Shooting in Destiny is easy, even with a gods-cursed wretched control pad. That’s not to say skilled players won’t have an advantage, because they definitely will; because I’m pretty bad at console shooters, I got awful stats, died a fair bit, had to stick to easy targets, and took ten times as long to everything as was required. But there’s just enough auto-assist that even I managed to cap a few fools, and with a bit of judicious stealth, dodging and strafing, even got a few headshots and had some “SUCK ON THAT” broments.
I was having fun, shooting things on a console. This is by way of being a calendar event. The Mayan calendar.
So that’s one worry out of the way, but what about the MMO stuff? Well, it’s rather charmingly integrated. If you follow the mission navigation prompts closely, the first story mission plays out just like any console shooter would, except you can do it with a bunch of friends if you want, and you may meet some strangers doing it, too. The environments are dense and winding, with lots of well-placed encounters in crafted arenas.
But if you just step off the path, you’ll find a whole world out there. Seriously. Every time you think you’ve found the boundaries, a doorway or cave or staircase opens up a new vista. I managed to wander for hours without seeing the same area twice, although admittedly since I’d stepped into areas far too high level for me I was looking at them from the perspective of my speeding ground vehicle (while screaming AHHHHHHHH FUCK LEVEL 11 WHAT THE FUCK RUN) and might be mistaken about that.
There’s nothing dividing the overworld from dungeons, as there usually is in MMOs – in fact, I saw no loading screens at all while exploring on the ground. You can just wander in and out. The first one most players are likely to find is stuffed full of high level opponents – so high level they’re marked with a question – at which point you will greatly appreciate your ability to leave again at high speed and with the minimum of inconvenience.
Other MMO features include the ability to emote (bow, point, sit on the ground and dance: all the essentials), gear collecting and the hub world. But grind? There’s no need for that. You’ll have a ball wandering around doing missions and just exploring, and levelling up is rapid and rewarding. Finding new equipment is great, too – when you get a significant jump in stats, you’ll immediately feel it in gameplay.
And yet there’s none of that clunky baggage of MMOs. Menus are gorgeous and once you figure them out they’re so quick and easy to sue you can swap out gear mid-combat if you want to. (Look at me. I’m cracking a moisty over menus. That’s how good they are.
So Destiny doesn’t feel like an MMO. It feels like a slick console shooter. It feels like a shooter so good I want to keep playing it even though I dislike shooters. At the same time, it has that progression and seamless multiplayer experience that makes MMOs so pleasant when they are at their best.
This is only an alpha and can’t be indicative of the final product, but given that we generally see a massive quality leap post-alpha, then by thunder Destiny is going to be a cracker.
I had no idea there was a Destiny-shaped hole in my life until it was filled and now I never want to play anything else. Dave was right. Matt was right. The hype was right. Destiny is a contender.
BONUS SECTION: All the ways I died playing the Destiny alpha this afternoon.
- Ignored main path. Walked cheerfully into a high-level dungeon within 30 seconds of beginning and was slaughtered.
- Tried high level dungeon again more carefully, having checked the controls, and was slaughtered again.
- Skirted high level dungeon but still refused to use main path so walked into the back of an encounter. Jogged backwards off cliff in surprise.
- Was slaughtered while sitting in menu screen cooing over lovely design.
- Was slaughtered while sitting in menu screen debating pros and cons of various kinds of gun.
- Was slaughtered while sitting in menu screen while getting a cup of tea.
- PS4 control pad lit up when in-game torch switched on; was so surprised dropped control pad.
- Really egregiously underestimated the first boss.
- Beat first boss on “brave”. Tried first boss again on “legendary”.
- Drove ground vehicle off cliff.
- Drove ground vehicle into level 12 area; ignored warning signs and dismounted to engage in combat.
- Went back to that high level dungeon because slow learner.
- Tried to take screenshot of dancing emote without realising area still full of enemies.
Destiny arrives on PlayStation 3, PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in September, which suddenly seems far too long away.