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.
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.