Destiny Beta Review

July 31, 2014 9:38 AM

What’s your destiny?

Over the past week players who pre-ordered Bungie and Activision’s newest title Destiny were able to test out the Beta. The Destiny Beta was available across both Playstation and Xbox consoles to those who were given a code with their order. I reported before on how players received two extra codes so that they could fill out a full fire team to start off with. I was one of those players, but I decided to go it solo to test how well balanced the combat was going to be. I won’t be talking much about story, so to avoid spoilers for those who want to wait, but I will be going into the game’s classes and mechanics.

I played on Xbox One, which meant I had to wait until the 23rd to get my hands on the Beta, whilst Playstation users have been playing since the 17th. It was well worth the wait however, with a file just a little over 5GB in size I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’ve been excited for this game since its reveal back at E3 in 2013, would the Beta give us a good idea as to what we’re going to be playing when the game comes out in September this year? In short, yes, it absolutely worth every second – at least in my opinion, and here’s why.

We start the Beta with a beautiful opening cinematic, following three astronauts as they land and begin to explore Mars. They uncover the Traveler, a large white orb resembling the moon, which leads us to an animated Da Vinci style story narrated by the Listener (voiced by Bill Nighy). He tells us of how the Traveler propels humanity forward several hundred years not only in technology, but also humanity itself observes a great increase of lifespan. Humanity begins to populate the galaxy and beyond, but then we fall to the Darkness that stalks the Traveler through space. In a post-apocalyptic world, the Traveler has fallen dormant and sent out the Ghosts, the small personal robot guides (voiced by Peter Dinklage), to find those who can wield the Light to fight against the Darkness, the Guardians.


The Titan is the powerhouse of the three classes.

After this, we’re launched into character creation, I had a go with all three classes and as all three races to try and get a gauge on what they were all like. The first class to choose is the Titan. As the name suggests, the Titan is all about going into the middle of the fight and laying down some heavy damage, a shotgun being the Titan’s first special weapon unlocked. The Titan was actually the last class that I played, but arguably one of the most fun out of the three classes. It’s a very well rounded class that would be perfect for players who want to tank their way through the game and soak up damage to protect your team mates, or just plow through the Fallen by yourself. The Titan’s overdrive is Striker, a powerful ground stomp that throws back and disintegrates weaker enemies. Every class has a unique melee move, the Titan’s is a swift punch.


Swift and stealthy, the Hunter is ideal for those who like to fight with range.

The class I played most was the Hunter. In any game where there’s an option to pick up a sniper rifle and head shot enemies from afar, that’s where I’ll be. The Hunter is ideal for more patient players who like to scope out what’s ahead and get the drop on enemies, although there isn’t an obvious stealth system in Destiny, you can quickly get the upper hand on a group of Fallen just through the lens of a scope. The Hunter is the least armoured of the three classes, relying on speed and precision, but can also get in close to deal some heavy damage which is perfect for the solo player. The sniper rifle is the Hunter’s special weapon, with hand canons as a potential secondary and the melee move a quick jab with a hunting knife. The overdrive, Gunslinger, summons a highly powered solar pistol to disintegrate enemies. I feared that a stealth/ranged class like the Hunter would be too weak for solo play initially, but Destiny very quickly proved that its sense of balance within the game has been carefully considered. The Hunter is a lot of fun to play, especially as it has the capacity to be able to get in close as well and get the job done if you’re out of sniper ammo.


The powerful Warlock uses Void magic alongside their weapons to fight against the Fallen.

The Warlock is a unique class, I consider it a happy marriage between Titan and Hunter where it’s not quite as tough as the Titan but just as nimble as the Hunter. The Warlock, as the name suggests, uses magic alongside modern weaponry. A Warlock’s first special weapon that you can unlock is a shotgun, but the Warlock is so much more versatile and arguably better off with a sniper rifle when in a team without a Hunter. The Warlock’s magic takes form in the grenades, melee action and in their overdrive. The Titan and Hunter use flash grenades and incendiary grenades respectively, whilst the Warlock throws a void that blasts enemies that’re too close. The Warlock’s overdrive is Voidwalker, a powerful move where the player throws a bolt of Void Light at the enemy, disintegrating those that get caught up in the blast. The melee, in comparison, is a quick magical blast that throws enemies back. I would argue this is probably the best character to play alone with, as the Warlock can take more damage than a Hunter and is quicker than a Titan.

