Saturday, June 14, 2014

Destiny - First Impressions

Yesterday we finally got a chance to play Bungie's upcoming game Destiny. For anyone who doesn't know, earlier this week players could apply for a chance at receiving a code for the alpha version of the game, or you could also have taken part in one of Bungie's other giveaway events; such as the event on Twitter, or on the forums. Now with that being said, we received a code, and afterwords I personally spent quite a few hours playing it. So, what did I think of it? Well, here's my first impressions.

Character Creation:

When I first started the alpha test I was greeted with the character creation screen. Now we all knew that the game would allow us to select from a few different classes before we began, each class with its own special abilities, but what I didn't realize is that you could do a lot more as well. Maybe it's because I'm too used to Halo, but I never expected to actually be able to customize my character's face, as well as his/her hair style. In Bungie's past games, their main characters (Master Chief, Rookie, and Noble Six) always have a helmet on hiding their face, so I just assumed Destiny would be the same way. Really it was a nice surprise, but considering this is the alpha version, the choices are limited. There were only a handful of faces to pick from, a handful of hair styles to pick from, limited color choices, limited face paint options, etc. On top of that, some of the hair styles looked a bit funny as well. A lot of them had a glossy look which made them look a bit more like car paint than natural hair, but once again, this is the alpha version so it's no big deal. I just hope they touch that up a bit for the final release.

The First Mission:

The first mission in the game drops you on Earth, but the alpha provides you with no back story. You're here on the planet, there's a target you have to kill in some building, and that's all you need to know. The world around you is massive, and you can basically travel anywhere you can see, but I decided to just head for my goal to start things off. By pressing the touch pad in (which is the equivalent to the select button on the PS4) I could bring out my little robot thing which would then provide me with a way point to follow, and also give me the option to summon my vehicle or return to orbit. Returning to orbit does just that, and is how you jump from mission to mission, and from planet to planet. While this demo only has three missions, you can see many more grayed out on Earth. As for the vehicle option, it instantly calls your vehicle to you, which is a VERY NICE feature. Once again in past Bungie games (aka Halo) you had to track down a vehicle to use, or kill an enemy and take theirs. Of course them games weren't open world, but often the maps were large and they were the best way to travel. Now instead of having to search every inch of the map for a ride, you receive one instantly.

After playing around with the features and making my way to the way point, the game took on the role of a standard first person shooter.... Well, somewhat. Once I reached the building with my target, I had to make my way through its hallways and get deeper inside. As I progressed through the building, I had to defend myself against enemies, take cover behind walls, and use different tactics to kill my targets. Inside the building basically played out like a standard first person shooter level, but at the same time it wasn't a level. The building itself was just a small area located within a large map, and it had more than one way to enter it. Now once you actually reached the center and killed the enemy the mission ended, but later on that changed. If anything, entering that building felt more like a raid in an MMORPG. It was an area of the map filled with stronger enemies, loaded with experience for you to get, and filled with new equipment and materials. The building could be entered from different ways, and after some time, enemies do respawn; just as the enemies wondering around the rest of the map do. It's just, in this mission we had a goal.

The Tower:

Once I finished the first mission, I was given the option to enter the tower; which was yet another surprise. The Tower is basically your hub town in Destiny, and rather than exploring it in first person like the rest of the game, the gameplay perspective switches to a third person view, and your character takes his/her helmet off. Although the Tower isn't that big, it is loaded up with shops for you to customize your character with, and there is even a guy who will give you back any loot you didn't pick up during your mission (which is a VERY nice feature, considering it can be very easy to just not notice when an enemy drops something). As for the shops, most of them are actually useless in the alpha since the equipment they sell require you to be at a higher level, but the game still allows you to see what they'll have to offer. Basically there are shops that sell armor, with different pieces of armor providing different amount of defense and special stats, there are shops that sell you guns (both main and sub weapons), there's a shop which allows you to buy different vehicles and vehicle skills, and so on. You can also take on bounty hunting missions or side quests in the Tower, but once again the alpha is limited on how far you can level up, so some of them just cannot be accepted.

