A newer, post-DLC review, and a story analysis are available. Please consider viewing: Don’t Buy Destiny . . . Unless, and Destiny’s Story: the Nature of Evil and Its Corrupting Influence.
The article below is now in two parts (I and II). The first part deals with the Beta and what I learned about the game at that time. The second part shares notes about various good and maybe not-so-good aspects of the game pre-DLC (last updated 10-07-14).
I. What the Beta Spoke to Me
During the 4th weekend of July, 2014, I was fortunate to be able to play the public beta of Destiny. My son and I both played it quite a bit, getting a feel for the game. I’m glad I played as much as I did but had hoped to play more! I didn’t expect the beta to end so soon, especially not on Sunday afternoon instead of evening. That my son and I played so much, and wanted more, goes to show what a good game Destiny appears to be.
I say Destiny “appears” very good since the beta provided very little of the story and there was no indication as to the actual level of role-playing (can true choices be made or is the quest line only linear?). For me, the role-playing aspect of games is important and I buy them for that reason. I’m hoping for the best regarding the depth of the game’s story and the level of player immersion into it. The game is rated T for teen and has various game-play modes, including player vs player, making it both widely accessible and no doubt desirable to a large audience.
Leaving the formal talk aside for a moment, I can say that we loved the game so far (with some qualifications) and ended up preordering one of the special editions. Basically, it’s a new type of futuristic fantasy game that’s lots of fun!
Is it an RPG or Action-Adventure MMO, or . . . ?
Destiny is set to release on September 9, 2014, so I can’t say from experience all that this game truly encompasses, but the makers of the game describe it this way: “The next evolution of the first-person action genre that provides an unprecedented combination of storytelling, cooperative, competitive, and public gameplay, and personal activities that are all seamlessly woven into an expansive, persistent online world. Venture out alone or join up with friends. The choice is yours. Personalize and upgrade every aspect of how you look and fight with a nearly limitless combination of armor, weapons, and visual customizations. Take your upgraded character into every mode, including campaign, cooperative, social, public, and competitive multiplayer.”
Playing the beta revealed much of those elements, and from the quote above it can only be guessed that the game is not a true role playing game (RPG). It seems that it’s getting difficult these days to categorize games as true RPGs, where you develop your character via choices and action that is not simply linear (in other words, you don’t just choose your class, looks, and armor, but make choices within a branched story that have effects on your character and on other aspects of the game). This is a “first-person action” game with “storytelling.” So, it doesn’t sound like your choices change you or the story. But, we will all know after the game comes out and is played through. It’s a lot of fun in any case – I’m just not getting my hopes up that it’s a true RPG.
The MMO aspect of this game is not at all like one might think. There isn’t a horde of 100s or 1000s on one map, or area of a map. Destiny appears to allow only so many people on a map area at a time. When you are on a quest you will be doing it by yourself, essentially, unless you specifically ask someone to join you; and when playing the COD type of shooter modes, there are of course a maximum number of players on each team. There is a central area where very many (all?) players can be on at one time and interact, and this is the area where the shops and guilds are. You can interact with other players here, ask them to play with you, dance and play ball with them, and just hang out and be silly (if desired).
Gameplay: Quests, Exploration, Multiplayer, Social Tower
Note: According to the official game site, there is a game mode that has not yet been revealed. Stay tuned!
Story Quests and Exploration. For the beta, part of earth (and for a very short time, the moon) was available for quests in the main campaign and for exploration. Venus and Mars are in the Destiny environment as well. The quests were short but had increasingly long end battles. I, for one, hope that future quests have more to them besides simply running around (“busy work”) and fighting hordes at the end. Exploration mode is fun. Apparently, the whole world can be accessed through explore mode (parts were blocked during beta), where enemies respawn quickly, loot chests are hidden here and there, and “community events” randomly appear. These events involve fighting enemies, of course, and confer a daily reward when finished. I experienced many of these community events and while many were duplicates, there was one unique event that was totally insane.
Social Tower. The Tower is a large place holding the shops and guilds, where people can socialize. It overlooks The Traveler (the large orb hovering over the Earth) and the last inhabited, free city. Not all areas of the Tower were open during beta.
