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Destiny: First Impressions (Alpha)

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I have to admit, the hype train that has been going for the last year or more around Bungie’s Destiny hasn’t interested me in the least. The screenshots were pretty, the videos I’d seen were the same, and there was simply nothing else that grabbed at my attention and told me: “Hey! Look over here!” Since I can’t be the only person who, up until yesterday, wasn’t remotely interested in Destiny, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had (after recently purchasing a Playstation 4 and Playstation Plus) been invited to the game’s alpha test. Sure, I remained uninterested for the most part, but it was a free game, so why not?

So, after downloading, I booted the game up to try it out. I figured I’d spend ten or fifteen minutes with it, put it down, and maybe come back later if a friend wanted to try it out. I didn’t expect an hour to pass before I realized it had, but that’s pretty much what happened: I was hooked from the moment I made a character. So for all of you out there who might feel as I felt two days ago, that Destiny would be just another Halo clone (sure, it would be by the original creators, but I got tired of Halo some time before it made the leap to the 360), I have great news: it’s so much more. I also have bad news: you’re going to be spending an unexpected sixty bucks in September.

So what prompted this sudden change from disinterest to ravening want? Well, it’s a Bungie game and it’s a first-person shooter. Those two things combine to mean only one thing: it plays incredibly well. Sure, I was never a big fan of Halo, but I could never have denied that it set the standard for all future console FPS controls. Neither could I ever have denied that, while Halo’s story never interested me overly much, the game was an absolute blast to play with friends – first with four consoles and four televisions in the same room, then later online as Live became more popular. So, the controls are fantastic (nothing particularly revolutionary, but why break something that already works?).

Next, as I’ve already said, the game is gorgeous. Sure, the alpha’s area is rather limited (though still impressively large, actually, with that in mind). And sure, the color palette isn’t exactly original or inspired (again: this is the alpha, and probably a very small portion of the actual game, and so that may not remain true throughout the entirety of it). But that doesn’t change the fact that it looks fantastic. So now the controls are everything anyone could expect from a Bungie-crafted FPS, and the graphics are pretty; so far, so good.

Next, the sound. For the most part, the sound design is everything one might expect. The weapons are appropriately loud, the explosions are explosive, and the general atmospheric background sounds are enough to keep a player interested. I’ve been playing on a television without surround sound, so the game probably sounds much better with a good set up. But here, unfortunately, is one of the few (honestly, only) glaring faults I found with the game: the voice acting. It’s not that the voice acting is bad, per se, either. It’s just that the first voice you hear is your AI companion talking to you, and given who voices said companion it should be amazing. It should make you want the AI to slap you a few times and ask you if you understand.

Because it’s Peter Dinklage. But unless you have a very good ear for voices, or you already know it’s Peter Dinklage, or you’re just paying more attention to begin with than I was, you’ll never know it’s him. It sounds like Tyrion Lannister at his most boring, telling you to go here and do this. There’s not an ounce of excitement in the voice, and even after realizing it is Peter Dinklage talking to you – and getting over the initial thrust of excitement about that fact – it swiftly becomes dull. It’s no more than background noise. That’s both incredibly unfortunate and more than a little disappointing – but still, it’s the only real flaw I can point out, so far.

But I haven’t yet really discussed what Destiny is. Yes, it’s a first-person shooter with all the typical and expected control schemes and scenarios that implies. But it is decidedly not Halo. You are not playing some alternate universe version of Master Chief. The controls handle more or less the same, but when was the last time you shot an enemy in Halo and saw numbers pop up? And this is what made me fall in love: the numbers. If you’re a fan of Borderlands (the game play, not the writing; Destiny isn’t likely to be a comedy, and there will be no controversial but hilarious Tiny Tina in this one, I expect) then Destiny is absolutely a must try for you. Because despite having Halo’s basic control scheme and aesthetic, the game is much more focused on a combination of loot (weapons and gear, including armor slots for legs, torso, arms, and helmet) and leveling/upgrading your character and the aforementioned gear.

And there’s one other thing Bungie all but stole from Gearbox, too: the super charge attacks. Where Borderlands gives you turrets, the crazy phase shifting abilities of the sirens, or a precious few moments of dual wielding whatever the hell you want, Destiny gives you special abilities in its own way. Of the three available (at alpha; keep in mind that I haven’t actually paid attention to the game outside of actually playing it) classes, each has a unique set of skills and one special ability that upgrades at level fifteen; unfortunately, the alpha is capped at level 8, so that bit of titillation is out of reach for now. But those abilities consist of a super-powered melee stomp that hits all enemies surrounding you, an extra powerful grenade, and a golden gun (yes, they called it that) that fires… well, fire.

So with all this in mind, I can only say this: if you like Halo and you like Borderlands, this is a must buy. If you like either of the two, this is absolutely a must try. If you dislike both, then unfortunately I have nothing to offer you. Except maybe better taste.

About Tim Brunson

I’m a fool and didn’t write a bio, so instead I’m getting this short blurb written by Steve: Tim is the dickliest of Dicks.

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