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Monday, July 28, 2014

Impressions of Destiny Beta

Over the last week, Bungie released an open beta for Destiny, it’s upcoming sci-fi mmo fps. I hadn’t heard about this game until the beta was released, but after some coaxing from my friends decided to give it a shot. This is a record of my impressions and experiences.

The first thing you get to do is watch a video that sets the scene. The very beginning of this scene is a reveal of the Activision logo. I have an active boycott against Activision products, so basically that turned me off from the game immediately; I know that I won’t buy it ever. Anyways, after my hopes were crushed, the introduction began. Long story short, it’s almost identical to Mass Effect. In fact, I’m sure the last sequence, when the “Darkness” is creeping in from the edges to engulf Earth, is copy and pasted from the end of ME1. I guess this game is part of Activision’s strategy to take some of EA’s market share.

The second thing you will do is create a character. There are three classes and three races. For my race I chose Exo, which is the android race, and for my class I chose warlock which seems like it should be the “mage” class, but isn’t really but kind of is. From what I can tell, most of the difference in the classes is the type of grenades you get and the “supercharge” ability you get. (The supercharge is your ultimate move you get to use every once in awhile.) The customization is pretty good but ultimately meaningless since, when in first person mode you obviously don’t see yourself and are never close enough to others to see their details, and in third person mode you are too zoomed out to see any of the details either. But I guess it’s the 21st century and we have to have customization.

Once you create a character, another cutscene begins in which a “ghost”, which is this floating robot that binds itself to a guardian, flies through the remnants of Old Russia, which looks like any zone from Borderlands, and finds you lying in a scrapheap. Now, let’s talk about this ghost. As you may remember, Destiny is being developed by Bungie, the same people that brought you Halo 1. You remember Halo 1 right? When you followed that damned flying robot that trolled you relentlessly through the exact same corridors hour after hour? Guess what the ghost looks like. Yes, that damned flying robot. Thanks Bungie, you just made me relive my worst emotions and frustrations from Halo. Not only that, but unlike in Halo when at least the robot travels with you for only part of the game, saving you from committing hara-kiri on the spot and preserving hope that maybe he’ll disappear and leave you to shoot aliens in peace once again, the Destiny robot follows you around and talks to you the entire game. I mean, for me that’s enough reason not to play the game.

But I kept going and suffered so that you can hear about what else the game has to offer.

I don’t remember what comes next in the introduction of the Destiny experience, so let’s just jump into combat. The combat is exactly identical to Borderlands, the end. Even the treasure chests look like the chests from Borderlands and have a similar animation when opening. The only major difference here is that when loot is dropped, instead of having the actual gun model or ammo model drop, indistinct white and green squares and ovals of light drop. Damn, that’s some next level technology!

The basic flow of the game goes like this: hang out in the city to buy stuff and identify stuff, then warp directly to a zone to take part in either a story mission, a strike mission (dungeon), or exploration. This idea of having no real travel is clearly WoW inspired and makes me long for the days of yore when there was actually something inspiring about traversing an alien landscape (my heart is with you, Anarchy Online).

So our current strikes against the game right now are Activision, robot, copying and pasting ideas from other games, and WoW-inspired. Hmm, not looking so good.

This game has multiplayer, kind of. The reason I say kind of is that it’s not very meaningful since people just drop in and out of your team at random and nobody really has to cooperate to complete quests or kill bosses, since the enemy AI is absolutely braindead. I mean, this is the 21st century: can we please move beyond Quake 2 AI? Please. I’m begging someone with knowledge of AI to work on this problem.

Here’s a breakdown of the mission types for your reference:

1) story missions: uninspired and repetitive
2) strike missions: map design for the only playable mission was not bad but the bosses take way too long to kill and it’s too long overall. It’s an odd juxtaposition against the easily consumable exploration quests and story missions.
3) exploration: basically there is no exploration involved. Your ghost leads you to quests and you do the quests, in the same zones you’ve been playing for hours.

The enemies in this game are called the “Fallen” and the “Hive”. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. That sounds exactly like Halo. You’re right, it’s exactly like Halo. The Fallen are the weird alien creatures who are all evil of course, but this time around instead of looking unique, they look like either a straight up ripoff of the Tau Empire from Warhammer 40k (GW is the most ripped off company in the history of gaming I’m sure), or space oompa-loompas, depending on your opinion. The Hive are a copy and paste job of the Flood from Halo 1.

Is this really the best Bungie can do?

But the primary problem of this game is the same problem that almost every MMO has: it’s like watching a movie; once it’s over, it’s not relevant to your life anymore. I’m not sure Destiny is even a game. A game is something like chess or checkers that has replay value because every game is different and because it’s competitive. Destiny is like an interactive movie.

Procedurally generated zones would not help either, because that doesn’t attack the underlying problem that it’s just a movie. You play the movie and when it’s over that’s it. Making it multiplayer doesn’t change that fact either.

In conclusion, Destiny is a hodge-podge of every successful alien/sci-fi shooter/mmo of the last decade with zero inspiration and a lot of copying and pasting from Bungie’s previous works. I’m sure a lot of people are going to view this game as the second coming because it has the name Bungie on it and the Borderlands-like loot mechanics are digital crack for those same people. But if you get bored by cliche movies with poorly written dialogue and games with repetitive button pressing, then this game is DOA.

- warcalibre