Destiny Beta first impressions: Is it on course to be the best game of all time?
The Destiny Beta is finally here for Bungie to test its servers before the full game release on 9 September and we have to say that here at Pocket-lint we couldn't download it fast enough. That's partly to do with the fact that it's a mammoth 10GB (more even) download, and also partly because it is one of our most eagerly anticipated games. Of. All. Time.
When we first heard that rather than incorporate some role-playing elements, Bungie and Activision's new intellectual property was effectively a role-playing game full stop, we got very excited indeed. However, there was no sign of that in the Destiny Alpha so we approached the Beta with some trepidation.
We needn't have been worried though, because even with just over one hour's play of the PS4 version, Destiny is shaping up to be the game of the year. Hands down.
It is available on the PS3 and PS4 right now and will hit Xbox One and Xbox 360 next Wednesday, 23 July. It will run until 27 July, so you don't have long to check out the many wonders contained within. And PlayStation console owners should also be aware that the Beta will be down for maintenance on the 21 and 22 July.
Bungie is also yet to reveal whether or not the progress you make will be carried on to the final release version, which could upset some if not as you'll soon find out why it is easily labelled an RPG. Your character progresses and gains new abilities. Plus, as the Beta seems to take you through the beginning of the storyline and game, you will end up having to replay everything with the consumer release.
That said, you probably won't care. Or you might opt to do it in a different way or with more co-op players.
We essentially played for our first hour or so on our own. In fact, for the first mission you have to as it serves somewhat as a tutorial mission. You are woken/resurrected by a Ghost - a small flying robot with the voice of Peter Dinklage (Tyrion from Game of Thrones). Bungie has clearly listened to feedback from those who played the Alpha version as a new, robotic audio effect has been added to his voice over that sounds much more natural.
The performance had been criticised as too flat and monotonous before - clearly under orders as, after all, he's playing a robot. However, with the more metallic rasps it sounds more comfortable in context and makes a big difference with emoting with the robotic guide.
Also, given that the Beta has a genuine beginning rather than just lumping you into a mission, a la the Alpha, you understand more the Ghost's role in proceedings. And as you start that is simply to get you from A to B so that things can start a-proper.
The first trek you find yourself on - through the Russian Cosmodome, as seen on the E3 2013 preview walkthrough trailer - serves mainly as a tutorial. It also helps you level up for the first time so you can see how character progression works.
Like all good role-playing game, you have a character sheet and as you gain experience you can increase your abilities and add new ones. Plus, you will get the opportunity to improve your armour and weaponry either by finding new items or through buying them from traders using Glimmer, the game's currency.
However, this is a first impression piece, not a review and we don't want to give too many spoilers for those who have been looking forward to playing the Beta as much as we have.
Needless to say, the first time we visited the Tower, the social hub of the game and the base where you can buy new weapons and armour, we were blown away. The graphical flairs are amazing, especially on the PS4, but we also like the way it moved into third person from first and became almost Mass Effect-like.
You also get a space ship (we won't spoil how) which you can use to travel the galaxy in order to take on missions. Again, it invokes the spirit of Mass Effect, but without the wandering about inside the craft trying to have it off with fellow crew members.
The missions themselves are initially limited and eventually expand to offer alternatives. The ones we encountered in our first hour were available to play with up to three players in co-op, and although we decided to go it alone, a few other players were in the same mission, so we ended up helping each other clear a path through the enemy Fallen along the way.
Missions reward players experience and, in some cases, new items and while we didn't quite get a feel for the variety that there might be on further plays, we thoroughly enjoyed the trek. Even when playing an old favourite, the wizard mission from the Alpha. It seems more balanced this time around and as you're not just thrown into it with whatever weapons Bungie supplies, you can plan for it a bit better.
That's all we've really done so far in the game but even from a brief play of the Beta we can tell that there's plenty to see. It's bigger by some considerable distance to the Alpha test version and there's far more to see and do. Indeed, it feels like a consumer release already.
Certainly the graphics are good enough. They are stunning in scope on next gen. We'd be happy to say that they are even the first genuinely next generation graphics we've seen on the PlayStation 4.
Many wondered if Bungie could ever repeat it success with the Halo franchise, but on this evidence there's not even a question to be answered. Destiny will be a massive critical and commercial success, of that we have no doubt.
If you're one of the lucky few to have nabbed yourself a Destiny Beta code, either through pre-ordering the game or through a competition, let us know what you think in the comments below.