We Finally Got To Play A Big Chunk Of Destiny

We Finally Got To Play A Big Chunk Of Destiny

Over the past weekend, a couple of us at Kotaku had a chance to sink a good half-dozen hours each into an alpha version of Bungie’s sprawling (but still somewhat mysterious) online shooter Destiny. The chunk we played was pretty enjoyable, and gave me a much better sense of what Destiny is all about.

Destiny is the new project from Bungie, the studio behind the renowned Halo series. It’s an open-ended, almost MMO-like first-person shooter that combines role-playing game mechanics with Halo-style shooting. It’s sort of a cross between Halo and Borderlands – a great-sounding recipe, though until last weekend Bungie and their publisher Activision hadn’t actually let us play all that much of the game. As a result, for all their talk, it had been hard to get a sense of how Destiny would feel, or whether it’d all hold together.

Last weekend, the chunk of the game that deputy editor Tina Amini and I played felt more or less like a representative vertical slice of the game. We were playing on our home PS4s – the alpha was closed, though it will open to the PS4-owning public this Thursday, if you want to try to sign up.

The alpha gave us a large map to explore, which contained a bunch of defunct space-program buildings in Russia on a now-abandoned Earth. We could choose whether to undertake a single story mission on that map, or to explore much wider afield in pursuit of various sidequests. We also had access to the Tower, which served as our hub city in between excursions to the earth for missions, and we had access to The Crucible, the area where players duke it out in player-vs-player battles. There will be many more planets in the full game than just Earth, but when I extrapolate what we saw in the Alpha out to include a number of other planets, it makes sense.

The overall rhythm of the game is more immediately appealing than I was expecting – the world feels constantly in motion, with spacecrafts pulling up overhead, bonus objectives popping up, and a routine sense that there’s always something new to do. At the press of a button you can summon a speeder bike and start zooming around the planet’s surface, and it always feels like there are two or three things you can go do.

Take, for example, when Tina and I were mucking about and in the middle of a firefight, only to get notified of an optional group event taking place a little ways over on the map:

Which, of course, we failed, since we were pretty low-level at the time and hadn’t upgraded our gear. Speaking of upgrading gear, you can do that at The Tower, which is the sort of combat-free hub zone that you can visit at any time to upgrade your stuff, check your mail, fix your ship, and more. The Tower stuff is all in third-person, so that you can show off your customised character.

Here’s my first visit to the Tower:

Tina and I also undertook the alpha’s one included story mission, which had us discovering a dark secret in the bowels of an abandoned Russian space facility:

That mission featured a good bit of Peter Dinklage (known to most as Game of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister), kiiinda phoning it in in his role as Ghost, the player’s robotic assistant. I can’t quite tell what it is about his performance in the alpha (maybe it’s the lack of audio processing, or dull writing) but the whole thing was pretty flat. Not flat: The mighty Lance Reddick, who played Cedric Daniels on The Wire, turning in a typically stentorian performance as some sort of commanding officer on a few of our side-missions.

I played as a Titan class character, which meant that I had the ability to get up close and nasty with enemies. Tina, meanwhile, played a Warlock, who has some good ranged area-of-effect abilities. We didn’t have a chance to try out the third class, the Hunter.

My supercharge skill was a leaping ground-punch that would send out an energy-wave and damage enemies within a certain radius. I used it pretty ineffectively in the videos above, so I thought I’d include one last video of myself being pretty darned effective:

Yeah! Eat that, dudes!

That kind of moment is what I liked about Destiny – as I ran around the map in the alpha, I gradually realised that it was much bigger than I’d initially thought. Even as I was approaching the alpha’s level 8 cap, I kept finding new challenges to undertake and new things to do. Every so often, something unexpected like that would happen – a sweet spaceship would enter atmosphere, dropping enemies into my lap and forcing me into an unexpected battle.

I had shared (and still share) Patricia’s concerns that the game is just another shooter in a sea of shooters, and I still think it has a ways to go to pull me away from other similar games this fall, like Far Cry 4. I still have that concern – Destiny doesn’t seem to have much personality – it’s very clean and shiny, and the music is lovely, but it’s also pretty sterile, especially when compared with its most obvious influence, Borderlands.

