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Borderlands: Halo – Destiny Beta Impressions

by on July 24, 2014

Destiny1

by Terry Randolph and Ryan Goddard 

Bungie will always have a problem whenever it releases a game; Halo. Every game the studio makes will always draw comparisons to it; from the way guns handle to art style and everything in-between. With Destiny, Bungie is hoping to create something “revolutionary” and “nothing we’ve seen before” (aka buzzwords). Currently, there is a beta of the game for gamers who pre-ordered it to get acquainted with this universe and get ready for the entire product’s official release on September 9, 2014. I’ve gotten the chance to play it for a good 2-3 hours twice.

If there’s anything to gleam from the beta, it’s this: Destiny just needs a little polish, and once everything is revealed it has the potential to be great. Otherwise, even though it’s only a beta, it feels a little underwhelming. Also, Destiny will continue to draw comparisons to Halo and a little bit of Borderlands. Halo simply because it’s Bungie and Borderlands because of how the enemies are laid out on the map, weapon/armor progression and pick ups on the field. However, with a little polish, there is something promising lurking within that has me ready for the full game.

Most of the issues with Destiny are gameplay oriented. Guns have no recoil, so there’s no punishment for rapid fire without accuracy. They also feel weightless, and while a number flashes indicating how much damage you’ve dealt, each shot feels hollow. “Precision kills” are too easy because the enemies are either slow or predictable in movement. Skirmishes lack the sense of urgency and tension that games like Dead Space excel at. Essentially, the novelty of the game wears off and battles can be boring. That’s a problem I hope is addressed in the full retail game.

Enemies are very reminiscent of the Covenant in Halo. For example, whenever you’re facing a higher level enemy with a shield, they are willing to bring the fight to you…until their shield depletes. Then they run away and hide until their shield is restored. Sound familiar? It’s exactly like the Elite…except the Elite would surprise you at times by charging at you like a kamikaze fighter plane. Dregs feel like grunts (fodder) and Vandals feel like the Kig Yar (the snipers with the annoying shield). Maybe that comes with the bias and synonymy I hold between Bungie and Halo.

A Vandal and a Dreg, the two enemies for level grinding/fodder

Vandals, some great enemies for level grinding with their predictability in movement

The map design also feels very repetitive; a lot of the exterior is exactly the same layout and design. Enemies are placed in the exact same spots in each mission, and each place is one you’ve been through before with little reward to do so. With Destiny having such huge maps to explore, there’s an expectation of having little secrets to uncover by exploring the terrain. There are some secrets to find, but not a lot; treasure chests are mainly scattered throughout the terrain. Some simply contain the currency of the world, and some also contain either armor or weapons. It’s also very similar to Borderlands in that regard. During my playthroughs, I felt like I just wanted to get from objective to objective and didn’t care about the loot chests.

Overall, the beta feels like it has too many limitations and not enough variation in every facet of the game. Granted, Bungie may be saving it’s best stuff for the game’s release, but they needed to give just a little more to give fans something to be really excited for.

At the same time, in good ol’ Bungie fashion, Destiny‘s overall mechanics feel pretty balanced. For example, the boss fights sequence offer up an interesting challenge, particularly with the respawn restriction. The respawn restriction forces you to start the boss battle sequence all over again if you die, forcing you to pick your shots carefully and using the environment to your advantage. Some boss battles involve hordes of dregs hurtling toward you at full speed, moving on to vandals and captains, and so on. Other boss fights have you fighting a super enemies with tons of health. It also emphasizes an importance on weapon and armor choice.

The emphasis on the role-playing aspects of the game is something different that Bungie is trying out, and it’s commendable they’re stepping out into a genre they’re not known for. However, that’s both testament and challenge to Bungie; they want to revolutionize gameplay by creating a giant MMORPG that is both balanced and fun. This is something Western RPGs tend to have a hard time executing; finding a balance in their elements, especially shooter/RPG hybrids. Destiny feels pretty standard with the stats building for both armor and weaponry, but like the overall experience, it shows promise with a bit of polishing to really stand out.

