Destiny Alpha Impressions

Let’s start with the bad points: I chuckled heartily when Peter Dinklage, in the most serious of voices, said “That wizard came from the moon.”

Occasional dodgy writing aside I am happy to tell you Destiny is shaping up to be something special. From the moment the game starts it is extremely polished with high resolution models and shimmering visual effects. After picking your character from one of three classes and proceeding with the usual tweaking of skin colour, hairstyle and other aesthetic nuances, you are swiftly dropped into a sci-fi warzone.

The ever present Dinklage voices your AI companion, “Ghost”, and will narrate the story while tracking your current objective. The play area for the Alpha is a snowbound Russian island covered in abandon buildings and rife with two species of enemy, the Fallen and the Hive. Various areas of the map are patrolled by them and you can either shoot your way through or summon a rather floaty hoverbike and zoom straight past them.

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The combat reminds me a little of PlayStation 4 free-to-play game Warframe, it’s not as twitchy as Call of Duty but not as heavy as Killzone. Each character comes with special moves that can be powered up, my Titan class fighter have used a super charged ground pound attack which devastates enemies in a wide area, and a powered up melee punch which will tear through all but the strongest enemies.

As you might expect from an MMO, or as Bungie prefer to call it, a “shared-world shooter”, there are plenty of weapons, armour and stats to level up. Happily it doesn’t feel like too much of a grind and the progression seemed quite swift with new abilities unlocking at regular intervals.

The graphics are impressive and certainly much better than any other game of this type on PS4. As well as day and night cycles the new engine created for the Destiny has real-time dynamic lighting which is shown off whenever you enter buildings, most of which are dark bar the odd flashing ceiling light. The screens here have been taken by myself so are an accurate representation of the alpha rather than touched up bullshots. It really does look this good.

The music is also excellent and is linked to what’s happening in-game. On the first mission I was creeping through some dark corridors and Ghost was getting a bit panicked at the situation, and as he did so the background music began to whine and rise, much like it does in the movie Inception.

There are plenty of enemy types to be found and I must mention that the AI which is extremely good. The Fallen and Hive will jump around and find cover, and also retreat if you are attacking ferociously. However the boss battles deliver a disorientating change in pace, as anyone who watched our live stream will know. Between three players it took a good fifteen minutes to fell one of game’s first boss, a six-legged armoured tank. In fairness, we were slow to find its weak point but, even then, it proved near impenetrable with a constant flood of Fallen troops continually pushing us back.

In some situations, however, you may not even need to fight. The two factions shown in during the alpha, the Fallen and the Hive, don’t seem to like each other much and you may find them battling each other, another impressive demonstration of the AI.

You can play alone or bring two friends into your Fireteam and whilst you battle there will be other gamers in the play area as well. Occasionally a community event will spawn which usually involves defending a downed spacecraft for a certain amount of time as wave upon wave of enemies try and destroy it. Anybody in the play area can join these and with a good number of Guardians the battles becomes ferocious with drop ships continually flying in and deploying larger and more dangerous enemies.

When the battle is over you can fly up to The Tower, above which floats “the Traveller”, a white, spherical ship, whose appearance centuries before had enabled humans to colonise other planets. Here you can pick up you mail as well as trade and upgrade your weapons, armour and space craft. I may be mistaken but I think fan favourite Claudia Black voices one of the NPCs roaming Destiny’s interstellar social hub.

There is also the Crucible, a 6v6 multiplayer battle arena with a selection of different game mode. These arenas can includes tanks, turrets and other weapons so you are not just running and gunning. Furthermore, there are exclusive weapons, gear, and other bonuses that can only be won via The Crucible. Likewise, high tier items will also be reserved for those who excel in Destiny’s PvE.

You can also log on to the Destiny web site and check your stats, abilities and what your friends are up to. Clans are already available and you can also access the Grimoire which holds your card collection, each of which details an enemy, ability or feature.

There is so much to do I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the game in the eight hours I have played. Fortuitously, Bungie announced yesterday that the Alpha is to be extended from the original closing point of 8am Monday, but we are warned to expect “dangerous experiments.”

