The Destiny beta is alive and well in the land of Microsoft — a day early no less! What a nice parting gift for all those pre-Activision Bungie fans out there.
The colors are vibrant, the visuals are fantastic, the gunplay is fun and floaty, the music is astounding — it seems like it'll be a great world to spend countless hours in come September.
Yet, something kept hinting at me the three or so hours I played last night in between episodes of Hannibal. I felt like I had played it before but not in a first-person shooter kind of way. There were musings and notes underneath it all, like a classical composition or surrealism vs. new realism. You could feel it, but you couldn't point at it.
Let's just say if it didn't seem obvious Blizzard and Bungie had a few discussions around the ol' Activision watercooler, it seems pretty obvious now.
Based on the beta, it's World of Warcraft. Destiny is World of Warcraft, with a pinch of Diablo in the mix for flavor and festiveness.
The quest structure, the skill platforms, the dungeon organization — Destiny was a game built to taste and smell like, but not be an imitation of, a player-versus-environment MMORPG.
Calling it a "shared-world shooter" is not giving it the proper justice it deserves.
The story quests move fast and frenetically from point to point. Do this, collect this, investigate this — boom, boom, boom. They move quickly in smaller, more digestible chunks, as with World of Warcraft's quest model. Kill five penguins, collect penguin pelts, make penguin mask — one after the other in succession. Level up!
WOW hooks you in the same way Civilization hooks you. Just one more quest. This one's short, I'll get that weapon upgrade in no time. Destiny provides an extremely similar and gratifying completion experience.
Secondary quests are done in a novel way, allowing you to choose a specific place you've already completed the story missions of and search for beacons within it, giving you the chance to roam whatever area you want. Find new things! Search for stuff! Leading to:
Customizable mounts. Fast travel between lands. Think of each planet in Destiny as a land in Warcraft, the dungeons being the missions you find yourself grouped into with other players. There are primary bosses, secondary bosses. Some provide exceptional loot, others provide good experience.
There are levels assigned to each dungeon showing the difficulty of them. There's also heroic versions of each dungeon that up the difficulty for more veteran players looking for better loot. You can also jump in the queue for a multiplayer Battleground if that's your thing. In all cases:
Here's where things get a bit away from Warcraft. You get new items for completing quests, sure, as well as missions, and you can use your class vanguard like a WOW Battleground vendor, allowing for special items purchased through Honor Points, I mean "Glimmer" and "Vanguard Marks," but Destiny likens much more to Diablo than Borderlands in the loot aspect.
For example, I sincerely hope they introduce a tome of identify in Destiny so I don't have to keep talking to Deckard Cain to get my unknown items identified. There was no item identification requiring scrolls of town portal in Borderlands. Destiny, however, requires an extended trip back to the Tower from wherever you were in the universe to identify your items.
Also, the plethora of items being dropped in Borderlands is leaps and bounds above the extremely lowered amount of loot in Destiny. I think I've found two chests in all of explorable Russia? Unlike Borderlands, where there were more chests than enemies.
Tank, ranged, DPS. Warrior, Mage, Hunter — Titan, Warlock, Hunter. All this is old hat at this point, but it still counts.
Conclusion Fusion, Disillusion
I never expected so much MMORPG in my FPS, FPS in my MMORPG — not that I'm complaining. I love a little peanut butter in my chocolate, after all.
Putting skills and talents and special moves is part of the landscape for larger, more sandbox-esque games today. Any FPS with any skills that can be upgraded automatically is labeled with RPG tendencies, but an RPG can be much more than upgraded skills, in the same way that a FPS can be much more than EXPLOSIONS.
Bungie doesn't want to label Destiny a MMORPG. I get that. It's not technically a MMORPG, but it is. Calling it a "shared-world shooter" makes it sound like you can't save random people running around from other enemies, but you can, or join in large fights with the environment, which you do. It's like "synergy" in the '80s and '90s. It's a buzzword that means "work well with others."
I'm pretty sure "shared-world shooter" is a buzzword that means "FPS MMORPG."