I tend to stay away from demos for games I know I want to play. More often than not they're an early part of the game, teaching you the ropes, and I'd just rather experience that when I'm playing it properly. Still, I couldn't quite resist the allure of the Destiny beta, leaving me with the sensation that I'm on familiar ground now that I'm playing the full game.
This feeling of deja vu is likely to be common among those who took part in the beta, which judging by Activision's numbers was a whole lot of people. The first hours of Destiny are well-produced and hit on an action loop so comfortable and fun it feels like a pair of old shoes, but at the same time I can't muster up as much enthusiasm as I'd like to retrace my steps. That's also probably partly because, as many of us noted during the beta period, much of the early game takes place across the same handful of earthbound cities. At this point I'm already itching for more exotic locales.
Earth does look awfully nice, though, at least on PlayStation 4 where I'm pitching my Guardian career. The environments are so large and the obectives so spread out that it's easy to overlook just how polished the world is, from art design and stage verticality to the effects on enemy armor. I should stop to smell the roses more often, but there are places to be and I have a speeder bike, so here we are.
Plus, this isn't to say that the full game doesn't have its advantages over the beta. Despite its sheer numbers, the beta was a pretty isolated affair. I would run into other players from time to time, but it was infrequent and surprising. The promise of Destiny--and indeed, the new generation in general--is seamless multiplayer.
Already I'm noticing myself finding other players more often, joining in on their skirmishes with squads of enemies, or using them as inadvertent bait. Once in a while we'll surprise each other. We'll lock eyes, and do the only rational thing two people can do in that situation.
My Warlock is a fiery redhead with face markings that make her look like a shaman. I'm fully aware that I'm playing the most vulnerable class, but I find myself getting up close with enemies and striking them in the face. Fortunately, the Voidcaller specialization rewards these efforts by boosting my grenade recharge. I'm learning the ropes of enemy weaknesses. Captains seem to dislike grenades. Thralls and Vandals dislike melee attacks. Everyone dislikes getting shot in the head until it pops like a grape.
There's a strange level of game abstraction to this epic story. I know Bungie likes creating lore, but it's odd to have this story of good and evil so constantly interrupted with such obvious game mechanic jargon. We hunt bounties, do battle in the Crucible, and check in with our respective Vanguards, because all that sounds better than "grind for rep, play multiplayer, and shop." To the extent that there is a rich tapestry of plot going on around me, it's obscured behind constant notifications to read about it at Bungie's Web site. What, in the future we haven't perfected an in-game codex?
I'm not playing for the story, though. I can already see broad strokes of the Hero's Journey peeking through, and that's fine enough as a delivery device for a shooter. This is Halo with random encounters and loot, and that's probably enough for me for the time being. I just hope I get off-planet soon, because Old Russia is starting to live up to its name.
Steve Watts posted a new article, Destiny Journal #1: Deja Vu Boogie.
Destiny is out now, and we're tracing our steps through the game with journal entries that track our progress of becoming a Guardian.