Published on June 16th, 2014 | by Mog0
Destiny – Alpha Demo Preview
So, Destiny the Alpha. Wow. Just WOW. Really there aren’t enough wow’s to explain all the wow.
If you have been under a rock or in a deep dark cave then let me give you a quick summary of Destiny. It comes from some pretty huge creators – we’re talking Halo and Call Of Duty huge. Set in a time where humanity has lost much of it’s own world, you become a Guardian of the last city on Earth. As a Guardian you will need to defeat the bad guys, explore the old ruins of the solar system and take back what is lost. It’s a nice simple premise.
But it’s going to be very special.
Let’s get to the Alpha.
And first things first, character creation. You don’t just get given a generic protagonist to play as, no no no. You get to tailor your own Guardian. Male or female? Human, Exo or Awoken? Titan, Hunter or Warlock? It is entirely up to you. And if you like the look of a couple of the races or classes, fear not, because the Alpha allows multiple character creation! Yes, you can play as all three classes and get an insight to their own specific abilities and powers. What more could you ask for?
So, me being me, I created a human female hunter. With purple hair and grey eyes. For reasons.
There was no real introduction to the world or story, which is fair enough, it’a a first look Alpha after all. I expected to be dropped on a world, in the midst of manic battles with the enemy and surrounded by a million other users. But no. There was none of that. It was me and my Ghost (a little hovering VI cube thing that acts as a HUD) in the middle of a derelict air base of some description. Rusted old jets and abandoned space shuttles…taken over by plant-life and age.
A mission chimes in on your Ghost and you’re ordered to ‘push forward and investigate what the Fallen (alien enemies) are hiding here’. Somewhere. It really should have added, ‘no rush, whenever you’ve stopped drooling at your surroundings is cool by us. the Fallen will wait for you’. Because trust me, when you see this world, you will drool. It’s beautiful in ways I didn’t know video games could be. It’s how new-gen games should be, don’t get me wrong. I just never expected it, to see such a stunning creation this early in the new-gen cycle is pretty amazing.
Allow me to show you some scenery porn here…
Do you see what I mean? Look at those clouds people. LOOK. AT. THEM.
The freedom to pursue the mission in your own time is a really smart move by Bungie. It gives you the opportunity to look at everything; to really soak in the wondrous world. They are clearly very proud of the world they have created here and are kinda bragging about it. But they’re allowed. Because it’s too incredible to describe.
There are obviously other players in the world, as I noticed after my initial drool fest. There’s no forced team, just an objective that each player pursues, as and when they want to. Yes, you can team up with them to kick ass or you can get one of your PS pals on board, or you can simply plod along alone. My first landing coincided with another dude who spent a whole heap of time dancing. You know those little social interactions you can use by hitting the d-pad during MP? Yeah, he was dancing. A lot. At me. It was…yeah…
I fell into the Alpha quite naturally, hunting small packs of Fallen and collecting plants and loot. It was totally unlike the Battlefield beta I played a few days ago. A completely different pace. That was so manic, I was like ‘hello? Can I just live for a minute after spawning please?!’ Destiny felt free and enjoyable.
Weapon and attack wise it’s all pretty awesome. Pulse rifles and shotguns mixed with ‘super attacks’ and grenades. My Hunters special attack is summoning a fire pistol, which pretty much burns the crap out of the bad guys, using what is essentially incendiary ammo. And it looks awesome.
The grenades and special attacks really do pack a punch but the down side is that they take time to recharge, which is quite galling when in a heated battle with several higher ranked dudes on your case. You need to learn to use them wisely, against enemies you know standard attacks won’t damage. I can only imagine that in the full game, levelling up in certain areas will decrease the recharge time on these.
As you shoot up the Fallen you can see the damage that you’re dealing out as the hit points fall away from them. This is a particularly helpful feature when facing tougher enemies further into the mission, as the HPs vary in colour when you hit the sweet spot that deals more damage to them.
Your Ghost acts as your navigator and sets markers for you to follow on the path to completing your mission. You have no real map on the game screen, just a radar that detects Fallen for you. Which is handy.
The markers he plots out for you are close quarter markers showing your immediate route, which is quite a good job as the playable area is MASSIVE. I actually went around in circles a couple of times when I was exploring the place. It’s easy to do if your not following a marker!
So how does a Guardian traverse the vastness of the map? Well, the obvious methods of walking and sprinting are fine, but there’s also the boost jump and the Sparrow. The boost jump is exactly what it says on the tin. A boosted jump. Double tap on the X button and you can leap higher than normal. As for the Sparrow? Well, it’s a little hovering speeder that reminds me of speeder bikes from Return Of The Jedi. They even sound a bit like them in my opinion.
As I delved deeper into the mission at hand the Fallen started sending out their higher tiered fighters. Their ranking as best I could figure is:
- Fallen Dreg
- Fallen Vandal
- Elder Vandal
- Fallen Captain
They also have flying robotic sentinels called Fallen Shanks.
