It doesn't take much convincing to get EB and I to play a Bungie game. He's a Halo fan from the original Xbox days, and I've played practically everything they've put out since their early Mac games. Destiny's been on our radar since it was announced, so preordering it for beta access was a no-brainer. We'll summarize our impressions of the Destiny beta here, specifically around the Destiny Beta's Xbox 360 edition.
# First Impressions
On the Xbox 360 especially, Destiny does not leave the best first impression. I'm not going to mince words - the graphics here are bad. It's clear that everything was designed for much higher resolutions on much more capable hardware, and then scaled down to match the Xbox 360's limited system requirements.
There's a lot of shimmering as models rotate, low poly count grass, and generally low res textures on display.
Moving beyond the graphics, the tutorial level just reeks of bland FPS gameplay. Destiny gives you an assault rifle, a secondary weapon (for the two classes I played, it was a shotgun or a sniper rifle) and a class-specific ability, which in both cases for me was a grenade. Shoot aliens, move to waypoint, lather, rinse, repeat. I've done this a thousand times in various console shooters, and it's tired and old at this point.
There's been a lot of criticism around Peter Dinklage's performance as your Ghost. I'd have to say that there's not really a lot that could be done with the script he's got here. There's a lot of technobabble and "alien things given simple proper nouns" in the dialog. "Oh no, we must stop that Wizard before he endangers the Tower!"
# Past the First Hour
Really, though, the graphics, tutorial, and the general plot beats are kind of secondary in a game like this. They keep you going, sure, but the real meat and potatoes is playing the game. Here the outlook is better, although it's still something of a mixed bag.
During the Destiny beta we only got a small slice of the full game's content. We were limited to the "Cosmodrome" map on Earth, and could only get our characters to level 8. The Cosmodrome map is large and has varied indoor and outdoor environments. It plays more like a MMO zone than a multiplayer map. There's a lot of similarities to a Borderlands 2 area, except the Destiny zone felt much larger.
Similar to a MMO, there were places where you could encounter other players or groups, and then there were places that were private, instanced "dungeons" to explore while on quests. The Cosmodrome zone had various enemies of different levels, and each part of the map held different enemies with different difficulties. Straying off the beaten path often ended with us dying quickly.
In the Cosmodrome zone there were a set of about 5 quests to play. The quest quality varied. There are "Explore" quests which basically just boil down to "go to randomly generated waypoint and accomplish randomly assigned task from this set of 4 tasks" - this was interesting up to a point, and might be good for grinding levels or just messing around without a strict set of goals. I could see it being fun, but after we hit the level cap it just became repetitive.
My favorite mission was the "Strike" mission. It was much longer and had several different parts, including some minibosses and a pretty hard boss fight at the end. The only downside was that EB and I had to take along a third player, whereas we would normally want to just play by ourselves. We had an awesome time during this mission, and I'm looking forward to more like it in the future.
# Versus Multiplayer
We jumped into a few multiplayer matches to kill time. Although it seemed fun, I will say I didn't find it as fun as other online FPS multiplayer games. I do have a preference for PvE rather than PvP, though. Also, I don't feel like we got enough experience with our skills and weapons to really be competitive.
Time will tell if the game has significant versus multiplayer appeal. Lord knows we've spent untold hours on Bungie online shooters before, so I could see Destiny being a contender.
For the most part, though, we tend to prefer games that place players on a roughly level playing field and then challenge them to play better. In Destiny, it seems like grinding for better gear and skills is going to be just as important.
# Is it Next Gen Time Yet?
I'm not convinced I should buy an Xbox One for Destiny. Bungie claims the game is just as full-featured on the 360 and the PS3, and that the choice just comes down to graphics. That means that the game itself is still designed around last-gen hardware restrictions.
It's certainly a good game, but not one that I'm willing to drop several hundred dollars on to get the "best experience." This has been a weird console transition, and with all of the games coming out cross platform I've still yet to convince myself that it's worth it to buy a new console.
Bungie has also said that if you move from one console generation to another within the same family (ie 360->XB1 or PS3->PS4), your characters can be migrated. Thus, if Destiny gets a bunch of XB1 exclusive content, I can always move up to experience it.
Destiny is an odd duck. It's Borderlands with more MMO and a more "serious" story attached to it. The beta didn't show us anything that really improved on the Borderlands formula, so it's more a matter of whether or not you like the lateral movement Destiny represents. The Xbox 360 edition is ugly but capable, so once again we've got a hotly anticipated title that isn't selling us on the new console generation.
Am I going to play it? Yeah, I'm going to play it. Is it a decent title, if a bit cliched in spots? Yeah, that's true too. Is it a revolutionary, game-changing title that will set the standard for what's to come? Not really, no.