Time might seem to be going a bit slowly for Destiny fans right now, but fear not, because the beta is about to launch. Like so many others, my interest in the game has risen considerably since playing the first look alpha. There was a huge difference between seeing video of Destiny, and actually getting to play it myself, and I can now safely say that I am officially exited for this game.
I could go on for a while about many of the great design choices Bungie has made, how the game encourages the use of your abilities, how fun it is to have instant access to personal vehicles, how the massive worlds load seamlessly in the background as you are playing, and how the innovative radar system gives you just enough information to keep you aware of threats, but not so much that you know exactly where they are. There are a lot of good things to say about Destiny, and my time with alpha has absolutely left me wanting more.
Everyone who has read a Destiny preview already knows why they should be interested in the game, and those lucky enough to play the first look alpha have an even better understanding of that fact. So, since you can easily find a lot of information relating to the positive elements of Destiny, I thought it might be a bit more interesting to look at the negatives. From tiny omissions and subjective complaints, to larger things that could be a bit more of a problem, these are the handful of issues that I encountered in my time with the alpha which leave me with a bit of concern, despite my excitement.Next
Now You See Me, Now You [Mostly] Don’t
When you first start playing Destiny, you get to pick a male or female character, get to choose from three separate races, and can select from a number of head shapes, skin colors, hairstyles, and facial markings. Then you start playing, the helmet goes on, and you might as well have the head of a crash test dummy for the majority of the game.
Yes, Destiny is a first person shooter, and you do get to see your character in all his or her full helmet-less glory in the social tower area, but during any given mission you’ll needlessly lose that personal connection to your character’s appearance. When riding on a vehicle, or using the D-pad to gesture, or activating your super move, or looking at your character in a mission results screen, each and every time is a missed opportunity to remind you of the man, or woman, (or robot) behind the mask.
Plenty of games deal with this issue by including a “hide helmet” option that gives you the stats of your current helmet, while still allowing you to see your character’s face. I can only hope that Bungie includes a similar option in the final game.Previous Next
Didn’t I Just Kill You Guys?
In my time with the alpha, both myself and several friends noticed that enemies in Destiny have a tendency to respawn a little too quickly sometimes. While this can work to your advantage when it comes time to complete a mission that requires players to kill enemies and gather the loot that is dropped, it can occasionally feel a bit frustrating.
This was especially noticeable in the alpha’s only story mission, where you could kill a rather strong enemy standing in the doorway to the first interior area, only to see him and his friends respawn after a few moments if you took too much time exploring the area afterward. And even when surveying the land in the game’s free-roam patrol mode, there were times when I just wanted enemies to stop respawning around me so I could take a look around and actually explore.
Personally, it’s my hope that the final game will limit story missions and strikes with a set amount of enemies, and patrol mode will see a bit more time between respawn waves.Previous Next
Little Help Please? Hello? Is Anyone There?
So you’re out exploring one of Destiny‘s massive otherworldly environments, when you see a substantial threat appear before you and decide to join alongside several other players in the common goal of taking on an enemy that would effortlessly destroy you alone. Even Guardians from opposing clans put aside their differences and unite in opposition of a monstrous foe, which is truly a sight to behold.
That’s the idea, at least. In actual execution, things didn’t always work out so nicely, sometimes leading to me to agree to fights that I had no chance to win. When your backup doesn’t arrive, and you find yourself feebly attempting to finish a virtually impossible mission while a clock is ticking down, it’s not a very good feeling. Let’s hope that Bungie can make things a little bit more reliable with the beta and the final version.Previous Next
Apparently, each player profile will allow for three character saves, which is enough for each of the three classes. That’s nice, but I have to wonder why the game has specific limitations on character saves in the first place. From the sound of it, once you’ve hit the level cap and and finished the game with all three classes, the only way to start over will be to delete one of your three character saves. Maybe there’s a good reason the game is structured like that, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point.
Perhaps if the game includes a way to change your appearance after you’ve started, it might do a bit to mitigate the issue, but it would be better to have the option to start from scratch without undoing a good amount of character progress.Previous Next
Intense Three Player Action!
When it comes to multiplayer, we know that the core game features groups called Fireteams, and each consists of three players. As you explore the game, you may run into other players, and you can join up with them to tackle some of the larger challenges. Other modes will include more than three players, such as competitive multiplayer and raid missions.
What I don’t believe has been clearly explained is why a game would allow for three player co-op, and allow you to run into random players who are also playing online, but not allow you to play the main campaign with more than two of your friends. Perhaps the answer lies in creating balance, as it would be hard to develop an entire campaign that would support anywhere between one and six or more players.
Still, for a game that will be highly appealing to fans of the similar shoot and loot experience that is Borderlands, going from four players to three might be a bit painful for some groups. Even Bungie’s own recent titles all included four player campaign co-op. For whatever reason, the same doesn’t seem to be true for Destiny, and that’s going to be a bit of a shame for the times when four tightly-knit friends may have to break into pairs of two, or ignore the campaign altogether.
At least they’ll be able to take out their frustration in the highly enjoyable competitive multiplayer, but that brings me to another small criticism.Previous Next
The Wrong Kind of Double Kill
There are two types of weapons in FPS titles: hit-scan weapons and projectile weapons. Hit-scan refers to when a player fires a virtual bullet that instantly hits its target. There’s no travel time associated with the shot, and no need to lead your targets, which means you don’t have to shoot where they’re going to be instead of where they are. If you’ve ever played the Call of Duty series, most of the weapons in those games are hit-scan weapons, aside from items like throwing knives and grenade launchers.