After pushing through a group of Vandals and a Captain – who ripped me up pretty nice – I entered an entirely different environment. One of darkness and screeches in far off corners. But being inside the derelict structures of humanity was as impressive as being out under the glorious alien skies. Lighting, done well in a game, can change the entire feel of a place. And this is absolutely no exception. In fact it’s quite possibly the best effects I’ve come across.
It isn’t just the lighting effects that impress but the texture of the environment is astounding. I am uber snobbish when it comes to graphics. I love to be spoiled. I love the details and I actively look for them. In Tomb Raider it was Lara’s hair and the leather of her outfit, in Beyond: Two Souls it was the characters faces and skin. In Destiny it’s everything. If there are wires hanging loose, they look like individual wires. If there is rubble on the floor, each piece of debris looks individual. To quote John Hammond in Jurassic Park, they’ve “spared no expense”.
As I continue into the building I’m suddenly in pitch black, until an auto flash-light shines out of my rifle. Ooo, atmospheric!
Then my radar lights up red and Ghost guy goes mental, ‘It can’t be! It’s the Hive!’. It’s the who now? Then I was promptly over run – literally – with weird grey bad guys. And the thing I notice the most is the music. It’s suddenly switched from a calm, but somewhat eerie original piece to a hard house track. And I’m offing bad guys to a beat. It. Was. Awesome.
I’m walking through absolute pitch darkness with a hyper-beam torch stuck on my rifle, very visibly highlighting my position. Usually, in The Last Of Us for example, I’d be freaking out and walking round the perimeter of the room with my back against the wall. At this moment in Destiny, I was running headlong into the bad guys and it was the music that carrying me. I was dancing in my chair ffs!
And then, after all that excitement, Ghost guy mentions the uber baddie, ‘there’s a Wizard here. You see something flying in the air, you have to kill it’. Yup. An alien wizard. Awesome!
And then I met said Wizard. Not so awesome. Tough SoB to be honest, especially as it was armoured and my special attack needed time to recharge every-time I used it. But after numerous grenades and attacks the armour broke, I was able to deal actual damage and eventually the Hive Wizard fell.
And then a little countdown to the end of the mission popped up on my screen. I felt quite bereft that it was all over. I’d had a blast and wanted more.
And I got more.
I got a ship to be precise. And an option to set my destination. The destinations were Earth, the Crucible and the Tower. I assumed that I had just left Earth. The Crucible is a Guardian vs Guardian arena where players can fight each other…not really my thing. The Tower is a social HUB, where Guardians can replenish equipment and buy new items. So, off I flew to the Tower not really expecting anything to special. Wrong!
The Tower is huge. It has stalls and a gunsmith, a postmaster and a shipwright, NPC’s are all over, chattering away to me. It’s really quite impressive.
So after a rather lengthy exploration of the Tower, I head back to orbit in my little ship to see if there is any other mission or mode to play in this ever growing Alpha. And blow me, there is.
There is the original ‘Level 3 story mission’, which you can play through again, there is a second ‘Level 6 strike mission’ which is only available to PS plus members. It’s a more challenging mission focused on finding a ‘keeper of souls’ and eliminating it. I have yet to play this mission unfortunately, real life bites sometimes. And the third option is free roaming, a chance to explore the map in more detail with no mission led plot, which is what I opted for.
As we landed this time, no mission chimed in but Ghost told me we were free to roam the map with the option of answering beacons left by other Guardians. These beacons held small side-quest style activities such as gathering materials or scouting and area. While on one of these scouting missions I was lead down paths I didn’t realise existed. The place keeps growing! And none of it is any less impressive than any other part. More scenery porn? Go on then.
The enemies are bigger and tougher in these newly discovered areas but because you level up during the initial mission and then equip yourself with bigger guns and better armour, the balance is comfortable. They still pose a challenge but not such a tough one that see’s you dying every two minutes.
Another way to spend time is to participate in Random Events that occur for a limited time period. These can be defending an area from the Fallen for a set amount of time, or defeating waves of insertion troops dropped by massive warships that fly in sporadically. Whatever you do, however you play, you will have fun. You will will drool and you will be franticly pre-ordering the game as soon as you quit the Alpha.
I didn’t even know I wanted this game when I started the Alpha, now I want to live in this game. That’s how impressive the Alpha has been. It is the ultimate game for me as fantasy meets sci-fi. It’s my favourite character builds mixed up with extraterrestrial worlds and guns. So. Much. Awesome.
The entire thing felt more like a showcase than a test. At no point did I feel like it was an Alpha build of anything. It feels and looks so polished that they could release this as a game already. I have been thoroughly impressed with it and I can’t deny I love the (not so subtle) nods to Mass Effect and other sci-fi staples in there.
The graphics are stupendous, the world is intoxicating, the bad guys are alien and the good guys are Guardians. There are flaming guns and robotic helpers. This game is going to have so much in it, you’ll likely be playing for months.
But you won’t regret it.