The Destiny beta has come and gone and it would seem most gamers agree that our brief slice of gameplay was pretty freaking glorious. Even in this still-in-construction version, it was difficult to find any major flaws in gameplay. While it might not feature the wall running or massive robots of a Titanfall or the microscopic detail of an Elder Scrolls, you'd be hard pressed to find a better blend of MMO-style gameplay and frantic run n' gun shooting.
Let's just take it by the numbers:
The art design is gorgeous in its desolation, stunning in its dilapidation. Seriously, I haven't enjoyed plunging into the ruins of an old Earth this much since Fallout 3. On top of that, the explorable areas are massive and detailed; anyone who was worried this would be an empty series of connected levels had those fears alleviated this weekend. Even better, the vast destruction will look even more beautiful on September 9 as Bungie has guaranteed 1080p at launch for all platforms.
From a technical standpoint, the server strength was more than adequate, especially for a beta. Some players experienced connection problems, but by and large those instances were fairly contained. It was so good in fact that, if you allow for the possibility that Bungie will implement a stronger support system on launch day, the strength of the beta's servers makes one wonder if Bungie may have gotten their ducks in a row just in time for the world's first ever moderately stable MMO launch. Dare to dream.
While we're on the subject of Destiny as an MMO, we have to point out the awesome tweaks that Bungie has made to the classic formula. For the first time, a game has been balanced so cleverly that it's equally appealing to fans of arena combat, fans of traditional group and play MMO's and solitary gamers alike. The matchmaking is quick (for a game that's just starting out) and effective, but most of all, it's unobtrusive. Those people who just want to shoot NPC's without worrying about (ugh!) interacting with other humans are more than free to do so.
All that praise dropped, though, Destiny is not a perfect gaming experience. One of the benefits of the game being an MMO, though, is that the developers essentially have the freedom to keep building the game out post launch. In other words, even if the gameplay feature you wanted the most isn't there on launch day, who knows what could happen in the future.
So, with that in mind, we give you our list of things that Destiny could improve upon for launch day (and every day thereafter).
Deeper Character Creation
No facial hair, Bungie? Come one, guys, that's roleplaying game 101. Don't get me wrong, it's super awesome that players can finally play as a robot or a relative of Powder, but some people also like to just play as humans. More to the point, most people like to play as male humans. And one of the physical details that goes hand in hand with playing as a human man (beyond the obvious) is facial hair.
I know facial hair is just one little thing, but it's indicative of a tool that just seems a little confined. In addition to the lack of beards and moustaches, players are generally unable (at this point) to put a little of their own personality into their characters. We can't change individual features and the overall selection of hair is abysmal at best. In short, the character creator just feels a little underdeveloped, a little, dare I say it, last gen.
That said, Destiny is pretty much exclusively a first person shooter. In other words, you spend way more time looking at your hands (and the gun those hands are holding) than you do looking at your avatar's mug. When you factor in the fact that the amount of time players are actually able to see their character's face, these complaints are borderline moot.
Our idea: Seriously, facial hair would go a long way … but so would doubling the options currently available to players to design their character. I just need a hairstyle that doesn't make me look like I sing backup in Flock of Seagulls tribute band.
More Intense Melee Combat
Again, this is just a little one (pretty much all of these are, honestly; the game is just that good), but the melee animations featured in the Destiny beta are kind of weak. Each class, Titan, Hunter and Warlock has their own unique method for dealing with baddies who want to get in close (Hive Thralls, anyone?). Unfortunately, the animations for each class amounts to the player's avatar simply holding up their hands until the other person dies. The result robs melee combat of any kind of satisfaction.
Granted, you're going to be spending your time holding a gun more than any other weapon, but anyone who's actually played a first person shooter knows that good melee animations can really heighten both the immersion and the excitement of gameplay. Case in point, the recently released Wolfenstein: The New Order featured melee combat that was simple, but also pulse-poundingly visceral - seriously just check out the video.
While cheap melee attacks aren't a deal breaker, they can go a long way towards making a player feel like a total bada** and subsequently extend the amount of time you want to spend in the world. Just sayin'.
Our idea: Easy peasy … just find a game with good melee and steal that sh*t!
Give Us Our Own Space
Not to come down on an MMO for making players, you know, spend time with one another, but the Destiny beta was a little too communal for my tastes. This idea could be in the works for later roll outs (or at later levels), but what I wanted more than anything was a little space for me to hang my hat.
