Destiny Beta – What works, what doesn’t, and why it may be the best shooter yet

Destiny. It won our Best Shooter of E3 2014 against very stiff competition. It’s been a heavy topic of conversation in several of our Weekend Lineups, and it has been very much on our radar since we first locked eyes on it at last year’s E3. Combining the best parts of MMO, shooters, loot-collectors and more, Destiny looks to create a seamless connected world alive with players, peril, and space magic. Recently the Gaming Trend team got their hands on the much-anticipated Beta, and has created a virtual fireteam to tell you about our experience.

Destiny Beta - 01

Ron’s Take:
Single Player – I play most of my shooters single player, so Destiny’s ride-along approach makes me a little itchy. I played through the Alpha without having partnered up with anyone, but for the Beta I wanted to see how much fun balancing the three classes could be. Well, it exceeded my expectations drastically. While the classes are the stars, a solid weapon loadout can give players jobs. I used a fantastic sniper rifle to score headshots from afar while a friend playing a Titan used a shotgun to take foes apart at close range. The best part was that we were able to part ways as seamlessly as we joined.

Multiplayer – We’ve only gotten a small taste of team-based multiplayer courtesy of The Crucible. This arena pits two sides against one another in a mode called Control which is essentially classic capture and hold. With a handful of maps at our fingertips, it was plain to see that this is the house that built Halo. The maps, the vehicles, the weapon drops – everything we’ve seen in The Crucible is balanced. Superpowers have a long enough charge where they don’t unbalance PvP, but catching a while team rapidly capturing a flag and then obliterating them all with a Warlock’s Nova Bomb is incredibly satisfying.

I do like that Bungie has limited the voice chat in Destiny. It keeps the trash talk to a minimum, allowing people to coordinate their attack and defense. It keeps people focused on the game instead of the shrill voices of annoying children. Where other games with competitive multiplayer usually wears thin, I could see myself playing Destiny for a very long time.

Strikes – These are the most awesomely frustrating aspects of the Beta and showcase everything that is incredible and awful about blending a single player game with a social MMO-lite. Jumping into my first Strike I was paired up with two of the most hapless morons in the Destiny universe. Running headlong past droves of enemies, the two skipped haphazardly towards the objective leaving me to deal with Knights and Acolytes that they’d pissed off in their wake. After single-handedly cutting down entirely too many foes I caught up with the hapless idiots at the objective. We initiated the final three-wave assault and that’s when things got really bad. The Strike is checkpointed here so death meant restarting the trio of objectives, and man did we. The results screen told the whole story – 59 kills for me, 4 for Tweedle Dee, and 3 for Tweedle Dum. The moral of the story? Play with your friends and stay away from the lobotomized pickup groups.

Destiny Beta - 02

Spencer’s take:
I’m not a shooter guy. I’m also not an MMO guy. I can’t stand the tropes found in either genre. But why am I having so much fun with the Destiny beta?

Maybe it’s the game’s tight controls. Destiny’s grenade-lobbing, gun-shooting, face-punching gameplay is indescribably visceral and satisfying. I found myself literally cheering aloud whenever I jumped around a corner and launched a super charged attack at an enemy in the game’s arena, dubbed The Crucible. Destiny’s satisfying moments are insanely gratifying.

But sadly the alternative to dominating victories in the game’s multiplayer is losing miserably. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. I’ve gotten mowed down by insanely powerful vehicles just as many times as I’ve been the one doing the mowing. In the dozen matches I’ve played, it’s basically been split down the middle – 50% fist-pumping celebration, and 50% bone-shattering defeat.

The multiplayer coop experience called Strikes are quite fun with friends, and unbearable with strangers. Playing with randomly matched partners is such a pain because some of the more difficult missions demand cooperation, which the game doesn’t support outside of chatting over microphone, something I and many others in PS4’s Destiny beta community have yet to invest in. If you can find a friend to barrel through waves of enemies, the multiplayer coop is an absolute blast, but if you can’t then you’re probably better off going it alone.