The three races appear to be a purely aesthetic choice, as there are currently no additional statistics available that will change how you play as what class. The races are Human, Exo and Awoken. Human speaks for itself, but the two additional classes look like they fit perfectly into this high tech but apocalyptic world. The Awoken is human in shape, but their skin is ghostly and translucent with bright, shining eyes. The Exo is a robotic race, we don’t yet know whether they were made by humans or if they are a race that came from the Traveler. The Exos arguably boast the most customisation thanks to the wide variety of colours that their shells can be painted. Out of my three, I went for a Human Hunter, Awoken Titan and an Exo Warlock. Once you’ve finished up choosing your class and race, the game begins.


A cutscene opens over Old Russia, now a derelict dust bowl with the old remains of civilisation rusting in the dirt. A Ghost is searching amongst old, rusted up cars and a group of Fallen are hunting it. The Fallen are the main enemies of the game, who appear to be a blend of insect-like alien and cyborg. They are products of the Darkness that seek to sweep the lands of anything holding the Light so that the Darkness can seep in and take root. The Ghost finds what it’s looking for, you. You’ve been dead for this time, but the Ghost has woken you as you can use the Light, making you a Guardian. He knows you’re being hunted, so you have to get a move on and so the game begins proper.

A Fallen Captain with two Dregs, on the hunt for a Guardian.

A Fallen Captain with two Dregs, on the hunt for a Guardian.

The tutorial section of the Beta was well balanced, easy to follow and it didn’t feel too much like you were being led by the nose. Your Ghost guides you through, Dinklage provides a much more soothing and entertaining companion than some previous guides in the past (looking at you Navi) with expressive animations that reminded me a lot of Wheatley from Portal 2, emotion conveyed through the single eye. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you get attached. You pick up your first weapon, which is the same no matter what class you play as–an assault rifle and fight your way through Fallen. Along the way you pick up your class specific weapon, level up so that you can learn how to throw grenades and find a ship to get you out of this wasteland and back to the Tower, where the Guardians live. This is the opener to the MMO aspects of the game, the Tower acting as the social area to shop, collect missions and bounties, as well as chat, dance and wave at other players.

MMO style games are not usually designed to be played alone, usually needing at least one other person to tag along in your party. However Destiny so far appears to have a great blend of enemies that can be taken down solo or with your fireteam, it was also a great experience during missions to have it as PvE, so that Guardians have the chance to work together to take down groups of enemies. This is especially handy when Events occur, which can vary from taking out a group of Fallen, to defending a Warsat that your Ghost is trying to decode. Although these can be done alone, Guardians can work together and help get the highest award possible for successfully completing the event, giving them experience and money as a reward. Plus there’s nothing more satisfying than completing an event and having a dance party with your allies before going your separate ways to complete your primary objective.

The Sparrow is a Guardian's best way to get around quickly on the ground.

The Sparrow is a Guardian’s best way to get around quickly on the ground.

One of my criticisms comes from one of the events I took part in, where you and other Guardians had to hunt and kill a target. This was a toughened up boss version of a Captain, one of the larger enemies in the Beta, that didn’t have a level on his tag. Instead it was the boss symbol, a skull, and his health bar yellow instead of red to further indicate this. The problem lies in that lack of level, I first tried to take on the Captain by myself, but I could hardly make a dent! Obviously I needed help and it arrived quickly when another Guardian showed up. Surely between the two of us we could do it? No such luck, we were hardly even able to wear down the Captain’s shields to get to his health. A third Guardian appeared, but even between three of us we just couldn’t bring this enemy down and watched as he fled into a cave and ended the event. Failing all three of us. It would be nice to understand why it didn’t work, when you make a hit you get a damage counter, at first I thought he may be immune to the type of weapon I was using but I quickly realised that wasn’t the case. If an enemy were immune, it would tell you. The Captain was clearly taking damage, but we were level capped at 8, surely we ought to have been able to do it? It might have been a level glitch, or it could have been Bungie throwing us a curve ball to see how we deal with enemies way outside of our level. Who knows, that’s what Betas are for.

