Destiny is Calling- Alpha Impressions

Destiny, is an open world, co-op, massively multiplayer online, first-person, action-adventure game that takes place in the future across several planets and landscapes. It’s a game where you have the freedom to explore areas the way you want, but with guidance to progress through levels. It also lets you participate in player vs player competitive action. It’s a game that is designed from the ground up to be played with others, even going as far as to incorporate “instances” for larger scale co-op scenarios. This game wants to be the only game you’ll ever need. Sony and Activision have partnered to offer select gamers a code to the alpha release of Activision’s Destiny, giving us a glimpse at what to expect when the beta releases in July 17th, and the full game releases September 9th. The main draw that differentiates this game from any other, is that the character you create carries over from your co-op and player vs player adventures, meaning your level ups apply to both arenas.

Let’s talk about PVP first, since this is one of the most asked about features of the game. I chose to play as a Titan, but you’re allotted slots to have a character in each class. Playing against other players felt like I was playing a modified, and refined version of Halo 3. Typically, I’d rather play an arena style online competitive game that’s reminiscent of Halo 2, but the class based gameplay works really well here. Because the character you play as in this mode is YOUR character, you feel much more connected to keeping said player alive and doing well to progress that level further. Ammo pick ups are similar to picking up weapons from the map, which is a nice blend of combining a class based system with a more level playing field of arena competitive multiplayer. I wonder however, how intense the differences will be when very high level players play against n00bs. My main gripe about many modern competitive FPS is their reliance on which person has the most upgrades, rather than which player/team is actually better. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

My concern with PVP lies in the vehicles. Getting on your personalized hovercraft codenamed, “The Sparrow” is awesome, and a very cool way to zip from point A to point B. But the weaponized vehicles are simply TOO POWERFUL. Jumping into PVP doesn’t grant you access to any heavy weaponry, so destroying vehicles is near impossible unless you, yourself, are in a vehicle or a turret. Destiny doesn’t seem like the kind of game that needs vehicles for standard PVP matches, so I hope there is a separate playlist for vehicle based matches, and ones without. I’ve never been a fan of vehicular combat over a more balanced, mono-y-mono approach, so finding the right balance of appealing to both audiences will be key here.

The other thing that bothers me about Destiny, which really isn’t a huge deal, is the character customization. I didn’t expect to have as much flexibility with how my character looked underneath the helmet, but you can actually do some pretty cool customization in that field. When you’re in the tower, interacting with other players, you can see your character without a helmet on (snazzy!). What baffles me, however, is that you can’t individually change your equipment colors, or even apply a color theme to your character in any way. This seems like a missed opportunity, especially considering in Halo games you could actually change the color of your character’s armor.

Other than those gripes, I must say that I’m very impressed with this game, especially considering what I played was the “Alpha” version. It has strong art direction, with music and graphical proweress that all help create strong ambience. The ability to join friends, traverse environments, discover new locales, and be totally creeped out by the more intimidating areas of the game help create a sense of wonder paralleling games that focus on exploration like Dark Souls. The weapons feel great, and the enemy AI offers a strong challenge to those who oppose them. They take cover and move out of the way that keeps you on your toes, and eager to experience how enemies will react to your actions.

Of course, I will hold judgement until the full release later this year, but so far, I’m even more eager to sink my teeth into this gaming experience. They have high expectations to meet here, so hopefully the launch goes (relatively) smoothly.

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