It feels weird to play a pseudo-MMO shooter on consoles. It feels even weirder to play one and actually enjoy it. Destiny is the latest upcoming game from Bungie, you know, the guys that created Halo, and it’s set to release on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One later this September. Luckily though, the Sony E3 press conference revealed that the “alpha” is coming exclusively to PS4’s for just this weekend. I put alpha in quotes because most MMO players, specifically PC gamers, know that an actual alpha happens a year or more before a game’s release and many features of the game are far from completion. What I played was, in all honesty, a glorified demo. Not really a bad thing, just disappointing to see developers use terms like alpha and beta incorrectly, because it leads to confusion when a true alpha happens.
You have probably already heard about and formulated an opinion on Destiny already though – Activision is pouring half a billion dollars into its marketing budget after all – and you wouldn’t be alone. Let it be known that until I got my hands on the game for myself, I was highly skeptical. Based on the footage and information available to me, it seemed like Destiny would be little more than a glorified Borderlands with a slap of Halo paint. While my initial assessment isn’t erroneously far from the truth, there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.
When I first boot up the “first look alpha” on my PS4 this weekend, I was immediately impressed by the subtle audio and visual effects. Just like the Halo series that put the developer on the map, this game absolutely oozes sleek and shiny sci-fi goodness. After some loading sequences, I got to make my Guardian and pick from one of three classes: the Warlock, Titan, or Hunter.
The Warlock enjoys space wizard-esque powers with the ability to throw a magical purple grenade and other fancy abilities. The Titan is, like its name indicates, is meant to be played as a large and in-charge commander of big firepower. Finally, the Hunter is reminiscent of a sniper or other similar long-range specialist. I picked Warlock, because of space magic. Each of the three classes has its own perks, but the three races are purely cosmetic – Human, Awoken, and Exo.
The character creator leaved a lot to be desired for someone that is used to being able to tweak and slide each aspect of a face, but it’s far from limited. There are a good handful of face, hair, and other options, with its bright and vibrant colors standing out particularly well. After spending some time briefly making my character (it’s just alpha after all, right?) I booted up into the game. As a huge Game of Thrones fan, it was interesting hearing Peter Dinklage’s voice. For those unaware, he voices your “Ghost”, or AI companion similar to that of Cortana from Halo, throughout the game. He is an incredible actor that does a wonderful job, but his voice is almost too iconic and full of personality to really pass as a believable AI voice – a minor nitpick.
I noticed the game was severely lacking in the way of exposition as I never saw any cutscenes, but that’s probably due to the fact that it’s not a final build of the game yet. My first mission dropped me down on Earth in an area referred to as “Old Russia” with oodles of enemies crawling all over the place. As soon as I started playing, I immediately noticed how much it felt like I was playing the child of Halo and Borderlands. Enemy names, levels, and health bars appear above their heads, but the decidedly sci-fi aesthetic made itself stick out at all times.
My shields would go down after taking enough damage, I could hold one primary and one secondary weapon at a time, and my jetpack provided a nice sputter when needed. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Okay, this sounds just like Halo basically. What’s so special about Destiny?” I’d be happy to explain!
Opening up your menu lets you not only inspect your weapons and change them out as you like, but there is a wealth of other options as well. You’ll notice that you can change out your gear as well – helmet, chest, gloves, and boots – as well as augmenting equipment items that provide addition bonuses. I eventually came across loot in different areas of the game, which can be earned from gear boxes, loot on enemies, and rewards at the end of sessions. Once I gained enough XP, I could level up as well, which includes improved recharge speed for my special abilities, and even new powers such as a Super Charged version of my Vortex Grenade.