Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

WGTC Destiny1 640x360 Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

With the Destiny beta now officially offline across all platforms following ten days of sci-fi goodness, the WGTC staff has had some time to marinate on the finer details of Bungie’s upcoming space opera.

Without doubt, the company’s ambitious new IP has been billed as one of the biggest titles of 2014, and understandably so. Here is a studio that remoulded the first-person shooter with the Halo franchise thirteen years ago and, in doing so, brought the genre from its once natural habitat on PC to consoles with aplomb.

And now, come September, Bungie is gearing up to redefine a whole new area of the video game industry: the Pandora’s box that is the console MMO. Many titles have tried to perfect the formula in recent years, with ports of Diablo III, Defiance and the once-ailing Final Fantasy XIV among the pack. But each of these games have been plagued with clunky interfaces and combat that was initially designed for the age-old mouse and keyboard.

For Destiny, though, Bungie aims to streamline the experience of an MMO for the console audience, opting for accessible levelling systems and refined controls thanks in large part to the next-gen systems. But with so much hype surrounding the game at this early stage, can it avoid a Watch Dogs-like disappointment and truly deliver on its promises?

Join us, guardian, as we look back with hindsight at the Destiny beta and draw up our preliminary verdict on Bungie’s expedition to a galaxy far, far away.

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Destiny 06 10 Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

Jacob Davis:

I’ve now been to the moon, and killed a wizard there. I’ve explored the surface of Earth’s rocky neighbour and seen several man-made structures. I discovered a fallen solider, caught a glimpse of a mysterious figure, and unwittingly opened a massive door to a horde of hostile aliens. During a return trip, I found what I expected was a fairly basic cave, only to discover an otherworldly underground labyrinth of various passages and chambers that descended far below the surface.

Perhaps most importantly, my extensive travels were completely seamless. Destiny does level streaming better than most any other first-person game that I can think of. Although perhaps an unfair comparison, even Skyrim featured loading screens when transitioning between the “overworld” and interior areas. You’ll see none of that in Destiny. Unless you trick the game by leaving a new area right after entering it, your journey will be interrupted only by traveling back into orbit to select a different planet.

But for a game largely focused on exploration, the amount of invisible walls and instant inexplicable death zones in the beta was genuinely disappointing. The ultimate slap in the face came when I was standing at the very top of a landlocked ship in the middle of the Forgotten Shore area. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by land, and normally able to jump at least three times my height using my Warlock’s jetpack, my attempting to jump straight up was greeted by an invisible ceiling not more than two feet in the air. Trying to reach seemingly accessible rooftops was also often an impossible task. It’s an awful design limitation for a game to give you such wings, and then so frequently clip them.

There are definite highs and lows to Destiny‘s design, but I’m still very much looking forward to the final product. The gameplay itself is easily the best of any loot-focused FPS title that I’ve played yet. Bungie’s really onto something with Destiny, and I’m glad they decided to try something new again.

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destiny in game screenshots 4 copy Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

Michael Briers: 

If there’s one thing that’s hung over Destiny’s imminent release like a distant moon orbiting its stellar neighbour, it’s the game’s record-breaking budget. In the build-up to launch, there has been conjecture that Destiny’s financial allowance has ballooned past $500 million, and while that purported number may be an overestimation, you can absolutely see every cent of Activision’s investment on screen.

From the robust online servers to the near-perfect shooting mechanics, the detailed environments to the rich, awe-inspiring score, Destiny’s production values are absolutely off the chain. Even from this brief vertical slice, it’s immediately clear that there exists a real sense of depth to this universe, and Bungie’s ability to instil a true sense of inspiration here hints that Destiny could very well be the first MMO to truly work in the console space.

Gameplay is smooth and refreshingly seamless. Considering the depth of the character progression system and the variety in the game’s Borderlands-esque arsenal, Bungie has done a fantastic job of streamlining the selection process so that finding your preferred set-up is quick and simple.

Nevertheless, as Jacob mentioned, this pre-emptive bout of testing was frustrating not only in its lack of true open-world exploration, but also because of the meagre number of environments available to jump into. In fact, after the beta shut its doors yesterday evening, Bungie responded to fan concerns over this very problem and has stated that, although the beta was restricted to one location within the single-player component — in this case, the arid wasteland of Old Russia — Destiny remains the “biggest title the studio has ever created.”