I am going to do a little more exploring tonight, there are so many tunnels and buildings to find and the play area is just massive. I have no idea how they are going to squeeze this on to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and as talented as Bungie are, I think this is the game you need to play on next-gen. I also want to find out about the factions back at The Tower, who are Dead Orbit and Future War Cult?

The overriding feeling I have taken from the Alpha is that this is what next-gen gaming should be, it is impressively polished even at this early stage and the scope is ridiculously huge. There are enough stats and options for you to tweak your character to your liking but at no point does this system feel frivolous or too overwhelming. If you enjoyed Fallout, Borderlands, Killzone or even the more recent Final Fantasy games, then Destiny is going to be right up your street.

Get ready for the next big thing.

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25 Comments

  1. I played this & was enjoying it till I played it again & this time it took me to the mother base where you meet other players etc from here is where I said f*ck this game due to the fact (Youlespointed this out in the forum) the way point kept taking me back & forth as it was not sure what it was doing.

    Also I wanted to carry on playing as I was enjoying fighting with the wizard but I didn’t know how to get back, I only ended up in an MP match to which my ass was handed to me.

    • It wasn’t hard and I ended up skipping the tutorial.

      Go to orbit, set destination and read what each destination is.
      The Wizard is Mission 3 on the map.

      That said, I do think the game needs a bit more direction for to enjoy it, but as this is an Alpha the whole point is to stress test the servers and find bugs, not play the whole game. I imagine an actual story and proper structure will reveal itself, but not until the full game.

  2. Visit the shipyard, its on the right side of the map (find a map bot if you cant see it). Get your ship repaired, then you can zoom back to the planet at any time by pressing the touchpad and going in to orbit.

    • Thanks for that, I didn’t know how to get back to the planet and was going to give up. I’m not good at FPS’s so get killed very quickly in MP.

      • There’s a screenshot of the map above :)

  3. Here are my thoughts, which I posted in the forums, but will post for the sake of conversation/potential annoyance:

    I spent a reasonable amount of time on this and just found it boring. The missions are SO generic, go here, collect/kill something, return. You keep going back over the same paths, over and over again which is so laborious even though the scale of the areas are huge – WTF?! Also there seems to be issues (which I’ll forgive as it’s an Alpha) where the mission markers seem to send you in one direction, then decide it’s wrong, and sends you back on yourself. Had that 2-3 times. It can also be annoying that the mission marker disappears so soon, so I keep having to press the touch pad. The enemies re-spawn in exactly the same spots, and after a short period of time, and they are not challenging in the slightest. The upgrade system also seems like it could be better – there are upgrades but from what I gather (I could be wrong) you don’t seem to be able to choose what to upgrade first, which would be nice, it’s just determined by your characters’ level.

    Another issue for me is that the enemies of a certain type are all EXACTLY the same – come on, this isn’t the MegaDrive and SNES era, surely they can have some variation but all still appear to be of the same race/species, or whatever they are. Seems odd when there are so many custom variations for the players’ character.

    A lot of the above could be being limited due to it being an Alpha, so excuse me if I seem a little over-critical.

    On a more positive note it looks good, and I think this has the potential to be good – I like the way you appear to be able to decide which planet to go to, and what mission to undertake, and it being co-op in these large environments will be great. However, I think at heart it’s still a rather generic shooter that will grow boring once all these other novelties wear off. A similar thing has happened with Watch_Dogs, and after a while all missions become the same.

    I have to disagree about the visuals TC, your beloved Killzone Shadow Fall looks superior imo ;)

    • I agree with most of this. I found it to look good, but just boring and nothing much to do other than repeat the same stuff over and over again.

    • Oh yes Shadow Fall looks better, but a Shadow Fall map could fiften or so times in to the map here.But Shadoe Fall aint a PS4 MMO :)

      • True! I guess I just made the comparison as they are both Sci-Fi shooters, but they are indeed different in their own rights.

    • Your first paragraph is mostly bugs, which as you say, is the Alpha so should be ignored.

