Now that the Beta for Destiny has run it’s full course, I thought I’d offer my take on what I thought excelled in the beta, what was rough and some stuff somewhere in the middle. Bottom line though is that I am now even more excited for the full retail release than I already was.
The most important test that the beta had to pass in my eyes was ensuring that Destiny felt totally unique, even though it is drawing on a number of high-profile inspirations. I would describe Destiny as Borderlands/Mass Effect/Halo/WoW all mashed up together – and yet it doesn’t feel or play exactly like any of them. The influences are there for sure, but that’s not a bad thing at all – especially since Bungie manages to tweak them just enough to be unique. Even though Destiny owes a lot to those games, it really manages to stand out.
Secondly, the gameplay has to actually feel satisfying, not just unique. I never really had any doubts here, Bungie hasn’t let me down with gameplay yet. The different weapons each behave differently enough to the extent that players can pretty easily pick a favorite, although I will say that the Hand Cannons need a little attention for the retail release. Each class also feels just different enough so they can fill roles, but similar enough so that a player can switch between classes with no issues. All of the systems in play work, and the work well: the tracker works to eliminate camping with constant pings, but by not directly pinpointing position, stealth still works well, the Sparrows are not only functional to get you from place to place quickly, but are just a lot of fun to boost through canyons and off hills (I would like to see a bit more splatter damage in PvE though), the menus are all clean and easy to read, and I like the use of a cursor instead of just selections.
In regards to the classes, I played each class through the story missions, got them all to level 8, and I think with my personal play style, I have to go with the Titan being my favorite. However, that said, I think that the best way to go about it with a fireteam is to have one of each – the classes each balance each other really well. The Titan can tank well, boasting a high armor rating for after his shields break, plus a great super ability for crowd-control (at least with the Striker sub-class we got to play in the beta), the Warlock is a bit of a glass cannon, able to dish out some serious damage with supers and grenades, but once the shields go, the health isn’t particularly strong, and the Hunter fits well as a longer range sniper – the golden gun ability is wonderful for dropping strong enemies in the three shots, plus a Damage over Time grenade is a great benefit at early stages.
There really isn’t much that I would classify as actually being “bad” that I saw in the beta, but there were a few things that I felt definitely needed addressing before the final release. First and foremost is the Interceptor in the Crucible, the tank that was present on First Light. Far too often I saw the players in Interceptors not engage each other, instead focusing on the squishier guardians, which fell way too easily. Luckily, Bungie has already said that they’ve addressed this in their internal builds and it won’t behave the same way in the retail game.
Still on the topic of The Crucible, there were a few times where the spawns were just terrible. The most egregious example came in an Iron Banner match on the map Blind Watch on Mars. On that map, there is a circular room that overlooks the C control point – two lives in a row I spawned just to the side of that room, on ground level with an enemy looking right at me through the open windows. That in and of itself would be bad enough, but he was able to start shooting me before I actually had control of my character – I spawned and fell over, then did the same thing maybe 50 feet to my left. Spawns are one of those things that are always being tweaked throughout the course of a shooter’s lifespan, so I fully expect these to get addressed.
The last thing that I experienced that I would call “bad” was the way that Hand Cannons behave. As they exist now, they really aren’t an option to use as a true primary weapon. They do have good attack and impact stats usually, along with good accuracy, but they are hampered with small magazines, along with a terribly slow reload speed. I made the mistake of trying one with my Hunter during The Dark Within mission – which was fine, until I got to the first room with Hive enemies. There are just too many Thralls and Acolytes for Hand Cannons to handle – even with grenades and a super I was quickly overwhelmed a couple times (playing on Hard of course). That is just in PvE too, I didn’t dare try one in The Crucible, and I don’t recall ever seeing one being used. I’m not really sure how to fix them, other than really speeding up the reload, but I do think they need some attention.
Again, there really wasn’t anything that I would call “ugly” at all – other than playing it on last-gen consoles the water effects take a big step back. Instead, here I’ll mention some of a few little details that definitely aren’t deal breakers, but I think could maybe use a little attention before the full launch in September.
Firstly, the Iron Banner – as it stands now, I really don’t see how a lower leveled character would ever expect to survive in any Iron Banner matches. My fireteam made it a point of only going in at Level 8 and we still faced some real struggles with people having better gear. I can’t imagine going in as a Level 5 character, with Level 5 gear. I can’t call this bad, because I have no way of knowing if that’s how it will behave in the full release – it could just be a +/-3 Level hopper system. But if it’s just a straight matchmaking system, I really don’t see any point in heading to the Iron Banner until you hit the level cap, which from the Beta seems to be 20.
Secondly, the Hunter class – specifically for solo PvE settings. I think the Hunter actually excels in PvP – the Golden Gun ability lets you get three free kills, that don’t need to be grouped up tightly like the Titan and Warlock’s supers do; plus the double jump the Hunter has is a great, quick option for verticality. However, in a solo PvE setting, they suffer a little bit – their special, being a precision strike, really limits the effectiveness to hitting boss enemies or small groups of them. Add in a grenade that doesn’t have a particularly big blast radius, and a melee ability that has a long recharge, even if you miss with it, and Hunters are at a pretty noticeable disadvantage to large groups of enemies.
One other little thing that I hope we see more of in the retail release is in the character creation. I like the three races, but I kind of want a little bit more control over exactly how my characters look. I don’t need it to be the most in depth creator out there, but I would like a little bit more in the full game.
Finally, I think that the merchants on the tower need a little bit of a tweak. Some of the merchants need a faster inventory reset – namely the Guardian Outfitter and partially the Shipwright. The Guardian Outfitter for sure, since all she offers are cosmetic items – Emblems and Shaders; The Shipwright only partially since the Sparrows actually impact gameplay, but the star ships are purely cosmetic options. As for the other merchants, I think the bounty robot could also stand to refresh a bit more frequently, or have the option after all are completed to refresh. The Gunsmith I think needs more slots to show wares – at least one option for each weapon type. The Cryptarch I think is pretty much fine, maybe similar to the Gunsmith. As for the faction vendors, it’s hard to say at this point since all of their gear was pretty much unobtainable during the beta.
Overall, I think this was about as good a beta as you can have. There were a few server/connection issues, but for the most part it ran smoothly, which is a good sign for the retail release; and most importantly, the game itself plays awesome. I was already pretty excited for Destiny but this beta solidified my belief that Bungie might have the Game of the Year on their hands. We’ll have to wait through the fall to see for sure, but I do know that August is going to feel like it’s going so slowly now.