As the release of Destiny approaches (but not nearly fast enough), we’ll continue our look back at the Beta and discuss today the “Explore” mode, where we imagine we’ll be spending a considerable amount of time in the endorphin-filled quest for in-game gear.
Choosing the Explore option from the Director map consumed most of our time with the Beta, as the Story chapters were over fairly swiftly. The activities of the Explore mode, by sharpest contrast, are endless. Players and fireteams wandered the Cosmodrome—the same area in which the sample story chapters take place—and fought endless dropships full of enemies and quested after loot drops. These were capped out at the “uncommon” level, at least with respect to what we could use. Players could also gain Vanguard points in the Tower by completing brief objectives, such as collecting items from slain enemies or scouting a map location, and while these were over fairly quickly, they paid off as it became possible for the player to elevate quite rapidly his reputation with her Vanguard, a class-specific handler who barters in only the finest weapons and armor (none of which were available to players in the Beta).
This game mode looks like it’s going to be rather engaging. As with games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic or Diablo III, the loot-grab approach to gameplay becomes quickly addictive and time-consuming as the loot drops regularly from the ever-spawning enemies. The quality and effectiveness of these pieces are sure to escalate as the player moves towards the level cap, but while the areas are vast, it is not only effortless but also enjoyable to navigate between the different, large subsections and to participate in Public Events. These events occur randomly, and all players can join in defeating a difficult boss-level enemy or protecting an objective against waves of aggressors offloaded from a dropship.
My sole noted omission from this game mode was the absence of a map for in-game use, which made the early hours of exploration less efficient than the later ones as the sense of the area’s geography remained hazy until I became familiar with landmarks and each areas’ unique features. But even in a seemingly-limited Beta, there was no shortage of activities in which to invest time, and much of the best equipment I obtained via loot drops came from my time exploring the Cosmodrome. Should this be the case for each of the environments that the full game boasts as possibilities to explore, like the Moon or Europa, players will certainly lose themselves in the vast and detailed environments and the endless quest for that perfect armor set.
Bungie has yet to really distinguish the difference between “MMO” and “shared-world shooter,” and the Explore mode really highlights how similar to an MMO that Destiny is going to feel. Games like the aforementioned Diablo III have a similar loot system, but the repeated enemy spawns and huge areas to explore are a game mechanic far closer to its cousin, World of Warcraft. This is sure to increase the game’s range of appeal, and as such, we’re looking forward to getting back out there to see what other secrets the Cosmodrome and the other environments offer by way of time-sinking exploration when we chose “Explore” from the Director.