First thoughts on the Destiny Alpha

warlock_webI’ll be the first to admit I’ve been excited about Destiny, Bungie’s new game, so keep that in mind as you read the following happy thoughts. I got into the Alpha this evening (I guess everyone who applied did) and got to spend an hour or two playing. For some reason they start you at level 3 and I got to level 5.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Destiny is a shooter. The basic mechanics of minute-to-minute gameplay will be very familiar. It’s nothing revolutionary in that aspect. It’s more the meta-game that’s interesting. Think of Diablo. The basic mechanics of Diablo are pretty simple right? But people love to play it to level up and gear up their characters. Destiny is like a first person shooter version of Diablo 3 in some ways.

You have two weapon slots but can carry a bunch of weapons (hit the Options button to open your inventory and decide which two are ‘live’). You have regenerating health (that even sounds kind of like Halo’s shield regen). I was playing a Warlock and he also has a grenade ‘spell’ that has a cooldown. There’s also a pretty fierce melee attack. I didn’t find a way to crouch but you can sprint and jump (and my class can do a kind of hover jump…maybe all can).

When you start the alpha you’re on Earth in that part of Russia we’ve seen over and over in previews. As far as I can tell this mission is strictly single player. You need to get to an objective far away and snag something. Along the way you’ll encounter lots of baddies to blast (and be blasted by). You’ll also be in danger of becoming side-tracked. I found an old bunker and when inside, got lost and finally stumbled onto a boss of level ?? (the universal symbol for “You’ve got no chance, kid.”). I liked that; I liked that I could go off the beaten path and find challenging things to do.

Once I finished this mission I was prompted to beam up to my ship and then navigate to The Tower. You don’t actually fly your ship through space…you just pick a destination and off you go. The Tower is the central hub of the game. I saw lots of other players there. I checked my mail. I turned in my quest rewards. I browsed vendors who had upgrades for guns, armor, ships and vehicles (purchased with a variety of currencies). I explored and find some odds and ends that seemed to give me…something (still figuring this all out).

Once I was bored of that I decided to try PvP in The Crucible. The only map they have open is a 6v6 conquest kind of thing, but there are icons for maybe half a dozen competitive game modes. But for now we have conquest. Y’know, occupy check points and gain points based on how long your team holds it. It was as fun as PvP FPS ever is (I’m not a huge competitive FPS player) and I earned some Crucible Points which I could spend on special gear.

When that was over I went back to Earth/Russia to check out the open exploration mode. While you’re roaming around down there killing baddies you can find missions. I captured video of me doing one. I found that there are at least two factions of bad guys and they don’t like each other much more than they like you, and you’ll often come across them fighting each other.

I’d just finished my mission when I noticed a blip on my radar; it was another player! We spent some time fighting together which was a lot of fun. At the time I was level 5 and we were encountering level 9 bad guys that could really soak up damage when trying to take them solo, but with two people flanking them, they went down fast. People who know me know that I LOVE this kind of random organic ‘grouping’ where you encounter another player and can help each other out without drawing up a social contract first.

If you really just want to play alone or with your friends, I believe that option will be in the final game but I didn’t see a switch for it in Alpha. The person I encountered (actually I ran into two) wasn’t on my friends list…it was just a random stranger.

And that was about all I had time for. And stomach for. I haven’t played a shooter in a while and after a couple of hours I was starting to get a little queasy. /blush.

During my time playing I found 4 or 5 new weapons, upgraded my helm, gloves and chest armor, found some “Materials” that I suspect will be used in crafting in the full game. Some of the loot you find is ‘encrypted’ and has to be taken back to the tower to be used. Think of this stuff as Unidentified Items in Diablo. I also unlocked a few new skills for my character.

Bungie has a website for the Alpha and I have a profile on there but I’m not sure how to make it public, or if you can. It’s nice that even though we’re only in Alpha they have their version of the “Armory” where you can check out your characters gear and stuff from the web.

Bungie says the alpha is a ‘tiny slice’ of the whole game, but I really appreciated that they included single player, co-op and PvP missions in it. I’m looking forward to playing more, and to playing with friends. So far I’m really enjoying it.

3 thoughts on “First thoughts on the Destiny Alpha

  1. I’m impressed. My 3 hour gaming marathon was flawless, other than long load times.

    Visually Destiny isn’t a jaw dropper. Even launch games like Killzone look better imo. But the controls are solid. The classes are unique and fun. I am extremely impressed with the enemy AI. Destiny is one of the more challenging games I’ve played in recent memory . I love the bosses and mini bosses. So fun! Can’t wait to experience more.

  2. Christ, I fired it up this morning and was stonewalled within 20 minutes! I followed the main objective into the radar complex, frowned at the “survival horror flashlight effect”, and couldn’t affect the wizard at all. That made me very sad and angry.

    Also, how are you getting your video to YT? I am uploading mine to FB, but that was the only option I had.

  3. @Chris — A recent update added the ability to copy video clips and screenshots to a USB device. Then I just sneaker-net it to a PC and upload it from there.

    During initial setup when it asks you to set the brightness until you could barely see the icon on the left, I thought there were 3 icons. But there are 4. So I originally had things WAY dark. Once I reset the brightness it felt a bit less survival-horror-ish. And we know from previews and stuff that eventually you’ll get a ghost that can light things up; I look forward to that.

    The Wizard was a challenge, for sure! He killed me a couple of times before I took him down. He seems to have some kind of shields so you have to keep the pressure on him or they regenerate. I figure everything is still being tweaked for difficulty/balance though.

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