Additionally, one early concern for me personally is the narrative at the heart of this most ambitious universe. Of course, the early portion of the game only offers a sliver of what we can expect come September, but already it echoes many of the conventions found in numerous other sci-fi media — post-apocalyptic setting with a messiah-like figure tasked with saving the universe against “The Darkness.” That said, Bungie wouldn’t have enlisted the likes of Peter Dinklage if it wasn’t committed to delivering a solid and engaging story, but these early indicators of unmemorable characters and generic exposition are still cause for concern.

With a dash of Mass Effect’s world building, a pinch of Borderlands’ RPG mechanics and more than a few spoonfuls of Halo’s renown shooter pedigree, Destiny is undoubtedly borrowing a lot of established principles from other titles. We’ll just have to wait patiently to find out if Bungie’s latest venture is truly more than the sum of its parts.

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Destiny The Law of the Jungle G 08 Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

Eric Hall:

As someone who came of age during the original Xbox’s lifespan, I was a huge fan of the Halo franchise. Bungie’s iconic shooter hooked me on the genre in a way that no other title has been able to do since. Now, with the company moving on to the interplanetary adventure of Destiny, I’m intrigued by what it can do now that it’s no longer tied down to its Covenant-filled behemoth.

Gameplay-wise, Destiny is an absolute blast to play through, thanks to sharp shooting mechanics and plentiful customization options. Bungie has taken everything they learned from the Halo franchise and optimized it here. Slick RPG options and an impressive upgrade system only add to the package, as the title already stands out as one of the top shooters to come from this young console generation.

The $500 million budget is also put to good use in the looks department, as Destiny is visually stunning and incredibly detailed. From the decrepit wasteland of Old Russia to the Wizard-filled temples of the Moon, the game’s locales are shaping up to be a real treat. It also doesn’t hurt that load times on each level were essentially non-existent, outside of the occasional online hiccup. The fact that worlds as big as the ones found in Destiny are able to be processed and loaded so quickly is a thing of beauty.

I’ll echo the thoughts of my fellow writers here in saying that I was a bit disappointed with the lack of open-world exploration. With the amount of resources being pumped into the game, I should be able to explore almost anywhere in Destiny and not have to worry about slamming into an invisible wall. Accidentally wandering into areas meant for higher-level players was also annoying, but that’s more of a criticism with the MMO genre than anything else.

Much like what Michael said, though, I have some major concerns over the storyline. I understand that the beta only represents the beginning of the game and that the story of Destiny will be fully fleshed out over time, but that doesn’t change the fact that I struggled to care about “The Darkness” and the rest of the sci-fi nonsense going on here. I understand the story and I appreciate that Bungie is concerned about developing an intriguing and deep plot, but as of right now, consider me unimpressed.

There’s a lot to like about Destiny and I walked away from the beta generally impressed by what I saw. The gameplay is tight, the graphics are gorgeous and dancing around fallen foes will seemingly never get old to me. However, my concerns about the story and navigation issues lead me to believe that maybe Bungie’s bold new IP isn’t quite the “game-changer” it has been hyped up to be.

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DestinyBetaEnd 610 Destiny Beta: Thoughts, Analysis & Concerns

Paul Villanueva:

Before playing the beta, I honestly wasn’t onboard this hype train. Seeing screens and trailers pretty much did nothing for me. I was only intrigued based solely on Bungie’s focus on co-op and somewhat on their pedigree (I was never too big on Halo, but I respected it). Now, in some weird twist of events, Destiny has somehow got my phone number and I’m not caring if I’m thinking about it too soon. I really think Destiny and I can have a bright future together full of love, passion and exploration (I’m still talking about a game).

Going off of the beta, Destiny won’t shatter the foundations of FPS gameplay and build a brand new one. And guess what? It doesn’t need to. The gunplay has that signature silky-smooth Bungie touch and, with the added class-based abilities and RPG elements, I found it hard to put the game down. Finding new gear and armor definitely recalls the hundred-plus hours I’ve poured into Borderlands 2. It’s as if Destiny is the game Bungie wanted to make this whole time.

The environments look great and are easily the graphical highlight of the beta. Whether it’d be barren Russia, the Traveler-backdrop of the Tower, or the vastness of the moon, the game’s playing fields dazzled. What makes these playgrounds even more impressive is the exploration. Dangerous caves filled with equally foreboding enemies litter the wastelands of Earth, while soccer balls on the Tower show Bungie doesn’t take the game’s tale too seriously.