In the game, there are the three classes to choose from: Titan (Soldier), Hunter (Sniper/Assassin), or Warlock (Mix between Magic and Soldiers, similar to Vanguard). For my playthrough of the beta, I chose to play Warlock and enjoyed it. The Warlock feels balanced in the damage dealt between weapon and melee/magic. Especially in fights, it was a lot of fun switching between using the gun and running towards an enemy to melee them. If this just a small taste of what’s to come, I’m looking forward to what Bungie has in mind when the full product comes out.

GuardiansDestiny

From Left to Right: Hunter, Warlock, and Titan

Visually speaking, this game is gorgeous running at 1080p on the PlayStation 4. The lighting feels natural and colors jump out thanks to the contrast of the colors. Bungie is known for consistently great visuals, and with Destiny they continue that trend. That also includes the bad; most of the artwork is still reminiscent of Halo. It leaves a bad aftertaste in the mouth.

Also, Peter Dinklage wasn’t that bad at all as a voice actor; the way he read his lines made A LOT of sense.

Still, the biggest selling point of Destiny is the social integration. Bungie has been adamantly enforcing the idea that the game is all about building a living, breathing world for multiplayer gaming. Players can come into a mission that you’re in and start on their own while you’re halfway through. Others can join in at the same time and work with you to complete the mission. Or you can have your party play together on a mission while potentially encountering others along the way. Part of the promise behind Destiny is there; you do run into people and can work with them to finish missions…but we’ve really yet to see how having all these live players affects the world

Overall, the beta feels rushed out; level designs are too similar with each mission to the point that the unfolding story is lost in the background. The rushed out feeling for the beta is more prevalent especially since the alpha wasn’t too long ago. Compounded with that is the frustration of how apparent it is things were left out for a reveal when the game actually releases. I’m holding out hope because underneath all that Halo-y goodness lies something promising that I want to be part of. Because deep down, I want to believe in the hype this time. When September 9th comes around, we’ll really know if Bungie can live up to its promises or not.

SECOND OPINION

Hi all. Ryan here. After reading Terry’s impressions, I thought I would share a few of my own. You never can have too many right?

So here is the deal. The Destiny beta hasn’t really been a letdown so much as a quick look into what might be a great title. I wouldn’t say the title so far is revolutionary. It will however scratch that Halo itch. What do you expect from a game made by Bungie, right? You can tell the influence no matter how much people try to say there isn’t one. I only have a couple minor gripes. I won’t go super in-depth in a couple of them because Terry did a great job of explaining a few.

The biggest issue for me is the lack of weight when it comes to weapons. Some of you seasoned FPS players will know what I mean. Every weapon felt and handled exactly the same outside of being a different class. Pistols handled like pistols, and rifles had the weight of pistols. It was as if every weapon was made out of plastic. Not to mention bullet drop is non-existent when firing on a target from far away. There is very little adjusting you need to do to hit your target for a clean headshot. I’m sure they will change this coming into release to give it a bit of a more realistic feel.

The indoor level design leaves much to be desired. It was the same thing. You knew where an enemy was going to pop out. There were no surprises. Kill the enemy behind the crate, go collect his ammo, rinse, and repeat. That was my experience. It never felt like I was going to be caught off guard. I know this was a Halo issue as well. I’m assuming this is one lesson Bungie still hasn’t learned. Once you got to the outside world, that all changes. The environment is open and pretty lush. You aren’t going to come across meadows or anything. However, the destroyed world in which you are involved in fits perfectly. I will say though, they need to really clean up some of the detail in various little things. Once again, I have to remember this is the beta.

Imagine seeing this interior every. single. mission.

Imagine seeing this interior every. single. mission.

As a whole, the game will be a lot of fun I’m sure. The beta story gives me hopes that the single player campaign will be enjoyable again. Bungie knows how to make a great story and you never felt like it was tacked onto a multiplayer game. Narration could use some work and it is. Graphically, the game looks great but needs some polish. There are technical issues and realism issues to work out. Other than that, I’m excited for the release. It will no doubt sell very well. I’m leaning towards buying a copy at some point, although I won’t be preordering it.