Destiny’s good. Really good. If you liked Bungie’s massive Halo series, then there’s no reason not to dive into Destiny as soon as you can get your hands on a copy. That said, if you don’t have any friends who will play it with you and don’t enjoy hectic player vs player combat then maybe you should take a pass on this one. I don’t quite think it’s the system seller that Halo was, but it definitely captures a spark that so many modern shooters are missing.

Destiny Beta - 03

Kenneth’s take:
So, you know how, when a baby is first born, it just cries at the sheer horror of being alive? That’s pretty much the most appropriate comparison to my first experience with Destiny.

As far as I’m concerned, none of Destiny’s finely-tuned shooter mechanics, nor the ability to play it with my friends are going to be what makes Bungie’s massive undertaking stick with me past its week of release. Especially after my interest in the studio’s crown jewel, Halo, fell off a cliff once Halo 3’s credits started rolling. What Destiny has to do to carve out its own place as more than just another shooter in the flooded shooter market in my mind is immerse me in an expansive and riveting science fiction world.

Since what I’ve played is merely a beta, I can safely assume that everything I’ve seen is
simply lacking the context that a full game offers, but every glimpse I’ve gotten of what made the world of Destiny into what it is has boiled down to a bunch of “cool sounding” buzzwords and abstract descriptions of a history yet to be told.

Being dropped into the beta without the opportunity to dive deeper into what makes Destiny Destiny has me pretty much mindlessly fighting waves of enemies in a world I don’t yet understand. (See baby comparison) And if the format of the beta is representative of the final product, the game doesn’t seem interested in directing my attention to it in a really meaningful fashion.

Destiny is well-built and being developed by one of the most capable studios in the industry, but if it wants to win me over it has to have an enthralling frame around its big picture, which nothing in the beta has led me to believe exists.

Destiny Beta - 04

Stefan’s take:
I went into this fresh. I never played the Alpha, I hardly read any press on the development and I had no idea what to expect. And I have to say I was completely blown away the moment I booted up the Destiny Beta.

First off, the graphics are amazing. It runs as fast and it looks as detailed as any FPS on the PS4, including Killzone. The lighting looks awesome, the weapons and ship designs are cool and the environments feel vast and expansive.

Playing W.O.W. or DC Universe Online or even Warframe, I just never felt truly immersed in the MMO world and I think Bungie really hit the nail on the head when they decided to blend elements of MMO with an FPS. It plays a lot like Borderlands in the way you collect weapons and upgrade your chosen class of character, but being able to take out enemies with other player’s online really enhances the experience.

I also like how easy it is to join up with friends online, which literally is as simple as clicking on your friend’s name on the main screen of the PS4 and hitting join. I didn’t have to find what room he was in or enter a password or any of that, I just turned on the PS4, saw my buddy was playing Destiny and a few minutes later I was sniping his enemies and ragging on him through my headset. It is seamless.

Admittedly, it can be frustrating if you get stuck with a noob during the Multiplayer coop runs. My friend and I were carrying all the weight on the bosses while our random third team member was running in circles and constantly needing revives. But, that kind of made the experience more fun too; it certainly made for some interesting convo over the headset.

Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve had so much fun playing an MMO or an FPS and I really can’t wait till the full game hits in September.


Jay’s Take:
While Destiny has been a game everyone knew the name of the past few years, actual information about what the game contained were scarce. After getting some hands on with the product, its turns out the result is far less grandiose than expected. Destiny is a first person shooter with MMORPG hooks such as a home world, quests, leveling system, a full world filled with live players, and of course, the ability to dance. Okay, maybe it is a tad grandiose. Early chatter has the game being compared to Borderlands, which seems very appropriate.