Multiplayer. There are two modes of multiplayer, at least so far. “Strike” involves three players fighting a boss type of situation, and the other is a team of players vs another team, called “Crucible.” The Crucible maps are very nice, but my son thought there was something missing (or the mode was lower-quality somehow) in this capture-the-point mode that he couldn’t put his finger on.
Characters Played During Beta Weekend
There are three classes of characters and three “species,” but all are “Guardians” to what remains of earth’s civilization. As mentioned earlier, both my son and I played the beta and between both of us we played all three classes of characters (but not every species) and leveled two up to the beta high of eight. All characters jump, heal fast, have their own special type of grenade, use floating (but ground-hugging) vehicles for fast travel, and have a little flying mechanical fellow that helps them out, gives them hints, etc. For an as-yet unknown reason, these little guys are called “ghosts.” Regarding physical weapons, all characters have access to the same multitude of weapons. I very much enjoyed many of the firearms, particularly the sniper rifle and the machine gun. These weapons come in different varieties, of course, which have different upgrades. All characters have a very satisfying punch attack; I’ll let you experience that yourself to understand what I mean.
Warlock Class. My son started with a Warlock class female, choosing the “Awoken” species. Warlocks are described as “mystic warriors.” Since the Awoken have swirly light lines on their faces and are the opposite of the Fallen (an enemy type) by name, it seems very appropriate that they be Warlocks. She used powerful purple swirling energy in her attacks while wearing a fairly hideous helmet.
Titan Class. I started out with a Titan Class human female. I love this character, as does my son. Titans use electric-looking attacks, and their special power area attack is awesome. This attack can kill just about anything in the radius of the Titan’s ground slam.
Hunter Class. I was able to get through level 6 of a male Awoken Hunter Class character before the beta closed down. The hunter seems to be basically an assassin. His first found weapon was a sniper rifle and his special power is a fire gun that seems to have the power of a rocket launcher. He has no area attack. However, the hunter has a nifty throwing knife trick.
II. Like, Love, or Meh?
What I like about Destiny so far
1) Game play with item acquisition. Since I’m playing Destiny all the time, I must like something about it, right? Well, yes. But, a good part of my time playing isn’t due to how much I like the action, but how much I want to acquire or improve certain items. Since the limited-time Queen’s Wrath activities had begun I’ve been doing a number of her bounties, and some missions, in order to gain her favor and her rewards. I’m a bit tired now of doing the same bounties every day, but since I put this much effort into it already, I’m going to continue on to her 2nd reputation level in order to buy a special weapon from her emissary. In order to reach the 3rd level of reputation in the time she’ll be around, a player would have to be very good at all aspects of the game and have the time to do all the types of bounties and missions.
Another temporary event, the Vault of Glass, hasn’t even been on my radar. Well, it blipped once. In order to do that limited-time event, you need to have 6 players, but the game doesn’t match people up for this event. You have to build your own team and spend many hours doing the event. I’ve seen a few rewards from it, and they’re awesome, but I’m just not into spending time getting people together to do that. So, this temporary event should be in the “don’t like” section, but obviously temporary events will keep interest in the game up. The game isn’t a draw in the way of role-playing, puzzle solving, or mystery, so it has to have a way to keep people coming back for more.
For me, it’s been pretty fun so far, but with the whole thing being about acquiring new and interesting clothes and weapons . . . it gets a bit old. However, it does feel good to work for something and get it, even though it’s all virtual. I think if anyone could work like that in real life and get those kinds of rewards, they’d want to.
2) The look and feel of gameplay. The game is stunning. Really. The detail in the environments is fantastic, and no doubt much is missed by the average player, but the weather, and lighting especially, are really great. I love being in the game, basically, especially being on Venus. There is much feeling in the control, too, with this game. Punching, zooming along on your hovercraft, flying through the air – these are all just fun things to do.
3) It’s first person, not third. This is a part of the gameplay “feel,” but it’s significant enough to be a separate like. Being in first person makes for a more personal game.
4) There’s no gore, sex, or swearing. I personally don’t mind some of those things (depending on how much and the context), but I know Christian players and parents might want to know about these things. The characters you shoot do not “bleed,” but some of them do have something come out when you get a head-shot. The Fallen have what looks like a purple vapor come out, and the Cabal have what appears to be black oil! The Hive are undead and the Vex are mostly mechanical, so nothing special comes out of them. If you’re going to become offended in the game, it will most likely be from selfish players you might run across.
