Beta Day 8 – 26/07/2014 – Dark Side of the Moon
Ok, here we go, I’m logged on, it’s 9:00pm here in the UK, and I’m ready to see what the reward Bungie has promised its loyal Beta players is. Bungie has revealed that the reward for logging on at the right time tonight is a personalised nameplate, or player banner if you will. Although it’s perhaps not the most spectacular thing that might come to mind as a reward in the context of a game with the size and scope of Destiny, it still feels like a nice touch. You will be able to display your gamertag prominently on your player banner in matchmaking menus, so that friend and foe alike can tell that you were part of the Beta.
In addition, Bungie are also opening up a mission on Earth’s Moon for Guardians to play through for a limited two-hour window. This mission has been there in the world(s) map screen from day one of the Beta, so it’s nice to finally get to go there, albeit very briefly, and see what’s going on up there. So, without further ado, let’s extend our lunar landing gear and make a small step for man…yeah, all that jazz basically.
However, due to whatever problems are going on in internet land, I actually get access to the level an hour later at 10:00pm. After milling about in the Tower for a while and killing time passively aggressively dancing at passers by, I return to orbit and finally I’m on my way to the Moon.
The level starts out with a flashy introduction sequence which sees your ship swoop down low over the moon’s dusty grey surface and deposit your Guardian, ready to fight plenty of Hive. The Hive, as the Dink-meister tells you in the ship loading screens, have taken over the Moon since the dark ages of the game’s story, and it’s where they’ve set up their base of operations. Naturally then, we’re sent in to disrupt things, and to attempt to track down a missing Guardian chum.
Strangely, games tend to leap upon the ability to mess around with lower gravity when you go to an outer space/Moon like level, so it’s somewhat strange and a tad disappointing that movement and jumping in Moon gravity is exactly the same as in Earth’s gravity. Hmm. Unless there’s a story reason for this (maybe all the gear you wear counteracts normal gravity? In-built artificial gravity perhaps?), this does seem like a bit of an odd thing to miss out.
The mission structure isn’t anything particularly spectacular, and you’re fighting the same Fallen and Hive enemies we’ve already faced in Old Russia. The change of scenery is nice though, and these Moon areas feel different enough with their large grey open spaces as opposed to the more claustrophobic areas of Old Russia.
There’s a bit more focus on vehicle to vehicle and vehicle/infantry combat on this level too thanks to a generous number of Fallen pike bikes (sorry, had to go for the rhyme). Functionally, these floating attack bikes feel very similar to the fast purple Ghost vehicles in the Halo series – they’re quick, they have infinite ammo, and they’re great at engaging small numbers of enemies while keeping at a safe distance.
There’s a few more story threads teased in this level as well. An unknown Hunter figure appears to be stalking you; it appears to be the same one that watches you leave Old Russia at the end of the tutorial level. My gut instinct is that as your Ghost mentions that you’ve been dead for some time at the start of the game, my guess is that this hooded figure that watches you from afar might just have something to do with your earlier demise perhaps. Either that, or she/he is just a bit shy, and would actually like to join your quest and help you out if only you’d ask. Probably the former option though I’m guessing.
Although the Beta continues for another day, I think I’m going to leave these entries here for now, as this Moon level presents itself as a nice conclusion. Overall, the Beta has done everything that I’ve wanted it to do. I’ve had a good taste of the core gameplay – Halo meets Borderlands with a healthy dash of Diablo III thrown in for good measure. I’ve experienced a tease of what’s to come in the story department, and what narrative threads the game looks likely to pursue. I’ve marvelled at and felt repulsed by the various alien races that players are tasked with defeating, and I’ve certainly had my arse handed to me in the competitive crucible mode.
The things that have really stuck with me though have been the really small things so far. The friendly attitude other players appear to conduct to strangers whilst out completing missions. The simplicity and ease with which you can find your friends in the game, and near seamlessly join them in action with a few button presses. The variety of gameplay on offer, and how it is all linked back to the main social structure of the Tower. Perhaps most strongly of all though, my fondest memory of playing Destiny so far has been arriving in the Tower for the first time and getting that first exciting glimpse of the MMO experience Bungie is trying to build here. Seeing everybody going to and from the merchants, hanging out in the centre area and kicking about giant purple footballs gave me the early tantalising perspective of just how fun and social Destiny is shaping up to be. From the minute I stepped out of my arrival ship at the Tower, to be greeted by a bunch of body-popping robots, dancing humans and breakdancing Avatar-like Na’vi people, only too happy for me to join them in the gleeful exuberant displays of daftness, I knew then that Destiny has the potential to be a particularly special game.