By all reports, Bungie has a lot riding on Destiny when it launches this September. These reports have asserted that the company has spent up to half a billion dollars in its design, construction, aesthetics, and ongoing support structures, a cash total that has typically been applied to revenue, not investment, in the video game industry. To stress test the infrastructure that will support this largest of projects, Bungie made a “Beta Build” of the game available to users across all console platforms two weeks ago, an initiative that at this point seems to have been a resounding success.
As a direct result of this success, we here at the Unending Backlog are likely going to be playing and blogging about Destiny for quite some time.
The contents of the Beta Build were anything but modest: use of all three classes; five chapter-levels of Story play (six for those who participated in the community event on Saturday afternoon); a massive Explore mode that gave the player and his or her fireteam an open-world look at the same locations of the story; a challenging Strike that showcased the game’s approach to raiding; a chaotic multiplayer mode called Control, which offered an objective-based match type with the addition of vehicles; and the Tower, the promised social space that, during my time with the Beta, featured no fewer than three player-organized dance parties.
Over the course of the next few weeks, well take a look at each of the game modes and weigh in on their role in the game’s structure and what we’d like to see from the full version when it launches on September 9th.
What follows contains mild spoilers.
The narrative aspect of the Beta focuses chiefly on the player’s first steps into the Guardian order, and like other stories that feature similar call-to-arms elements, Destiny makes a narrative point to explain the player’s acquisition of his or her first gear, weapons, and vehicles. For example, the player is first tasked by his or her Ghost to acquire a rifle, then a suborbital spacecraft, and later, a speeder bike-like vehicle called a Sparrow that greatly enhances the Explore game mode.
Beyond these missions, the story contains mostly exposition regarding the Traveler, its enemy the Darkness, and humanity’s role in the coming, final conflict between the two. Assumedly to avoid giving too much of the overarching narrative away, the Beta’s story contents did seem scanter than the rest, but should the game’s full story live up to the impressive promises it makes in the Beta’s cutscenes and playable chapters, such a perceived shortcoming will be quickly forgotten, or replaced with the perspective that the game itself can provide.
The mission objectives are decidedly reminiscent of Halo, with a waypoint that appears whenever the player requests it and a distance tracker that prevents him from getting lost, should she wander off to explore the impressive map. Each mission contains three or four of these objectives, typically culminating in a boss fight or a horde-mode like battle against waves of oncoming enemies. At the end of each, the player receives his or her rewards—one or two pieces of equipment, some currency, called ‘Glimmer,’ and an appropriate amount of experience for use in upgrading the player’s character and weapons. The player then returns to orbit and, from there, selects his or her next desired location from the user-friendly game map.
Games like Destiny are moneymakers because they afford players the chance to join their friends in the never-ending battle to save the galaxy, so I feel hesitant to pass any judgment against unremarkable or marginal story content in a beta that principally tests the servers, connectivity, and other facets of the multiplayer. The story seems to be headed to familiar territory with its ability-infused humans, ancient evil and mysterious benefactor. Part post-apocalypse and part hero’s journey, Destiny‘s story content from the Beta can go just about anywhere from its familiar first movements, but regardless of its relative quality, it will likely take a backseat in any case to the game’s multiplayer content, which we’ll discuss between now and the game’s release.