The weekend before E3 isn’t the best weekend to take a thorough look at a huge new game like Destiny – Tina will probably have some more in-depth thoughts at some point in the future, along with some coverage of The Crucible. For now: I was surprised to like Destiny as much as I did, and while I’m still not sure whether it has enough charm to keep me playing more than a weekend or two, I’m certainly looking forward to playing more.


  • So ive pretty much avoided all info on this game, but i decided to start taking a look since it seems to be getting made a fairly large deal about.

    Watching the vids all i kept thinking was “What’s the deal…. it just looks like a none cel shaded borderlands” and then at the bottom of the article i read:
    “especially when compared with its most obvious influence, Borderlands.”.
    So not just me then i guess.

  • I really felt that there were a lot of harsh reviews when Destiny was first shown a few months ago. This is changing now that people can feel how immersive the game can be.

    Really hope to get an alpha invitation, which apparently will be sent on Thursday (Friday for us in OZ).

  • This would’ve been great if they did cross-platform, considering the amount of PVE on offer and not a great deal of emphasis on headshots.

    Off-topic: Is there anyone else that is irritated by the adoption of tablet cross-platforming but STILL no leaps in any other platforms?? haha

    • I was pretty sure they were saying it’d be cross-platform, but may be wrong on that. Activision and Bungie have been doing a shockingly bad job getting details like that out there.

        • Destiny? PS3/PS4/X360/XBone. PS4 is lead platform only.

          They did mention cross-platform play somewhere but they weren’t specific if that meant PS3 & PS4 / Xbox 360 and Xbox One, or if it meant all four could play together. I’m assuming the former but hoping the latter.

          • Unfortunately, yeah. If it was coming for PC I’d literally have no reason to own a PS4 at all right now.

    • Off-topic: Is there anyone else that is irritated by the adoption of tablet cross-platforming but STILL no leaps in any other platforms?? The obvious counter-examples to that are Final Fantasy XIV and Portal 2, albeit as Console <> PC crossplatform. Vita and PS3/PS4 games often have cross-platform play as well but I think you will need to wait for a frosty day in Hell before you see any cross-platform play between the big three. I don’t know what the current policy is but the reason FFXIV isn’t on XBox is because Microsoft expressly forbids cross-platform play. The only exemption from this is pretty much FF XI which basically came down to SE getting a lucky break in negotiations.

      • Pretty sure there are examples of PC/360 cross-platform MP. Shadowrun comes to mind. The issue is probably that it’s a lot of work and most multiplayer games on 360 are shooters where you wouldn’t want PC players and Console players to play together anyway, since Mouse & Keyboard would be an unfair advantage a lot of the time.

        For MMOs, I think the other issue that stops stuff like FFXIV beyond MS being dickish about cross-platform stuff is that you have to (or had to?) have an Xbox Live Gold subscription to be able to play, and companies rightly realized that asking their customers to subscribe to Gold *and* subscribe to the game was probably a bit too far.

  • I don’t think Borderlands is the right comparison. From what I’ve seen, it’s more like Phantasy Star Online meets Halo. Borderlands is a Diablo game in a first-person perspective, and the multiplayer is entirely co-op, playing through the single player areas with a buddy. From what they’ve shown, Destiny has a lot more MP content (both competitive and co-op for multiple different group sizes) and stuff that was designed for single player-only as well, so much more like an MMO.

  • A lot of the other footage I’ve seen coming from the Alpha has been of the PvP arena shooter mode, which really killed my buzz for the game. This footage of the actual open world MMO aspect has kind of revived some interest for me. Guess I’ll find out in the open alpha this weekend.

    That being said, there really are a LOT of good games coming out over the next ~12 months, so Destiny is going to have to be amazing to drag me away from MGS V, Far Cry 4, The Division, AC: Unity et al.

    ALSO: question. After being able to freely post comments for a while, I’ve now gone back to moderation. I’ve never posted anything offensive, so any idea why this is?

  • *yawn*

    So disappointed in this so far. It has all the personality of a wet brick.

    I hate making the comparison to Halo, but if you showed me this and said “here’s video for the new Halo game” I would totally believe you, then suggest someone take it out the back and put it out of it’s misery like a racehorse with a broken leg.

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