I went into the Destiny beta expecting to play it for an hour and drop it. Surprisingly, it was the first online game to hook me in a long time. With the beta winding to a close, I decided to compile a list of the top three things I liked and didn't like after spending numerous hours playing it over the last week.
Things I liked:
1. The mix of genres actually works
Destiny is a grab-bag of different games and genres, and that's a big part of why it's so fun. The shooting mechanics feel like a faster paced Halo with some space magic thrown in. The looting and open worlds evoke memories of Borderlands or any number of gear-focused dungeon crawlers. The hub world and RPG-style character leveling and outfitting feel like they could have come from an MMO. Impressively, these disparate elements combine seamlessly, and it's possible to enjoy Destiny even if you don't enjoy the games that inspired it.
Although the shooting mechanics do feel a lot like Halo, they've tweaked it enough that it feels fresh even if you spent countless hours playing Halo. In a lot of ways, it feels like Borderlands if you fused it with Halo's more accomplished shooting mechanics and gave it more interesting lore and atmosphere. Destiny clearly takes inspiration from MMORPG conventions, but it never feels like a traditional MMObecause of all the other things it has going on. Destiny takes all the best bits from a bunch of different genres and mashes them up into something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
2. Variety, variety, and more variety
Perhaps Bungie's greatest accomplishment is that there's tons of stuff to do and none of it is low quality. I can have a blast shooting my way through a surprisingly strong campaign with my friends. I can then take a break from story missions to engage in frantic Strike missions that push me and my Fireteam to our limits. If I don't feel like committing to a full mission or PVP match, I can tool around the planets doing side quests and searching for loot. Finally, I can hop into the Crucible for some of the highly competitive PVP action that kept me coming back to the Halo series for years.
Destiny is packed full of content and has something for every mood. Each section of the game has sufficient depth and feels polished even in the beta. Even better, my character transfers between all of these different game types so it always feels like I'm working towards something, whether that be a rare gun or an awesome new set of armor.
3. Character Customization
Even if it levels out the characters in most PVP game-modes, Destiny encourages you to put your personal stamp on your character. You can customize everything from your character's equipment to the kind of grenades you bring into battle. There's plenty of skills to choose from while leveling up your character, and there's enough weapon classes to appeal to just about anybody. If you get tired of playing one class, you can just create a new character and try out a whole new style of gameplay.
A lot of the fun in PVP comes from the weapon and character classes. Classes can play off each other's strengths and weaknesses, which makes it more interesting than a lot of competing games where everyone's character is the same. Having three different types of characters potentially all using different skills and weapons helps the matches feel fresh—at least in theory, which leads me into one of the things I didn't like about Destiny.
Things I Didn't Like:
1. Auto Rifles and Shotguns Galore
Next time you head into the Crucible, pay attention to what guns people are using. I would bet you 500 Glimmer that at least two thirds of them are using an auto rifle as a primary and probably a shotgun as a secondary. I'm not going to point fingers though, since I'll be the first to admit that I'm never seen in the Crucible without an auto rifle and shotgun in hand. I just can't argue with how effective this setup is. Auto rifles take almost no skill to use, are effective at near any range, and deal hefty amounts of damage. Shotguns are a camper's dream because they're absolutely devastating in close quarters if you follow them up with a melee.
It's probably a natural consequence of allowing people to choose their own weapons instead of picking them up on the maps, but I'd like to see Bungie encourage more weapon variety in the final game. Some of the fun is lost when everyone is rolling with the exact same weapon types, and I don't want it to become like Halo 3 where people completely ignore certain guns and hone in on one or two weapons.
2. There's still no real penalty for quitting in PVP
We've all had games spoiled by quitters who lose all hope and bail out as soon as the opposite team gets 500 points ahead. It ruins the game for the losing team, since their chances deteriorate with every person that leaves, and it spoils the fun for the winning team since it removes all the challenge. This has been an issue in Bungie games since the old Halo days, so why isn't it fixed yet?
For years now, people have been proposing a simple way to fix this: if you quit a game before it's over, your only option in matchmaking is to rejoin that game. This way, quitters are incentivized to stay in the match without punishing people who have legitimate reasons for leaving early. If someone's internet fails and kicks them out of game, they can hop right back in. If someone has to leave to go do something, they probably won't be finished by the time the game is over anyway. Bungie has drop-in drop-out matchmaking integrated into the game already for replacing missing players in Strikes and PVP matches, so I don't imagine it would be hard to restrict quitters to joining the game they just left.
3. 6v6 Matches Aren't Big Enough
Don't get me wrong, 6v6 matches are still fun, but I'd love to see a playlist or two designed for larger teams. I'm disappointed that Bungie didn't try to push the player count, especially since we have games like Battlefield 4 which feature 64 player games. Heck, Halo has had 8v8 for years now, which I assumed was going to be the minimum in Destiny.
6v6 works well for the maps they've shown in the Beta, but I'd be disappointed if they never gave us any bigger maps for larger matches. I have fond memories from Halo 3 and Halo: Reach from playing fast and furious 8v8 matches on maps like Isolation and Spire. Just about any map could be made more fun by cramming 16 players into it and watching the chaos ensue. The insane kill sprees, endless vehicle combat, and huge-scale battles made them a fantastic diversion from the more coordinated and subdued smaller matches.
Assuming it's technically possible with the dated PS3 and Xbox 360 systems, there's a lot to gain and nothing to lose by giving players the option to play some good old fashioned big team brawls.
Those few quibbles aside, I really enjoyed Destiny and might even spring for a PS4 later this year to play it on. What are your thoughts on it after having played the beta? Is it overrated, or did it live up to the hype after all?