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First Look at Destiny: We Play the Alpha
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First Look at Destiny: We Play the Alpha

Full disclosure: I’m not too big on shooters. The furthest I’ve been in this territory is Bioshock, and the sam...

First Look at Destiny: We Play the Alpha

Full disclosure: I’m not too big on shooters. The furthest I’ve been in this territory is Bioshock, and the same goes for MMOs -- I’ve only played FFXIV and WoW to a single-digit level. Suffice it to say that when I sat down to test Bungie’s Destiny, the new Massively Multiplayer Online shooter from the creators of Halo, I didn’t expect to dig it too much. Boy, was I wrong.

 

The first thing I noticed when I jumped in this weekend’s Alpha-build was the graphics. Nothing truly next-gen here, just your standard post-apocalyptic landscapes, spaceships, and exosuits. And then I got to the Tower. That sky, you guys.

 

 

Destiny looks as good up close as it does from afar. Textures are solidly hi-res, while Earth’s sky will drop your jaw to the floor like a lead weight. Graphics might not be truly innovative from an art direction standpoint, but the level of detail is undeniable, and it creates a lush atmosphere. On the surface, terrains look sufficiently bleak and ravaged, but once you step underground, things shift to a torch-driven, tense horror experience reminiscent of F.E.A.R.

 

 

Once I’d gotten my bearings, it was time to explore. Lots to do here, thankfully, as the MMO model is in full effect in Destiny. Three classes are available -- Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. I played the Hunter all weekend (double jump FTW). The Tower acts as your hub where you upgrade and outfit your character in third-person view, and the Earth’s surface is the first-person-view overworld filled with fetch quests, elimination missions, and other standard MMO fare. Instances are here as well in the form of Strike missions, taken with a Fireteam of up to 3 players, and multiplayer is offloaded to neighboring planets where players duke it out in 6v6 matches.

 

What I loved about the multiplayer is how plausibly it was inserted into the world. You’ll never come across a Single Player or a Multiplayer menu, as it’s all handled in-world, in-lore. If you want to play a Capture The Flag match (the only mode available in the Alpha) you go to the Crucible grounds, a moon beside Earth. And even on Earth it’s never standard single-player shenanigans, either. This is an MMO, after all. Players do their thing, sometimes hindering but, more often than not, helping you, just as in any other MMO.

 

 

The only area available for exploration on Earth was Old Russia; Bungie promises a full planet, plus Mars and Jupiter in time for the game’s release. Traversal on foot is slow, so one of the first things the game gives you is a hoverbike.

Guys, hoverbikes are the s**t.

 

A form of transport in the Overworld as well as a weapon in the Multiplayer matches, the hoverbikes zoom across the terrain like lightning and handle like a dream. The podracer-like sound effects they make are also supremely cool.

 

Battles rage across Old Russia as you zip around on your bike. Dismount at any time, jump in the fray and realize how well Destiny controls. Combat is tight, tense, and gleefully fun, and dispatching the Fallen and the Hive is extremely satisfying.

 

 

Your Portal-inspired mechanical companion, called a Ghost, announces every victory and defeat and acts as your guide in the world of Destiny. The strange part is that it’s voiced by none other that Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones’ Tyrion Lannister, and the experience is...jarring. Dinklage delivers his lines mechanically and mirthlessly, so that every time he speaks you hear Tyrion in your head. Given that the game strives to make you lose yourself in its world (and succeeds, in my opinion), a more anonymous voice actor would have been more suitable.

 

 

Tyrion aside, here’s the bottom line: Destiny is surprisingly fun. The time I had with the game flew by, and I found myself craving more each time I had to put the controller down. Bungie dispelled all doubts I had about the game, proving that they are master world-builders and experts at making fun, frantic shooters.

 

The Alpha test unfortunately ended on Sunday, so whatever impressions I got will have to hold us over until the Beta stage, which begins on July 17th. Expect the final version of Destiny to release in full on September 9th.

 

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