RELEASE DATE: September 9, 2014
Many people have been saying in recent months that they think Destiny is going to be another over-hyped game, much like Watch_Dogs and Thief. I had my reservations, seeing as how I am not a huge fan of having tons of expectations heaped upon me every time a neat looking game with a unique twist comes out. Every now and then, though, games surprise me. I wondered if Destiny would or wouldn’t be one of those games.
I’m sure there are a billion beta reviews out there, so let me tell you why mine is different.
A little history – I am not the biggest fan of the HALO franchise (as you can probably tell from my previous review of another HALO title). I didn’t mind the game play or the ideas. The first game was pretty good, and I enjoyed my quick romp through it like everyone else. HALO 2 came along and I discovered multi-player was pretty fun. Not Battlefield Bad Company 2 fun, but fun enough to make things interesting. There was ODST, the half-game with just enough to keep me playing. Then HALO 3 came out and I was getting tired of playing Master Chief. And being screamed at by random teenagers (and pre-teens) with hormonal imbalances. Things were getting a little stifling, and the game seemed pretty set on pushing me along rails to the ending. I barely played HALO 4, and only barely understand enough of the new take by the new studio to care about it.
So when I saw the game footage from E3 and heard people describe it as the new HALO (or HALO killer), I was largely unimpressed. I don’t need another FPS shooter like HALO, to be honest. They said some stuff about playing with other people online, in campaigns together. Okay, so now it sounds like Warframe. Random weapon drops with stats. So … Borderlands? And character customization with classes. So it’s an MMORPG? Not quite – there’s also PvP akin to Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Okay, so WTF is it? The only way I would find out is if I play it. The only way I can play it is to buy it. If you pre-ordered it before July, you got to play the Beta. I caved in, mostly out of curiosity. There were plenty of reasons to like Destiny, and there were plenty of promises. As time wore on, I began to feel the weight of hype appear, and my little inner alarm went off. Warning! Warning! Possible terrible game being over-hyped! Eventually, June rolled around the corner and I got an email from a friend (who I keep secret) from Bungie I met back at PAX 2008. “Join us in the Beta, EmCeeKhan!” it read, “Come see why I think you will love our new game Destiny.”
Okay, sure. Why not? I tried the Alpha for all of three days, and then I jumped into the Beta for five.
Let me break it down a little why I say that.
VISUALS AND SOUND
This always ranks pretty high on my list of reasons why games either fail or succeed. You can have great game play and a nice story, but if you have no sound and your visuals are bad, your game is probably going back to the store to be returned or traded. Or in the trash. I have thrown games away before. You will get no more money from me for your terrible game.
Destiny knocked my socks off. I was thinking it might look and sound slightly better than HALO 4. I remember when the HALO franchise was leading in the visual department before HALO 3. Destiny blows all that away. Granted, I’m playing on a PlayStation 4 on a huge 60 inch Samsung TV, but still. On my first trip through the Alpha, I died twice because I stopped moving and shooting to look at my surroundings. I stood there oogling before I realized my health was in the toilet and the Fallen were converging on my statuesque body to kill me. Brutally. With lasers. And claws.
The character models are also amazing. I played all three classes before I settled on an Exo Titan – a Transformer look-alike robot that acts as a walking tank. Their faces, their movements, their weapons and armor. Very detailed, and well done.
And the music – even though it’s a little repetitious – is good. HALO quality music, if you catch my drift. Sound effects are great. Everything sounds really good. Even better on 6.1 Surround Sound.
Okay, this is what everyone usually cares about more than anything. Game play is very good – the controls feel good and I like how everything is easily operated. I like how natural aiming feels, how movement isn’t difficult. If you’ve played Mass Effect or HALO, then you know how it works. Of course, they still drop you into a tutorial/opening sequence so everyone knows how to play. I like how it plays, since it’s a very good combo of every FPS game I’ve played.
