Thursday, July 24, 2014

It is... Our Destiny... Or whatever

Okay, so first impression, non spoilery stuff:

Visuals - Pretty damned impressive.  Skyrim has been the measuring stick for me on the 360 for how beautiful a game can be, and this is either as good, or slightly better.  Bear in mind, I'm on the 360, and playing on a 40" plasma at 720p, so in all fairness it'll probably look better on current gen stuff at 1080p and who knows what 4k would look like.  That all said, there's something goofy about certain parts.  For some reason certain areas look very cartoony to me.  I haven't figured out why, unless it has to do with moving from a wide open space where everything is given such an eye for detail to a fairly small area that looks like 'videogame spaceport 1.111'.  It's actually a little jarring, to be honest.  Overall, the game is gorgeous but anyone following this release probably already knew that.

Sound- In all honesty, sound doesn't equate to much in games for me these days, unless it makes me notice it, and this one does.  I can't tell you how many times I was playing and immediately whipped around, looking in every direction to ascertain what the hell I just heard.  That is something I haven't seen so prevalent in a long time.  I don't know the specific mechanics used, but they did it right. 

Presentation- You won't find a lot of innovation here, but the formula being used is not a bad one.  The HUD, the screen prompts and the like are all pretty standard stuff.  If you've played FPS games in the last 10 years you'll be comfortable with what they have here.  Where you'll notice a change is the Menu, and I really like what they've done with that.  It's difficult to describe, but I guess if pressed I'd say that it is an 'aim' and click interface.  It's very intuitive, very easy to use, and you can get around quickly which is important since if you 'pause' in the worlds where enemies exist, they can still shoot you.  That's certainly not pausing in the traditional sense.  That said, I was still able to use it, and I didn't die once while paused.

Okay – spoilery stuff potentially follows, continue at your own risk and so on and so forth:

Setting – The world (even for the beta) is fucking huge.  No joke.  There is a just a vast area to explore, and I’m relatively certain that we still didn’t get everywhere even after hours of exploration.  We looked everywhere we could, found some enemies that couldn’t even be harmed by our weapons, and we got to a LOT of places – but it still felt like we didn’t get even close to exploring everything.  Time will tell if we did or not, and I’ll comment more later on the size, but this being only the beta, I would imagine that it’s only going to get bigger with the final release. The only thing that was weird for me was the ‘TOWER’ which is basically just ‘RPG spaceport/village’ 1.111.  What I mean is that you’ve seen all this before, even if the presentation is a little different and possibly slightly better (depends on what you like).  This is the only part of the game that bothers me and it has everything to do with how it looks compared to the open world feel of the other areas.  After being out in the open, where everything feels very realistic, this place feels patently false.  I could actually feel a difference in how I perceived this area from the others, and that, to me, is not a good thing for a game meant to be so immersive.

Gameplay - At its heart, this thing is an RPG and a pretty good one at that.  Now obviously this is the beta, and I have no idea if the same pacing or leveling will apply with the final release, but I hope so.  I made level 8 after about half a day of playing and that was the cap for the beta, so I could just kind of run around and explore the open area, or get into the ‘Crucible’ (PVP) area for team deathmatches if I wanted to.  I did a little of that, but if you read my Titanfall review, you know it’s not really my forte.  I leave that to others for the most part, but I will say this.  It was fun.  I got frustrated with people killing me as usual so I didn’t stick around very long, but I enjoyed the time I was there for the most part.  What that tells me is that at least the game is balanced.  I didn’t feel like anyone was overpowered or had a weapon that broke the game.  It’s very well done, and it shows in the execution (small pun intended).
What they have accomplished by capping the levels at 8 is encouraged me to try the other classes, and I certainly will.  I want to know what it’s like to play all of them.  At this time I played a female “AWOKEN (RACE) HUNTER (CLASS), and man, is that woman deadly.  Hunters are basically the snipers, but I felt comfortable with every gun I got, including shotgunning enemies in the face at close range.  Not very sniperish, but fun nonetheless.  What they also accomplished was frustrating the shit out of me, because even though the level is capped at 8, I actually got some drops that were only available at level 10, and were substantially better than my best gear.  I felt as though the carrot was being dangled in front of me – but to be honest, I have no idea if they even intend to let people keep the characters from the beta, so not even sure if that’s the case, just how it felt.

Overall (and only so far) I think this is a really good game.  I hesitate at great, because it could certainly get repetitive if not done correctly.  It’s too early to say at this point.  I initially started the game by myself, and my friends later joined in, so we had our 3 man fireteam for the remainder of the evening.  Once the three of us got together, we were pretty much unstoppable.  If that’s what they were going for, I’d say they nailed it, and damn did we have fun once we all got together.

The game also has a ton of stars doing the voice work, and that is immediately evident so with the already impressive graphics it SHOULD be an amazing game at least story/presentation wise, but it lacks something and I can’t put my finger on what.  It might be because it’s the beta and things will be improved with the final release, it might not.  I’m honestly not sure yet on that one.

Someone else already mentioned HALO and the comparison is a fair one.  This game is very HALOesque, in visual, gameplay and style.  But it’s also distinctly not HALO in some ways as well; the biggest point of comparison being that I actually enjoy playing Destiny.  I never really liked HALO.  I just never got into it the way some people did (some very good friends included) and I really like what I’m playing with Destiny so far.   Destiny is also not HALO in that it doesn’t ever feel restrictive to me.  HALO always felt like I was being funneled towards the point they wanted me to reach to (obviously) finish the story.  If Skyrim taught us anything, it was that a story doesn’t have to be constricting or so linear that you can’t have exploration.  This game has exploration in spades, and I’m a sucker for that, so take it for what it’s worth.

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