Perhaps it was inevitable that the Destiny Beta would play havoc with the PlayStation Network. After all, a stiff breeze is usually enough to take down PSN for an entire afternoon.
But after much persistence and a bit of luck, I made it through the storm and came out on the other side in one piece, my Beta now downloading at a slow but bearable pace. And as the concept art showcase that accompanied the download faded to black, the Destiny Beta had a last breathed into life, my nine day holiday in the clutches of Bungie’s shared-world shooter now having finally begun.
The Destiny Beta begins at a much steadier pace than the Alpha, with Bungie this time shunning an off-the-cuff look at the game in favour of something more chronological and consistent. For those who are yet to sample much of the games lore, the opening cut scene of the Beta sets the tone for your entire adventure, with a present day look at how humanity first made contact with The Traveller helping broaden the scope of the Destiny plot. In the Alpha, you may struggled with finding any meaning behind your actions and role within the Destiny universe as there was relatively little substance to each mission that you undertook. However be it in the aforementioned opening cut scene or in the much more expansive mission dialogue, the story in the Destiny Beta steadily unfolds before you at a much more fluid pace, answering at least some of the questions that the Alpha may have posed.
Following an in-game introduction at the hands of Peter Dinklage’s much more vocally digitized Ghost, you’ll first take up arms in order to navigate through the same Cosmodrome that you may have recognized from one of the games earliest trailers. Here, you’re asked to fight through masses of Fallen soldiers in your attempts to find an escape vehicle, which of course is a perfect excuse to re-familiarize yourself with Destiny’s combat mechanic. Although you won’t yet have access to any character abilities, there are a few notable adjustments to Destiny’s combat that you’ll do well to take into consideration before you delve headfirst into the fray.
Firstly, auto-aim has been decreased significantly, meaning that you’ll now have to be a little more careful when aiming down the sights and shooting for the head. With target ‘snap-on’ also significantly reduced, you may find yourself shooting a silhouette of bullets around your enemies for the first few hours, but after you’ve gotten used to the feel of this new system, you’ll realise that it represents a marked improvement over that of the Alpha. Next, Bungie have taken into consideration the fact that a crouched stance can provide better accuracy, and thus have allowed players to zoom in at a slightly greater distance when crouched and aiming down the sights of their weapon. Perhaps the perfect tool for a crack-shot with a semi-automatic rifle, this new tweak is sure to go down a hit with those who prefer to deal damage from afar, with the heightened zoom now helping Guardian’s pick off their prey with laser-like precision.
Aside from a select few new story missions and an extra multiplayer map, the Beta’s main addition is that of the ‘Explore’ task, which frees the Guardian’s from their shackles and asks them to roam the wastes of Old Russia unsupervised. It was here that the games breadth first truly struck me. As part of a Fireteam of two currently engaged in scouring Old Russia for all of its loot, myself and my cohort first ran into a Devil Walker that had pinned down a fellow squadron. After reviving a few downed Guardian’s that the Devil Walker had stepped on, we joined the fight and almost managed to defeat it, only for a Fallen ship to digitize it when we were within 10 seconds of killing it for good. Unperturbed, our enhanced group of Guardian’s continued forth until we became entangled in a deadly battle between Hive and Fallen. As more and more enemies fell at our feet, we were slowly edged back by the presence of ‘rare’ foes like Hallowed Knight’s and Servitor’s, up until we finally called time on the fight and retreated. Even then, as we exited the battle with our guns completed drained of ammunition and our health bars flashing a crimson warning, we hopped on our Shrikes and headed towards our next minor objective, content to relive the hours events all over again.
But that’s the just the Destiny Beta for you. You may have played the missions, mastered the multiplayer and levelled your Guardian to their peak, but there’s always something else to sink time into. Whether it’s a shopping spree in The Tower, a Shrike tour of Old Russia or simply lending a helping hand to a Fireteam out in the wilderness, if the much larger main game can expand upon the Beta experience as well as we expect it to, then Destiny has every hope of being one of the generations most defining titles.
Two days down, seven to go…