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Destiny Alpha Hands-On Impressions

/ Jun 16th, 2014 No Comments

Destiny Demo

Destiny was one of the biggest games at E3 2014. During the company’s press event, Sony dropped a bombshell by announcing Bungie’s next game will be playable in alpha form on PlayStation 4 first. The Destiny alpha pulled players in and left them thirsting for more, which will come later with a beta test and the game’s full release in September. After playing the alpha, September never felt so far away.

The Good

Players start by creating a customizable character, an option that is somewhat new for Bungie but one of the quintessential parts of RPGs and MMOs. Character customization options include class, gender, race and appearance. Everything from hairstyles, facial structure, eye and hair color, and skin tones are customizable. Armor and shaders applied to the body come soon after, but these options are bought and found throughout the game.


Exploring Old Russia reveals pockets of desolation hinting at what befell Earth.

Players choose between Titan, Hunter and Warlock classes. There is enough variation between the classes, including how each does a melee attack and double jump style. Each class is also equipped with a signature special move–a ground slam for the Titan, a powerful three-shot pistol for the Hunter, and a devastating ball of energy launched at foes for the Warlock. Each class has other subtle differences that players can feel as they take on enemies in PvP gameplay.

Storage can be used not just to tuck away high level items for future use, but as a common dropbox to exchange items between characters. If you pick up a pulse rifle with your Hunter, using it with your Titan is as simple as storing it and picking it up with your other character.

While the Alpha only granted access to three areas (Old Russia, the Tower and the Crucible), those three show that there is an incredible amount to do. The Tower hosts the social aspect of the game as a meeting and mercantile area. Old Russia, which shows players an Earth desolate and crawling with Fallen enemies, plays host to exploration, missions and the game’s story mode. The Crucible gives Bungie fans familiar with Halo the game’s intense competitive multiplayer fix. The Crucible grants players the ability to take their character into direct PvP competition.

Old Russia, like Russia, can be an unforgiving place

Old Russia, like Russia, can be an unforgiving place

Character progression is not limited to one game mode or one style of play. The arena style fighter and the explorer alike can earn equipment, glimmers (the game’s currency) and experience points.

The Bad

Despite its greatness, there are a few things in the Destiny alpha that were disappointing. While character creation options are sure to please MMO veterans, players familiar with the diverse set of options available in console RPGs may not be satisfied. Body types and builds are fixed, which makes for a uniform group of characters.

When it comes to purchasing equipment, comparing items at shops can be a bit of a headache–players can only compare the item in the active or equipped slot with the item selected. This might seem like no big deal, but actively switching items around in the menu with each comparison is can be an annoyance after a while. This could easily be fixed with a way to quickly cycle through inventory in the comparison pop up with gestures on the touchpad.

Keep an eye out for when the inventory changes

Keep an eye out for when the inventory changes

Further, the obvious MMO trade option seemed missing in the game. There was no visible way to trade, exchange or sell items to other players in the game. A “special orders” booth sits manned by an NPC, but void of items or options related to buying, purchasing or ordering. A final release without a player-driven economy would be a huge misstep for an online social game.

When it comes to cooperative free world exploration, beacon bound missions littering the landscape can be repetitive. This is not a deal-breaker, and those used to grinding through dungeons for XP will feel right at home. One can only hope for more diversity in the tasks to come.


The Alpha weekend was a great taste of Destiny, but Old Russia gets a bit old after doing numerous odd job missions.

Special moves for each class can seem a bit unbalanced. The spirit bomb style ball of energy and ground pound devastation of the Warlock and Titan classes each deal a world of pain. However, the Hunter’s three pistol shots feel underpowered in compariosn. After activating it, the Hunter only has so much time before the power is wasted, which can make using it difficult.

Final Thoughts

Destiny has no doubt been a huge undertaking and the alpha gives players a good taste of what’s to come. Loading times were a bit long, but there is no telling if that was a foreshadowing of server problems to come, or if it was due to the fact that it is still in the alpha stage. In addition, servers were sometimes packed to the brim and other times so bare it was like a single-player game.

These are not problems so much as curiosities. Will there be choices between servers? Will the speeds be acceptable? Who knows. However, with this Alpha, Destiny has secured itself as the multiplayer game of the fall. The game’s Sept. 9 release cannot come soon enough.


Miranda L Visser

Miranda L Visser

Gaming since she dug an NES out of a dumpster down the street from her home as a child, Miranda L Visser contributes to Gaming Illustrated while working on her M.A. in Norway. She dearly misses steak and being able to walk down the street to buy cheap games.
Miranda L Visser
Miranda L Visser

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