All of the items you collect, rewards you earn and currency you acquire eventually lead you back to the game’s hub, a location called The Tower where players can gather to socialise in an environment without hostility. In this location the camera is altered from first person to third person view, allowing you to see your character and appreciate their aesthetics, which can be surprisingly pleasing when you have worked hard to earn a specific item. This location also has numerous vendors, selling a small number of items that are refreshed over short periods of time meaning you are never entirely certain what will be on offer and have good reason to check frequently.
Most vendors you meet in the beta will also have a reputation. This is a meter you fill by completing certain tasks or simply by using their services enough times and acts as a form of levelling. Upon earning enough experience with a specific vendor you will be levelled up and will be able to purchase more advanced items from them, even receiving rewards on occasion, though there were very few vendors we had the opportunity to interact with in such a manner during the beta. It appears that a number of vendors represent factions within the game world, and gaining reputation from each requires you to perform actions whilst decorated in their faction embalms, which is an interesting concept should each faction seek different activities from a player. This may lead to a way of using players’ aesthetics to tell us something about their preferred gameplay method. For example, players with especially impressive items from one faction would likely be more experienced than those who didn’t. Unfortunately however all of these factions and interactions appear to be locked behind higher level content, with beta players unable to interact with them in any meaningful way.
One exception to this is the crucible vendor. The crucible is the name given to Destiny’s competitive multiplayer mode, which see’s players removed from the sprawling landscapes of Destiny’s story missions and instead placed in more traditional multiplayer maps. An interesting facet of the crucible is how players’ advancements cross over between all modes of the game, meaning you retain all skills and item earned during missions even whilst playing against other players. This might sound as though it would cause a lot of unbalance to this aspect of the game, but through some incredible feat Bungie has found a way to make multiplayer feel largely balanced even when players are at largely varied levels in game.
The effectiveness of this balancing became especially apparent during the Iron Banner crucible event taking place during the last few days of the beta. The Iron Banner is an additional game mode only available for short time periods that essentially removed balancing from multiplayer matches, allowing players to make full use of their most powerful equipment in competitive game modes causing for additionally intense and at times frustrating matches. Despite this frustration though, it’s interesting to experience an alteration on the multiplayer formula shooter that simply can’t be done with most other games in the genre, and seeing that these events only occur for short times on occasion does leave the exciting question, what other events could Bungie have in store for us in the future?
Looking at a typical crucible match it’s easy to see Bungie’s pedigree with multiplayer shooters. We were able to access four maps during the beta, all of which had a very distinctive aesthetic and feel making the small number feel very diverse. Each map is filled with multiple pathways to each capture point, with open area’s leaving you open to attack and very cramped and cluttered areas making for deadly close range encounters. The open design of each level ensures that a small group can never have too strong a defence on a single location, and you can always feel confident enough to capture one of the three points each map contains. The verticality in each level afforded by the jumping abilities adds an extra dimension to gameplay that can drastically change the outcome of fire fights and opens up many more ways of defending a position or flanking an enemy. There are multiple occasions where an area too heavily defended will include another pathway leading to a higher location overlooked by many a team affording you the time to capture the point with a well placed super attack or heavy weapon. There is also a singular sample of vehicular combat in the moon map “First Light” which adds an additional layer to the gameplay and causes some interesting interplay between interiors and exteriors.
There are two vehicles available, with fast and nimble jet bikes that have a very fast rate of fire and more cumbersome tank-like vehicles that feature immensely powerful explosive shots. Much has been said among the beta community about the vehicles being far over-powered and unbalancing the game and it’s hard not to agree, but it may be that the vehicles don’t need to be toned down quite so much as people may suggest. Every vehicle does little to protect its owner from well placed shots, as both leave pilots completely exposed and do nothing to cover them. Of course this means that face to face with a vehicle it is incredibly difficult to defeat them, but dealt with smartly it’s possible to quickly shoot an enemy off of their vehicle and claim it for yourself, with sniper rifles being particularly well suited to the task.