Open World Mission:

After visiting the tower, you can then go back to Earth for the open world mission. Here you can freely explore the map the first mission took place on, and you can take on more missions by accessing modes hidden throughout it. These nodes give you a wide verity of goals to complete, but you don't actually have to do them if you don't want to. This map is completely open, and the game basically tells you to go where you want, kill what you want, find hidden collectibles if you want, or do missions if you want. They are a great way to get exp, level up, and unlock new stats and abilities for your character, but its not forced on you. Even so, the missions are fun, and give you a reason to explore; they are a lot like side quests in an MMORPG, so players of them will feel instantly right at home. Sometimes a node will ask you to kill specific enemies in the area, or it'll ask you to go to one of the many large buildings and make your way to a target (similar to the first real mission), or they'll ask you to find items enemies drop. While doing these missions I personally ran into other players, and I even joined one of the "public events" which were shown off at E3; however, I was stuck doing it alone. No other groups joined me, and I was forced to fight off enemy wave after wave as I tried to defend some strange alien object. The event was semi challenging, but I was able to pull through, and get my reward... I think. Afterwords I was killed during the "congrats you win" screen, so no information about my reward popped up...

The Multiplayer:

The Alpha version of the game also came along with a single mode for the multiplayer. Although you can see many other modes as options, they are grayed out, and you cannot select them; the mode I could play however, was your standard "capture this point." Basically each map had a few flags, each team had an overall score, and by capturing and controlling flags, as well as killing enemies, you earned points for your team. It is a standard mode we've seen time and time again in other shooters, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun.

Just like in the single player mode (which can be played in co-op), the multiplayer uses your character. All of your gear, the special abilities you've unlocked (in my case it is a special mode where you pull out a golden gun shooting crazy strong bullets, and I could throw a knife), and your level carries over. Now this means that higher level players will have an advantage, but in this case it doesn't matter too much. Considering the level cap is so low, and the equipment is limited, just about everyone is on even grounds. On top of that, just like in the "single player" mode, you can actually customize your character right there on the battlefield. You can press start, open up your equipment screen, and then change out your armor and weapons on the fly. Basically you can adapt to the current situation you're in, and that blew me away. Typically in shooters like this you're stuck with what the map gives you. You find weapons laying around, and that's it. If you don't have the weapon you need to take someone down, too bad, and if you didn't select your abilities correctly, well that's too bad also. Now with Destiny, that is no longer the case, and I can see that playing a major role in the multiplayer in the future. As I mentioned above, different pieces of equipment have different stats, so changing your build on the fly may just become the key to survival later on.

Now the multiplayer itself, actually feels a lot like Halo Reach. If you were a fan of Reach, you'll most likely feel right at home here. The maps offered in the alpha felt like Destinized versions of previous Halo maps (or at least they're created in the same style as we've come to know and love), and with the ability to run, use jetpacks, and other special moves, the multiplayer just feels a lot like Reach. While it does use the Destiny systems so it isn't exactly the same, it is still very clear that this is a Bungie game. A Bungie game created when they are at their finest.

Although the multiplayer mode does use your character, there's always a chance that the main game may offer preset modes as well. While Bungie hasn't said anything officially, I'm sure they know that a lot of people may only play Destiny for its multiplayer (which actually has to be unlocked in the main game), and I'm sure there will be plenty of customization options.

My Final Thoughts:

So, all and all, I'm actually excited for Destiny now. Although I preordered the game months ago to gain access to the Beta, I wasn't what you would call "hyped" for its release. I like Bungie, and I liked Halo 1-Reach, but until now I just thought of Destiny as another game I need to get and play through. Well, that's no longer the case. Instead I can see this game becoming one of the main reasons I even turn on my PS4. The game's MMORPG elements already have me hooked, I love the character customization, I love the openness, I had a lot of fun with the multiplayer mode, and I can't wait to jump into the full thing. The game seems to have taken everything I liked about Halo, greatly expanded on it, and mixed it with Borderlands. The moment I picked it up, I felt right at home with its world, and I instantly "mastered" its controls. The game is already very well refined, and nicely polished despite it being an "alpha," and it is very clear just how hard Bungie is working on this one. The game is solid, and is shaping up to be a must have. (Never thought I'd be saying that, especially considering how burned out I am on Halo.)