I was also impressed with the ability to earn upgraded abilities by using the current ones at your disposal. This creates a situation where your upgrades get tailored not only to your class, but how you play the game. Kind of a difficult thing to demonstrate in an alpha where you can only get to level 8, but I look forward to seeing it implemented over the full game.

The free roam mode was definitely one of the things I sunk most of my time into during the alpha. Experience-earning side quests were never difficult to find and took you all over the map in fun ways. I’d even occasionally run into a stranger and we’d shoot up some fallen together. This way, more than a game like Borderlands, the game felt like an MMO where no matter how many of your friends are online, surely you can find someone to play with you.

The Bad -
Admission time: I’m not a huge competitive shooter fan. I’ve played a fair few of them, and even got pretty good at Killzone 2, but I’ve never made the time to get good enough to really enjoy them. Naturally then, when I booted into the PvP area of the game, I was little disappointed to find out that it basically feels like a multiplayer shooter. If that’s your kind of thing, then you’ll likely enjoy it, but be warned that it really didn’t feel very different from what’s out there already. To be fair, it seemed to include the same sort of trappings a normal MMO PvP arena has, such as PvP earned gear, so I’m sure it’ll be much more fleshed out by the time the game launches.

Some of the quests that you’d acquire in the free roam section took you in some very weird directions and then stranded you there. I found myself having walked through an area that was far too high level for me to complete a quest and then once it was over, I couldn’t find my way back to the area where the baddies were at my level. Not a huge thing, but I’m hoping they’ll work that out before the game comes out, because it was frustrating to have to go back into orbit just to get back to that starting area so I can find level 4 enemies instead of level 8.

If you’d asked me which of the classes sounded the most cool before I played, I probably would’ve said Warlock. Who wouldn’t want to be a freakin’ Warlock with a giant gun casting magic and blasting fools? The reality of that class was a little disappointing. The double jump, which was much more like Peach’s hover from Super Mario Bros. 2, made it much more difficult to explore and I was underwhelmed by the special attack and grenade abilities for the class as well. Frankly, this class could be your absolute favorite and you’d be completely right, it’s just not my thing and it bummed me out a bit.

The Surprising -
Going into the strike missions, I expected them to be very similar to most co-op missions in your typical FPS. This was definitely the best example of the class system feeling very apparent and it left me delighted. When people were properly playing their class and there was a good mixture, it really felt more like a raid in an MMO like World of Warcraft rather than some co-op mission in a game like Call of Duty. You travel through a pre-determined path and take out various enemies until you arrive at the raid boss which must be handled very carefully to take down. There was even a harder difficulty for those that already have decent gear. It’s a very well thought out feature in an already robust game.

Walking along, every now and again, you’ll randomly see a public event start up and it gives you a short amount of time to join up. You do this simply by running up and engaging whatever threat is present. Once you’ve done that, several other players who also chose to take part suddenly appear to help you out. This feature was a ton of fun and I took part every time I saw one, no matter what I had been previously doing. It’s a chance to interact with other players and enjoy a usually large-scale battle. You’re also welcome to just walk away, but why on earth would you want do that?

The Verdict -
If this alpha has taught me one thing, it’s that Destiny certainly seems to be in good shape thus far. Throw in a truckload more locations, gear and strike missions and I’ll be hooked for a long time. Keep an eye out for the beta taking place next month and the launch of the game itself on September 9th of this year.

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