Everyone know that when a game is in Alpha or Beta, that it isn't finished yet, not ready for release. This past weekend's Destiny Alpha, however, felt nothing like the usual "buggy" and uncohesive Alphas that many of us have played. Destiny, a First Person Shooter that offers a brand new world with multiple classes, tons of areas to explore, co-operative and group play, and even PvP, shows that even in an alpha stage, a game can be incredible.
When you first step into Destiny's Alpha, you're greeted by the voice of Peter Dinklage and a rocky and a ruin-filled landscape. The Alpha essentially starts you off with one of the early story missions, giving you the opportunity to get a handle on the controls and basic mechanics - but offering you a challenge at the end of the mission as well. If this is the tutorial mission for the game, then Bungie nailed it, because it was a great way to start off. As well as the story mission, players were offered an area of exploration - where different beacons can be found with side missions for EXP and Glimmer (In the full game, you should receive Vanguard reputation/marks, but that will be explained below!). One of the six PvP Matchmaking choices was available, as well, called "Control".
The combat is fluid, fast paced, and challenging - the first thing I noticed being that every single gun had kickback, forcing you to re-align after every shot. This made combat more challenging, and more rewarding once you got the hang of it. Once you hit level 8 (max for the Alpha), you had a primary weapon (certain rifles, handguns), a special weapon (fusion rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles), and a heavy weapon (an assortment of epic damage dealing guns) to choose from in combat. Each class of weapon has its own ammo, and that ammo is shared across all guns of the same time. When you run out, you either have to keep killing enemies and hope for more to drop, or use the consumable replenishment that you can buy from the gunsmith at the tower.
Players each have a ship (which can be upgraded to go further distances and explore new areas) that brings them into orbit to choose between missions, the Crucible, or the Tower. The Tower is where you'll spend time between your missions or PvP matches to buy and sell equipment, decode engrams, collect bounties, or interact with reputation vendors. Personally, the Tower kind of reminded me of my WoW days, where everyone would hang out in Shattrath, Dalaran, and various other major cities. It has a nice calm vibe to it as well as a stunning view of the Earth below, and you may just find yourself exploring the area for fun while you wait for friends or just don't feel like killing droves of Fallen just yet!
The Tower had multiple reputation factions throughout it, allowing players to complete various tasks, or collect marks in order to purchase better or higher level weapons and armor. Sure, the Gunsmith has some nice gear, but the reputation gear blows it out of the water, primarily because most of it is for higher level characters (i.e. level 20, the max level). The bounties, which were mentioned earlier, can be collected from a vendor and include Vanguard(PvE) and Crucible(PvP) boutnies. Completing the bounties gives players marks depending on the one completed, which are then used as currency for particular vendors. Completing missions will earn you Vanguard Reputation as well, and the same goes for the Crucible with certain PvP vendors. The introduction of reputations is a great part of the game, especially for those of us that love trying to do every little thing!
Destiny, which has both Action, Adventure, and First Person Shooter mechanics, also has an RPG aspect to it - somewhat similar to the Borderlands series (but improved upon and made better in my opinion). Players have the choice (after a certain level) of a primary, special, and heavy weapon that can be quickly interchanged in combat if you need something else, as well as a head, arm, chest, foot, and cloak/back piece. Drops are random, but you also get gear from completing story missions, co-op missions, and sometimes even the Crucible matches. Typical stuff, but it felt clean and simple. The thing that I didn't see coming, however, was the customization of both a mount (speeder) and a ship, both of which have advantages to doing so. Upgrading your mount gives you added perks, and upgrading your ship gives you the ability to explore and do/see more.
Bungie shows once again why they are so good at matchmaking (which was always quick and evenly matched) and multiplayer with the Crucible, in which you play various multiplayer gametypes. The Alpha only offered the playlist "Control" on two maps, Rusted Lands and Eastern Flood Zone. The beauty of Destiny's multiplayer is that it's fully integrated with the game as a whole. You use the same guns, skills, and equipment that you do in the single player and co-op missions, allowing you to gun down your opponents with your favorite weapon(s). This certainly made the PvP unique with each match, except for the ones where you had that one guy that just ran around with a shotgun. Hate that guy!
The shortest part of my impressions of the game is in regards to the audio and visuals, and only because there's so many other things I wanted to talk about. Let me say this, as soon as I started Destiny, I was overwhelmed by the music. Everyone loves the music of the Halo series, which was composed my Martin O'Donnell - and he stayed with Bungie to work on Destiny. The results of his work are evident, as the musical scores are so perfectly suited to the game, and leaves no doubt as to whether or not to grab a copy of the soundtrack! Mix those scores in with the gorgeous backdrop, well crafted enemies and areas, and it's guaranteed that you'll be exploring every nook and cranny just to see what's there (I think I spent an hour or so wandering the exploration missions). All I can say about the audio and the visuals, is that they were - in my eyes, perfect for Destiny.
Anyway, here's my video version of the Alpha First Impressions!
Destiny gives players the option to really play the game as they wish. Use the guns you want, no matter your class, and do the missions you want. Heck, if you want to level up just by doing the Crucible, it's possible! There's obviously going to be enough content, both single-player and multi-player, to keep you busy for a long, long time. I played for over 10 hours and made it to the max level for the Alpha, completed the missions multiple times, and played the Crucible for a good number of matches. Not to mentioned, Bungie has plans for an additional 10 years of content and DLCs, which should extend that content even more!
The Destiny Alpha was pretty small in comparison to the Beta and full game that are coming in the next few months, but the small amount that we were shown did an excellent job of showing off what we have in store for the future. If you're on the fence about getting Destiny, I hope that my experience of the Alpha makes you take another look at the game. If you want to play it yourself before you buy it, it's as simple as pre-ordering the game and registering for the Beta! Everyone will get the opportunity to play, in waves, after July 17th! I hope to see you out there!