Get away from my ship!

Get away from my ship!

Strike maps are designed to be done as a fireteam, where three or more players go into a game together (or get thrown into a game with others) and are tasked to clear the level and take down several bosses. Strike was easily my favourite mode, but missions where you really need to work as a team are always attractive for a player, like me who really enjoys playing with friends. I played with two players I didn’t know, both Warlocks and I played my Hunter, and we managed to get through with only a couple of fatalities against bosses. The key is to stick together in Strike and you’ll manage just fine.

One of the features of the game that I’m not sure I’m 100 percent sold on just yet are the Darkness Zones. These are the areas that often lead up to the final boss battle in each mission area. In Darkness Zones, when you die you re-spawn at the start of the zone, rather than nearby where you last died. I suppose this prevents Guardians from dying, re-spawning and then going on to keep chipping away at the main boss, which makes sense and is essentially the same as any boss would work. However what makes it annoying is the lead up, you have to get through a couple groups of Fallen to actually get to that boss and after you’ve died for the second time it can quickly become a nuisance! In a team I imagine this would be much easier as you can still be revived, so long as there is still a Guardian standing. However it could still become frustrating when all of you go down whilst trying to revive a friend.

The Crucible is the PvP arena that opens up to players when they reach Level 5. There are a number of game modes including Control, the first mode you can play consisting of two teams and capture points. Personally, I’m terrible at this kind of game mode. I’m not a competitive player and I prefer to either go solo or play cooperatively, but I gave it a shot none the less and found it was a really enjoyable experience! One of the maps is on the Moon and I couldn’t help but think it was reminiscent of Mass Effect, even though it was very likely unintended. I stuck to my guns and went for neutralising and capturing points, as that’s what I’m better at rather than going after other players. This game mode suited me as I didn’t feel like I was much of a liability because I was racking up the points through captures. There were also vehicles and turrets to make use of, including an extremely overpowered vehicle called the Interceptor that Bungie commented on shortly after the Beta started testing and will be getting a do over before September. I can easily see people getting really into The Crucible when it opens up fully on the game’s full release and I look forward to seeing other modes like Deathmatch and see how they stack up compared to the rest of the gameplay.

The Tower is the social and market area for Guardians to hang out at.

The Tower is the social and market area for Guardians to hang out at.

Another game mode is a much more relaxed one–Explore. It’s exactly what’s implied, a chance for you to go and explore the areas and have a go at a number of side missions that are available dotted around the maps. Exploring doesn’t give you a primary objective, so you can run around shooting Fallen which are in endless re-spawn, so you always have something to keep you occupied and you can hang out with other Guardians that are around. It’s also a great way to grind and level up, although the leveling in the Beta I felt was well thought out. Not once in the game did I ever feel like it was a grind and I loathe games that make me grind for hours for either level or cash (cough, GTA Online, cough), but Destiny spared me that trouble.

The visuals in this game are truly stunning, playing this on the Xbox One was a great choice and I imagine anyone who played this game on Xbox One and PS4, will agree that it really felt like a game worthy of the new generation. I also played the Beta on Xbox 360 when Bungie made the Beta open to everyone, so that I could get the chance to compare how it looked on old gen and it still looked fantastic. Bungie and Activision have clearly pulled out the stops to make this as good a looking game as possible, as well as a great story to match. It’s often a risk that’s taken in game development, where it can either go and focus too much on graphics and less on story, or too much on story and the graphics feel a little hollow. Destiny appears to have found the marriage between the two, but we’ll see for sure in September.

Over all the Destiny Beta was a really enjoyable experience and I miss it already! The Beta was a polished product and if this is just a glimpse of what we’re going to get in September then I am ready to go pick up a sniper and get straight back in the moment the game comes out.

Destiny releases in full on September 9th 2014 and is available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.