Destiny First-Look Alpha Impressions - Part Two
This is the second part of a two part article, the first is over here.
Competitive multiplayer is deeply engrained in Destiny's DNA. Bungie has built their reputation (and indeed that of Xbox Live) with the addictive online multiplayer modes of the Halo series and so we always expected something special when it comes to pitting player against player in Destiny.
Destiny's PvP mode takes the form of the Crucible, a training ground for Guardians to train and hone their combat skills before they venture out into the myriad of exploration zones that the game will feature spread across Earth, the Moon, Mars and Venus.
Bungie has been cautious though with Destiny's head-to-head multiplayer. Ever-aware of some multiplayer-fans tendencies to completely enschew any kind of single-player gameplay and jump straight into PvP and so they've limited access to players who've spent a decent amount of time exploring Destiny's universe first. You will need to reach about level six in the exploration and story aspects of Destiny to unlock all of the abilities necessary to play in the Crucible.
This actually makes sense and underlines a more symbiotic relationship that Destiny has between its story and exploration elements and its PvP gameplay. Players need to have unlocked all of their base abilities to fight in the Crucible.
Once they do get in though they can then level up their skills and weaponry by making full use of them in the Crucible, a dynamic that then feeds back better abilities and weaponry for use in the story and exploration modes.
Bungie have also emphasised that skill is the primary focus of the Crucible and so they disable all level bonuses for powers and health effectively levelling the playing field between experienced players who have invested a lot of time in Destiny's exploration mode and newer and more casual players. It's a nice touch and it works surprisingly well given that this is an alpha build that we're playing.
At it's most basic level the Crucible plays like a cross between Halo and Battlefield. Bungie's unique visual style defined how Halo looked and there are plenty of nods to their heritage in teh multiplayer gameplay of Destiny. The jump-pack double-jump is very evokative of Halo's finer moments but the weaponry and abilities have much more heft than they do in Halo.
The gameplay mode on show in the alpha is borrowed directly from Battlefield's playbook though. It follows a Conquest template with two teams battling over three strategic points. The more points your team controls the more points you earn for kills and assists. The team with the most points at the end of the round wins.
There are two maps as well which emphasize Destiny's capabilites very clearly. The map set on the Moon is very open, with a derelict facility as its centrepiece. The strategic points are placed evenly around the facility.
There are also vehicles in this mode and while it's only six-versus-six as opposed to Battlefield 4's insane 32-player battles the map is the right size to offer a good balance of combat and the action always seems much closer than it does in Battlefield 4.
The map set in the Cosmodrome region on Earth is a different proposition. It's based in an area of the rusty ruins much like the area that players can explore in the games other modes. This is a much tighter map with no vehicles and the gameplay is more comparable to Battlefield's Domination mode in style. The pace is a bit quicker here and it also draws comparisons from the later Call Of Duty games in this respect.
Both maps offer some entertaining battles and Bungie has worked very hard to minimize the extent to which players can camp, especially in the tighter map on Earth, and this creates a very natural-feeling flow to multiplayer matches. It's important to stress that, while there are definitely elements of Destiny's multiplayer that are inspired by other games like Halo and Battlefield that way Bungie has combined the elements and tweaked them together is creates a multiplayer environment that is unique to Destiny.
It's worth noting that Destiny's PvP does not use a loadout system like other multiplayer games. Aside from the classes that players pick when creating their characters -Titan, Hunter or Warlock – there's very little rigidity to how players can play.
Each class may be limited to the kind of weapons that they can carry and what their abilities are but when in a multiplayer match players can freely jump into their inventory and switch out weaponry just as they would in exploration mode. What's more, they don't need to respawn in order to do this which is intensely refreshing and helps Destiny's PvP retain its flow much more nicely.
I can honestly say that Destiny is one of the most enjoyable PvP experiences I've ever had. It's incredibly polished for an alpha build and Bungie seems to have learned a lot of very important lessons, not only from time spent developing five games in the Halo series, but from other developers experiments and mis-steps too.
Bungie really has something special here if the alpha is any fair indication and come September the 9th it will be very hard for others to match Destiny's incredibly well-constructed balance between single, co-op and multiplayer experiences.
Destiny is due out on the PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on September the 9th.