With the Destiny “First Look” Alpha now over on the PS4, I thought I’d share some of my impressions after a handful of hours spent with Bungie’s upcoming title. Having spent a surprising amount of time in the dark when it came to media/impressions of the game from shows and other outlets, I thought this was a pretty fantastic glimpse at what the final product has in store. This was about as polished an “Alpha” as you’re likely to see when it comes to console titles, and while there wasn’t a huge amount of content present, there was still plenty to keep me occupied over the weekend.
The biggest draw here was the open-world exploration, the random enemy populations, and the incredibly detailed environments. I didn’t find the optional side-missions to be all that engaging or interesting, but I had fun just checking out what the world had to offer and seeing what I could get into. I thought it neat that there were areas that were populated with enemies at a high enough level that you’d never be a threat to them within the 8 level cap of the Alpha. I enjoy being able to challenge myself with tougher enemy encounters as opposed to having scaling enemies populate the world, so I can appreciate the approach Destiny seems to be taking there.
Enemy variety wasn’t great in the Alpha, but there was a decent mix of ranged and melee foes to deal with. It’s a bit early to pass judgment on enemy A.I. of course, but it did seem like attackers were pretty mobile. Some enemies would take advantage of the environment quite a bit, jumping up and down from platforms or buildings, making them tougher targets to hit. I did notice what seems to be an MMO aggro range. I could essentially get enemies to follow me up to a certain invisible line, and then they would run back to their default location. That’s one thing that I’d like to see cleaned up quite a bit in the final version, as it comes off a bit comical.
The Alpha also provided a taste of the skill trees for different classes, which certainly look robust. For the Alpha I played the Hunter class, and unlocked grenades and throwing knives, along with a limited super skill that provided a powerful pistol for a handful of seconds. You can outfit your character with a primary, secondary, and heavy weapon. I uncovered a variety of different rifles and handguns, all with damage output helpfully labeled. Heavy weapons included expected variants like machine guns and rocket launchers, with ammo scarce to come by making their usefulness limited but important.
I also came across a fair amount of gear, with upgrades coming often enough to keep that vital “carrot-on-a-stick” feeling alive in Destiny. There were some inventory limitations, but you can easily destroy unwanted gear for parts or currency, and gear doesn’t drop frequently enough that you’ll constantly find yourself manipulating that inventory. Drops are color coded similar to other loot intensive games, with better gear featuring improved armor and secondary abilities, like enhanced speed for reload times on particular weapon types.
The Alpha featured a Strike mission in addition to a single multiplayer vs. mode, as well as the aforementioned open-exploration portion of the campaign. The Strike mission felt like the equivalent of an MMO dungeon, in that it featured tougher enemies plus bosses, and grouping with other players was integral to my survival. This particular mission featured a section that required you to survive a number of enemy waves before advancing to an open area with a spider-like walking tank. This boss encounter was pretty tough, with a healthy amount of HP, high armor, and powerful weapons. I enjoyed the tactics involved with this fight, wherein you could strip away the armor of the tank and expose weak points to deliver substantial damage. You could also target the large cannon on top of the tank for destruction, taking away some of its firepower and making for an easier battle.
Defeating the tank led way to another boss encounter that was less fun. Again, this was a boss with a high HP pool, but it offered very little options in the way of viable tactics. The boss was a large, purple orb with a singular weak-point that also doubled as its primary weapon. It would teleport around a small open space, as waves of powerful enemies would occasionally spawn in to distract you. This fight was all about survival, which was challenging, but it was also a bit of a chore to complete, and felt a bit boring in comparison to the fight before it.
The multiplayer mode offered was a map with lettered control points to hold in order to gain points for your team. This felt identical to most other domination-style MP games, where you’d need to stay in a location long enough to tag the control point for your team, or to take over the control point from the opposing team. The map design offered was a lot of fun with plenty of terrain elevation differences, structures to move in an out of, and multiple approaches to most control points. I never ran into a match where a team was able to fully lockdown all points with ease, so there was a hefty amount of back and forth struggles in each round. Vehicles were also featured in his map, with deft, speeder-like airbikes that could squeeze into tight spaces, along with a larger variation with more powerful weaponry attached.
All in all, Destiny feels very much like what you’d expect a Bungie FPS to be. Toss in that Borderlands-esque loot aspect, a giant open world to explore, and constantly upgrading characters via skill trees, and it looks like Bungie may have a winning formula with this one. The beta phase for Destiny doesn’t start up for another month or so, but I’m certainly looking forward to playing more Destiny in the near future.