Over a little more than a week, we've been able to play the Destiny beta. We explored Old Russia, took on Devil Walkers, fought other Guardians in the Crucible, and browsed exotic weaponry and armor at the Tower.
And yet, there are some things that we're uncertain about. Exploration occasionally went awry; enemies soaked up clip after clip of bullets; multiplayer pacing seemed a little off. As a result, we have some questions from playing the beta about how the full game will play.
How will enemy balance be tweaked for the full game?
This is an immediate concern upon reaching some of the higher levels. The strongest enemies in the beta take clip after clip to take down. From what we played, the stronger the enemies get, the more they act as bullet sponges, soaking up sometimes hundreds of shots before they succumb.
The most obvious example of this occurs during the Devil's Lair Strike Mission, which is recommendced for Guardians level 6 or higher. You begin by fighting through rooms full of enemies, some of which have ranks well above the beta's level 8 cap. You then come across a wide field with a Devil Walker spider tank in it. Of course, there are weaker enemies, but the tank is the main focus. It wields a rocket launcher and what appears to be a rail gun to devastating effect. Expectedly, it's well-armored. But perhaps too much so.
The Devil Walker barely moves. It slides a few feet side to side, but that's it. For the most part, it sits in one place and shoots the Guardians that are attacking it. And it takes a very long time to make a dent in its armor. Two other players and I shot it with heavy weapons, special weapons, special abilities, and countless clips of regular ammo, and it still took about 10 minutes to kill.
What I wonder, then, is if the full game will rely on simply increasing the health of enemies. Hopefully, as you increase in rank, there will be more and different creatures to fight, all with different fighting styles. In the beta, you can see some differences between the individualized, shoot-and-take-cover Fallen and the group-minded Hive who rush headlong at you. And we haven't even seen the Vex or Cabal yet. But the full game needs to show that increasing rank won't just mean running across more bullet sponges, but rather that the creatures' behavior will also evolve with the Guardian's increasing strength.
Will competitive multiplayer be engaging?
Destiny is focused on its cooperative modes. The majority of the game revolves around the story and Strike missions, but there is still competitive multiplayer. Not surprisingly, it feels a lot like Halo, especially with the vehicles and map design. But Guardians aren't Spartans. They can't sprint around the map as easily, and even though they can boost up buildings, their jumping is much less floaty. As a result, movement is slower and you come across enemy players more rarely.
With weapons and shooting mechanics similar to more traditional shooters, Destiny player-vs.-player occasionally feels like it's stuck between two worlds. Sometimes, I'm convinced I'm playing Call of Duty in a Halo map. The pacing feels a little off, and I'm expecting to get around the map faster than I actually can.
But much of this could have to do with the 12-player cap on matches. We've only seen a couple of the maps, as well. Even in big Halo maps, there are games when you won't see players for quite some time. We'll have to see if there are more maps that can achieve the pace expected from a shooter that leans away from Halo's mechanics and movement.
Can Bungie make a cohesive story for Destiny?
One of the biggest questions with a game as big and multiplayer-focused as Destiny is if the story will make sense and be engaging. The Halo series built a deep universe with rich storylines, but the games themselves had extremely focused plotlines with very little openness.
Can each individual story mission be interesting on a more grounded, granular level? That's what the full game will have to prove.
Destiny, on the other hand, is huge. Each world is open to exploration. There are story missions, explore missions, Strike missions, and Crucible battles. With so many different options, the risk is high that the story will feel disjointed. There are no smooth transitions like in a linear game. You get presented with a chunk of story, then you go back to the tower or hop into some competitive multiplayer, then you get some more story.
Bungie seems to be relying upon Destiny's universe to keep the story cohesive. If it can craft a deep and interesting enough world, then you will have the story in mind even when you're not progressing it. And so far, it seems like Bungie has the foundation to potentially pull this off. The struggle between the Traveler and the Darkness, the rise of Guardians gifted with the Traveler's powers, and the fight to protect Earth are all fairly compelling reasons to keep seeking more narrative.
But can each individual story mission be interesting on a more grounded, granular level? That's what the full game will have to prove.
How will Destiny encourage players to explore while also preventing them from ending up lost in higher-level areas?
You have access to the entire Old Russia world when you're around level 4, after playing a couple of story missions. The explore option interested me, so I entered the world and began to complete the side missions scattered throughout the area.
Soon, however, I found myself wandering through the world, running through the ruins of the cosmodrome, looking for secrets and hidden places. But I turned a corner from an area full of level 4 enemies and ran smack into a fight against a Devil Walker, with three Guardians at level 8 fighting against it. I tried to fight it, but the tank's shots would take me out in one hit. If I survived the tank, dropships would kill me. I couldn't even run past it without getting mowed down by the Fallen being spawned into the area.
Other times, I discovered corridors that were full of enemies so strong that I couldn't even damage them. "Immune" would flash out of the creatures instead of the usual damage numbers. I managed to get myself far enough into these areas that at one point, my level 4 Guardian couldn't even escape, let alone fight, the enemies.
This has been a problem in MMOs for years, and the solution usually is to avoid areas with much higher-level enemies. But the problem I came across in Destiny was that these areas weren't clear and were very close to the paths of the main missions. In the full game, it will be interesting to see if the explore missions are done well enough to encourage you to wander but dissuade you from walking into much stronger enemies. I may end up spending a lot of time simply running around these worlds; I don't want to have to worry about getting too involved in fights beyond the level of my character.
How much will Destiny reuse environments? Will there be enough environmental diversity to keep gameplay interesting?
In Destiny's beta, every mission takes place in the same map--different parts of a pretty huge map, but the same limited area nonetheless. And although the terrain is varied and there are several different buildings, everything looks similar. The Old Russia cosmodrome is styled in the same brown, worn-down, exposed-metal design throughout the entirety of the world.
And it's not like it's an open world in the traditional sense. The map is small enough that several story missions repeat paths, so that you're not only seeing similar environments but also fighting the same enemies and bosses in the same sequences. Although these later missions continue through the repeated sections and go to other locations, it's still surprising that the only difference between some of the story missions' moments was the dialogue.
But we haven't seen the whole game. There are still several more worlds to explore. The moon, for instance, is visible when you're choosing a destination, even if you can't go there yet. You'll also be able to fight on Venus and Mars. These all have significantly different environments, so I'm hopeful that Destiny will have a diverse selection of settings to play through.
Will Guardian classes have meaningful differences?
In April, Bungie stated that the three classes of Guardians--Hunter, Titan, and Warlock--do not make up the "trinity" of MMO classes. The Warlock isn't a healer, the Titan isn't a tank, etc. But there are still meant to be specific and important differences between the classes. The Titan is supposed to play more like the Spartans from Halo, the Hunter is meant to specialize in stealth and accuracy, and the Warlock should have the best grasp of Destiny's "space magic."
But the more we play the beta, the more it seems like the three classes don't branch in any truly meaningful ways. They all still have magical abilities, they all control more or less the same, and their weapons and gear seem to be virtually identical. Right now, the classes are only differentiated by slight stat advantages and their super abilities.
The main game needs to show us that these classes are meaningfully different. We were only able to play up to level 8, and Guardian sub-classes unlock at level 15, so perhaps we have not seen significant specialization between the classes yet. In any case, giving us the option of three different playable classes indicates that one should also have advantages and disadvantages over the others. I want to choose my Guardian based on the play style I want to pursue. The Titan, Hunter, and Warlock shouldn't only be aesthetically unique.
Will dancing Guardians ever get old?
Seriously. It's immensely satisfying to gather around your fallen enemies and break out your dance moves.