Whenever a major game developer announces a new franchise, you can expect a variety of reactions. In my case, I ran the gamut from indifference to mouth-foaming excitement. By the time the game actually arrives, who knows what the hell I’ll be thinking. Let’s go over my journey through Bungie’s ambitious new multi genre-spanning shooter so far.
Stage 1: Announcement
There was admittedly some disappointment felt when the creators of Halo announced they were seceding from Microsoft and giving up their baby to pursue other projects. But on the other hand, the Xbox’s signature franchise had kind of run its course as the be-all-end-all sci-fi shooter and it was time for something new; in this case that thing was Destiny. Let’s take a look at my reactions in classic Gamemoir style.
Bungie has a brand new franchise?
And it’s another futuristic first person shooter.
Why give up on the greatest sci-fi FPS franchise in gaming to make a different sci-fi FPS franchise? Halo is filled with a nearly Star Wars-ian level of lore and boasts so many strong concepts, epic stories, and memorable characters. Can Bungie really do it all again from scratch?
Hype Level: 5/10
Stage 2: Development
Once it was announced that there was a multiplatform successor to Halo in town, the questions began. Are they going to be able to improve on the formula they created? Do they have some epic vision that Halo was holding them back from, or were they just sick of the fanboys whining every time they changed something?
Concept art was seen and the basic premise were given unto us for consideration. Class-based multiplayer centered around cooperative party play across a desolate universe eh? Sounds interesting if not impressive. How about a trailer?
So it’s basically a more generic-looking Halo with some wannabe Mass Effect features thrown in?
Past Bungie efforts have looked universally more impressive and given our attachment to those efforts, is it possible to regain that level of excitement for something that looks the same but not as cool?
Hype Level: 3/10
Stage 3: Beta Announcement/Alpha
Maybe it was the fact that I’d just bought a PS3 and was awash in a new world of exclusives, but at this point, Destiny was barely hanging on at the edge of my radar. Sure, I wanted to see how Bungie’s latest was going to do, but preordering wasn’t really a thought in my head. I was planning to go ahead and let this one float on by. Maybe when it hit the bargain bins in a year or two I’d give it a shot…if I felt like it.
But then they made a really smart move and announced that fans who preordered would be given access to the multiplayer beta a couple months ahead of release. Some of my favorite gaming experiences from recent years have come as a result of betas. I was planning on skipping Gears of War 3 until the beta and past Halo betas have always been a true delight. Think I should drop $5 on a preorder to test drive this one?
Then came last month’s alpha test where PS4 owners who registered got their first real opportunity to take it all in. Being tied to the ancient technology of the third PlayStation like a total pleb, I had to settle for looking at other people’s reactions, which varied from very pleased to somewhat indifferent to (most often) mocking Peter Dinklage’s deadpan delivery of lines about wizards that came from the moon.
I think they were just jealous because no matter how great their lives are, they will never be as cool as Dinklage is. Questionable voice acting aside, I was just starting to get really excited at the prospect of digging into another Bungie beta after so many years.
Hype Level: 7/10
Stage 4: Beta Time!
It took nearly eight hours to download the beta from the PSN servers after an hour in the morning frantically checking and rechecking for my codes on bungie.net and then forgetting about the code entry option in the PSN store, scouring message boards for a location to download the beta from, and then finally checking my email (which came later) and seeing the instructions there. Why must you download so SLOWLY?! I guess I’m waiting until after work to meet my Destiny, then.
So in the late waning hours of beta launch day, I was finally able to fire up Destiny for the first time and get my first taste of the savage post-apocalyptic solar system. Pardon my language, but I was fucking impressed. Not by the story, mind you. Running around shooting at things while a voice tells you what to do has been done often and better, even if the voice in question belongs to Tyrion Lannister. The graphics were nice for the opening cutscene, and decent beyond that.
What really impresses with Destiny is the presentation and integration of various genres into a cohesive whole. Such as the way your orbital ship serves as a hub from which you can fly to the planet to fulfill “story” (if that’s what you want to call it) and exploration missions, go to the Tower to dance the night away with other players in the plaza while shopping, accepting bounty challenges, and other MMO-ish things, or head to the Crucible to take your aggro out on your fellow gamers with some PvP.
What’s really cool is that even while out exploring in solo play or with friends, you run across other players traversing the same landscape. You can team up or ignore each other at your own discretion, but this feature really makes the world of Destiny feel alive. Once I got dropped by a hidden enemy while being stupid and another random player came rushing to my aid on her jet bike. She revived me and after we wrecked the baddies together, I turned to offer the good Samaritan a formal salute. She responded with a charming bow. You sure don’t experience spontaneous moments like that in Halo.
Emotes add a surprising amount of personality to the game. While capturing zones in the Crucible, I’m fond of just sitting my ass down on the ground like I’m too bored for this objective stuff and need something to shoot at to wake me back up. I also managed to distract an opponent through a glass dome by popping and locking before pointing at him. Served! When he started dancing back, a teammate of mine ran up behind him and shotgunned him. Double served! Watch your motion detectors, kiddies.
There’s also a lot of juice in the Crucible’s overall presentation. Seeing your whole team fly together in your individual ships (which will look way more impressive in the full game with all the customization options unlocked) and then teleport to the map as a team sets the perfect tone for the subsequent conflict with an epic feel.
Add all of the Borderlands-like elements, Mass Effect-ish class skills, and enemy factions that fight each other even as you fight against them both and you’ve got classic Halo-style FPS gameplay with a lot more to recommend it. I likey.
Hype Level: 9/10
Stage 5: Post-Beta Reflection/Pre-launch Anticipation
We sure had fun, didn’t we? But the beta’s over. See you next time.
Why, we could make dumb references that only 90’s kids will get! Seriously, though, I had just gotten my second character, an Awoken Warlock, to the point where I wanted her with skills and weapons and we were rockin’ the Crucible, feasting on some of the last minute noobs that flooded in when Bungie made the beta open to all. Then the server started crashing every fifteen minutes or so, pretty much ruining the whole last day. Not the best way for a killer beta to go out.
I really want to play this game more. A lot more. On one hand, a beta is a great chance for gamers to try out a new game and give feedback to improve the experience before launch. But on the other hand, it seems kind of cruel to give us a bite of something so delicious and then take the plate away. This is doubly true in a game like Destiny, where character advancement and loot drops are a big part of the experience. All that work and now it’s like it never happened.
Finding a competent team to undertake the challenging gauntlet of the Strike mission, exploring the landscapes of Old Russia when a random Fallen ship drops a big bad in your vicinity, leading you to team up with players from across the map to tackle the common enemy, dashing to the Cryptarch to decode your latest cache of loot, dancing on the corpses of your foes; the pleasures of Bungie’s new game are many and I miss them already. A lot.
The only chink in the armour so far is an unimpressive story, but then again if we judged Halo by its first level alone, we wouldn’t have been impressed with that either. There’s definitely a ton of room for the narrative to grow and if nothing else, the music adds plenty of epic drama to the action when it kicks in.
The MMORPG aspects combined with some of the best FPS mechanics in gaming, often unpredictable enemy AI, a deep layer of polish, excellent multiplayer, and a general feeling of ambition add up to make a game I felt indifferent about a few months ago something I’m dying to pay $60 for, even after over a week of playing it for free. Especially after playing it for free.
Hype Level: 10.
Wake me up in September, guys.