Having played through Destiny’s Beta week, I am left a bit confused. Sure, the game is massive, aptly built and immensely satisfying, but I am not so sure about its promise. Not yet.
There are many good things about Destiny, but for the most part, I want to discuss my concerns regarding this MMO-FPS-RPG-thingy. Taking into consideration it was a limited Beta, it’s entirely possible everything will be completely different by the time the game hits shelves. If that’s the case, this entire text could be pointless, but then so would be the entire Beta week then. So, if you have some time, stay a while and listen; let’s see what my concerns regarding Destiny are.
The MMO deal
Destiny doesn’t like being called an MMO, although that’s exactly what it is. The game features a traditional styled campaign, equipped with short fully-voiced cut-scenes, and a very helpful Peter Dinklage Ghost who spouts exposition when there’s a need for it.
The lore and world it’s building up is decent enough, and the Lost Earth theme works pretty well in throwing you in the middle of nothing, and letting you recover that which was once lost (by using many, many, many bullets). Unfortunately, the story & lore don’t stick together all that well, or their presentation isn't cohesive enough. There are so many types of missions that you will eventually lose focus, and forget why you started alien genocide in the first place.
It also relies a bit too much on its universe to keep everything together. After all, if the entire world is screwed up, and you are just one small little tiny piece trying fighting against increasingly varied enemy types, you won’t always see the bigger picture.
If we'd take a look at games like The Secret World, and even Elder Scrolls Online, both of which featured a main campaign that eventually got bogged down by smaller, side-quests, we see lore & world building isn’t enough. Sure, the problem is not as jarring with Destiny, but the more you play, the less you know about what’s going on.
At the end of the day, the game expects you to trust Peter Dinklage, because he read a few pages ahead, and knows what’s supposed to happen.
The toughest thing an MMO has to do is strike balance: give you enough power, and make the enemies feel like a challenge, not a chore. Often times, this is botched so badly, it’s almost marvelous to watch it unfold. Destiny, on the other hand, has different balancing challenges.
Since the game is a mix between MMO and First-Person Shooter, guns and bullets have to be taken into account. Throw in abilities, fully functional armor and multiple weapon-types, and you get a massive undertaking.
An undertaking Destiny almost gets right. I say almost because some tweaking still needs to be done. Especially when it comes to combat.
Enemies are ranked, just like you’d expect. When you start playing, most enemies are the same level as you, but as you progress, you start seeing more high-level aliens that you still have to kill. Higher level means only ramped up hit-points and higher damage, and that is unfortunate.
This is not ramped difficulty, not when you have to shoot for ten minutes straight in one single tank with all you've got, and bring it only to 10% HP. This just ins't fun.
Hopefully, with the full release, Destiny will rely on variety & behavior to increase the difficulty. We already saw some of it in the game. At the beginning you only fight ‘shootie, shootie, take cover’ Fallen, but later you meet Stealth Assassin type-enemies, and even Hive creatures who’ll charge at you no matter what, or use explosive space-magic projectiles whilst floating around.
Destiny’s Beta features one massive map in Old Earth Russia. Here, you have several story missions until the game opens up, and then gain access to pretty much the entire map. Whilst the region is diverse, it’s simply not large enough to be called Open World.
You will end up treading back and forth on the same road several times, fight the same enemies, go through the same locations and repeat certain sections over and over again.
Of course, we only got a small glimpse of the game, Destiny is said to also feature Venus and Mars, and the Moon was visible throughout the game, and even available on Saturday, though I did not get a chance to try it out myself.
Also, since Destiny can be continuously expanded, adding new planets and stars to the mix, what we saw is most assuredly only a glimpse of what the final game has to offer.
I am not so sure about the level difference in regions. Most MMOs have clearly defined and separate maps with indigenous leveled enemies. Destiny has to work a lot in this department. If you wandered off the beaten path, you might find a dark catacombs where ?? leveled enemies would roar, then breathe in your general direction and kill you.
Not only that, but my Guardian died a few times because for having the gall to pass by level 7-8 eight Hive were fighting with level 7-8 players, as part of an Optional Events.
Classes & Gear
I have no problems with the way gear works. You have arms, armor, ships, and vehicles to use. You will find blueprints, guns, and even more guns whilst exploring and murdering.
I’ve heard the comparison between Destiny and Borderlands being made, but I feel that’s not entirely accurate. Sure, you have a high-variety of guns, but Destiny feels broader than Borderlands in almost every aspect.
The game takes a lot of cues from its RPG counterparts, with character progression, and even item-progression. Whilst the Titan, Hunter, and Warlock are not so different in their play-style (yet!), they’re treated like separate entities.
At the moment, each class uses distinct abilities, with its own aesthetic. However, that doesn’t mean your Guardian’s fighting style is unique. Everyone gets ‘space-magic’ and almost all of it does nasty things to the opponent. The only difference between each class, save looks, is stats and the super-ability.
I am not going to say much about the competitive multiplayer, because this one really doesn’t feel as polished as the rest of the game.
From my very brief experience with it, the 6v6 matches play a lot like Halo, just in slow motion. See, Destiny uses more traditional shooter mechanics (the MMS type, not the Shadow Warrior old-school type), which really don't get along so well with broad, vehicle laden maps.
Overall, I liked Destiny. It might not seem like it, but adressing the concerns above would make what I consider a decent game, great.
However, the title takes a lot from the MMO genre, and in some parts, it’s almost unmistakably an MMO, though it desperately tries to not fully commit to it. It doesn’t demand grinding, and the story structure doesn’t follow the traditional MMO standard. It’s also impressive on how well Bungie married so many different mechanics. It doesn’t always work, but it comes damn close to it.
That’s how I would classify Destiny from the brief Beta I tried, an impressive game that doesn’t always work, but comes damn close to it.