You begin your adventure in Destiny with a prolonged look at the world you are entering, which features a mostly barren version of Earth filled with bandits wanting to pop your head off. This is where a majority of your time in the Destiny beta takes place as you complete multiple missions which hope to help you understand what is happening in this world and more importantly, how you can help. Along the way you are accompanied by the all-to popular Ghost AI voiced by Peter Dinklage. Apart from these missions, you can also hope into the multiplayer and play Bungie’s version of Domination which has you capturing areas to gain points for your team.

In a game that is blending so many ideas into one, I was really hoping to see a bright story shine through in Destiny. Unfortunately, that was nowhere to be found as the finer details of the Destiny narrative seem to be discoverable through deeper quests not accessible in the beta. While Destiny’s storyline is still mostly unknown, a large portion of the game’s success will be reliant on how well Bungie can deliver it.

Coming as a surprise to no one, the feel of playing Destiny is spot on work by Bungie. They have added a certain weight to all your movements that complement the gameplay perfectly. While the floating movement of Halo frustrated some (including myself), Bungie has made the tweaks necessary to bring critics of the Halo series to their brand new franchise. But as a large and experienced company like Bungie would know, you need more than solid gameplay to produce a hit video game.

The beta did not solidify Destiny’s potential as a hit, but it definitely pushed it forward a bit.


Josh’s Take:
After the initial story-based introduction and mission, players are greeted with an overworld map of Earth, The Tower (the hub world where you buy and sell weapons and armor, collect bounties, and craft items), The Crucible (PvP), and the mysterious Moon. Initially, I was excited to see that Bungie added a whole new area to explore in the Moon, but was sorely disappointed to find out that the Moon wasn’t open for players to explore yet. Bungie has teased more to come on July 26th at 2pm PDT, so I’ll withhold judgment until the Beta is complete.

That “carrot on a stick” scenario was littered throughout the entire Beta, with the edges of the map blocked by overpowered enemies that would one-hit kill you on sight, large extravagant doorways in The Tower shut sparking curiosity for what it’s concealing, and mysterious caves strewn about the expansive world undoubtedly hiding chests to loot and rare enemy types to blow holes into.

There are 5 golden chests that can be found in the beta that offer more Glimmer (in-game currency) and higher-level items than are found in normal chests found throughout Old Russia. These chests are harder to find, but make exploring the world more fun and offer up reasons for players to venture to areas they might not have otherwise explored. One chest in particular involves you riding your Sparrow across the ocean while hugging the Cliffside until you come to a secluded area where the golden chest is hiding. Finding the chests didn’t take long, but the locations were fun to traverse and the reward was worth it.

After leveling all three classes in the Alpha to level 8, I was a bit disappointed to find out that the level cap in the Beta was also 8, but Bungie makes up for it by allowing players to continue leveling their skill tree up to 15, so my character is far more advanced than he was in the Alpha despite having the same number attached to his Emblem. Most of my time spent making my Warlock Guardian a complete badass has been spent in the Level 6 Strike Mission “Devil’s Lair,” where myself and two co-op buddies made our way through waves of Fallen and Hive while collecting loot and Cryptarch engrams—blueprints for higher-tier weapons and armor. There are three boss battles in the Strike, each of which offers up new ways to play and are challenging enough to make proper planning and constant team communication a must.

On the PvP side of the Destiny Beta, players can battle it out in The Crucible on a select few maps in a mode called Control, where players fight for three control points and accumulate score to see who wins. It felt a lot like Halo multiplayer and at first I wasn’t impressed (most likely because I was getting my ass handed to me), but after a few matches I settled in and was surprised to find that I was enjoying myself. The gunplay is tight and precise … when you press a button it shoots, or throws a grenade, or launches a super, or whatever. Even after getting killed I was not upset because it just meant that the other player got the drop on me. The Guardians are not bullet sponges, it doesn’t take more than a few well-placed scout rifle shots to bring an opposing player down and the supers make busting into heavily guarded control points a lot easier. I will say that the maps that featured vehicle combat needed some balance tweaking as the vehicles seemed a bit overpowered and difficult to combat while on foot.

