During Sony’s E3 conference a week ago, they announced that PS4 owners could sign up now to get in a special alpha session of Destiny beginning Thursday and ending Sunday night. Already super excited for Destiny for over a year (but especially since the E3 2013 reveal of it), I of course signed up immediately.
Luckily, I was able to snag an alpha code from Bungie’s Twitter within four seconds of it being posted on Wednesday to get in the alpha a day earlier. Everyone who registered on the Sony site for the alpha got a code, so I ended up giving away my second code to a random user on NeoGAF.
The short story is that the Destiny alpha was fantastic, and no doubt did more for boosting interest in the game than any Activision marketing has done. From Wednesday to Monday night, I put more hours into the Destiny alpha than I have games that I paid $60 for. I wish I could play it now.
I tried out all three classes; I level capped a human male hunter that I spent the majority of time playing as, and I rocked an awoken female warlock and titan as well as an exo male titan. It’s hard to say which I preferred as each have their strong suits. I enjoyed the hunter’s double/triple jump ability, but preferred the titan’s super move. The alpha gave me the chance to try them all out though, and the beta in July will allow to me try them all out even more. Which of course means that when the game releases in September, I will have had plenty of time to have made an informed decision about which class I want to start the game as. That’s important, because it saves time.
The alpha only offered up one area to play in, Old Russia. There was nothing wrong with that of course, the Old Russia available in the alpha, even with walled off spots and closed doors, was still pretty big. Even up until my final time with the game, I was still finding new spots that I hadn’t been to before.
There was one story mission in the alpha, but it wasn’t one that gave away any of the story. It culminated in a mini boss battle against a Wizard (that came from the moon!) and a horde of its minions. I played this mission four times (once with each character that I had made), and I died during this mission three of those four times. The Wizard was a welcome challenge for the first thing a new character would do in the alpha.
Once completing that mission though, the alpha really opened up. The Tower, which is the game’s social city, opened up. There you could dance with other players, take on bounties, and buy new gear. Even with a level cap of eight in the alpha, the Tower gave players a glimpse of the great armor specifically that awaits them in the full game. The grind to acquire the best gear in the game is going to be a treat.
The alpha also teased players with rare loot drops that were just out of the level reach (I acquired rare armor ranging from level 9 to 12).
The best part of the alpha for me though, and where I spent the bulk of my time, was in the explore mode. This is where you just run around Old Russia picking up random side quests and shooting the respawning enemies. Out in “The Division,” there were plenty of respawning enemies that made for an easy loop and quick leveling up (both of character and weapons/armor). Every 40 minutes or so, a public event would also be triggered (in this area, it was destroying the devil walker).
The public events were fun, but I hope in the full game there’s more people around and able to take part in them. The ones I did, was either a solo experience or only had two to three other people in (sometimes just one other person). These already happen not too often, so I’d ideally like to see them be major events where plenty of players converge to take down (like ark-falls in Defiance). Some of these the timed expired even with one or two other players; other times I managed to do it solo within the five minutes (and get Gold Tier) while only dying twice. They were fun and challenging, but I definitely would like to see them become bigger events that last a lot longer than five minutes.
I enjoyed just hopping on my Sparrow (speeder, or the equivalent of a Ghost from Halo) and riding around the world. Destiny is absolutely gorgeous to look at with its day/night cycle and the snow of Old Russia.
Throughout the alpha, I used all sorts of weapons. What I like about Destiny is that all three classes can use the same weapons. So I never felt like I was missing out on a weapon by being a hunter. I rocked the assault rifle, the pulse rifle, and primarily a scout rifle as my primary weapon. My special weapon I alternated between sniper rifle and shotgun, and a pulse rifle in PVP, and for heavy weapon I preferred the machine gun over the rocket launcher. But regardless of class, I could use any weapon and I like that. It gives me the freedom to play how I want to play.
By the way, if you didn’t use a sniper rifle on the devil walker, you missed out. My leveled up sniper rifle was doing 700 damage to the legs, and over 1000 damage to the exposed “neck” area. With consumables to replenish the ammo on the spot, the walker becomes fairly easy to take down assuming you can dodge his (and the plenty of other enemies) attacks fast enough.
I did the co-op strike, The Devil’s Lair (video of my play-through of it above), with two random players. We played it on Brave (it was my first time doing the strike, so I didn’t bother with legendary even though I would have gotten more/better loot). It took about 30 minutes to complete, and was a lot of fun. I can see these strike missions being a preferred mode once the game releases. It was fun with randoms, and I’m sure it’ll be much better with friends. What I really want to experience, primarily because of the strike (which was hard) is the end game raids that bumps it from three players (the strikes) to six players. That should be intense; I’ve never been an MMO guy, so raids on that scale will be a new experience for me.
And finally, the alpha offered up a chance to play the PVP aspect of Destiny, called the Crucible on two maps and one game mode. I don’t typically competitive FPS. I like competitive TPS, but just not FPS. I really enjoyed the Crucible though, particularly the Rusted Lands map. Yes, there’s some balance issues that need to be addressed. Titans and Warlocks have a distinct advantage in the Crucible over Hunter’s because their super is a bit over powered (able to kill in a radius, so 3+ people) while the Hunter’s golden gun gets three shots and it can take two to even kill one person. I enjoyed the moon map, but I didn’t like the combat vehicles in it. I don’t mind vehicles being in the game, but they should be transport only. Trying to shoot a guy bunny hopping and then getting killed by a dude in a tank isn’t fu.
Issues aside though, I liked the competitive aspect of Destiny quite a bit. I had fun with it and will actually be playing it in the full release. You can see a video of me playing the PVP below; it was my second time in the mode and my first on that map (Rusted Lands).. yes, my reaction times could have been better. The main thing here is that I had a positive kill/death ratio and more importantly stuck to the objective (capture the zones) to a degree that I ended up with the highest overall score in that round. Not too bad.
Overall, I walk away from the alpha with nothing but positive stuff to say about Destiny. I loved every second of my time spent in the alpha, and I spent quite a few hours with it over those five days I was able to play it. I already miss it, and that’s with being confined to Old Russia and capped at level eight. I wish I were playing it right now. Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait to get back to it (or get in it for the first time) since the beta is coming to PS4 and PS3 on July 17th (Xbox One and 360 owners will get in on July 21st).
The alpha took me from being excited for Destiny to having it be my most anticipated title of the year, even beating out Assassin’s Creed Unity. I can wait until Black Friday to get Unity, but Destiny will for sure be a day one for me. In fact, I’m considering canceling my Amazon pre-order and pre-ordering on PSN. On PS4, the digital version will allow pre-loading beginning September 4th, which means at 10:59pm CT on September 8th, the game will unlock and able to play it. Yes, I enjoyed the alpha so much that I want to get into this game as soon as possible. I’m positive that Destiny is a game I will be playing for a long, long time.
I look forward to the beta starting on the 17th (one long month from today) and seeing what changes have been made and what new content Bungie makes available over the alpha version. Hopefully with all the testing and seeing the positive reaction to it, Bungie/Activision will have a successful launch in September and not one of the usual online launches that we see. I’m sure they’ll be ready.