Destiny Beta Impressions; Better Than Halo?

Posted on Aug 7 2014 - 4:00pm by Ben Brown
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Countless gamers around the world are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Destiny, the new incredibly ambitious title by Bungie of Halo fame. Not only is Destiny the first time Bungie are releasing a game on the PlayStation platform, it is the first time the company has been free to work on a new franchise since the release of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, and it is clear that they intend to make the most of this opportunity. Bungie is trying a lot of new things with Destiny, and though much of what they are implementing into their new game is similar to what we have seen in other genres, rarely if ever have we seen it done so well. I have had the pleasure of spending the majority of my time since the launch of the beta on the 17th exploring the world Bungie has built and getting to experience a small sample of what is in store for us when the game final releases this September.

The very first thing anybody will imagine upon entering the world of Destiny is, of course, the visuals. We have seen plenty of footage in the past of Destiny in motion and have had numerous examples of its fantastic visual style. The world is rendered in very high detail with the large areas full of minute touches that keep the desolate locations visited in the Beta from feeling devoid of character. The technical accomplishments are clearly impressive, especially considering Destiny is a cross-generational game and will be released on PS3 along with the much more powerful PS4, but what really makes Destiny stand out is the eye for design. Each location is full of vibrant colour, even when they are notably dark and bleak in tone, and the larger environments often feature looming structures in the distance or large vistas populated with relics from the time before Earth became a wasteland dotted with vicious invading alien races.

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As well as the design of the world, the UI has clearly been a very involved process for the developers, as every menu and window oozes with a cool yet functional style. From the layouts to icons, everything is put together in a way very detached from common game design, but in a way that perfectly serves the experience Destiny delivers. Menus such as the character equipment screen feature large amounts of blank space giving a very clear view of the player character, allowing you to immediately study the equipment you have earned as you rummage through loot. This wide spread layout may at first seem at odds with the unusual addition of a mouse-style pointer used in all menu screens, but it quickly comes apparent that every screen is full of information and sub-menu’s that would be impossible to retain in such a minimalist design.

Information such as character stats can be hovered over to reveal text describing in more detail what effect they have on your gameplay and hovering over an equipment slot reveals storage slots filling either side of the screen where all the items you have found so far are displayed. Many games attempt to offer as much minute detail as Destiny delivers, but find themselves doing so in extremely confusing and aggravating manners. Bungie has tried a very unconventional way to deliver this information, and has done an astonishing job in executing the UI.

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Those who have played Bungie’s previous games will find gameplay familiar with a few notable changes, but those who are new to the developer’s work will find Destiny a departure from most typical shooters in a number of ways, and that can create a fairly dramatic difference to the flow of both story based missions and multiplayer matches. Player characters are notably much more nimble than a typical FPS protagonist when early on you gain an ability that allows you to double jump, hover or otherwise prolong time spent in the air. It’s also very easy to interact with the environment, with well time jumps off scenery bounding players quickly in directions that allow you to outmanoeuvre enemies in a very satisfying manner.This persistent freedom of movement is not quite as developed as games like Brink, Mirror’s Edge or Titanfall, but offers enough to make gameplay feel more akin to shooters of old where dodging bullets took priority over taking cover.

During character creation players are given the choice of three different classes to play as; the Warlock, Titan and Hunter. The most immediate difference between these three is the presence of special abilities unique to each class; a traversal ability and a combat ability. The Hunters have the ability to double jump and summon a golden gun with three bullets that will kill most enemies in a single hit. Warlocks can hover after their initial jump and fire a powerful energy ball from their hand that will cause massive amounts of damage to anything caught in the explosion it creates, and Titans are equipped with a jetpack and have the ability to smash the ground causing a devastating area of effect attack that can make short work of a large group of enemies. Although at first there will seem to be very little difference between each class aside from these skills.

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