For many, Destiny's biggest draw is its promise that you can explore huge, open areas with your buddies – or even complete strangers – as you scavenge the land for some lovely new loot. And I must admit, this is also the much hyped shooter's key component for me, as well. While I'm fairly confident that the story missions will prove to be a good ride and the competitive multiplayer will keep people occupied well after they've seen what every vast locale has to offer, it's the idea of traversing expansive lands that's always excited me the most, especially when there's a sci-fi edge at work.
Looking back on some of my favourite titles, it's not hard to see why. Being a huge fan of Bethesda's open worlds and Japanese RPGs that throw you head-first into a large land of fantasy, there's nothing quite like simply wandering through the environments that developers have put so much time into making, taking in the sights, and discovering something new every time that you load up the game. And if Destiny's dusty Old Russian Cosmodrome is anything to go by, the full release is going to be absolutely caked in rich, interesting spaces to explore.
Yesterday, I mentioned the game's consistent and very well realised art style, and that's at the crux of what makes an appealing world. Without a defined visual direction, a title usually tends to feel a little disjointed and raw, but even in this beta, everything feels incredibly polished. Take the style that's on offer in Old Russia, for example. Despite the fact that it's largely a wasteland full of abandoned machinery that mankind has long left behind, there's a real sense of style, and even a decent splash of colour; rusty oranges and browns dot the landscape, and the tones play off the snowy backdrop brilliantly.
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It's not just pretty, either – it's also atmospheric. You'll often find yourself standing on a rocky outcrop and gazing out into the distance, not because you're in a cinematic cutscene, but because you feel the need to. A hallmark of any visually interesting game is when you stop playing and simply take a look around you to breathe in the atmosphere, and that's exactly what Destiny makes you want to do. Whether it's looking up at old relay stations or standing on high ground for a panoramic view, it always feels like there's something that you haven't seen before – little details to pick out in what is essentially a hell hole.
Also worthy of mention are the more subtle details, too. Worn signposts and broken vehicles litter the location, while, in places, nature has already begun absorbing the wreckage as plants wrap themselves around giant pieces of junk. The most intriguing contrast I've come across, though, are a couple of rusty tanks that are covered in organic bits and pieces. Going into so much depth about a title's visual prowess is bound to sound a little bit pretentious, but there's still something very charming about hopping onto the top of a military vehicle and discovering that a tiny little flower has bloomed through the metal. It's precisely this level of detail that keeps areas that you'll be travelling through numerous times feeling relatively fresh.
When it comes to gameplay, Old Russia is chocked full of enemies for you to find and cull, as well as caves and underground lairs to stumble upon. It's quite difficult to work out exactly how big the dilapidated landscape is, but when travelling from one extremity to the other, it takes about ten minutes if you don't partake in any combat. For just one area, there's more than enough to see and do, although there has been a consistent complaint echoing throughout the community in that foes respawn far too fast.
Indeed, all you have to do is take down a group of alien aggressors, walk a small distance away, and turn around – chances are, the enemies that you just put to the slaughter will have popped back into existence. It's easy to see why this might seem a bit overzealous, but at the same time, you can't ignore the somewhat obvious reasons for such a system. Bungie may refrain from calling its creation an MMO, but it's the same principle that's at work here. In a place where you can come across a handful of other players, there's not much point in having foes that take lengthy amounts of time to respawn. In reality, all this would do is ensure that whoever enters the location first gets all of the kills, and it'd certainly make the beta's environment a far more boring place to be.
As it stands, there's never a lack of action, and when you're on the hunt for some powerful new weapons or shiny pieces of armour, you probably won't mind taking down the same mobs a few times as you go about your business anyway. Proceedings are also kept interesting thanks to an array of public events that appear to occur when there are enough Guardians in a certain location. You might have to protect an object from waves of an opposing force, or tackle a spider tank-like walker and a bunch of grunts. No matter their content, the occurrences feel natural, and when the sky turns black as a giant ship tears through the clouds, it's definitely fun to see how your sudden allies react to the impending battle.
Ultimately, things are looking bright on the exploration front when it comes to the full release. Old Russia itself provides a very atmospheric and huge map to scour, meaning that there's plenty of reason to get excited for the chance to jog around several more planets, which are hopefully just as intriguing as what's on offer here.
How did you find the second day of the Destiny beta? Have you been exploring Old Russia, too? Make sure to tell us all about your discoveries in the comments section below, and remember to check back tomorrow for day three of our Destiny diary.