Is Destiny the first ‘real’ console MMO? – part one

Thursday, 12 June 2014 17:19 GMT By Dave Cook

Destiny is in alpha right now, and VG247′s Dave Cook has been playing it on PS4. Have consoles received their first made-to-order MMO or is this genre simple incompatible with Sony and Microsoft’s plans? Find out here.

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Looking for part two instead? Go here.

For whatever reason, Activision really doesn’t want to call Destiny an MMO. Perhaps it’s because that genre has a lot of preconceptions floating around it, or maybe it’s because those three letters suggest something that isn’t a ‘real’ game in the eyes of console purists? I’m not entirely sure where the issue lies, but that’s what I’m looking to discuss here.

I’ve been playing Destiny now for just three hours. That’s not a long time I admit, but I rather quickly found myself eager to jot down some initial thoughts here, because for many of you out there yet to rub shoulders with MMOs, Destiny’s first impressions will be quite important. You might even be looking to upgrade to the new generation for this game alone, while others – I’m certain – aren’t quite sure what to expect.

It’s a largely untested concept on consoles, so that’s why this is a two-part article; I want to hit you with that first wall of expectation and give you an insight into what Destiny stands for, before hurtling into the finer points in part two.

Ready? Let’s go.

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Welcome to the downfall of humankind

What struck me most tangibly during those first few hours was Destiny’s sense of place. I went a Hunter class – skilled in the art of long range and blade combat – and found myself in a starting zone amid the ruins of Old Russia. Amid its snow-capped fields and cliffs lies the rusting wreckage of space craft, once destined to ferry humanity to the stars, where a prosperous future lay. It’s clear that the dream died before lift-off.

Destiny brings this graveyard of metal and rock to life as snow twirls through the air and brilliant sunshine trembles through the twisted wreck of lopsided shuttles, forever rooted to cracked launchpads. This backdrop serves as stage to all of your initial questing, which can be tackled solo or as part of a three-player Fireteam, although you will still see other players running around the environment as you go. You can choose to interact with them and help in their battles, or not. The choice is yours.

”Early on I found enemies to be quite aggressive, but with a little perseverance I defeated them all and headed back to the Tower, which is where Destiny is at its most ‘MMO.’“

If you’re unfamiliar with MMO tropes; just think of other players as NPCs in any other shooter. They’re certainly not intrusive, and aren’t capable of attacking you or stealing loot dropped from enemies you’ve killed. You can fight them via PvP in The Crucible arena, but I’ll get to that in part two. The closest games I can liken Destiny to right now are Borderlands and Guild Wars 2, due to its open world nature and co-op play.

My first quest involved checking out a congregation of Fallen, a hostile race of creatures found lurking around an old space hanger. I encountered a pack of their footsoldiers outside the complex and engaged in my first battle which, to my surprise, felt quite different to Halo. My Hunter class came with a double jump skill, so leaping around did feel a bit similar to Bungie’s series, but the gunplay felt faster and definitely slicker than Master Chief’s handling.

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I darted between decayed containers and wreckage to cover myself while unleashing my fully-automatic rifle and shotgun into anything that crossed my path. My instant reaction was that it all felt quite good in my hands, and the intelligence of the AI largely surprised me. Troops scramble for cover and pick alternate routes to get the drop on you, which is a damn sight better than the MMORPG staple of clicking to attack, or circling each other while issuing commands. It’s a fluid shooter.

Venturing into the complex, I happened across a Titan who had been downed by a pack of tougher Fallen, and with a simple hold of Square he was revived and back on his feet. The interiors were dark and illuminated by eerie lighting, once again delivering a great sense of place, while the music dropped back to up the tension. As I stalked the halls, taking out more grunts, I earned Glimmer – Destiny’s currency – and even progressed my character to level four.

”Destiny is the story of humanity’s losing war against alien invaders, and the Tower is the only thing standing between them and extinction. It stands as the game’s social hub.“

This unlocked my Hunter’s Golden Gun skill, which enabled me to summon a flaming pistol capable of discharging three high-power rounds. What it boasted in power, it lost in accuracy due to being iron sights only, which was a nice piece of balancing on Bungie’s part. At the heart of the complex I found myself attacked by a horde of Hive, Moon-dwelling aliens that attack in packs like zombies. They were being led by smarter, gun-wielding types and their wizard leader.

In something of an RPG twist, the wizard blasted me with a bolt of magic that inflicted poison on my Hunter, and corroded her health over time. Similar to Halo, you have a health bar that depletes then regenerates as you avoid damage, so survival was simply a case of staying hidden. Early on I found enemies to be quite aggressive, but with a little perseverance I defeated them all and headed back to the Tower, which is where Destiny is at its most ‘MMO.’

Next: Into the Tower.

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