Destiny’s beta isn’t just a longer version of the alpha we enjoyed last month. As the resident rabid Destinyophile, I’ve been charged with telling you what’s new, improved and different.
There are several new story missions.
Oh boy! Hot damn! New content! In addition to the story, explore and strike missions you may remember from the alpha (unless you weren’t there *pitying glance*), there are a couple of fresh missions to tackle, set both before and after the one we saw in the alpha.
All of of the new missions are set in the Cosmodrome, so if you explored this area thoroughly you may be slightly disappointed by not seeing anything new, but the missions themselves include story developments and set-piece battles you won’t have seen.
On top of that, some of the linking paths that were previously closed by over-powered enemies have been opened, so there are shortcuts between the various sectors of the map best navigated on your Sparrow at high speed, occasionally pausing to admire the scenery.
Peter Dinklage’s voice has been significantly improved.
Some lines have been chopped (yes, “that wizard came from the moon” among them), others have been changed, and a robotic filter has been applied over the lot that somehow makes it all so much more acceptable than just having Tyrion Lannister bleating instructions at you.
I really enjoy Dinklage’s voice and acting in general, but the alpha’s placeholder voiceover was really raw and uncomfortable. It’s unlikely the beta is the finished version either, so we can expect it to improve in leaps and bounds – and it’s already so much better that I’m quite impressed.
Some wags have pointed out that in the future technology should have advanced enough that AI needn’t sound robotic. There are three possible replies to this. The first is to point out how incongruous and unpleasant it sounded to have an unfiltered voice nattering away at us, and ask pedants to hand up their hats on the issue in respect for aesthetics. The second is to argue that even in the distant future the uncanny valley bothers humans so much that they prefer their AI companions to feel at least a little robotic. The third is just to wave your middle finger and go do something productive, like playing the Destiny beta.
Auto-aim has been toned down a little bit.
In my Destiny alpha report I noted that ferocious aim assist in story and explore modes. I had great concerns about it because if there’s one thing that’s sure to put off really hardcore shooters it’s having their skills downplayed by “console newb” (wince) shooter mechanics. Thankfully Dave’s thorough bashing of the multiplayer proved there was a more sophisticated level of gunplay available.
For the beta, Bungie has tweaked aim assist considerably, presumably in response to feedback, and it’s much better. By better I mean much less forgiving, with snap-to toned down markedly – so it’s going to be less accessible to those who find shooting with a control pad difficult or uncomfortable. That said, I got used to it, and eventually even managed the occasional headshot in between my wild bouts of spraying bullets floor to ceiling. (I’m a mouse and keyboard type, okay?)
I’m sure Bungie is going to fiddle with this some more, but at present it’s struck a pretty decent balance in catering to newbies and veterans.
You are no longer a bullet sponge.
At a preview event last night, before the servers went live to the public, I jumped into the beta with a level five Exo warlock and I was gunned down minutes later in the first boss fight. Given that the pre-prepared character was kitted out with nice gear and several levels over-powered for the mission, I was shocked.
Paying a bit more attention to what was happening in battle, I realised that my character’s shield was no longer as robust as it had been in the alpha, and the amount of damage I could take between my shield going down and death had been significantly reduced.
I don’t know if this applies to warlocks alone, or to every class, but on reflection I think it’s probably for the best if Bungie wants to keep skilled shooter fans on board.
Progression has changed.
I’m going to need to take a longer look at this with my own characters, but the pre-prepared warlock I was supplied with was light on skills. I first noticed this when I was attempting to utilise the brilliant floaty double jump each class has a variant of, and petered back to the ground after a disappointing little “pfft” of air time.
Peeking into the upgrade screen, I saw that the second tier glide skill had not yet been unlocked. I’m almost certain I had this skill by level five in my alpha characters, because not having it changes the game from joyous, bountiful delight to “yeah no it’s pretty good”, and I know I spent most of my time in the alpha with the former perspective.
I’m not sure if this lack of delicious jumping was just because the characters were pre-generated or if it’s been reserved for higher levels, but I did notice that the upgrade screen in general looked quite different, so it’s clear Bungie has been tinkering. I’ll take a closer look and report back in more detail later.
Loading times have been reduced.
Bungie has done wonders optimising loading times in the short period of time between alpha and beta. Because Destiny takes place in an open world which sneakily loads itself up as you wander about, you almost never encounter a loading delay while playing.
Unfortunately, you do have to sit through a loading sequence between choosing your destination and leaping into the action. They’re quite nice, in that you get to see your little ship – and ships belonging to your fire team – and gaze down on the planet below, but this is 2014 and I have a limited attention span, so the minute or more of waiting in the alpha client drove me bonkers.
The beta client reduces this wait time dramatically; in my experience so far, it’s probably not been longer than ten seconds. That’s good by any standards. Note that I’m playing on PS4, so your mileage may vary on other platforms.
No doubt there’s more that we’ve yet to discover; stay tuned over the weeks ahead as we hammer away at Bungie’s latest and greatest. We’d love to hear your experiences so far, so why not chime in below?