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Destiny finally reveals itself as the MMOFPS that it is

by William Schwartz

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Bungie has been secretive with Destiny for quite some time. Even when they were dishing details, they weren’t saying much. They kept claiming that Destiny was this massive thing, but honestly, even sitting through their gameplay showcase at E3 2013, it really wasn’t clear what it was. Was it a cooperative game? A single player game? A multiplayer game? Was it Borderlands? Bungie kept saying that it was all these different things, had all these moving parts, and it really wasn’t clear how it could work.

The world that Bungie has built is beginning to look like something incredibly special.

I can admit that I was one of the doubters, despite being a fan of their work on Halo. I just wasn’t really impressed by what Bungie had shown last year. Hype and marketing only goes so far. Seeing, or playing in this case, is believing, and at E3 2014, Bungie made me a believer out of Destiny. We got a chance to go hands-on with the multiplayer component of Destiny, and even after that show floor experience, it was still unclear what Destiny was to me. In what was probably their smartest move, Bungie gave attendees an Alpha Code for the game, an early access look at Destiny. It finally allows us to see how all the pieces of Destiny come together to form what is probably the most ambitious video game we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a shooter, with cooperative, competitive, RPG, and MMO elements. It quite literally has something for everyone, and the world that Bungie has built is beginning to look like something incredibly special.

It depends on scope, and how big the actual end product is in September, but if the slice of the game that is offered up in Alpha is what we’re to expect more of later this year, fans won’t be disappointed. Logging in to Destiny for the first time and you’ll create your character, it can be of three classes, which each differ in their special abilities. Players can customize the look, race, and sex of the character as well. These are pretty standard things that you’ll find in an RPG, or an MMORPG, which Destiny more closely resembles. Though where most MMOs fall flat in the gameplay department, Destiny’s class-based system and rock solid shooting gameplay make it a massively multiplayer game with an enjoyable grind.

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That grind is in the loot, and it comes in a number of shapes and sizes. Players will earn currency called Glimmer as well as XP in Destiny’s game modes. Like MMOs Destiny’s hook is the bigger and better character. That comes complete with a skill tree, and an ample amount of weapons to discover and test. No matter if you are plugging away in Destiny’s solo adventures, cooperative strikes, or competitive multiplayer, there’s a currency that can be earned and spent to further your character. These upgrades come in a number of forms, there are emblems to unlock, weapons and armor to purchase, and legendary items to uncover. It’s all housed in the game’s Tower, a hub world that can be explored freely after you return from your adventures. It’s got all the trappings of an MMO.

The Tower

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Destiny’s Tower serves as a hub area for main game. It allows players to do a number of different things. You can collect bounties and take on new ones for XP bonuses in single and multiplayer activities. You can upgrade your character in a number of different ways, outfitting them with new weapons and equipment. Items like unique emblems can be bought from vendors, and mode specific equipment can be purchased from the various merchants in this area. The Cryptarch can decode engrams, which can be new weapons, equipment, and other items that are found on your travels.

It’s also a social area, where you’ll find other Guardians going about their business of checking their messages, upgrading equipment, and other activities. It’s one of the things that really makes Destiny feel like a console MMO without the pesky subscription or grueling grind.

Destiny Single Player, Missions, Equipment, Tower Gameplay

The Crucible

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The E3 hands-on demo and the Destiny Alpha featured The Crucible for the first time. This is Destiny’s multiplayer mode, and it’s not Halo. You can see the lineage, but it’s definitely something that has evolved. The Conquest Mode being played in the Destiny Alpha is pretty familiar for fans of shooters though. It has players holding down checkpoints in a race to a predetermined number of total points.

This is Destiny’s multiplayer mode, and it’s not Halo.

The gunplay and shooting are distinctly Bungie, the mode is fast-paced, and incorporates all of your characters abilities from Destiny’s other modes. Entering the Crucible you’ll be allowed to bring your weapons with you, so you’ll start out with everything that you’ve earned on your journey. It’s unclear how balancing will come into play in The Crucible Modes, and what other game modes will be available, but it feels good even in Alpha. The class-based combat has more of a Halo: Reach feel than any of Bungie’s other Halo games, if just because of the tide-turning abilities that each character has.

The Crucible also appears to have a number of modes that aren’t open to play at this time, and it would be reasonable to assume that there are many other modes that will be included in the final game. What these are is anyone’s guess. We’d be willing to bet that Bungie will end up incorporating familiar modes to other shooters. Since The Crucible pits Guardian against Guardian, it doesn’t really tie into the Story of Destiny in any easily apparent ways, but players can visit vendors in The Tower area to purchase unique items by using Crucible points earned in the modes.

Destiny The Crucible Gameplay

Earth

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Earth is much of what Bungie has talked about over the last year and a half. It’s where the story of Destiny takes place. It’s where you can adventure on your own, with friends, or with random Destiny players. The Alpha is chocked-full of quests, and they do have a very MMO feel to them, while not being as boring as the fetch quests found in your standard MMO.

Quest structure that feels like an MMO without the brutal grind

The Destiny Alpha features a number of regions to explore in an area called “Old Russia”. These are story quests, exploration quests, and Strike Missions which pair you with online players to tackle a common enemy.

The Exploration quests seem open ended and tied to your level, they allow you to free roam and find beacons which unlock new missions in each area. These can be any number of things, killing specific enemies, killing a number of the Fallen, scanning an environmental object. The Free Roam segments are very similar to MMOs in that you’ll encounter other players within the world, and enemies reset much like they would in a game like World of Warcraft.

The Story quests are a little different in that they deliver more of the narrative for Destiny, instead of just focusing on the shooting and looting. You’ll still earn all the Glimmer and XP, but they end after this mission is complete, unlike the exploration mode which just has you looking for another beacon to interact with.

The Strike Missions are some of the most interesting, and challenging. They are reminiscent of Bungie’s work on the Halo Firefight modes, but on a much larger scale and better structure. The Alpha teams you with two other players to tackle and objective, killing a boss named the Sepiks Prime. The Strike Team mission available in the Alpha is some of the most challenging gameplay on offer, putting you up against a variety of enemies, which includes a massive Spider Tank and waves of Fallen.

Verdict: MMOFPS

Destiny is essentially an MMOFPS when you look at all of its parts, and it’s going to be interesting to see if console players take to this type of game. Yes, the competitive elements that made Halo so popular are definitely in Destiny, but there’s going to be so much more… That is, if the Alpha is representative of something that is expanded upon in the final release this September. Bungie might have waited a while to put all their cards on the table, but now that they are, it’s clear that they’ve got the best hand.

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