To be clear, I'm advocating more for Mass Effect than Star Wars: Galaxies, which is to say that I'm not necessarily advocating my own planet or even my own fortress (though both would be sick). What I want more than anything is the ability to see the inside of my ship, to walk around the place, look out the windows, to house trophies, to communicate with other guardians, all that junk. I'd like a little plot of game territory to simply go and be by myself, gain perspective and plan my next assault.
I'm willing to bet the odds are good something like this will happen down the road, most probably as DLC of some kind (fingers crossed). After all, MMO's are known for providing the clubhouse option to players eventually. But I want it now! Sue me, I'm impatient.
Our idea: Lose the efficient "Pick Destination" screen and replace it with the less efficient (but way more immersive) option to dictate orders from the pilot's chair of your ship. When you're done you could get up and head to your personal room to pick your loadout for the next mission or hit the comms to find players willing to follow you into battle.
Let Me Access My Inner Tim Gunn
For those of you who own penises but do not have wives and girlfriends, that's a Project Runway reference … I can hear the crickets chirping now. What this means, more than anything, is that I'd like more say in my character's clothing and armor. I know, you're thinking, "Yeah, dude, you already said you want deeper character customization." Armor is different, though.
The concern about armor is that there's little to distinguish one set from another, at least for low level characters. Hunters and Titans looks pretty indistinguishable from one another, for example, and the only thing to separate a Warlock's aesthetics is their trench coat thing. Even more, players have seemingly no control over the color of their clothing or any of its physical characteristics.
It's entirely possible (dare I say it even extremely plausible) that the higher your character ascends, the more unique clothing (and more clothing options) they'll receive, which is nice, and not just from an aesthetic standpoint. From a gameplay standpoint, knowing which characters around you are whatever class can substantially impact your battlefield tactics.
Honestly, though, for this writer, it's more about standing apart from the crowd. I want clothing that is reflective of my character and my personality, and right now, Destiny simply isn't offering the variation that I was hoping for.
Our idea: It's inconceivable to suggest devs might let us have design input on our armor, but creating lots of variations on armor with essentially the same stats would be cool, as would allowing players to transfer the stats of one piece of collected loot to another piece. That would allow players to keep armor or weapons they found aesthetically appealing without worrying about their cool-looking gear eventually being useless.
Give Us More Hubs
From a plot standpoint, I completely understand Bungie went with only one central Hub. For those who missed the plot of Destiny, it's essentially this: you live in the neighborhood of the last human city on Earth, and all around you are nasty things that want to mangle you. So, in the world of Destiny, there really is only one truly safe place, and that's the Tower. I get it. But it's still boring.
The Tower itself is well built. It's got enough stuff to do, it's logically laid out, everything you need for what will ultimately amount to the game's central marketplace. The downside here is the Tower got dull even over the course of the four hours of gameplay featured in the Beta. I can't even imagine how boring it would get over the hundred or so hours gamers are expected to spend fighting the Darkness.
More than that, little pockets of safety and civilization scattered throughout Destiny's universe would lend the solar system a more lived-in feel, increasing a player's immersion and intensifying their connection to the universe as a whole.
Our idea: Lots of small hubs of varying importance and location. How could would it be if every planet had their own marketplace, or if individual instanced areas had their own real-time commerce stops (complete with NPC's who aren't determined to shoot your face off). Not only would these help you avoid heading back to the tower because you forgot to have an engram decoded (every. time.), but they'd make the world as a whole seem more real.
Destiny has plenty of weapons, more than enough for players of all different types to find something they like. It's not Borderlands-level intense, but then again Destiny has more to offer players than just a big arsenal and lots of things to shoot. That said, players could always use more loot.
Again, I'm not advocating for a Borderlands-style tidal wave of incoming junk. That would create an inventory nightmare. What I'd like is simply a few more options.
At this point, loot drops are pretty scarce. When battling through a dungeon, you might see an additional piece of armor or a shiny new gun before you reach the end, but you'll rarely see both at once. Even more, most loot is handed out as a mission completion award. That might make it harder to miss potentially good finds, true, but it also makes the loot distribution seem woefully controlled.
That feeling that the Devs have their hands firmly controlling my avatar's progression seriously diminishes the fun. When Destiny was first announced, choice was one of the most hyped aspects of the game. Loot is a part of being able to make choices. We need enough armor and weaponry to choose between in order for that choice to really mean anything to gamer.
Our idea: Rip off Skyrim and give us a nice, juicy end-of-dungeon treasure chest, rather than just tacking on new items in the mission completion screen.