What I don’t like about Destiny so far
1) The ridiculous limit of characters you can set up to play. You are limited to three, so right now, if you want to have more characters you have to have a second online account (through XBOX or Playstation). Only three people in your family can have a character, and of course you can’t experiment with other characters unless you’re willing to delete the one you already started. According to my son, this is a bogus limitation without any technical merit. If you know differently, please leave a comment.
2) Bungie’s “customer service” is simply atrocious, as in virtually non-existent. They even have put down their XBOX customers down online (on Twitter, an XBOX help person even came onto a Bungie thread and helped XBOX players while their own staff continued to ignore them). They would prefer to have only PS4 customers. When an error message comes up while you’re playing, it says to go to Bungie help and search for a certain word. I went there and there was NO explanation by Bungie of that error code, only people asking and complaining about it, since there’s no help. This company can’t even do basic customer service things . . . at least that was true at the time I’m writing this.
Today, 10-7-2014, Bungie is doing a multi-hour fix so hopefully connectivity issues will improve, and at least they Tweeted about it to let people know. EA has been a whole universe better about customer service and letting people know about downtimes (they put messages up IN-GAME), and even having information and help at their website. Given EA’s past reputation, this should really be a kick in Bungie’s pants– but as can be surmised, they very much don’t seem to care.
3) The incredibly bare-bones story. As in, virtually no story. The story that does exist in game is of course used to explain why you’re on a bounty or mission, but it’s really just a shoot and loot type of game, at least so far. Still, I look forward to writing more about the story in the future.
Right now it looks as though a basic good vs evil scenario was concocted–one that will have little chance of offending anyone. If you’re a Christian you could lament the main mysterious but benevolent power, “The Traveler,” since it helped man progress materially. The force it commands, “light,” seems like simply a force. It uses its power to bring your character back to life, with no mention of where your soul was while you were dead (or how it “refleshed” you). Destiny will have added content and is set to be a trilogy, so who knows what details will emerge about The Traveler and its power, and how they relate to the spiritual realm.
I need to mention something here that cracked me up when I found out and it has to do with Christianity–but the message seems quite mixed. There is a very hard to get exotic machine gun called “Super Good Advice.” It is obtained through the bounty called “A Voice in the Wilderness.” Yes, John the Baptist’s message was “super good advice,” but, he didn’t shoot you dead with a machine gun in order to get his message across. At first, I thought the developers were just having fun with saying something positive about Christianity, but now I’m not so sure.
Upon seeing the weapon’s color–red, white, and blue–and the description, “This weapon is full of it,” I think they could be using Christianity to put down America. It could be just my inclination, but it seems to be saying that America, which seems like a Christian nation, really just likes to solve problems with violence. I wouldn’t agree with that; I’d say that America manipulates through money, and that obviously, money is power. There are times that morally, we should intervene on the behalf of innocent victims, and we don’t–the opposite of this gun’s possible message.
4) The lack of match-making by the game in order to play certain part of the game. The need for self-made teams in order to win the best stuff, as mentioned concerning the Vault of Glass above, is obviously biased toward a certain range of players.
5) Team members that act like they’re not part of a team. Again, this is a shooting game, and good shooter players tend to be fast and in it for themselves (one person on my team yesterday was a completely selfish . . . ). If you’re more like me, someone who likes to scout and snipe before jumping into things, the teams are not great and the multiplayer shooter is . . . nonexistent for me right now (my son and I play on one account so if you ever find us, you’ll see he does just fine in the Crucible multiplayer). It would be a nice change of pace to be on a more none-autobahn-minded minded team (although, certain Destiny missions favor fast playing). For that to happen, you need to put your own like-minded team together.
6) As a shooter game, a significant amount of playtime is simply spent on shooting/attacking sub-bosses and bosses . . . for a long, long time. My son is faster at boss killing than I am so for him it’s not as bad. I’m still trying to learn the difference in our play styles so that I can go through boss battles faster, but no matter how good you are, it’s still “busy work.”
____________ Recommended: Bungie’s Destiny Unveiled [Updated]