Beginning Thursday, June 12 gamers were given the chance to play Destiny Alpha, a pre-beta release for those who can’t wait to play. For those interested, they would have had to have signed up earlier on Destiny’s website. And while the redemption codes to play were scarce and for a limited time (you were able to play through Sunday, June 15), we were lucky enough to be among the lucky few who got in and played. This is a breakdown of what we learned about Bungie’s impressive MMO, and what we experienced playing as all three available classes.
EDIT, JUNE 16 at 9:34am: Destiny Alpha is still going. Team Bungie has extended their Alpha experience indefinitely. If you are among those who managed to get in, keep playing!
Bungie has made sure to set the foundation for Destiny’s history, rich with emotion tied into creation, exploration, and destruction. Civilization on earth changed long ago (though the game takes place in the distant future) with the arrival of the Traveler (that small moon-like space sphere hovering within the atmosphere just above the last remaining city on earth). The mysterious sphere brought what is being referred to as the Golden Age to mankind, allowing our species to colonize to the otherwise inhabitable planets within our solar system. Though this was a great time for being a space explorer, the Traveler brought with it a dark force that followed its path to earth, decimating the planet, nearly wiping out all of its populace. Though some remain, they believe they owe their survival to the Traveler having built their colony just below it.
Within the city are Guardians (you, the player), the protectors of the last standing civilization, and explorers of what remains of the Golden Age on earth and beyond the stars. The Guardians come in three races, the Humans, Exos, and the Awoken. Of those three races, there are three classes to choose from- the Hunter, the Titan, and the Warlock. Each has their own unique abilities and skill sets, and wield a mystical power granted to them by the Traveler. It is up to the Guardians to unlock the mysteries of the past, to save earth’s future and become legend. It is your Destiny (see what I did there?).
Typical humans. They are likely the most relatable, says Bungie, and the least complex.
The class I chose for my first play through. Initially a mechanical instrument of death, the machines have become sentient and capable of free-will. The original intent was to have the Exos protect their creators and serve, but have since been rebooted with any earlier memories wiped from their memory banks.
Fair-skinned, light-haired, Bungie referred to these characters as “exotic and mysterious” in nature. They look and function just like the human race, but more interesting to get to know. Bungie claimed they drew their inspiration from Elves and Angel-like creatures, if that gives a better understanding.
These guys are the ones that remind you where Bungie came from, as they resemble Halo Spartans the most. The Titans have a lightning charged fist that can be used a powerful attack effective. Often considered like “gods” to those in the world of Destiny, they are the saviors and protectors of mankind. Their Striker ability allows players to smash the ground and shock all nearby enemies. A secondary ability, Defender allows the player to create an indestructible protective shield that surrounds you and your allies keeping you out of harms reach. During my second play through, I picked the Human/Titan Combination.
Bungie describes them as “cunning and ruthless”, handy with a blade and quick with the trigger finger. Their hoods and robes reminded me of Knights of the Old Republic immediately upon seeing them in-game. Their armor style often looks like something you would find a mercenary wearing. Hunters have the Gunslinger ability, which allows the player to whip out a flaming pistol and disintegrate enemies. Their other move is Bladedancer, an ability that charges up the players bladed weapon with lightning and effectively stabs/electrocutes foes. The Hunter/Exo combination was my first choice in playing, and my favorite of the three.
Using magic more so than the other two, their modern weapons like blades and guns mix with their powers. Their robes make them clearly distinguishable out of the lot, having been influenced by Star Wars, the Matrix, and even Lord of the Rings in their design. The Voidwalker ability is likely one of the cooler ones of the bunch, allowing you to throw a ball of electricity at enemies charring them to a crisp leaving behind a pile of ash when all is said and done. Their other move is the Firesinger, which enhances all other abilities the player has. Think of it sort of like Goku’s Kaio-Ken technique.
With whatever Race/Class combination you choose, Destiny Alpha starts you off in the same place each time you begin a new character. Which may be often as you can create multiple characters and bounce back and forth between them at any time. They share game currency between each other so upon time of public release, it’s likely there will be additional benefits of having more than one character file.
We begin with an Exo/Hunter combo, but just know that the controls are the same regardless of such choices and the gameplay feels remarkably similar at this point in time, though their special abilities differ greatly and are worth trying out to see which style you like best.
With a few thrash marks across the face and purple eyes added at the customization screen, we are ready to begin.
As soon as the game screen loads, you are greeted by Ghost (voiced by Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage), a small palm-sized companion who guides you through your mission objectives of investigating an unknown mysterious presence nearby. I feel I must be upfront about this immediately- Ghost is annoying beyond explanation. The voice acting is almost unbearable. If the quality of his comments doesn’t receive a severely needed charismatic overhaul before launch, I imagine I’ll be putting down Destiny every so often to give my ears a much needed break. But I digress.
Nearly two minutes in and we have already taken out a half of a dozen Fallen Dreg (beginner level bad guys) when we are greeted by another online player. We kill a few things together, we exchange humorous greetings through the use of the PS4’s D-Pad, and then with the blink of an eye, he was gone.
