I’ve had this weird sort of fascination with Destiny ever since Bungie first released news about it. There’s one part of me that feels a tinge of regret whenever I see it in motion, knowing that I could have been involved with it in some way (a job opportunity that ultimately didn’t pan out for me). Another part of me has moved on from multiplayer games almost entirely—other priorities have taken precedence in my life, including family, writing and friends. And even though videos of the game in motion never quite thrilled me, there was something about the game that I found intriguing.
And the Alpha won me over completely.
Destiny doesn’t feel like Halo. Sure, there are things about the art style and the music that are quite distinctly Halo-ish. But on the whole, the game reminds me more of Mass Effect in its tone, with a combination of Borderlands thrown into boot. This is a very good thing. There’s something very 70s sci-fi about the whole package, in a way that makes you feel small and brave when exploring the huge, empty expanses of Earth.
For me, the Destiny Alpha really sang when traversing these spaces. Not only because the art is gorgeous (seriously, the game is pretty), but also because of the way it seamlessly sandwiches players together in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive or forced. While only you and your fire team can tackle instances together, the shared world (or worlds, according to what we’ve been told—Earth is just the appetizer), can be inhabited by other players and other fire teams. Suddenly, the wide open spaces don’t feel smaller with more bodies in them, they actually feel bigger. You feel like part of an enormous universe.
This is most evident when tackling Public Events, epic encounters which pull several fire teams together. On one night of playing with Anthony and my brother, we were pulled into a couple of Public Events, and each one was intense, huge and fun. Enemies were dropping all around us. Grenades tossed into the fray. Powers were used. Objectives were held. All while multiple groups worked together.
To me, Destiny is at its strongest when showing you these glimpses, paired with its enormous amount of content. Anthony and I spent several hours just exploring one small cranny of the world. You use your AI to locate objectives, seek them out, and then go on whatever quests you find. All of these lead organically to more quests, in a way that never feels tedious or overwrought, and all which make great use of the amazing landscapes. I found myself loving visiting all of these places, partly because I was amazed at just how much “place” there was to explore.
There are some other locations in the Alpha, namely the Crucible, which is the game’s stand-in for multiplayer. I played a few matches, and was surprised at how much it didn’t feel like Halo to me. Part of me was disappointed by this (I’ve been waiting for another MP equivalent to Halo 3 since, well… Halo 3), but part of me was excited. I like the combination of powers and special skills into multiplayer, and the ability to bring your unique character and equipment really makes it feel personal and customizable.
The Tower is a social area, and one of my favorite aspects of the Alpha. This is where you return to cash in your missions, get more loot, and connect with other players. It reminds me of the Citadel in more ways than one. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find yourself sitting next to other players in your party, watching the sunset or the ships roll in.
Like I said earlier, I found myself a bit skeptical about what Bungie wanted to deliver with Destiny. And now I feel like its release is something that I can’t avoid. I’ve been waiting for a new multiplayer shooter to hold me over, and this might be the one.
Who else played the Alpha? Any thoughts?