Bungie's DESTINY: Transforming a Genre Once More

My only screenshot from the Destiny Alpha, as I was having too much fun playing it
Credit: Bungie / Lucas Siegel

It’s clear that Bungie knows they have something special with Destiny. Aside from a major presence at last week’s E3 2014 in Los Angeles, the developer gave the opportunity to play the game for free months before release to not just press, but fans, too, in a Public Alpha period.

There are moments in video games, when you are playing them for the first time, that you can easily recognize, “okay, this is new,” or “this is (for lack of a better term) a true game changer.” At E3 this year, we saw several of those moments, signifying the true dawning of a new generation of console gaming. Whether it was the cinematic-quality graphics of Batman: Arkham Knight and The Order: 1886, the literal thousands of individually reacting NPCs in Assassin’s Creed: Unity, or the all-new enemy management of Shadow of Mordor, it was easy to be excited about those new, game changing moments.

Destiny legitimately has an easy three, four, or five of those moments in the first hour that you play the game.

When I fired up Destiny for the first time in the Alpha, I chose the Warlock class and jumped into a story mission. As I was playing, I noted that the gameplay felt very much like Halo, the franchise that put Bungie on the map (unless, like me, you were a Mac gamer in the 90s playing the Marathon series that evolved into Halo, of course). It was a fairly straight-forward shooter, until a few minutes in I found myself being rushed by multiple villains. It seemed they had caught on to my run, cover, shoot tactics, and several ran straight past me to attack from behind. Now I was confronted by four enemies in front of me at once, not sure how I was going to get out of the situation, when I remembered, oh yeah, I have powers. Instead of a traditional melee, I had what can best be described as a Force Push – that also drains those it affects. Three of the enemies were pushed backwards, while the one I had been shooting disintegrated. I yelled out in joy – this was new.

Continuing to play with the character I now affectionately call a “Jedi Spartan,” I gained his “nova bomb” or, again as I liked calling it, a “force bomb.” I’d seen the advanced ability used in trailers, but the first time I threw it, conveniently at a powered-up mini-boss character, I couldn’t help but jump out of my seat. The name of the game now became finding ways to use my drain/push as often as possible, and just dropping nova bombs every time I could, the moment I could.

After a great time playing the story mission, I decided to explore in the open world area available in the Alpha. I called up my speeder, and zoomed to a wide open area with crashed vessels and plenty of enemies. Here, there were missions dropped around the expansive area, that were simple walk-up and start. But the real fun here was joining in with a couple of friends. Choosing to join a friend’s game, my character automatically warped to them. Soon after we had started running around, doing some of these smaller missions, we were notified of a public event and decided to jump in. Now, it was the Alpha, so there weren’t a ton of other people able to jump in, but we did see a few more join us for a massive boss battle, dropped right into the middle of our game. After the battle (um, we lost – but it was still fun!), things picked up right where they left off, we finished our mission, and moved on.

Now, some of the things I’ve described have shown up in other games – especially in games of other genres. None, however, have been attempted in a console-based FPS. Just as Halo pushed that genre to the forefront, just as Halo 2 made online multiplayer something that would quickly be a necessity for shooters, Destiny looks to add no less than three major changes to that same world – and again, that’s based off just the first hour of play in the Alpha, and it only got better as I continued.

If Destiny wasn’t already on my radar as a highly anticipated game, then the Alpha would have easily put it on the list. Now, I can’t wait just to play more, but I am anxious to explore more, to discover more, and that’s something rare that not enough game companies are trying to inspire. I am now anticipating the Destiny Beta more than I’m looking forward to playing some entire other games, so Bungie, keep pushing, because you’re doing something right.

The Destiny Alpha was played on a PlayStation 4, using a code provided by Bungie PR for press impression/review purposes. The Beta testing period begins July 17, 2014, and is available on PlayStation platforms first.

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