On the other side of things, we have projectile weapons. Projectile weapons feature travel time for their virtual bullets, even though the projectiles themselves are often so fast that you don’t really notice. It seems like Destiny pretty much exclusively uses projectile weapons. Everything from lightning quick scout rifles to slow but powerful rocket launchers.
The problem is, that when you’re allowing a player to fire their weapon while another bullet is currently traveling towards them, you create a situation where a gun battle can end with both players killing each other. It happened in Halo, and it happened in the Destiny alpha as well. Perhaps even worse, you can actually encounter double kills where both players are eliminated by each other’s melee attacks, of all things!
If the recent World Cup sporting event has reminded us of one thing, it’s that people don’t like when competition ends in a tie.Previous Next
Your Destiny Is Always Online
The developers of Destiny have gone out of their way to assure fans of traditional single player campaigns that the story here can be completed without teaming up with other players. Despite this, it seems that the game requires an internet connection to play the campaign.
There are a number of possible reasons for this. Seeing that the game features a loot system, requiring an internet connection could be an attempt to prevent players from duplicating rare weapon drops by editing their save files. Or perhaps the developers might be simply attempting to encourage online play.
And while there are advantages to an always online system, there’s no denying that there are also disadvantages. Any game with a mandatory internet connection includes three possible points of failure: the game’s network, the console platform’s network, and your own internet provider. If issues arise with any of these data providers, you can’t play your game.
While Bungie should be commended for their alpha and beta tests, and while they do seem to be taking online performance very seriously, the idea of not being able to play a single player campaign offline will be a questionable decision for some players. The concept of a shared world shooter sounds like a lot of fun, but so far I don’t feel that the developers have done the best job of explaining why that shared world should be mandatory rather than optional. If you can see other players in the game world and choose to ignore them without consequence, as Bungie claims, then why do those other players need to exist in your single player campaign in the first place? Why shouldn’t it be a choice, instead of a requirement?Previous Next
Moon Wizards and Voice Actors
“That wizard came from the moon!” It’s a phrase that resulted in many internet discussions and T-shirt sales, but just what does it mean for the storytelling in Destiny? From the small slice of story that we’ve seen from the alpha, it’s hard to tell at this point. That line could have been written as cheesy fun, or it could have been intended to be a serious concern. Depending on the surrounding story elements, the game could go either way, but it seems everyone has an opinion on the subject.
Players are also divided when it comes to the performance of Peter Dinklage as your artificial intelligence companion, Ghost. Some believe his performance in the alpha sounded somewhat dull and lacking in energy, while others thought that Dinklage sounded highly appropriate for an artificial life form.
Whatever your opinion of the dialogue heard in the alpha, as you may know by now, it’s going to change. Bungie has officially commented and explained that not only has the dialogue been updated for the beta, but it’s going to be updated again for the retail version.
And while I’m personally happy with most of the voice acting that I’ve heard so far, I’m a little more concerned with the multiplayer announcer. He represents quite a tonal shift from the guttural sounds of the famous “Killtacular!” Halo announcer, who conveyed a somewhat menacing sense of joyful encouragement. In contrast, Destiny‘s announcer sounds far more reserved and professional. It’s an adjustment for a multiplayer game that feels considerably entrenched in Halo-style gameplay mechanics, but it’s obviously a subjective issue.
Destiny‘s announcer is also less talkative in some important areas. He’ll comment on every zone capture or neutralization, and every time my team either gains or loses the lead, but remains sadly quiet when it comes time to potentially congratulate me for a double or even triple kill. This was perhaps my largest complaint with the new announcer, and I hope that he’ll be a bit more verbally rewarding in the final game.Previous Next
If I Wanted to Read Your Game, I’d Turn on the Subtitles
Try as I might, I never could get into the story of Halo. Whenever someone says this to a massive Halo fan, the usual response is that you have to read the Halo novels to really appreciate the lore. This may be true, and it does help to create a more detailed fictional universe, but it also creates a somewhat frustrating barrier to entry. Perhaps even worse was when Halo 2 concluded without providing anything even close to an acceptable amount of closure. I may not have enjoyed the story as much as I wanted to, but I still wanted an actual ending.
Because of this, I was happy to see that Destiny developers hope to avoid this particular issue, going so far as to state their belief that they have to earn the right to make a sequel, and explaining that the conclusion to the game will have a conclusion to the story. When a publisher earmarks $500 million dollars for a new franchise, you might not expect that level humility from the developer, but here’s Bungie to prove me wrong.
When looked at from the most cynical of viewpoints, I suppose someone could come away with the impression that the developers are just telling fans what they want to hear. But even allowing for that, I think it’s still a great sign that they are self-aware enough to make the claim in the first place. I just hope that the mentality of creating a self-contained story in Destiny will extend to any potential sequels. I’d hate to find myself confused or disappointed with the story someday, only to hear some die-hard Destiny fan tell me that to really appreciate and understand everything, I should read the books.Previous Next
It’s important to note that while I’d love to see these issues addressed in the final game, none of them are even close to a deal-breaker for me. Every one of these issues could go unaltered, and Destiny could still end up being my favorite game of the year. It’s also important to understand that this is criticism of not even the beta version of the game, but an even earlier alpha, and in no way fully represents the quality of the final product.
Alphas and betas exist so developers can get early feedback from players, and that’s exactly what this article has been. If you are interested trying Destiny yourself, simply pre-ordering the game will grant you access to the beta. Based on my time with it so far, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.Previous