e3 2014
Destiny - Bungie After Halo With 40 Minutes of Hands-On Gameplay

Justin Clouse | 10 Jun 2014 15:00
e3 2014 - RSS 2.0

There's actually a heavy emphasis on character customization from what I experienced in the alpha. There are new ship models to purchase, which don't appear to have any other affect than to give you something new to look at during loading. Emblems change how your name appears in certain windows, and each class even has an entire item slot dedicated to a class specific cosmetic item. Some of these customizations are only unlocked by reaching certain status and rank with in-game factions, so this may indicate at least part of what Destiny's endgame plan is.

There are also three classes to choice from in Destiny, each of them standing as a pillar of certain play styles. Titans are the bruisers and tanks of the bunch, favoring close range combat with the ability to soak a lot of damage. Warlocks draw their power from the Traveler and wield magical powers along with specializing in recovering from damage quickly, though they still do a great deal of shooting. Finally, the Hunter fills in the last leg of the triangle, fulfilling the rogue-ish and agile character niche. The characters are further defined through additional gameplay mechanics like their grenades, super-powered ability and even how they traverse the map. The Hunter, for instance, can double jump, eventually upgrading to a triple jump, while the Warlock can instead float and drift for a time. There does appear to be additional specializations that unlock later, but we were capped at level 8 for the alpha.

Here's an extended look at the gameplay for your viewing pleasure.

Surprisingly, weapons are not however locked or tied to any specific class, at least at this stage of the game. A Warlock can use and equip a sniper rifle just as well as a Hunter. Weapons are instead broken up into three general classes: Primary, special and heavy. The primary slot encompasses a mix of varying flavors of assault rifle, the special slot brings in your sniper rifles, shotguns and a few more exotic weapons, and the heavy weapons are understandably the big guns. Enemies drop ammo when they die, but the green and purple ammo boxes for special and heavy drop more rarely. While the ammo is not limitless, and you'll frequently run out on harder sections or when enemies are not spawning often, it is however interchangeable and that green ammo box will feed any of your special weapons.

Just like player characters, weapons also have their own upgrade and leveling systems. If you use your favorite weapon enough you'll eventually unlock stat boosts or new scopes, among other things. I imagine there are even more options when you start finding the even rarer weapon drops. Destiny certainly hits on that Borderlands and Diablo itch of wanting to find even better equipment.

The gameplay itself is going to feel very familiar to fans of the Halo franchise. It's pretty easy to pick up on how at its most basic level Destiny works off the same gameplay DNA. Combat feels weighty, while your movement feels floaty. It comes together to create some very satisfying moments, like leaping up on a building and blowing away an enemy with a quick burst of weapons fire and a jab to the face with your melee. The enemy AI is clever, but in a predictable pattern that feels like you're mastering how best to take each type down - not unlike a certain other game that Bungie made with a variety of enemies.

Gameplay is split up into a number of verticals. Exploration lets you load into big expansive maps in a shared space with other players. Each map is filled with missions to find and dynamically spawning public events. Story missions load you into a map with a specific objective in mind. Similarly, Strike missions hit the same vein, but they are instead balanced for a full fireteam of players working together. Strike missions and Story missions can also be attempted on varying difficulty levels. The strike mission available in the alpha for instance featured a number of tough encounters with waves of enemies or boss characters. Crucible is where you go for competitive multiplayer. During the alpha, only a capture and hold gameplay mode was available, but there appeared to be several more types grayed out. Competitive multiplayer is scaled to some degree with regards to character levels, and we'll try to get details on that from the show floor later in the week.

Finally, it's worth noting that the soundtrack is fantastic. I really missed the epic score from O'Donnell and Salvatori in Halo 4, and it's great to hear them at work again in Destiny. Although sadly O'Donnell was recently let go.

While I still have a lot of unanswered questions about Destiny, like what's the expected endgame going to be like, if there is one. Destiny has at least been the first game that's given me pause about finally picking up a next-gen console. The game looks great, the gameplay is fun especially with friends and looting is as addictive as always. I even had fun saving up enough money just to show off my new fancy spaceship to the other folks in the office playing.


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