The MMO aspect is actually really cool and seamless. You can be doing a mission solo only to run into several other people. It’s a nice feeling knowing there are other Guardians to fight off the Darkness with. Plus, I also dug the fact that chat can only be heard if you’re a part of someone’s fire team, lest we hear someone running around yelling all kinds of obscenities.

The game’s competitive suite, The Crucible, was a blast. The maps are well thought-out and the gameplay addicting. I absolutely love the fact that playing in The Crucible levels up your character for the game’s campaign as well. It’s also a really cool touch that you keep all your armor and weapons you’ve earned in the campaign as well, making the transition between co-op and competitive that little bit more enticing.

As for gripes, I really didn’t like the side missions. Not the missions themselves, but rather how they just respawn as if you’ve never done them. I get the benefit of doing this (you can continually gain XP and so on), but I like knowing that once I’ve done a mission, I’ve done it. I also hope there are more original structures in store rather than “go here and kill.” Oh, and am I the only one bothered by the cartoony jumping animation on the Tower? It’s like a PS2 platformer animation. I know it’s small, but it’s weird seeing it when the game supposedly had half a billion dumped into its development.

Destiny has sucked me in. Just imagining the possibilities makes the short wait to September 9th seem like a year away. It’s not hard to see Destiny becoming the best-selling new IP ever. With its focus on co-op, you can already see people bugging their buddies to get this title so they can all play together. I’m making a call now — Destiny is going to be the next big game franchise for a while.

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  • Greg

    Game was okay, but it rest of the game is dry like the beta don’t see myself playing for very long.

  • Devlant

    I understand that there’s only one loading screen per area and that that loading screen only appears when you initially access it, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s incredibly long when compared to most other games (a minute or so for a standard loading screen + another minute or two sitting through the cutscene of your ship heading to the area). While not a big problem on the surface, you have to remember that the game is online-only – that means every single time you get disconnected (be it because of your own internet connection or because of Bungie’s servers), you have to sit through the loading screen again. To make matters worse, having that happen will also force you to completely start over what you were doing before it occurred (meaning if you just spent an hour or so doing a mission like The Devil’s Lair, you have to start over from the beginning). It’s an issue that needs to be addressed, preferably early on.

    That being said, this is what I’ve written elsewhere (if you choose to respond to this comment, please read it in its entirety first):

    If we’re being completely honest here, I do think the game is incredibly overhyped. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fun game, but if I had to rate my experience with it I’d give it something like a 7/10.

    Why do I feel that way? A lot of the game’s areas look nearly identical to one another (different parts of the same planet are pretty much the same design, basically), every single mission/quest basically throws you through the exact same routine (you deploy your Ghost in various spots and kill waves of enemies along the way), the only way you can talk to people is if they’re in your fireteam (making it difficult to talk with others in public areas, matchmaking, and multiplayer), etc. The environment is gorgeous and everything, but the game itself just feels really repetitive and a lot of things (such as the aforementioned chat system) could use some serious work.

    To touch on the multiplayer matches a bit more (the stuff like The Crucible and The Iron Banner), my main disappointment is that it’s a nearly identical rehash of the same type of multiplayer combat we’ve seen in other games for more than a decade now. It’s fun and all, but I’d really like to see a game with multiplayer matches that didn’t seem like a reskinned version of the same thing we’ve already seen in a thousand other games.

    I know that someone will probably leave a response along the lines of “well, it was only a Beta”, so I want to touch on that as well: Anyone who’s played a handful of Betas in the past can tell you that it’s incredibly rare for a full game to not be incredibly similar to how the Beta was. We might see some small tweaks here or there, but the chance of the main game being vastly different from what we saw with the Beta is slim and anyone who thinks otherwise can (and probably will) be disappointed come September 9th.

    Again, please don’t misunderstand me – I actually do like the game and I did already pre-order it. I just wish people would stop overhyping it to death because this game isn’t the revolutionary masterpiece that some people have been toting it as. I also think people need to take some of the complaints floating around a bit more seriously because some people have raised some fair/valid points.

    • http://www.paulsawesomeworld.com/ Pauly V.

      Great response! The always-online does concern me, but I thin kthe reason I’m personally very positive on the game is how polished the experience is. It’s definitely not rewriting any FPS rules, but it seems like it will be a blast with pals.