As we march closer to the release date for Destiny the excitement builds. Having already played and loved the alpha version I was dying to get my hands on the beta. In terms of gameplay not much has changed; it’s still a first person shooter with online co-op multiplayer.
The main changes between the alpha and the beta are atmospheric. The sound is much better for example. Gunshots in close quarters now echo down the corridors, Peter Dinklage’s voice work is much improved, and the environment sounds, well, like an actual environment.
Each stage now starts with an intro scene which gives the story a bit more flesh. It’s not just Earth that you fight on, but the terraformed moons of Mars, Venus and Mercury. This is where the battlegrounds are inside the PVP area called The Crucible.
Throughout the Tower (the communal area) are clans you can sign up to and gain banners from. Each banner, symbol and special armour and weapons give you bonuses. Not all of these are listed, but some are. Special weapons can also have unlockable attributes, the more you use it, the quicker these unlock (for example “damage bonus after a headshot”).
The thing I really like about Destiny is that the difficulty is scalable. As a level 3 player I encountered level 3 bad guys, as a level 8, I got level 8 bad guys in the same area. The matchmaking in the Crucible was similarly excellent (though my prowess at PVP matches hasn’t increased sadly). There are special events too, that only run for a short time inside the crucible. So far all of the Crucible matches seem to be team-based rather than deathmatch, one-on-one style, which is kind of cool.
I also still love how the multiplayer works; you can either get friends joining your official Fireteam or you can just be in the same level with other players. Of course sometimes you’re forced into a team like in the Crucible or in a Strike. To play in these areas you need to have a Playstation Plus account (I assume there will be a similar requirement for Xbox users).
The Strikes, and some of the missions, now have restricted respawns. Playing an earlier level mission I saw my companion disappear as I entered the final stage, I had to finish it on my own. In the Strikes restricted respawns mean you have to rely on your teammates so much more. If all your teammates die the game starts from the last checkpoint, but while you can respawn it takes a lot longer, like 30 seconds. It makes certain levels… challenging.
It’s still a beta so there are some issues. Bad guys sometimes blip out of existence then reappear and sometimes two enemies would be superimposed in the same space, but these weren’t too common or annoying. The most annoying glitch were the invincible enemies. Throughout the maps are hidden tunnels that lead to higher level enemies guarding rewards. In the alpha there were challenges, in the beta these enemies had a level of “??” and no matter what you hit them with (grenades, rockets, special powers) nothing would happen.
The main thing I got from the beta was that there is a lot of story to come and that the world within Destiny is going to be huge. Bungie have dangled the Moon in front of players too, it’s right there on the map but you can’t get to it. The promise of more to come is what makes Destiny so damn exciting right now.
In the stores around the tower you can see weapons, armour and symbols for level 20 characters. Things that look tantalisingly cool that we can’t get at just yet.
One of the criticisms of Destiny is that it’s the same as other games, and I can see why. But for me this is what I love about it. It’s the best bits of a number of games without being revolutionary beyond the amazing visuals. That September release date can’t come soon enough.