Aren’t pre-order betas great? You throw $5 (refundable) down at Gamestop and, in return, you get what can nearly be called a preview copy of your game to play and figure out if it’s going to be worth buying. Where else can you get that kind of preview, apart from perhaps every other form of media? Given my status as fiscally conservative, which is code word here for “cheap bastard,” I generally come to the conclusion that a game is worth playing so long as the price drops from the initial $60. Red Dead Redemption was worth the $60 I paid for it new, but Timeshift was more than worth the $1.69 I got it for used. It’s all about perspective.
So I can say that, after playing the Destiny alpha, I went into Gamestop and not only secured my pre-order, I upgraded to the $99 collector’s edition. I won’t go as far as the $150 edition with the figurine, I like the game but not enough to buy an overpriced and mass produced chunk of plastic. Now, for the record I played the Destiny beta on the Playstation 4 (obviously). The beta on the Xbox consoles doesn’t come out until the 23rd, at which time I will not be previewing them because I do not own either system. Your mileage may vary.
I was already hooked on Destiny as of the first alpha test, so the beta was merely returning for another sip. Right now the beta caps out at level 8 with only the first handful of missions available to play and a number of features either inaccessible or unobtainable. There are three classes available with accompanying subclasses (at level 15, unreachable in beta), the Titan, the Hunter, and the Warlock. Each class is fully capable in combat, distinguished by the set of abilities afforded to them. My favorite ability is that of the Hunter, a special where he summons a three-shot pistol that can shred through most enemies like butter.
Weapons and equipment are picked up during battle and carry their own set of stats and special abilities. You can only have three weapons equipped at any time and each fall into their own categories that can’t be changed. The primary weapons include rifles and pistols, with snipers in secondary and machine guns and rocket launchers in heavy. Finding ammunition for the special and heavy weapons was a slow and painful process, with the natural expectation being that those weapons should be saved for more difficult battles. Equipment also carries special abilities, like a sniper rifle that can pick up ammo by shooting it, or a rifle that does more damage on the last half of a clip.
Destiny feels an awful lot like a smoother, far more serious Borderlands with persistent online interactivity. All of the action takes place on overworlds, sprawling areas of above and below ground zones filled with foes of varying level. The story missions act as a guide through this world, showing you a basic idea on what it has to offer without actually holding you by the hand and showing you its secrets. If you look around hard enough, you’ll find all that Destiny has to offer from its high peaks to low, hidden dungeons. In the beta, I even managed to come across several dungeons that went so deep that enemies eventually became “??” level. Frightening.
But Destiny is all about killing things in order to find better equipment with which to kill bigger things and so on and so forth. You pick from three classes with distinct abilities and eventually level them into their own subclasses, none of which were available thanks to a level cap of eight and a required level of fifteen. Choosing your class is a matter of taste, with the Titan focusing on brute force and tanking while the Hunter shoots from afar and the Warlock is more mid-range.
There is a wealth of content to explore simply in this small beta, with secret corridors around every corner. In addition to the dungeons available to explore, the overworld also plays host to numerous mini-quests, missions that are picked up on the fly and are often simple objectives like “kill these creatures for their data,” and “explore this dungeon.” Occasionally your exploration will be interrupted with a public event, generally involving a boss creature, where players absolutely must work together in order to succeed.
Death is very light in Destiny, there are no penalties for dying and resurrecting in the overworld. In dungeons, however, certain areas as well as boss fights are designated “restricted respawn,” where you must either be revived by a teammate or face having to start the area over again if the entire team wipes. According to other posts I’ve seen on the forums, there are hints in-game that armor will degrade upon death requiring repairs. Otherwise it is possible to die thirty-odd times fighting a giant mech walker boss on the overworld only to keep coming back and whittling its health down little by little.
Destiny’s PvP mode is the Crucible, where players can compete on deathmatch and territory control maps. If you have no interest in the rest of Destiny and simply want to battle it out with your fellow gamers, it is completely possible to level up in Crucible.
There isn’t enough content to fill up more than a day or two of playtime in this beta, but I consider my thirst quenched until launch, or at least the next beta phase.