The first thing I recognized when starting the Destiny First Look Alpha was Bungie’s signature top notch presentation and sound production. That’s not to say Destiny’s presentation is more of the same, quite the contrary. Destiny’s UI is very clean and unique and as you move the reticle around the screen to select items, those items shift almost as if you were viewing them in 3D. It’s a very neat little effect but I was hoping Bungie would integrate the DS4’s gyroscope functionality as seen in the PS4’s built in keyboard – but this is an Alpha after all. The musical score, as you’re navigating through the user agreement screens, is what you’d expect from a space opera-esque themed experience. Horns and strings gradually echoing out as if they were meant for the big screen and like many parts of Destiny, beautiful.
After taking in the presentation I moved to Destiny’s class select screen. In the Alpha build, you are given three character classes: Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. The Titan is a said to be an “armored engine of war” and I’d have to agree with that statement. The Titan’s initial “ability” is a leaping downward fisted ground smash that disintegrates enemies. The Titan also has a heavy punch that cools down after several seconds. The Hunter class is your stealthy assassin who scouts the area before moving in for a kill. The Hunter’s ability is summoning up a flaming pistol that acts like a golden gone from Golden Eye. Lastly, the Warlock is an elemental class that can manipulate energy to annihilate your foes. The Warlocks ability is to throw a explosive ball of light, which disintegrates your enemies. I spent a lot of time deciding which class to choose but ultimately ended up choosing the Titan class because it seemed the most well rounded.
The next screen takes you to the character customization area. I usually don’t spend too much time customizing my characters in first-person games mainly because you never really get to see you hard work. In Destiny, however, I found myself spending plenty of time deciding what I wanted this avatar of mine to look like. There are three primary Races in Destiny: Human, Awoken, and Exo. The Human Race needs no introduction so we’ll move to the “Awoken” Race, which is are mysterious beings with bluish-white skin. The Awoken are based on mythological creatures like vampires or elves and they have a very detached personality. They were also greatly affected by the great “Collapse” alongside the Humans here on earth. The Exo’s are said to be “sinister, powerful, and tireless” Guardians of the Cyborg kind. They were created during the golden age of Destiny’s mythos. They are self-aware but have forgotten everything since the Collapse. I actually chose Exo because their backstory interested me the most among the three available Races. You can also pick Gender for each Race along with various heads, decals, and even colors to apply to each accessory.
Finally, I was finished creating my Titan Exo and I was ready to roll. A nice “thank you” screen from Bungie fades into a loading screen and I’m ready to see a small glimpse of what is hopefully an epic adventure. Speaking of loading screen, I mentioned the presentation is very “Bungie”. The loading icon is a recurring symbol that reminds me of Halo Reach’s loading symbol.
Post Collapse Russia. A frozen over and tired land with the wind playfully licking at it’s wounds. This is where Bungie starts us, a level 3 character tasked with finding out what the main antagonists, The Fallen, are protecting up at the old array domes. Accompanying you is a “Ghost” which is voiced by ‘Game of Thrones’ actor, Peter Dinklage. There is no prologue to the story and there is no info provided for whom this particular Ghost is guiding you through the wasteland ahead. I kind of liked that because it leaves some mystery to the story and being that we won’t actually play the final game for another few months, I appreciated the spoiler free intro.
My first impressions of the visuals can be summed up in one word,”wow”. I don’t necessarily think Destiny is THE BEST looking game out today but it has so much to show us from it’s snow covered rock faces to it’s far off islands surrounded by dead seas. The environment feels solid and real almost as if my TV is a window that I’m looking through at some far off alien world. The art direction of it all is astounding. If Bungie has shown us anything over the years it’s that presentation is king among their “pillars of design”.
