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The Destiny alpha has won me over

When Bungie’s Destiny was announced I was really excited about it, which is funny because my interest in the Halo series really tapered off into zero. Hell, I wasn’t even big into Halo, like I was never a “Halo guy” or anything, but I enjoyed playing the Halo games for what they were. The idea of the guys at Bungie building a new universe with its own lore to it was exciting, as were some of the concept art and character sketches that they released early on. It almost didn’t matter what the game itself was.

Then we started hearing about exactly what Destiny was; an online-based shooter that plays a lot like Borderlands, just taking place in this new Destiny universe. I’ll admit it, my excitement quickly dropped off to zero. I actually used to have a Destiny background on my PC because it just looked so damned cool and fascinating. I had faith that Bungie were going to do something different, then it sounded like they did something safe.

I almost didn’t bother signing up for the PlayStation 4 alpha when the time came. Gary sent a link to it and I left it open for a solid day or two before I said “why not” and filled out the form. Then I got the email on Thursday inviting me in after finding out that I would *not* be getting a review copy of EA Sports UFC, so once again, it was a “why the hell not” situation that led to me even downloading the Destiny alpha and giving it a whirl. What I found was that I actually really enjoy it and that it might be filling a void that is missing right now for console-shooters on next generation consoles.

The first game that I bought for my PS4 was Killzone: Shadowfall and while I won’t say that it’s awful, okay, screw it, I’ll say that it’s awful. I tried my hardest to get into the multiplayer but something about it just felt so common, so pedestrian even, that when it came time to download a huge patch and a free map pack I couldn’t muster up the interest to bother. I have a PC with a host of shooters that I enjoy and as much as I’d like a shooter that I can play with a controller from my couch on my nice television, Killzone felt like more of a chore than anything else, so I’ve barely touched it. Note, it also doesn’t help that it shows you how many people are playing online and that it’s sub-1,000 people. That’s just sad.

So Destiny. All of this is to show you that I love playing shooters but that I’m tired of shooters and went from having high hopes for Destiny to thinking that I’d maybe buy it in a few years when it went on sale. The interface is weird in the alpha, almost feels like it was made for PC, which is ironic as Destiny hasn’t been announced for PC yet. The menus take a little bit of getting used to because of this, but you do get used to it.

You immediately get plopped into a level three story mission with the dulcet tones of Peter Dinklage telling you where to go. You kind of figure out where to go because you play videogames and see a building in the distance, not because the game tells you where to go, which is a bit frustrating. There isn’t really a mini-map or anything or clear indicators as to where you should be going, but you just figure it out. You can play with friends or with random people, but if you’ve ever played a game with a rando (I call them randos, okay?) before you can know how frustrating it can be.

I was on a server with two randos and they refused to move away from the outdoor section of the map because the enemies kept regenerating, which left me to actually enter the building and do the mission on my own. I quickly learned that I shouldn’t be doing this mission on my own because I’m being swarmed by enemies. Some are complete bullet sponges, which is mildly obnoxious, but then I encounter the “boss” of this rather brief level and my loadout kind of sucks to the point where I can’t even get the damned thing’s shield down enough to do real damage on it. Plus I’m being swarmed by enemies.

It would have been fine if I could work with someone else, but the guys in my server were not responding to me standing there, pointing at them, waving at them or using the PS4 mic to softly whisper to them (because the volume on PS4’s chat is deplorable) that we need to move on. So I opted to return to my ship, which is the equivalent to going to the main menu. From there I saw that I could level up a bit, which is relatively intuitive, and check whatever stuff I found, like gear or weapons.

Needless to say, I wasn’t thinking much of Destiny at this point outside of being pretty and playing like a Halo game. Then I headed to the “Tower” which is the social meeting point of the game as well as the marketplace, this is where things got to be fun. I found myself exploring around a bit, grabbing a letter from the post office, buying stuff from vendors, talking to my class’s lead dude (Hunter, by the by). This was kind of cool and proved to be better than just “buying stuff” through menus. It gave a good bit of downtime from the shooting.

From here I chose to head to the “Crucible” area with my trusty ship, which is the game’s multiplayer. It’s a typical three-point domination game mode available with two maps; one on the Moon and one in Ted Malakhov’s home of Russia. This is where the game really started to shine for me. On the Moon you have the ability to use vehicles, with there being a few vehicles provided in the level, as well as you having a personal vehicle that you can summon from a menu. Granted, your default speeder bike thing doesn’t have any weaponry, but to get to another point quickly it’s pretty helpful.

The gameplay was fun, it somehow felt fresh and new, even though it was pretty average by most appearances. I mean, it’s a sci fi shooter that plays a lot like Halo, but it’s not Halo, it’s Destiny. You can mess with your loadout a bit easier, you can level up from a menu mid-match and the weapon balance feels great. You use your character from the story campaign, so your money, loadout, armor and everything are shared across both, this means that if you are a single player kind of guy but decide to dabble in multiplayer you won’t be going in as a n00b without a decent loadout.

It also means vice versa, so I was having trouble taking down a boss in the story? Play some multiplayer, level up a bit, get some new weapons, then unlock my class’s special weapon perk and all of a sudden that same boss (on my own, mind you, because people don’t understand how to work together) goes down in a matter of a few shots. It adds a new dynamic to the game and helps you get invested in developing your character, which is cool.

The level cap in the alpha is 8, which feels like enough space to explore how leveling up works and how purchasing weapons and armor works as well. So, amazingly enough, I feel that Destiny has won me over yet again just by being a fun multiplayer game with some good co-op elements.

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