I’ve had a blast with the Destiny Beta so far on all fronts. I’m hard-pressed to find anything I didn’t enjoy about it and I am excited to see how big and how dense the final product is when it comes out on September 9, 2014.

Destiny Beta - 05

Lucious’s Take:
I don’t think many people looked to Destiny expecting Bungie to do anything particularly new. Sure, it’s an original story and setting, but beyond that it was billed to be a FPS- RPG and MMO, two genre’s so over saturated in the industry many gamers associate the acronyms themselves with its debated stagnation. No, the curiosity that surrounded this long anticipated title (at least in critical circles) was how good was it going to be? Would Bungie’s first new franchise after passing the Halo torch to 343 Studios live up to the developers own legend? While it isn’t a fair question, it’s certainly an expected one, and now a week into the Beta I think most of us have a pretty good idea what the answer is.

Destiny is a very fun game. It welcomes both a six hour marathon of play either cooperatively or on the semi-solo, and quick, half-hour long, open world sorties just to pass some time. It’s incredibly easy to pick up and play, boasting magnificently responsive controls, a carefully crafted but well paced learning curve, and an surprisingly unorthodox line-up of starting classes. Very early on, the game teaches it’s players that it is truly about fast paced action alongside your friends. A well coordinated party will certainly cut swathes through the opposing alien hordes, but a motley crew of well armed and talented Guardians will do just as well, granted they show even a mild degree of party consideration.

But even before my first day with the game was over, I knew that all of these reactions were givens with me. I was/am a huge Halo fan, and it’s DNA hangs over every part of Destiny like a London fog. The feel and look of the guns, aiming, sound-effects, musical composition, camera motion, art design, character design, mechanical design, scripting, voice acting; all of it, is extremely Halo-esc. Even the similarities between your Ghost and Halo’s Monitor (“Guilty Spark”) are not subtle; to the point where they can be considered purposeful. However these are not bad things. Bungie knows what works for them and what works for the players who enjoy their games. So I can more than forgive them for being a bit self-referential in the generalities of the games direction. You know what they say if something ain’t broke…

Where I worry about Destiny are in areas where Bungie doesn’t really have much control. I never felt the maps were crowded as I played through the territories alone ( well… alone but with other people), stopping to revive a fallen stranger, or join in an random event, but how much like the actual game did that represent? Generally, any game I only play with others they are people I actually know in real life (for the sake of my blood pressure, thank you XBL), but in the Beta’s available strike mission my companions turned out to be equal parts selfish and competent, so things worked out. And in the Crucible (the PVP sections of the game) I did suffer any obnoxious gang-bang of teabags, or spawn campers. But none of these are guarantees. They can’t even be expectations.

I still had the time when a pair of nerds circled and shot at me while jumping off each others heads (in the open world where friendly fire is non-existent). I still had the Hunter who followed me at long range, picking off my high value targets after I whittled down their health. And I had the teammates who stood at my side through an entire mission, and then abandon me to kill the final boss so they would be in a better position to grab its item drops. These times sucked, and they are hours I wish I had back.

These are the kinds of shortfalls that come with the type of game Destiny has chosen to be, and I don’t hold Bungie responsible for the public’s capacity to be bastards. It was just after playing the Beta I became aware just how much of a risk cruddy players shattering my immersion really posed. As I stated earlier, this is never a solo affair… you can at best “play alone with other people.” I don’t think that’s a deal breaker for me, I still had a really good time, but if there was one gift the beta gave me it was a range of experiences where if I did wind up regretting my investment I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. For the many (and understandable) Borderlands comparisons the game has already received, I hope the final product better mimics a solitary campaign.


So there you have it!   What do you think of the Destiny Beta?  Tell us in our forums or in the comments!

Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief | [email protected]

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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