The loot drop system is great. Guns are very different, and you even find these pieces of lost human technology you can have a guy identify for you for free (and you get points towards an archeologist type society to unlock weapons to buy from these guys). You have armor – head, chest, arms, legs and one overall piece. You have weapons – you can bring one primary gun, secondary gun and heavy weapon. The guns may level up and have their own special powers. You get a ship, a hoverbike and a Ghost. All these things are customizable and swappable. And as you play, you can mix and match them to make sets. Very MMORPG.
You have powers which you can unlock by repeating certain styles of play for your class and from leveling up. You can change how your powers interact, as well. This is fun because you might like to play a robot tank Titan or a pale mutant space Warlock. Most powers you can turn on/off or cycle through. Grenades work like that – they are more of a power than a commodity, meaning you can make them do different things if you have special powers for them. They do cool-down, so you never run out of them. Although they locked this down for the Beta, I see that eventually you can take another class – a subclass so to speak – and combine the powers for even greater bad-ass fun. They say the initial soft level cap is 20, but there are expansions coming.
What can I say about the story I experienced? Well, they have a good voice cast and the scenes flow right into the action seamlessly. It didn’t do much to interrupt immersion into Destiny by flipping between exposition adipex online scenes and your control. Of course, I didn’t see much of the story – it feels glossed over in the Beta, but that’s to be expected. I have some Speaker for the all-mighty sphere robot thing called the Traveler telling me about Humanity’s past and the Darkness returning. Apparently the Traveler came along and made our lives better before it made our lives worse (by luring in the enemies). Age old story of never look a giant machine sphere God … thing … in the … whatever orifices giant machine spheres use to eat.
The City where you return to do all your outfitting and upgrading business is great. You have a post office, a gun dealer, an antique dealer, a bounty board, your Vanguard reps for each class, Crucible reps, the Speaker, a market and the hanger jockey (to sell you different ships and hoverbikes). You can run around and meet up with other Guardians, and I’m sure there’s other places to go that were blocked off for the Beta. It’s a fun hub to hang around in, making the MMORPG vibe a little stronger while not detracting from the rest of the game. I found myself sitting around taking selfies. Yes, I’m terrible like that.
And Bill Nighy should voice everything. He’s the English version of Morgan Freeman. If the Speaker isn’t Bill Nighy … he should be. I mean, he sounds just like the guy, you know. I would fight legions of Hive space wizards for this guy just to hear him praise me and tell me again how I’m essential to the survival of the human race in that older, smooth voice. Mmmmm.
MULTI-PLAYER MADNESS (THE CRUCIBLE)
And finally, although you can play with other people in the story lines and through missions, you can also shoot your friends to bits in arena style battles on far away worlds. The entire competition is called The Crucible, and it’s designed to make Guardians test their strength. Of course, why we have to do this on other worlds that could be reserved for more campaign play, I don’t know. I do know that I had a lot of fun sniping people in the head with my ultra-powerful sniper rifle with super steady aim and lightning fast reload. Or blowing them up with my rocket launcher.
The only mode that was available was capture and hold. A mode I’m very familiar with from my Battlefield and HALO 2 days. Camp out on a position and hold it. While massacring the other dudes trying to take it. Everything seems balanced, but that was because no one was over level 8 in the Beta. Time will tell if I enjoy the other modes/higher levels, or if the whole thing turns into an unbalanced turd (*cough*HALO 3*cough*). Please Bungie – don’t let it go there.
Okay, I liked it. And if it keeps being this fun, I will keep liking it for a long time. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the carbon copy versions of MMOs and Call of Duty games. And it’s NOT HALO. So that’s a bonus. I score the Beta a 9 as it was. I really enjoyed it. This was a good move on Bungie’s part to let us play this game like this. You should try it out, you might like it. It’s out September 9th.
Come join me. I’ll be on the PlayStation 4 PSN. Come help me kill the Fallen and Hive and whatever. Help the rest of us restore Mankind’s Destiny.