Destiny Beta Early Impressions

Thanks to Activision, I got the chance to take a crack at the early playable Beta version of Bungie’s Destiny for the PlayStation 4. Although I was able to run through single-player and multiplayer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, my time on the single-player mode was brief. For the purposes of the Beta, I designed a Titan class character. In the playable Beta, it appears that players have another character slot to create another character for the game, if they wish.

The game begins with some beautiful, inspiring cinematics. In “present day,” astronauts land on Mars and discover a large spherical entity that seems to be a version of the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The origin of the Traveler is unknown. It appears to be alien in nature. Based on the narration, the Traveler is most likely a sentient, autonomous and intelligent life form. Apparently, the Traveler is benevolent because it helped spark a new golden age of mankind. With the help of the Traveler, humans were able to migrate to and colonize other planets. Human lifespans tripled. The details of exactly how the Traveler helps with this are very unclear. However, the new Golden Age was swiftly ended by the Traveler’s enemy, which is only referred to as the Darkness. Is it the Anti-Traveler, perhaps? Honestly, the correlations of the Traveler and the Darkness sound reminiscent of Primus and Unicron from the Transformers franchise. Either way, the Darkness caused a cataclysmic end that nearly wiped out mankind. The Traveler saved Earth and was able to build only one last city, dubbed “The City,” where humans can live and be protected by the Traveler.

Ghost guides

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The gameplay picks up with an AI robot named Ghost searching the ruins of Old Russia. He locates the body, which is the body of the player’s character. The character is the player’s own custom designed Guardian of the Tower. Ghost guides the Guardian through the ruins and locates weapons for him to battle the Fallen, malevolent alien bounty hunters. The purpose of the Fallen and whom they serve is not clear. After fighting through some hordes of Fallen aliens, Ghost guides the Guardian to a ship and escorts him to the Tower in the City. The Tower works as the game’s social hub. Once the full game is released, I assume The Tower is where gamers will be able to mingle with other players. The Tower is actually in third-person perspective, unlike the single-player levels, which are in first-person. Through some cut scenes and progression, the Guardian learns about the Darkness and that it is his/her task to help the other Guardians keep the Darkness at bay.
In terms of story, there are some intriguing elements; but something is left to be desired. The names of everything sound quite weak and lacking in imagination. The City should have a more creative name than the City. The unseen antagonist, the Darkness, is an odd name. Bear in mind that Bungie apparently has a 10-year commitment in mind for this game, so one can imagine many more details will be fleshed out later. That said, the lack of backstory for the Guardian, how the main Guardian character died and how Ghost is able to revive said Guardian is rather convoluted. If I were actually the Guardian, I would not be gallivanting on quests until I received some type of answer– especially, if the Guardian was amnesic as the plot implies.
Besides that, the game was a lot of fun to play. The Beta goes up to level 8 rank. Players will still get the chance to do a lot of customization, get new upgrades and alternate wardrobe options for their character. During missions, other players might already be in the area and you can team up, which is quite interesting. Overall, Destiny plays a lot more like a next-gen RPG than a first-person shooter.
I like the combat and controls a lot. Getting into the game was relatively easy, and combat becomes a lot more fun once your character starts getting upgrades with enhanced melee attacks, grenades and jump lift abilities. One thing I appreciate about the combat is that enemies have their own life gauge, so you will know exactly how much damage you are causing them.

Some problems

One problem I did frequently experience in the Beta was a server crash. The server crashes constantly killed the flow of the gameplay. Hopefully, this will be fixed at launch, considering a lot more people will be playing the game at that point. This is my problem with the always online games without a traditional single-player campaign. I was unable to finish a single multiplayer run because of the server crashes.
The story does seem on the thin side. However, what Destiny does have in spades is great atmosphere, tone and design. The whole world of this game looks and feels elegant and ethereal. Technically, there is a post-apocalyptic setting, but the game does not give off a vibe of a grungy, bleak depressing world like, for ex., The Road Warrior. The world of Destiny is one of hope. The designs and environments all look very well done and beautiful. For the Beta, I have yet to experience any noticeable slowdowns or loss in frame rate.
Overall, the Destiny Beta has left me with a stronger impression with the game. I am looking forward to getting the final version. Hopefully, the bugs will be taken care of, and the more burning questions of the story will also be addressed.

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