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Destiny: Update from the Public Beta
Coming to PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 (Possibly PC but not yet announced)
Destiny release date September 9
Can we call it an MMO yet? How about an MMO/FPS/action RPG? The more time I spend in the Destiny beta, the less I compare it to the Halo trilogy, Borderlands or any other sci-fi shooter, and the more it reminds me of World of Warcraft, Diablo and Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2.
It’s not hard to see the links between Destiny’s vast line-up of upgradable weapons and armour to Diablo or World of Warcraft’s fantasy equivalents, or how its story missions, strike missions and exploration missions correspond to the dungeons, raids and quests of WoW. Yet it’s actually more like Guild Wars in the way that its major quests are instanced, with the Strike Team taking the place of a conventional party. The second-to-second gameplay is classic first-person shooter, but the wider structure? The fight-loot-level-upgrade-show off - fight some more? Destiny’s MO is classic MMORPG.
Yet Destiny still excels as a shooter. Perhaps its AI doesn’t quite have the personality or adaptability of the Covenant in Halo: Reach, but it seems to be getting closer, and the enemies are steadily becoming more distinctive and more dangerous. Swarmers, sneaky flankers, hide-and-pop out blasters and the more formidable Hive Knights and Fallen Captains seem more prevalent in the new or improved missions, making the combat more varied and more satisfying.
The weapons, too, are growing more recognisable and more intriguing. The tactical potential of the different pulse rifles, auto rifles, fusion rifles and machine guns is becoming clearer, and it’s getting easier to see how they can fit in with your choice of class.
What does the beta add to the alpha? Well, the short answer is more content. We get four more story missions, more to do in a more fully-realised Tower, and more storyline and cut-scenes to link it all together.
The longer answer is that the beta is a more coherent slice of the game. The alpha threw you into the action without much explanation, but the beta clarifies the background lore and the roles of The Traveller and The Darkness, plus where you and your fellow guardians fit in. You finally get some idea of how it all fits together as a narrative.
See also: Destiny tips and tricks - A starter guide for the beta
It’s easy to underestimate how tough Bungie’s job is; creating a world where you can feel like the star of an epic sci-fi saga when - in more practical terms - you’re just one of several million hard-working grunts. Yet Destiny does a mostly fantastic job of it, partly thanks to new missions with stronger pacing and more exciting set pieces, not to mention a suitably hyperbolic score.
Peter Dincklage’s star turn as the Ghost still has its odd moments - though the legendary Wizard/Moon line has been surgically removed - but a robotic treatment makes it work better. The string of missions in the beta works well as a sample for the main campaign, and whether you play them on your tod or in a fireteam (which is a whole lot easier) they still have a fantastic, slightly Halo-esque feel.
There’s enough content here to get you up to level 7, and the Beta still caps out at level 8. That still gives you some scope to mess around with higher-level weapons and abilities. Beyond high Attack value guns that slice through Fallen Captains like the proverbial knife, the main impact of levelling up is a boost for your class-specific capabilities, activated with singular or simultaneous grabs of the L1 and R1 bumpers.
These are both Destiny’s spells and its equivalent of grenades, and upgrades that increase the damage and reduce the cooldown period make them more useful as your Guardian progresses, and as you meet larger packs of Hive or Fallen with more challenging leaders. We can also see tantalising glimpses of how the branching sub-classes might fit in, allowing players to customise their Hunters, Titans and Warlocks for more specific scout, tank or damage dealer roles.
Are there any concerns creeping in? Well, some of the new missions are tough on solo players, particularly when you have to fend off multiple waves of incoming enemies without going down, as you have no fellow Guardians to revive you or hold the fort while you wait to respawn.
Meanwhile some of the Exploration missions - not to mention the Strike mission - can descend into farce as the Guardians literally race to hoover up the next mob of Hive or Fallen. Try kicking off a new character and playing with more experienced Guardians, and you’ll find that you might not even make it to the next battle before the action’s over.
These situations are more the exception than the norm, however, and I suspect Bungie will be looking carefully at the data from the Beta and trying to sort this kind of thing out. As far as we’re concerned, the bigger issue is the competitive multiplayer element: The Crucible. Bear in mind that we’ve played relatively few games in one game mode on two maps, but The Crucible doesn’t quite have the magic that the rest of Destiny overflows with.
In terms of feel, it sits somewhere in-between Halo and the twitch, blink-and-you’re-dead action of a Call of Duty, and it’s perhaps the most conventional component in an otherwise conventional shooter. It plays well enough, the weapons seem a little more balanced than they did in alpha, and the vehicles on the Moon map are fun to drive around, but there’s nothing here to rival Battlefield 4 or Titanfall - at least not yet.
Destiny only gets better with the beta. The FPS combat is as tight and absorbing as it was in Halo, and it still has the epic feel of Bungie’s best work. Yet its the MMO influences that are getting stronger as the game crawls closer to release, making Destiny an almost irresistible combination of Halo, Guild Wars and World of Warcraft.
Read more: Best PS4 games
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