Not an MMO (according to me) - aka the Destiny Beta
I'm not the biggest fan of MMOs on the planet, especially MMOs that you have to pay to play. I got to around 16th level in World of Warcraft before any expansion ever existed and managed to finish Guild Wars. I dived a bit into Guild Wars 2 and I am tentatively looking at EverQuest Next.
So when Bungie revealed Destiny... I admit I did my little eye-roll at the thought of a shooter MMO and dismissed it. This was a mistake, to dismiss Destiny is to dismiss the kind of fun, wide-eyed feeling that I got when I first booted up Halo on the old chunky Xbox back in the day.
My biggest mistake though was to think of Destiny like an MMO, because it's not really an MMO. Destiny is very much a shared-experience shooter. Using some MMO mechanics to plunge the player into a populated world that feels very much like an epic science fiction tale with a cast of thousands - though you won't see the other players in massive numbers unless you hit a Public Event.
It has instances and so on, guilds and all those things that seem to define an MMO for people... but it doesn't feel like an MMO.
Bungie have said as much too when speaking to Gamespot, "Not at all. Do you guys ever get tired of us insisting it's not an MMO? Debate about this game is always fun, and we welcome it," Bungie said. "The ideas that are shaping Destiny come from a lot of different places. We're drawing the best elements from experiences we love. Like an MMO, our game will compel you to explore."
"You'll embody a character that evolves on that journey. Unlike an MMO, the entire experience is built around heart-pounding action that you'll see through the eyes of your hero," Bungie went on. "Ultimately, we're looking forward to knowing how you describe Destiny, once you've played it."
Rather like Journey then, Destiny pops a few players into your current area as you explore and you can interact how you see fit. You can follow them, wave, dance, point and sit in groups with them. Or you can help them blast the Fallen (Destiny's enemies) into glowing death and get a sense of accomplishment that's rare to find in a modern multiplayer shooter. It's these moment-to-moment chance meetings that offer the most fun in Destiny I've found.
I've met a female Warlock, who I joined for a while to blast some Fallen near the first large area. We celebrated the victory with a dance, and more people came and danced. Then we blasted some more things... it was immense fun. I've been involved in numerous Public Events where we've defended Warsats, stopped Extraction teams and even faced the massive Fallen Walker together.
The sense of comradeship and balance is pretty amazing in Destiny, you never really feel outgunned or outclassed by your opponents and you certainly don't feel outclassed by your peers. I've met so many new people in Destiny, people who I might never see again thanks to the way the matchmaking works seamlessly in the background.
I've had a few Fireteam invites too (1-3 players in the missions) and larger groups in the open world areas.
I've had FUN and it's that sense of fun that pervaded the Destiny beta, it's that sense of fun that convinced me that Destiny is something pretty damn special and it shouldn't be overlooked just because it's a shooter and has MMO style tricks up its sleeve. I'd rather see one Destiny than another 101 Call of Duty clones!
Destiny remained fun for me after I'd hit the beta's level 8 cap too, I found myself levelling my skill tree, getting new weapons and earning cash (Glimmer). But more importantly I found myself looking at low level players, not as annoying newbies, but as fellow Guardians and it was my duty to support my Guardian peers in their battle to save the Earth. So I roamed the early areas as a lone wolf, my Titan swooping in to revive a fallen Guardian and help them against some tougher enemies...
I didn't feel like a shooter god either, since Destiny's balance systems are always active, it's always possible to get nailed by a critical hit even at level 8 by a lowly Fallen Dreg. You're always thinking tactically in this game, and I love it. I wiled away hours just supporting random people and in turn being supported by them, we'd wave, we'd dance, we'd blast the bad guys and then drift off. Sometimes a lower level player would stick by me, and I'd lead them to a group of enemies or a secret or two I'd discovered in my time with the beta.
No other game has fostered this kind of feeling from me and I loved it.
Destiny is so fun to play, the shooting mechanics are spot on, the levelling feels interesting and you don't have a complicated skill tree or power set to manage. Everything is super accessible and simple enough for a new player to jump right in. You get a meaningful set of loot drops and unlike Diablo where you're constantly recycling weapons and armour, Destiny offers you a chance to settle down with a set of gear for a while until you gain a few levels and push deeper into the story.
Then there are the additional abilities that are baked into the weapons and armour, abilities unlocked by experience and glimmer. You get a new sniper rifle, it's got a slew of things you can earn and buy for it, so you use that rifle until you unlock that new scope or upgrade. You'll find that the way Destiny balances the power level of bad guys and your weapons, you'll be using that new sniper rifle with its shiny additions for a while.
You have lots to do in Destiny too, not only is there an epic sci-fi story in the game that you can play with up to 2 friends. There are explore areas that repopulate the map with enemies, different challenges and fun activities that help you level and earn loot/glimmer. There are Strikes, big badass maps that challenge you to play well together.
Public Events bring lots of players together with one common goal.
You have the Tower, where the social hub of the game is. Here you can meet other players, form into Fireteams if you have an open policy and get new gear, rewards, new ship skins and even more. You can take out bounties to help your experience score rise, and play in the Crucible. Destiny's Halo-esque multiplayer offering.
The Crucible is pretty fun, but I am not really an adversarial multiplayer kind of guy, so I went right back into the explore zone and blasted stuff with other people.
Co-op is my wheelhouse.
All in all Destiny's beta did its job perfectly, it introduced me to 3 distinct classes, 3 races, a slew of great sci-fi moments and a host of people I never even talked to. Rather like Journey it was obvious that players had created their own language of emotion via the in-game emotes. It became easy to learn this new language and join in the fun even though we never exchanged a single word over the headset.
You might have noticed that I haven't raved about the graphics, it's not a review. But I can tell you this, it's smooth, it looks gorgeous on the Xbox One and there are some truly beautiful vistas to explore.
I can't wait for the game's launch and I am really looking forward to exploring this world with other Guardians on Xbox One come September.
/me dances with you all...
Or I would if Destiny was out, I miss the beta already.
Update: People have asked me about the size of the game map, it's pretty big... the Cosmodrome is made up of lots of interconnected areas and thusly you can unlock a neat little speeder bike style vehicle called a: Sparrow. The Sparrow is fun to ride/drive and goes at a fair rate of speed.
You also have a personal space ship for flying around from location to location.