Game Preview: Destiny Beta Hands On – Part Two
The first part of the Destiny Beta was a superb, exquisitely fun affair that I could not stop playing. I hooked around twenty hours over the four days prior to the shutdown and was still so hooked I had minor withdrawals on that first day the game was unavailable. Thankfully I had work to keep me occupied (the sarcasm there is palpable) but then rejoice! Bungie announced they had completed their work early, and that the game was now up and running, with a minor update file for Playstation users, as well as now being available for those playing on Microsoft’s behemoth.
Eager to check out what was new, or at least different, I booted up the game.
Nope. Nothin. Everything was exactly as I had left it. The biggest change was that the subreddit I so frequently… uh… frequent was now a massive wall of complaints, and requests for Beta codes, from Xbox 360 and Xbox One owners.
It seemed as well as the game had been performing on Playstation 4, the same could not be said for the Xbox consoles. Complaints ranged from Fireteams being non-existant, voice chat not working (echoing my own complaint about voice chat), game crashes, tower inaccessibility and text not displaying anywhere in the game. There were also some aesthetic complaints, differences between PS4 editions and others particularly; resolution (the beta is running at 900p on all consoles but perhaps they missed that news), and the PS4’s curved HUD versus the straight HUD of other consoles being amongst them.
It would seem that the Xbox crowd were not going to be as satisfied as we had been, although admittedly the number of Xbox owners + the number playing the beta + the number who use Reddit isn’t exactly the most statistically significant of samples. By far the most frequent issue I saw raised there was that people were getting file corruption warnings, and being forced to reinstall the game only for it to happen again at a future time in a different location.
Like I said, the true number of people these issues were effecting is unknown and, at least by me, unknowable. I’m not an Xbox One owner (not yet anyway, I’m planning to pick one up along with the ridiculously fun looking Sunset Overdrive) and am unable to replicate them. I don’t personally know any Xbox One owners who are also playing the beta. For now I have to rely on Reddit and the Bungie forums, which didn’t leave me impressed about the state of the game on the Microsoft console.
But what about my own return? What was there to do? To experience? To enjoy? Well, for me, more of what I had been enjoying before. I headed back into co-operative play with Andy, dropped back to the Cosmodrome and killed the shit out of some Fallen.
Once More Unto The Breach
Our main goal was to find differences, new content, new areas, or anything that had been altered during the shutdown. From external sources, I can tell you that Sepiks Prime has been altered to drop less lame loot upon his… its?… death. We didn’t do the strike again though. I’d done it twice already. We did do a run through though to see how far into that area of the Cosmodrome we could get outside the strike itself. Pretty far, as it happens.
We made it all the way to the Devil Walker which was just as much an asshole to take down as it had been before. Those things have, I shit you not, somewhere between all of the hitpoints and even more than all of the hit points. There were only two of us so we took pot shots at it for a while, died and revived, and eventually took it down to discover that was as far as we could go, and nowhere else branched off that zone – at least for now.
We did more beacon missions, which always manage to take you to new areas, or collecting new things even if it is just killing enemies for Ether Salts, and visited the Tower to trade in some encrypted engrams for shit I already had and discarded ages ago. Seriously, Bungie, mate, can you do something about all the Fieldplate Type 2 armour the Cryptarch gives out from those engrams? I already traded up from Fieldplate like eight gauntlets and sixteen boots ago.
What we did though, was explore. Without content or missions, we simply rode as far as we could, explored the nooks and crannies of the game for chests and dead ghosts. It’s here that the game will get the most mileage out of the maps. To find chests, we’d typically been looking in caves and bunkers but they appear everywhere; the sides of cliffs previously assumed to just be edge-of-map territory, atop hills, and nested up in the rafters of buildings in areas previously thought unreachable.
Dead ghosts were even more scattered; they’re tiny, and can fit on a shelf, in a bucket, around a corner on the edge of a map or even behind a stack of crates. They can quite literally be anywhere, One was found nested atop an I-beam, sadly one that wouldn’t let me stand on it for the longest time. Six attempts it took to get that damn thing. But the exploration here is what drove us and we were not left without reward.
The image above is of a cave system we located on route to Sepiks Prime’s bunker area. Following it down we discovered a bunch of ?? Level hive in a large cavern. Not sure how deep it goes, couldn’t get very far in before the (moon) Wizard one-shotted me and I respawned back in the tunnel. One to check out later for sure.
