What a wild ride the Destiny beta has been. For a long time, Bungie's latest was the 'next big thing' that we knew next to nothing about; a couple of E3 appearances, some concept art here and there, and a single slice of gameplay footage to gawk at – it was only these things that gave us the slightest hint of what the game actually was. In hindsight, June's alpha was a piece of marketing genius. It wouldn't have worked for the vast majority of games, but even in its supposedly early state, the sci-fi shooter proved to be polished, addictive, and had just about everyone gasping for more.
In all of my time playing video games, I've never seen anything quite like it. The amount of hype and general fervour that the alpha created was astounding, and things have only gotten more intense after everyone's sampled the beta. While it's true that there are no immediately noticeable changes between the two downloads, the beta has spread like wildfire, partly because of very clever marketing, but also because people seem to have been talking about nothing else for the past two weeks. A month and a bit before the full game releases, and it's becoming very difficult to have anything but the highest of expectations.
The main thing that's had everyone talking over the last day or so has been the addition of a new location: the moon. The area has been marked on our galaxy maps since the beta began, sitting there as an obvious tease of things to come. Lo and behold, yesterday saw the big hunk of rock open up to Guardians for two hours – a perfect amount of time, when you stop to think about it. Sporting one mission and a surprisingly huge map to explore, two hours gave most players just enough time to get a feel for the location before it became closed off to space tourists. And honestly, it made me a bit desperate to see more. In that sense, the limited look worked like a charm, so what better way than to round off our Destiny Diaries than with the exploration of that big pale thing in the sky?
Relive Our Destiny Diaries
- Day One: Why Wouldn't You Want to Be a Robot?
- Day Two: The Exploration of Old Russia
- Day Three: The Crucible Presents Push Square vs. The World
- Day Four: Loot, Glorious Loot
- Day Five: Wasting Inordinate Amounts of Time at the Tower
- Day Six: Tackling the Strike's Co-Op Difficulty Spike
One of the first things that you notice about the moon is that it's not quite as naturally structured as Old Russia. There's a bigger sense of openness, where points of interest are clustered together rather than being spread out across a vast landscape. As such, my buddies and I spent a large amount of time running from place to place, until we realised that in order to crack out our trusty Sparrows, we'd have to complete the first portion of the only available mission.
As hinted, there's a lot of ground to cover between the places that you'll need to visit. The mission itself sees you tracking down a deceased Guardian and their Ghost, and even comes with a couple of cutscenes. As a whole, it's been a nice way to round off the much loved beta, and certainly provides another promising look at what the full release will consist of. Unfortunately, it's raised a few cynical questions, too.
For starters, there's little evidence to suggest that the story elements of the game will hold much weight. For sure, we may only be seeing a limited snippet of what's to come – and I'm hoping that's more or less the case – but there's definitely a sense that the narrative missions feel a bit too similar. Realistically, I'm not sure what Bungie could do with a such a vast game that's based largely around co-op activity, but everything that we've played generally follows the same path: your Ghost provides a bit of exposition, you travel or fight your way to a point on the map, hack something, blast through a couple of waves of enemies, leave, head to a final location, and kill more aliens before a nice big 'mission complete' banner splashes across the screen.
Of course, it's easy to be cynical, and it'd be a massive shame if anyone was actually put off buying the game due to their experience with the beta, but mission structure is still something that's worth thinking about. In a release that sees you cover lengthy distances in order to get to your next objective, perhaps the real meat of the adventure lies in how you actually carve your own path to arrive at the task. It's already been established that exploration and fighting alongside your friends is going to be the crux of Destiny for many, and it'll maybe be best to embrace that outlook, rather than sprinting off towards the next mission marker and completing everything within a few minutes.
Still, to arrive at entirely negative conclusions because of a beta would be a short-sighted thing to do. It's also equally easy to praise the RPG-shooter hybrid to the point where you start to sound like a bit of a shill, but the fact of the matter is that judging purely from the beta that we've been playing to death over the last two weeks, you couldn't be blamed for feeling at least a little excited about this brand new property.
Anyway, slaughtering enclaves of Hive troops and watching them turn to dust after a precise headshot will probably keep things entertaining despite any doubts. Heck, one of my most memorable moments with the beta has come from something completely non-scripted, as me and my fireteam got completely lost in a gigantic underground Hive lair deep beneath the moon's surface. Conjuring up visions of Aliens and the Collector ship from Mass Effect 2, this was perhaps an indication that we can hope for plenty of totally unexpected and brilliantly enjoyable happenings in the world that Bungie has created.
After spending close to 50 hours with the beta, I can tell you with confidence that I think that Destiny is going to be something special. It's impossible to guarantee that everyone will like it, of course, but even in its beta state, it's feels like a relatively big step forward for shooters, and console player interaction in general. If we can just sit back and imagine the full game on a much larger scale, filled with the same polish and level of detail that we've already witnessed, I don't think that there's any real reason to worry too much. And if there is, well, we can always just head back to the Tower for a glitchy game of footie.
Have you enjoyed the beta? How much time did you sink into it? Tell us all about your adventures and your final thoughts in the comments section below.