Hands-on: Destiny Beta

Hands-on: Destiny Beta

Bungie's MMO-inspired sci-fi shooter is available in beta form to everyone right now - and it's utterly brilliant.

The PS4-only Alpha is but a distant memory - but now everyone can get a taste of Destiny in the all-formats Beta.

To get involved all you need do is pre-order the full game (out 9th September) or find a friend who already has - each pre-order is good for three players.

Should you get involved? You betcha. This is a really generous taster of what is looking very much like potential game of the year.

If you’ve been living in a hole for the last few months you could be unaware thatDestiny is the new game by Bungie, the studio that brought us the little-known Halofranchise. It’s got a lot in common with Halo in terms of gameplay and tone, but this is a far, far grander undertaking.

That’s because Destiny is also diving into massively multiplayer online (MMO) territory. This is an always-online game in which you team up with mates for story missions, raids and open-world exploring. You randomly encounter other players on your travels and so-called ‘live events’ are triggered that dynamically bring players together to take on enemies such as the massive spider tank.

Think of the shooting action of Halo combined with the addictive loot-gathering ofDiablo and MMORPG elements of World of Warcraft and you’re just about on the right track.

Those who poured endless hours into the Alpha might be disappointed to discover that a lot of that content returns in this Beta, but there is more besides. Where the Alpha dropped you into the ruined Russian landscape with an already level 4 character, the Beta sees you start at the very beginning, with the intro that will (tweaks allowing) be in the final version of the game.

Destiny Beta review

That’s when you’re introduced to your Ghost, a cuboid robotic companion who accompanies and guides you throughout the entire game. Bungie and Peter Dinklage (from Game of Thrones, who voices the Ghost) were on the receiving end of no little flak for the dialogue and delivery in the Alpha, which was considered by many to sound a bit half-arsed. I didn’t really agree with all of that criticism but even I must admit that the delivery in the Beta, which has been made to sound more robotic with beeps and vocal effects, works better. And the now infamous “that wizard came from the Moon!” line has gone entirely, which is a massive shame if you ask me.

In total you get four story missions in the Beta (none of which were in the Alpha), each of which can be played with up to two mates and come complete with cutscenes that introduce you to the characters and lore of Bungie’s brave new gaming universe.

The only issue here is that there’s a certain amount of repetition in these story missions. They’re all based in Old Russia (essentially the only area available in the Beta) and while each takes you to a different section of the map you basically start in the same area for each one, which creates a little déjà vu. This is undoubtedly a game that will involve a fair amount of returning to previously explored areas, but hopefully the level of repetition will be kept in check for the full release.

Beyond that you get largely the same content that was in the Alpha. That includes one three-player Strike (essentially a self-contained mission with its own story, bosses and rewards) called The Devil’s Lair, which is brilliant fun.

You also get to experience the Explore mode, which allows you to - you guessed it - explore the open world environments at your leisure. You’ve only got Old Russia to play with here but the environment is pretty massive and packed with secrets - dead Ghosts to reactivate, caves to explore, loot to find and enemies to blow to pieces. There are also small side-missions - typical fetch quests and kill x number of enemies sorts of things, but they’re useful for taking you to areas of the map that you might not have otherwise visited and also reward you with increased standing with certain factions. And standing means loot in the form of big guns and stronger armour.

Finally there’s the Crucible, which is where you take your anger out on other players. The map count has gone up from the two to four, so on top of the Earth and Moon maps you got in the Alpha you can now also kill your friends on Mars and Venus. There’s still just the one game mode, Capture (typical three-objective king of the hill), but the action is so tight, fast and addictive you’ll likely take no issue with playing for hours straight.

In Destiny you play as a Guardian, tasked with protecting what little is left of humanity against four alien races (two of which, the Hive and Fallen, make an appearance in the Beta). Your very first job is to create your character.

You start by choosing choose a class: Titan, Hunter or Wizard. Ostensibly these boil down to a tank-like bruiser, agile sneaker and space wizard respectively, but in reality each class can turn its hand to any role. What you’re really choosing is a look, a type of grenade, a melee attack, a slightly different double-jump and a special attack. Choose whichever you think looks coolest - you won’t be restricted later on.

And then you get to make your character look really cool in the customiser. Choose your race (human, awaken or exo), gender, face, hair and lots more to make you Guardian look unique. In the Beta there are just a few minor new customisation options, but otherwise our video of the Alpha customisation above should teach you everything you need to know.

The esteemed Guy Cocker wrote about the Destiny gameplay experience in great depth when he reviewed the Alpha, and I won’t repeat everything here because it’s the same gameplay that you get with the Beta. That means the action itself is deeplyHalo-like, with a welcome dose of extra heft to the weapons. This is sci-fi, of course, but the feel of the guns is realistically solid and terrifically bombastic, especially when you get to the shotguns and heavy weapons such as the huge machine guns and rocket launchers.

Destiny Beta review

Thanks to every player having a double-jump move, battles are very vertical, both in the open world and in the Crucible. There are few greater gaming joys than leaping from a vantage point to a spot directly behind your enemy and stabbing them in the back.

The Beta is open to PS3 and PS4 players right now. There’s a break for maintenance on the 21st and 22nd July, then Xbox 360 and Xbox One gamers get to join in on the 23rd. The whole thing comes to an end on the 27th, but don’t be sad; according toan interview that Bungie’s David "Deej" Dague gave to Eurogamer, there’s still a possibility that your lovingly crafted Guardian will carry over to the final game. Fingers crossed - I hate saying goodbye.

We played and loved the Alpha, and the Beta is bigger and better. I reckon most players will get about ten hours of terrific entertainment out of it, while serious fans will play every moment they can between now and 27th July, upgrading all three characters and exploring every inch of Old Russia.

Needless to say that’s a lot of entertainment for zero cost, and while this is by no means a review of the final, full game, it’s hard to see a way Bungie could mess it up from here. 9th September cannot come soon enough.

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