Travelling along the Forgotten Coast we came to The Grotto and continued up the hill, zooming past the ?? Level Dregs and Acolytes to try and make it further than we had before. At the top of the hill, following the path, is a downed Hive ship with that ?? Level Shrieker many of us are so familiar with now and some sort of armoured Servitor. I couldn’t get near them, but I did find a small cave, hidden up a side path and filled with ?? Thralls.
It was when I died and respawned at the bottom of the hill though that I discovered this gem. A bunker entrance, some sort of immense blast door. I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest it will be open in the final game, or at least openable. Part of a mission, or story campaign as yet unknown? Either that or Bungie really did go overboard on the incidental level detail. Not only is this hidden out of the way, but there was another dead Ghost beside it.
The Final Event
We played off and on a few times post-shut down. I took a mate of ours, Matt, through the early levels as a Fireteam of two and then the Devil’s Lair as a threesome. We played some Crucible. We explored. Made merry. Punched Dregs in the face in that oh-so-satisfying way. It was Sunday morning though that something truly new would reveal itself.
It was 6AM on Sunday the 27th, and we were going to the moon!
For a brief time on the beta’s penultimate day, Bungie opened the doors to a single story mission on Earth’s moon. I got up early to play it, and from the snuggled burrito of warmth that was my bed I was glad I did. Finally, something new. All it did was make me want even more. If you thought my excitement had already peaked, you’d be wrong.
The moon starts empty, we found a few caves, ran around a bit to get as much of the scenery in as possible. We only had about forty-five minutes after a number of connection issues early on. It would seem the PSN was struggling under such a heavy flow of traffic. Unsure of when we’d be kicked off, and whether we’d even be let in the map long enough to finish the mission once 7AM came around, we wanted to see and to do everything.
We started on foot, explored the area and found our goal – a dead ghost. The design of the lunar structures is right out of the 80s. Everything has a distinct Ridley Scott vision of the future vibe about it. The angles, the colours, the pod designs. It’s all super reminiscent of Space: 1999 or the original Alien. After defeating some Fallen, we took to our Sparrows and zoomed across a desolate lunar landscape. The first thing that struck me was how different this moon was to the one I was familiar with above us. The cracked and broken landscape was full of caves and tunnels and cliffs. The lunar surface was no longer a wide plateau pockmarked with craters but a demolished husk of its former glory.
Sure, in the distance you can see the hills and dunes you’d be used to from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission photographs but where we humans had been, where the work had been done had left as much damage on the moon’s surface as we had on the Earth’s. For a shooter it felt poignant, and so very quiet.
We encountered Hive, got a rather stunning cutscene and killed wave after wave of Thralls, Acolytes and Knights. We were used to the enemy tactics, but with the only cover being the natural environment we were finding ourselves overwhelmed. Strategy changes on the moon; often there’s no where to dodge enemy fire; just you and them and the canyon walls. It’s intense, particularly when faced with multiple Hive Knights – the larger of the standard enemies; there’s always Ogres to deal with later in the higher level zones some people managed to glitch into and explore.
It was brief, but oh so brilliant. Well worth the early Sunday morning rise and a welcome event to close out the beta. Judging by online responses, the sentiment was felt widely. It was nice to get that little something extra; a reward to our participation.
I played some Iron Banner, managing to get a sneak peak at the Earth map above but sadly missing out on the Martian map before the time ended and the new maps and Moon mission were once again locked out. That was it. I had seen what I would. It was time to enjoy it while it lasted; the end time deliberately vague. More co-op. More dancing. More selfies.
The End of Everything
Destiny is a game I can’t stop thinking about, or stop talking about if you ask any of my friends. It’s an odd combination; the best parts of MMO and FPS; constructed piecemeal from shooters and RPGs from the last ten years. It reeks of Halo in the best possible way. It’s Bungie through and through and yet seems new all the same.
I’ve played one map, one small fraction of a map for going on two weeks now (between the Alpha and the Beta) and I’m still not bored. I’m still discovering things, two weeks into that one small fragment of a whole, and enjoying every second of it. Destiny is fresh, and exciting, and familiar, and wonderful. It’s beautiful, not just visually but aurally and texturally.
I haven’t been this excited for a game in years.
Bring on September.
Behold; the Guardian dance party 😀