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Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

How can an Alpha build be this polished?

We've been waiting for a long time to get our hands on Destiny. There's been a lot of rumours floating about surrounding what type of game Destiny actually is. Is it an exploration-based first-person shooter? Is it an MMO? Is it a co-op sci-fi adventure?

The answer is, Destiny is all of these things wrapped up in a very beautiful Halo-tinged aesthetic.

The First-Look Alpha loads up and throws you straight in to one of the single-player/co-op story missions. You're dropped off in the Russian Steppes location that Bungie has chosen for the Alpha and your mission is to locate and scout out the Skywatch which was housed in an abandoned communications centre in the Cosmodrome area of the Steppe. Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

This location is beautiful. There's a kind of fine dust in the air which gives a post-nuclear winter feel to the area and the backdrop is a host of tall platforms which were used in the game's ancient history to launch fleets of exploration and colonisation ships. One, which looks like a massive space shuttle of sorts is still rusting away on its launch pad.

Surrounding you are some fantastic vistas of dilapidated abandoned facilities that have a haunting sense of a civilization long lost. These ruins aren't totally abandoned as it turns out and you get your first taste of combat fighting against the Fallen, just one of the enemy races that you will fight in Destiny. The Fallen are scavengers and are all over the Cosmodrome area picking it clean of anything valuable.

The basic combat is smooth and feels very much like an improvement on Bungie's Halo games. The weaponry you have to start with feels a bit more substantial than those found in Halo, although which weapons you begin with depends entirely on which of the game's three classes you have chosen to play as.

I chose the Warlock, who has a range of assault powers that include the very effective Vortex Grenade which sucks in enemies around it as well as causing some decent damage and the Nova Bomb Super ability which is just devastating especially on enemies clustered together. Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

Movement is smooth and the visuals are incredibly polished for an alpha build of the game.

As the mission progresses you get introduced to one of Destiny's other enemy races, The Hive. Where the Fallen are very much a race of scavengers The Hive feels more like a sci-fi version of the undead with Thralls answering to Acolytes and ultimately to the boss of this short story mission a Wizard.

This is a great start for Destiny. It throws you right into the action in an excellenly structured way that teaches you how to playe without actually going to the trouble of building a dedicated tutorial.

After exploring the Skywatch you're taken off-world and introduced to The Tower, Destiny's social and commercial hub. This is the only part of the game that is navigated in third-person but it is rendered every bit as exquisitely as the rest of the game. The Tower is home of the Guardians, who protect mankind and you can get all kinds of gear from your upgrades to your spacecraft or Sparrow hoverbike as well as weapons and armour. Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

Jumping back into the game and there are two options. There is the Devil's Lair Strike [gameplay video above] which is Destiny's answer to raids. These have the option of two difficulty levels although choosing Legend, the tougher of the two presents a mighty challenge even if you have a full three-person fireteam.

Then there's the Cosmodrome free-roam play. It feels almost like Borderlands here but with other players doing their own thing as well as your own co-op fireteam of up to three people. This post-apocalyptic world is ripe for explroation and there is plenty of loot and Glimmer, Destiny's currency to be had for the more adventurous gamers out there.

There are also mission beacons dotted around the environment, which is massive an, again wonderfully rendered. These missions automatically complete when you fulfil the goals so there's none of this reporting back to someone at The Tower once you've done. This makes a welcome and refreshing change from the usual slog of questing in traditional MMOs.

Wandering around the ruins of civilization it's hard not to become awe-struck at just how detailed the world is that Bungie has created. Each ruin, every room tells a story of a time when mankind was reaching out to the stars with optimism and a pioneering spirit. Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

Don't stop to appreciate the view for too long as Fallen dropships patrol the area refreshing the patrols that you may have taken out along the way.

As well as encountering other players taking on and Fallen or Hive they encounter you may even come across the two factions battling it out against each other.

It's worth mentioning the AI at this point as, even in this rough state it feels quite natural. Should you fail to take down an enemy they will take cover and wait for you to attack. If they possess superior numbers they'll rush you and overwhelm you and this is a very dangerous situation to be in especially seeing as your fireteam will almost always be outnumbered.

Random events also occur in explore mode with more powerful enemy characters and even heavy vehicles appearing for you to try and take down within a specific time frame. These encounters work best if you have a couple of friends with you as they can prove exceptionally tough to handle alone especially if confronted by an enemy armoured vehicle. They're usually accompanied by a fair number of soldiers as well making each encounter a hard-fought battle. Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part One

This Alpha snippet of Destiny is huge, easily as big as two or three Borderlands locations and we can expect much more the game as the studio has revealed that that this build offers less than ten percent of the final game.

Wandering around the Cosmodrome you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was the finished version of Destiny you were playing. It is so well polished there are very few bugs especially on the visual side of things. It's smooth and very compelling and has plenty to offer fans of single-player, co-op and MMO gaming. If it's this much fun and as well polished now we can only imagine how good Destiny will be come September.

This concludes our impressions of the single-player/co-op elements of Destiny. Next time out we'll have a look at the PvP. 

Part two of this article is now over here.