4 Comments
  1. I enjoyed the open beta for what it was; a chance to take a peek into Bungies new world and take advantage of what they’re likely offering… a free taste of what they’d like to sell you. I appreciate that for what it is. It reminds me of the old days of PC and Mac shareware in the 90s, they let you try it on, hopefully hook you enough that you want to complete that story or scratch that itch… I imagine most people find it unpalatable to leave that on the table, it’s human nature for a great many of us. Unless the offering is very, very bad. And that’s not the case here. It felt like a fine experience, but that’s it. I felt like I had done it too many times before.

    The classes and presentations of enemies. The returning to zones to grind out side missions. The chasing the carrot feeling very early on to pursue a better, yet generic feeling fun, or for me the pull of character advancement through xp ing up skills. However, the whole presentation felt as drab and generic as my tin can tusken raider meets Bandai children’s show character looked. The always on, open world aspect seemed jimmied into this game and only really made a.difference in the one event I stumbled upon. I felt like many others whose reactions I read online that this feature felt employed in an…odd…way. you don’t find yourself interacting socially with these others in what would seem like a MMO-derived social feature of open world exploration.

    Don’t get me wrong. Lots of people will enjoy these elements and like this game. But I felt fatigued after pushing through just this sneak peek of the game. I’d done it all before. Hours, hours of grinding in fantasy star online. Questing and pushing through difficulty tiers in borderlands. And co op, what I feel is without question this games strength, felt like it was going to be what I did with that in playing through Halo(s). That’s what I’ve read in forums from others first impressions that seemed less than wowed… we’ve done all this in those other games, and while.I had a blast with that at the time… this just feels like it’s not offering anything appreciably new.

    My biggest concern though is with all those who I feel are fooling themselves that this horse is a zebra. I loved through it with Star Wars: the Old Rebublic and then again with The Elder Scrolls Online. Again, returning to my first reaction… this is a taste.of what’s there to get us spreading the word and committing our cash. We’re no longer testing. This game is upon us. Unfortunately if we the people as a whole didn’t like this, it’s not like Bungie is going to have the opportunity now to reinvent this wheel. Take it for what it is I would say. They’re giving us a key to free access to this world. If you like it, dive in. If you’re like me and felt like you weren’t feeling it, it can’t hurt to sit this one out. After all, there’s gonna probably be Destiny 2, right?

    • I totally get what you’re saying and agree with you; the overall experience I’ve had with Destiny is “been there, done that”. At the same time, that’s what I’ve been experiencing with a lot of games lately; none of the major developers feel like they’re really pushing to advance gaming in any sense of form. It’s all about effective marketing that pushes certain buzzwords to get gamers to want it, and then when the game comes out, to have to accept it’s nothing new.

      I love betas, and go into them with an understanding there’s only so much being presented to get you to want more. However, I’m feeling ambivalent with the Destiny beta. I want to know more about the world, the history, characters and so on. At the same time, I can say I’d be fine not learning more about this universe. I’m hoping that, with Destiny, we’ve only really been given a taste of what’s to come. The inner pessimist in me believes we’ve seen most of what Destiny has to offer.

      Essentially, it’s going to be up to the player what they make of it. For me personally, I’m not impressed. I also get the feeling this is more of an alpha than beta of the game. Which has me also worried the game is being rushed out by Activision.

      What they have to offer isn’t bad…it’s just feeling more and more generic/boring like you said. It’s a lot of Borderlands meets Halo, especially with the level grinding, weapon and loot crate pick ups. The open expanse maps are really feel built for co-op, but I feel like even that is only going to be enjoyable to an extent. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to play any co-op games.

      Also, we’re going to do a follow-up post-beta impressions piece on the game 🙂 We’d like to know how your experience went if you play more before it closes!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Until Tomorrow: Destiny post-beta Impressions | Last Token Gaming
  2. Deep Space of Expectations – Destiny Initial Impressions | Last Token Gaming

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