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When you get an email that says ‘Fire up your PS4 and play the Destiny Alpha this weekend before E3 kicks off”, the first thing that comes to mind is “it’s probably spam”. However I am glad I did not delete that message! I had been looking forward to the Destiny Beta that was slated to launch later this summer so the chance to get in and checkout Bungie’s next big project early made me giddy. Destiny is the next big thing from Bungie post Halo franchise. So after a 6 gig download, I jumped into the game, tailored the look of my character and chose a magic wielding Warlock from the three available classes. Once that was done I started the sole campaign mission available for this preview.
Stop blowing stuff up guys. I just wanna talk! Ah screw it, shoot everything!
Hello, sir. Nice look.
I found myself in a desolate field next to decayed shell of a building. This, clearly, used to be an industrial complex of some sort. Long since deserted, there are pieces of rusting equipment and vehicles scattered about that provided excellent cover as I made way towards the building. As I approached a hole in that would serve as my way into the complex I suddenly was taking fire from a small group of armored aliens. These are the Fallen who have driven humanity to brink of extinction and have been harvesting resources from Earth. The Fallen have been guarding this rotting hulk of a facility and I had been tasked to find out why. I dove behind cover and tried to figure out where the fire was coming from. Peeking out I locate where my enemy had moved to and quickly spotted 3 infantry trying to maneuver to a better firing position while three small hover bots that resembled flying suitcases milled about. I raised my rifle and started snapping off short bursts, fighting to keep my gun on target as the recoil kept causing the barrel to drift upwards.
I am a PC player and have complained often (and loudly) about how frustrating a console can be for a shooter, but the PS4 controller felt responsive and good as I duked it out with these aliens. As this group was little more than fodder I came of the combat relatively unscathed. I was able to replenish my ammo from the items they dropped and got rewarded with experience and currency called Glimmer. Like an MMO, experience is used to unlock new skills and abilities for your character and the Glimmer is used to purchase new items or vehicles. My character started at level 4 (no idea yet if this is how it works in the full game or not) so I have a few skills unlocked already, like the ability to melee enemies with a blast of power from my hand that disintegrated bad guys at close range. Once you gain enough experience you unlock weapon and ability upgrades but for now I had a pretty slim load out to deal with. I had my rifle which was good for mid-range, a close range shot gun as a secondary weapon and a gravity grenade that pulled enemies into its vortex for extras damage. Forget about the grenade spamming that was a mainstay of Halo because once you toss that pineapple, you can’t lob another one until the ability recharges. Make sure you time it right and your aim is true because it’s going to be a few minutes before you get another one.
As I moved into the building I was getting narration that filled in back story elements and provided details on the current mission. I came to a locked door and had to deploy my ‘Ghost’ which was a small floating cube that was able to hack the door after a few moments. Once it was done and the door slid open, all I wanted to do was close it again. A voiceover told me I had wandered in a ‘Hive’ and was suddenly rushed by dozens of ‘Thralls’. I was told that if I saw a floating ‘Wizard’ I had to take him out. First I had to worry about the Thralls. They had no weapons but their strength was their sheer number and speed. I was falling back unloading clips of rifle fire and switching to my shot gun then things got up close and frantic. Behind them were other Fallen troops who were taking pot shots at me as I fled for my life. I had almost expended all my ammo dealing with the Thrall horde but as I may my way back to deal with the other troops I found ammo, Glimmer and some armor the bad guys had dropped. Once I got back to the main room, I was taking out the armed Fallen when suddenly the Wizard came floating down the corridor, heavily shielded and firing off huge energy bolts when sent me diving for cover. I traded fire with him for several minutes before I scored a lucky throw with my grenade, sticking it his chest. Damage numbers began showering off of him like water from a high powered sprinkler and soon he dissolved in a flash of light. As the mission was complete, a timer started counting down. I had limited time to get into the room and collect the items he dropped. Soon I was looking a ship orbiting high over the Earth while mission stats and rewards were displayed.
Watch it, hoddie!
Don't worry, we're safer in this, um, shadow... Yes. Comepletely safe.
From this orbit screen I had several navigation options available. I could head to the ‘Tower’ where among other things I could buy, sell or put items into my bank vault, head back down to old Russia on Earth to replay the mission I just finished, head to a new area where I could take my time exploring and picking up tasks to complete at my leisure or head to the Crucible to battle other players. As I traveled from one location to another, there was a bit of a delay where screen showed the ship in transit. I am not sure if this was waiting on a response from the server or was loading in new info but it sure was pretty to watch. As this was an Alpha I was not one to complain but it stays this way through Beta and when the game launches it’s going to get really old really, quickly. However for the time being it reminded me of some of the transit scenes from Firefly.
The game looks gorgeous and makes me appreciate the PS4. I would still prefer to play it on a PC but it still looks pretty darn good. Gameplay wise I was a bit under whelmed with the first mission as I was trying to figure out controls and how to get around. It was not until I went back and played the exploration mission later that I began to get into the groove of things. I found that I had a hover bike like the speeder from Return of Jedi that I could summon to move around the map quickly. As I had more time to explore, I was able to engage in combat in a way that was more to my play style. This meant more experiences allowing me to gain levels, get better equipment and unlock more powerful abilities. I felt like I was playing a slower paced version of Borderlands that had mixed in elements of the Halo series. Grouping allows you to tackle tougher foes and level even faster. The more I played, I realized Destiny has the potential to be a huge time sink for me when it comes out as the Alpha provided a small taste and hinted as what the full game is going to offer. With its mix of shooter and MMO elements and its ability to explore looking for loot and bad guys, it’s strongly appealing to me.
The Beta is slated to launch for both the PS4 and Xbox One on July 14th so more players should be able to get the chance to see what is coming.
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