      The stats upgarde depending on what you are doing I think, so use punchy fist more often and it will upgrade more often. I think, anyway.

      As for respawning enemies, if you killed them all, what would the other players in the map do? They’d have nothing to shoot. This is a team game, think of others :)

      I agree the chasing about the map is an utter pain in the arse in the “Explore” mission, but I guess they needed a way to make the missions last more than few mins. Having said that it does give you an excuse to find new areas. I managed to get right up to the top of the satellite dish last night.

      You’re complaining the enemies look the same. They look the same in Killzone. And Battlefield. And CoD. And God of War. And Super Mario Brothers. And Titanfall. And Space Invaders. And Dante’s Inferno. And Pixeljunk Shooter. And InFamous: Second Son. And.. do I need to go on?

      Also you have seen just a tiny, tiny portion of the enemy types. There are plenty more to come! If you want to have a preview trying going down the Hive caves, some nasty spiky spinny things in there!

      • Fair points – I have probably been over-critical. I should definitely use more “punchy fist”! ;)

        Also I’ve focused a lot on doing mission after mission (since I knew the Alpha was timed), perhaps I should have investigated more and just had some fun. I’ll have a go later if it’s still open, and go off-piste.

        Yeah, I’m not sure why it seems to bother me more in Destiny that all the enemies look the same. As you point out, that is the case in other FPS. It just doesn’t make the game feel very real. Minor thing though I guess, and something that’ll possibly be adjusted before release.

        I don’t think it’s for me, but I can see a lot of people liking it and I’m sure it will be successful. It’s nice to see something new though – although it’s similar in structure to say Borderlands, it also has it’s differences and looks very pretty.

      • I’ve never managed to get on with Borederlands, it’s trying far too hard to be amusing and the jokes fall flat a hell of a lot of the time.

      • I believe calling it an Alpha is a bit sneaky and unconventional, how long has it been in development for? and the beta is next month, with the game shipping two months after that.

        My biggest TECHNICAL gripe is the frame-pacing, it doesn’t look smooth at all despite it maintaining a solid 30 fps framerate.

      • How can anyone not like the humour in Borderlands? When it uses such comedy phrases as “wall sphincters” and “tinkle juice”?

        Ok, I’m actually 14, not 42 as I may have previously claimed. (This, sadly, is not true)

  4. “That wizard must have come from the moon”, should become a meme :)

    Expected to find the whole thing a bit, meh, since I didn’t like Halo. Ended up putting down a pre-order after my first evening on the Alpha. Excellent stuff and makes the Battlefield Hardline ‘beta’ look a bit shit in comparison.

    • yes very true about making BFH looking shit in comparison.

  5. Lovely write-up, fella. Not a game for me but have followed it due to the exposure it’s getting. Cracking looking title too! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Didn’t think I’d like it. I do. Might be a Killzone Shadow Fall killer for me.

      • Wow. Big words, fella. I know how much you love Killzone. Top stuff. :-)

  6. One thing I did notice, although subtle was the ‘xbox’ boot up like sound at the starting of Destiny…

  7. **mediocre fps,mass effect clone dressed as halo!**

    not my cup of tea so unfair to post my feelings about this game.
    but the general consensus is that its a tad boring…
    lets see what the final print can bring.
    good luck bungie rest in peace masterchief!

    • I wish it was a mass effect clone dressed as Halo, you’d be hard to go wrong there!

  8. Great write-up. Loved the alpha but didn’t blitz it so that I can enjoy the full game better.

    We’ll definitely have to knock together a clan so we can do Fireteams etc.

  9. I loved this. I’m not a big FPS fan, so it wasn’t even on my radar. But I saw some gameplay footage and thought that it looked quite different to the FPS norm, so applied for the alpha. Combines 2 gaming types I think I really ought to try harder to get into FPS and MMO. Not sure I’m going to pre-order but I think I’ll definitely pick it up sometime during it’s first month on sale.

  10. Did not enjoy the alpha, found it boring…. However the buzz building for it seems genuine and feel it’s gona be huge. Bigger first week than Watchdogs?

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