Off in a distance, tall and foreboding domed towers stare down at you and the only thing I could think of was,”I want to go there”. Lucky for me, that’s where I was supposed to go. This brings me to Destiny’s navigation, or map, system for lack of a better term. Clicking the PS4’s touchpad brings up your current object, summon hover bike (YES!), and go to Orbit, which is essentially quitting to the main orbit screen. While you have this “objective” screen open, a little marker is placed showing you where to go to reach your objective. The Marker is a white diamond shaped icon and for whatever reason, it often would get “lost” on my screen. It’s probably me but my eyes and brain would ignore it more often than not which made me stop and focus harder on this little icon. If I had to complain about anything in Destiny, it might be the navigation is kind of “loose” and could probably be better. Enough about that, on to shooting things in the face!
Anyone who’s played the Halo series will immediately appreciate Destiny’s core mechanics, though I’m glad we’re no longer clicking R3 for zoomed view. The gun mechanics are definitely set by today’s ‘Call of Duty’ standards in that you hold the L2 trigger to stare down your weapon. I like this, some may not but who cares about them, right? ah hem Darkrence… Destiny doesn’t feel like a running and gunning type of FPS. Most of the time I was finding cover and peaking around to take out enemies or even trying to sneak up on the enemy before I was spotted. A lot of early on fire fights I got into ended better than expected when I took out a Fallen or two before being seen. There isn’t always this luxury though and a lot of close quarters battles meant I had to change my playing style.
The shooting in Destiny is both familiar and gratifying but I had my doubts. When Bungie showed off Destiny at last year’s E3, I wasn’t blown away by it’s gun play. In fact, something about how the character’s attacks didn’t show much impact or “feedback” worried me. I feared that this was going to be a more traditional MMO where your attacks just hit the air and count toward damage based on luck or stats. I’m really happy to say that whatever that issue was doesn’t seem to be in this Alpha build. The damage feedback may not be as impactful as shooting a Draugr in the face with an arrow in Skyrim but it’s on par with what you’d expect from a DMR in Halo or an SMG in CoD.
In the several hours I spent in Destiny, I managed to collect quite a few guns and armor. Destiny allows you to carry three weapon types: Primary, Secondary, and Heavy. Each weapon type has varying degrees of statistics like Attack Damage, Rate of Fire, or clip size. Going further down the rabbit hole, there are also two global kinds of items: common and rare. Rare weapons and Accessories will show up with a green background as where the common item with have a gray background. It also looks like only Rare items can be upgraded.
Speaking specifically about guns, the primary weapons I found were usually a rifle or handgun. I had a rare rifle I loved, especially after leveling it up. It felt exactly like the DMR from Halo but with better accuracy and range. For secondary weapons, I had several shotguns and sniper rifles. I hardly used them to tell you the truth. I’m not a fan of shotguns and I only pulled out the sniper rifle to do considerable damage to one of the bigger enemies you meet. There is also heavy weapons you can find, which are your rocket launchers and heavy machine guns. The had fun blowing myself up with the rocket launcher.
In addition to guns, each character also has a specialized grenade that has a cool down timer. I don’t really like the idea of a cool down timer for a grenade. There was plenty of times when I needed more than one but had to wait several seconds for it to cool down. Each Character classes has it’s own grenade type. The Titan’s grenade type is a Flashbang though it does more than just blind your enemies. This grenade can be upgraded to a Lightning Flashbang, which can stick to any surface and emits bolts of lighting. I loved throwing one of these at a tank since it deals massive amounts of damage with each lightning pulse. The Hunter’s grenade is Incendiary that catches your enemies on fire. This can be upgraded in the alpha to a Swarm grenade, which release multiple little grenades dealing lots of damage. Lastly, the Warlock’s grenade creates a Vortex which continually damages enemies within the vortex. The Warlock’s grenade can be upgraded to a scatter grenade, similar to the Hunters swarm grenade, which deals more damage at a wide range.
It’s no secret that anything Bungie peaks my interest. Bunige is a company that doesn’t mess around, which isn’t to say they don’t have a blast while working on their games, quite the contrary from what I’ve seen over the years. No, it just means that when Bungie works on a title they apply their all in both form and function and Destiny walks that line without exception. I can’t wait for more.