All week I’ve been running through my thoughts on the beta for Destiny, starting with an overview, then going through the classes and yesterday the locations. Today I want to hit the other major portion of the game we were able to experience, the Crucible, or Destiny’s PvP arena. With a game like Destiny I was a little uneasy at how Bungie would approach PvP – they’ve always done a great job with competitive multiplayer but I was worried how the leveled gear would impact it. Luckily, Bungie took that into account and created the Crucible to suit their ideas for PvP.
To help even the playing field for guardians, Bungie took a smart approach to the Crucible. It doesn’t actually unlock for players until they reach level 5, and even then, all the level advantages are turned off, meaning that the playing field is a level as possible. Some upgrades are still in play, in particular it looked like weapon and armor and class modifiers all still worked, but the actual stats were evened out for all players. Beyond that, it’s easy to get into the Crucible, just set the playlist you want to play as your destination from orbit and you’re off. The other nice thing is that once the Crucible is unlocked on one character, the other two characters on a profile can access it as soon as they reach the Tower. This makes it easy to try the other classes in PvP quickly, albeit most likely not at full power yet.
In the beta we only had access to one gametype – Control – which functioned like a domination gametype, but one where kills also added to the team score. Because they added in that feature to the scoring, the score limit needed to be high enough to make the games still last long enough to feel satisfying; but at the same time, teamplay is still rewarded and capturing the points is still the best way to raise your teams score. One thing that I noticed was very important was managing ammo for special and heavy weapons. I ran with a shotgun and HMG for my special and heavy weapons, and found that they each were capable of turning a point defense in my favor quickly if used correctly. Add in managing grenades, melee and super ability cooldowns, and it’s a much more mental shooter than Halo or Call of Duty is. I found that the Warlock and Titan were both better suited for clearing control points, while Hunters were great for providing overwatch, as it relates to their super abilities.
We only had two maps to play in the beta, one that was set on Venus, The Shores of Time and one set on the Moon, First Light. Of the two, I enjoyed Shores of Time much more so, I think just because First Light is a bigger map, and my Titan build was designed more for close combat than long range fights. First Light also featured vehicles, including Pikes, personal Sparrows and the Interceptor – which during the beta was clearly over powered, to the extent that Bungie has already addressed it for the retail release. Shores of Time played to me much more like a classic Halo map – frantic, with lots of close range action punctuated with spots of sniper fire. The locations of the control points on Shores of Time made it very easy to start running circuits for both defense and offense, meaning that there really wasn’t ever a break in the action. First Light on the other hand felt almost too spread out, especially based around a couple of the spawn locations, which just felt too far from any particular map feature. Spawn locations are one of those things that are always being tweaked with any online shooter though, so I expect Bungie to be working on those throughout Destiny‘s lifespan.
THE IRON BANNER
The other aspect of the Crucible that we got to see was the Iron Banner, a timed playlist that turned on level advantages, meaning that the stats and levels of you character and gear mattered. I’ll admit I was hesitant to head in as early as my fireteam did, just because at that point I was using a Pulse Rifle that I wasn’t super happy with, and my shotgun actually became my primary weapon. However, there were two new maps, Rusted Lands, set on Earth and Blind Watch, which was set on Mars that were exclusive to the Iron Banner. Both these maps felt good, closer in scale to Shores of Time than First Light, with good sight lines, and plenty of choke points. Of the two, I think I preferred Rusted Lands a little, mainly because the Control Points were easier to navigate between without prior map knowledge. I also felt that as the game plays at this point in time, using an Auto Rifle or Scout Rifle is really the only way to go – the recoil patterns on Pulse Rifles make it difficult to hit multiple Criticals, while Hand Cannons have small clips and long reloads, making it less likely for you to come out on top of longer fights. As for gear, going in with green, or Uncommon, gear seemed to be the only way to go, since most green items have some kind of upgrades associated with them.
Overall, I think Bungie has a good way of approaching the PvP aspect of Destiny on their hands with the Crucible. I like that in order to unlock multiple playlists, you have to progress in level, encouraging players to play the story, strike and explore modes and not just sit in PvP the whole time. That said, there are a few little things that I hope to see Bungie address for the final retail build. First and foremost, the spawns – in general I felt that the spawn locations were alright, but in a few instances, I spawned either right next to an enemy, or in one game, twice in a row with an enemy looking right at me with his weapon ready to go; but as I said, spawns are always being tweaked online. Second, I’m a little wary of how the Iron Banner will go when the full game ships – whether it will be a timed playlist, and more importantly, whether matchmaking will take into account players’ levels. I think that the second point is much more important, I can’t imagine going in as a level 5 character and matching up with level 20s being any fun at all. Finally is that I’m just curious as to how the other gamemodes will work, as well as the final map count. Bungie has a history of having a really strong map list throughout the Halo series, so I feel pretty confident that will still be the case here. Once again though, I’m stuck waiting until September to find out – only one month left to go.