As you may or may not have noticed given the prevalence of Destiny content on-site, Brendan and I have been playing a significant amount of the beta for Bungie's upcoming FPS. There's lots we absolutely love about it, not least the core gunplay at the heart of the game, but there are also one or two things we'd certainly change.
I LOVE... the exquisite gunplay
Bungie are very, very good at making first-person shooters. They should be. They've been at it for decades. But Bungie feels like a refinement of everything that they've done previously. The very feel of the game, the heft of the guns, the movement and gait of the camera, the differences in agility between the three classes, and the behaviour of the enemies in the game -- it's all absolutely spot on. There's a mechanical brilliance to Destiny that is incredibly accessible and familiar on one hand, and yet exceedingly scalable -- a system to welcome beginners and give veterans the freedom that they want.
Put simply, it feels right. It feels good to control. To fire off a few rounds. To jump through the air, sling a grenade at one group of enemies, before wheeling about and using your fists and your firearm to beat down another group. It doesn't do anything new in this regard, it just feels nigh on perfect.
I HATE... the lack of alien weaponry
This is a long-standing sci-fi lament, and I know I'm not alone in this. There are one or two weapons that feel a little special, such as the fusion energy rifles, but by and large, the weapons we've seen so far from Destiny are fairly bog standard. I want to see something outlandish, to be able to pick up a Captain's tri-cannon and turn it back on him. I understand that the RPG-lite systems are designed to deliver loot and new weapons in limited fashion, but you could still do probability rolls for alien tech drops. We have this futuristic setting, lush visuals, and a universe backed by a significant amount of shiny sci-fi lore. But where's the weird and wonderful weaponry?
I LOVE... that I just punched you into next Tuesday
It doesn't matter what class you're playing as, the melee attack in Destiny is emphatic, robust, and enormously satisfying. I love the Titan's Storm Fist. For sheer brute force, punching someone flying with a fist crackling with electricity is just deeply rewarding. And the Energy Drain makes me feel like a Sith Lord.
I HATE... the dubious aiming for specials
I'm mainly just talking about the Nova Bomb here, but even the Titan's Donkey Kong smash (the Fist of Havoc) can be a bit hit and miss. The immediate disorientation of being dragged quickly into third-person mode, coupled with a disappearing reticule and a complete shift in perspective makes aiming one's Super an utter pain in the arse.
I LOVE... the epic sound design
In case you've missed the videos we've been running of the story missions from the beta, let me just say this: the sound design in Destiny is exquisite. Bullets and energy projectiles fizz and zip through the air, and the sound of impact is just exaggerated enough to be satisfying without proving too much.
And then there's the soundtrack.
Like most of O'Donnell's work, there are standout themes, memorable mini-movements, and drums. Lots of drums. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up during the Level 5 Story Mission, "The Last Array", and it just elevated everything. Although I'm not the biggest fan of the seeming separation between story missions and more exploratory aspects, framing the setpieces does allow for some modicum of matched music. That is to say, scripted triggers for epic drums. It works a treat.
The epic track that kicks in when you're defending the array in the level 5 story mission is utterly outstanding!
I HATE... the PvP announcer
This guy needs replacing. I'm pretty sure it's a placeholder, it must be placeholder work, but the limp, RP tones of the British announcer in the Crucible multiplayer matches is hilariously awful. He sounds like someone trying to be brash and encouraging whilst simultaneously attempting not to make much noise in case the neighbours hear. He instils about as much energy and adrenaline into proceedings as chloroform.
I LOVE... the sparkling visuals and the jaw-dropping vistas
I mean just look at it.
How pretty is this game!
I HATE... the interminable loading times
I think this particular dislike is best summed up by the video directly above.
The loading times are an issue, particularly when it comes to visiting the Tower. The Tower itself is a great little hub to take a breather in, restock on supplies, visit the Cryptarch and change blueprints into useful weapons, and maybe even play a round of footy in the plaza. But I find myself actively avoiding it because it takes an absolute age to load the freaking loading screen! It's still a beta by name, of course, so things might improve come September, but I'm not holding my breath.
I LOVE... the meaningfully distinct classes
The distinction between the classes in Destiny is undoubtedly one of the game's greatest strengths. Playing as a Titan feels remarkably different to playing as a Hunter, and although you can utilise most weapons across all three classes, the different abilities and upgradeable specialities do affect play styles. You can't afford to be quite as gung-ho with a Warlock as you can with a Titan, and we expect to see more diversification once the full game releases and players have the opportunity to unlock further sub-classes to suit their skills.
One of the best things about the beta has been the ability to explore the skill tree in spite of the level cap. Bungie have done a great job in giving players just enough information and opportunity to make a really informed decision about which class to start with come September.
I HATE... the seeming emptiness of the world
Perhaps my biggest issue with the beta is the emptiness of the open world. Old Russia is a big, beautiful, and often visually interesting space. But it's also pretty boring and enormously repetitive, at least in Story mode. The segregation between exploratory opportunities and the narrative elements of the game doesn't make sense to me. It seems ludicrous that instead of triggering missions dynamically in-game, they're chosen from a map, that bits of the area are artificially closed off. Instead of being a seamless, open experience, it all feels very bitty, sometimes linear even, and that's not helped by a scarcity of loot and interesting things to find. It could just be this area in particular, but I'm not getting that incentive to explore and muck about that I do in true open-world games and MMOs. If that's rectified in the full game then that's wonderful, but in being a genre mashup, Destiny runs the risk of not quite satisfying in certain areas, even though gunplay certainly won't be one of them.