The First Few Hours: Destiny beta

Status:  2 hours in, logged off after finishing the Level 4 story mission (which also got me to Level 5).

It turns out that all my bluster and panic about not receiving a Destiny beta activation code, even though I’d pre-ordered the game back in May, was all for naught.  After freaking out for hours, I finally went to the online version of the PSN Store and quickly discovered that the Beta was in my to-download queue, and so I simply hit the button and it downloaded to my sleeping PS4 while I was at work.  When I finally got home, it was ready and waiting.

So.  Let me say right up front that I didn’t play the alpha.  I figured the alpha was really more of a polished public demo meant to capitalize on the momentum following E3; but even if I had gotten access, I don’t think I would’ve had any time to really sit down and put it through its paces.  I’d watched enough YouTube clips to feel that Peter “Moon Wizard” Dinklage’s performance, while kinda shitty, wasn’t totally his fault, but that’s about the extent of what I knew.

First thing’s first, then:  the game makes a pretty astounding first impression from a technological standpoint.  Graphics are truly impressive in every facet, from the animation to the lighting engine to the art direction to the choice of color palette to the friggin’ fonts in the UI.  More importantly, the shooting feels great – I might even go so far as to say it feels better here than it ever did in Halo, which is saying something.

The best way to sum up my experience is that I sat down to play at around 7:45, and the next thing I knew it was 10:00, and all I wanted to do today was call in sick and keep playing.

As for the RPG elements and the loot… well, as far as the loot is concerned, this is definitely not Borderlands.  After 2 hours and 5 levels, I only found 2 guns – neither of which were a marked improvement over what I’d already equipped – and a similar number of useless armor pieces.  (After the first 2 hours of Borderlands, I’d probably have more guns than I had inventory space for.)  I received better weaponry and armor when I’d return to the Tower after each mission, so that was something, but even after finding a bunch of hidden chests, I never picked up anything particularly useful.  I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, necessarily, but it does make exploring an area after clearing it out of baddies feel a bit useless.

Also:  Peter Dinklage’s character actually uses the word “loot” to describe a chest.  This is akin to someone saying the word “zombie” in a zombie movie; it’s just not done.

Yeah, I suppose I should probably address the Dinklage VO at this point.  I still think the writing is kinda bad – and I’ll say more about that in a second – but even with the new robo-filter on his voice, he still sounds like he’s phoning it in.  (Actually, the filter now makes it sound like he’s literally phoning in a phoned-in performance.)  He sounds like he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, and nobody bothered to explain to him what it meant, and because the dialogue is so silly and refers to things and people that we simply don’t know, he’s kinda just half-assing it in the vocal booth.  Maybe it’s just that Stephen Merchant’s performance as Wheatley in Portal 2 is the gold standard for floating orb robot helpers; whatever the case, Dinklage clearly doesn’t care.  So I apologize to Ben Kuchera – regardless of the quality of the script, he’s absolutely right.

But let’s get to the narrative, because that’s really my biggest concern.  It’s unclear if the beta’s beginning is the actual beginning of the final game, but let’s leave that aside; the beta’s beginning sure feels like the beginning of the final game.  In this introduction, you hear voiceover explaining the current situation; then you see Dinklage’s floating robot searching for something… then you see some enemies in the distance, closing in… then, suddenly, you’ve been resurrected from the dead?  And the first thing the robot wants you to do, after getting you under cover, is get you a gun?

I get it, that the beta wants to get you shooting bad guys as quickly as possible, but I can’t help but feel like something’s missing… like, namely, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.  It’s not actually explained who you are until after the first series of missions, and even then I didn’t quite get it; it’s glossed over in light of the more pressing concern, which is that the ultimate forces of darkness are closing in.  Still, if I were suddenly resurrected from the dead, I’d at least like a glass of water and maybe a newspaper before being asked to kill things.

Maybe I’m nitpicking.

I still had a total blast with it, and I’m going to play as much of it as possible.  I’m currently rolling a female Titan (who looks a lot like my FemShep, actually); the Titan seems like the best class for people who want to solo.  I’d like to eventually try the other two classes, but those seem better fits for team-play; the Titan does everything well enough to not really need outside assistance.  So that’s something.

If you’re online, my PSN ID is JervoNYC; look me up!

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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