The PS4’s TouchPad is what you’ll interact with to see current mission objectives and summon your Sparrow, a hoverbike similar to the speeders in Return of the Jedi. You can’t attack while riding Sparrow, but it maneuvers surprisingly well, even if it takes a minute or two to adjust to the control scheme.
Ghost directs me to a nearby warehouse full of enemies and the obvious likely source to our curious mission objective. As we get deeper into the building, the power suddenly goes out triggering my flashlight in game. The brightness of the light on my PS4 controller increased too to emulate what was happening in game. It just so happened that I was playing in the dark, so the effect delighted me at the best possible time.
We continue through the dark until coming across a hidden horde of enemies. The light on the controller gradually turns red alerting the room of my depleting health. I take cover to regroup and allow my shields to refill before jumping back into the action and slaughtering the enemies. My shotgun makes quick work of the Fallen and we continue to the next room.
Ghost tells me the abnormal energy source is a “wizard” and that if anything is floating, we have to kill it. Not sure what in the hell he is talking about exactly, but hey, killing things sounds good to me.
After about five minutes of shooting and avoiding enemy fire, we take out the wizard and some other lesser foes only to receive a level up notification and a timer counting back from 10 indicating that our mission is over, and we are about to be teleported into orbit.
Before heading back to our ship, a breakdown of mission stats shows us our score.
TIME: 17:05 – Kills: 55 – Deaths: 1 – Precise Kills: 25 – Ability Kills: 7
Once we were done checking out our stats, the game faded to black and reappeared with a photo of our ship hovering above the atmosphere. Our small ship indicated that upgrades were available and new locations were ready to be explored. We opt to head to the Tower where a message and mission rewards were awaiting us.
Arriving at the tower, the game perspective changed to third person with the only actions of running and jumping being available. Our helmet was also removed, revealing our battle-torn Exo’s face and ominous purple glowing eyes.
Walking around the Tower reminded me of one of the cities in Knights of the Old Republic with the merchants and standing about offering us services and information. What appeared to be an ATM nearby revealed itself to be a vault, the place where players can come and drop off excess loot for storage reasons. Ships in the distanced docked and took off every so often creating a sense of life to the tower. Banners waved in the delicate winds, and the city miles off in the distance flickered with lights of ships and night life. Just above the city was the Traveler, looming above as mysterious as ever. I had to stop and appreciate the design and landscapes of Destiny as they truly are a sight to behold.
SIDE NOTE: If you jump off the ledge to try and land on one of the docking spaceships, you’ll go right through it and fall to your doom.
I make my way over to a merchant with nothing to sell before coming across the Postmaster sharing the same walls with the merchant. He has a letter for me from Team Bungie thanking me for playing Destiny Alpha.
Continuing down some stairs, I see another Merchant, the Crucible Handler who incidentally only sells Crucible Armor. It looks pretty cool, but at Level 4 I was a bit far from meeting the Level 20 requirement to actually wear the armor. Also, I didnt have any money so, bye, Crucible Handler!
Pressing on even further down, we meet up with a Vanguard and some other characters who reward us with armor for a job well done killing the Wizard. I am able to get some upgrades to my Hunter armor from a fellow Exo who I swear was voiced by Nathan Fillion but I can’t find any way to prove it. Though Fillion’s voice could be found in a few of the Halo games, so it’s likely that it’s him.
It was at this time that I backed out of my Hunter profile and gave a second and third play-through as both the Titan and the Warlock. Both of which I upgraded their skills to use their power attacks (I had forgotten about them with the Hunter). The Titans attacks were among my favorite, as you so often find yourself in a large cluster of enemies needing a quick way out. The electric HULK smash from the Titan clears out crowds instantly, though the wait time for it to recharge is a bit too long. Though it appeared to recharge more quickly as I killed more and more enemies.
The gameplay did not seem to change much as I created new characters and went through the same missions. Though I did do a bit more exploring, discovering various loot chests along the way before the mission was over. I also found alternate routes to get to the old warehouse where the Wizard was located, which added to the fun of not having a single path to take. But be that as it was, playing the same mission three times did not get any less fun, as new players joined with me at times, and new areas were discovered to explore. During the second take as the Titan, a large scarab-like enemy came crashing down with seemingly endless weaker enemies falling from the sky fighting at its feet, and that kept me busy for well over a half hour. During this time, I managed to meet 3 or 4 different players that came in and joined on the chaotic action that added new elements depending on their level, weapon inventory, and Guardian powers.
Destiny may not release until September 9th leaving us with the Alpha (for now) and Beta if you pre-order the game, but even at its current stage, it is a lot of fun. I’ll definitely be picking this one up come launch day.
Developed by Bungie, published by Activision, Destiny comes to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One this September 9th. Martin O’Donnell joins Bungie once again to compose, this time partnering with Sir Paul McCartney for what we can already tell is going to be one fantastic soundtrack.