Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Road to Destiny... Pt.4: The Crucible - PvP

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will come to Rule. And Own. But not Teabag.

The Beta is near, and after showing you some of the Alpha's Solo and Co-Op Activities in my last post, let's take a look at the Competitive Multiplayer:

"The Crucible": It's Player-versus-Player Warfare - Train for the "Fight for the Light" by shooting other people that Fight for the Light. It totally makes sense.

Then again, PvP never had to make sense. It's about the friendly, competitive challenge that engaging another human-controlled player inevitably comes with. It's definitely not about owning people, or tea-bagging them into rage-quitting. Thing to note here: No corpses in Destiny - No Tea-Bagging. All that's left after a kill is a lone Ghost, one of each Guardians' floating robotic helpers - you might even be able to get revived, although that never happened in the Alpha to my knowledge.

Yes, you play with your own Guardian, with your own weapons, your own gear. No more Red vs. Blue. You also have access to your full inventory, and can change gear, weapons and even class ability upgrades at any time during the match. But don't you worry about high-level players having access to much better gear. Destiny is not Battlefield, after all. "Level Advantages (like higher Damage or better Protection from high Level Gear are) Disabled".

In short, this means, that in The Crucible, a level 20 gun will do the same basic damage as a level 1 gun, while level 1 Head Armor will offer the same protection as its level 20 counterpart. It's a very nice way to level the playing field, while still retaining your individual play-style preferences.

Now, there are small differences, since the bonus stats of Uncommon and Rarer Gear are still in effect, and weapon upgrades, like scopes, that are unlocked by using a single weapon quite a lot, can give the more experienced player slight advantages. But if there's one thing Bungie is good at, it's matchmaking - something we've had to experience in the steep decline of match-making from Halo Reach (Bungie) to Halo 4 (343 Studios) - so the chances of level 20s battling level 5s are pretty slim.
As to what game modes will be available, the Alpha only had one ("Control" certain static areas on the map and kill enemies for points), but teased with icons of at least 5 more. One can safely assume that the (sad) staple of FPS Player-vs-Player "Team Deathmatch" will be present. Possibly there might be a "Free-for-All" Everyone kills Everyone game mode, as well. Hell, if Halo is any indication, two of the other icons may even just be "Big Team" Versions of Control and TDM, increasing the usual 6v6 into 12v12. 

Something I am personally hoping for, is a mode that combines different game modes, like Killzone's Warzones or Ghost Recon Future Soldier's Conflict. Control was a lot of fun, but I like variety plus fun even better.

The two Maps in the Alpha were called "Rust Lands" - a relatively small, no-vehicle map in a dilapidated industry/warehouse area on Earth - and "First Light" - a bigger map, with both spawning offensive vehicles and use of your own speed bike, plus several threatening turrets on the Moon's surface.

The gameplay on each map differed accordingly, but take a look for yourself in the video montages below.

And before anyone worries, I am, at best, mediocre in PvP, yet I never really felt helpless, nor frustrated. And best of all: (almost) no more Bunny-Hopping. If you ever played Halo games, you will be familiar with the concept of simply hopping everywhere. Thankfully, with the new double jump feature, that was almost completely absent from MP. In the 20 or so matches I played, I saw a single guy hopping up and down behind some cover.

And there you have it. All the things you could do... in the ALPHA. Yes, all caps. It deserves it. There were full Xbox 360 and PS3 games that had less content (Homefront, anyone?). If the Alpha is just a part of what the full game will have to offer, I honestly cannot wait for September.
So... you know. Wake me up, when September comes...

Seriously, though, Destiny is shaping up very nicely, indeed. If you get a chance to pre-order, see for yourself in the upcoming Beta, starting July 17th on PS3 and PS4, and the end of July on Xbox One, Xbox 360.

This marks the end of my four-part Destiny Blog Series. If you missed one, click the following links to get touched by the Light (ooohhh, that sounds dirty!):

Part 1: Destiny - First Look Alpha Impressions
Part 2: Destiny - Who you are and where you gather...
Part 3: Destiny - Things to do, Things to Kill...

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere... 

The Road to Destiny... Pt.3: Things to do, Things to kill...

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will come back to. Again and again. Because (possibly), there's just so much to do.

With the setup, races and the social hub explained in my previous post, let's look at some of Destiny's activities showcased in the Alpha (apparently that's what you call game modes or missions, now, because we're not playing video games, oh no, we're "engaging in social activities").
And "engaging" surely is the word, since most of what you do is about either "engaging" other characters (violently), or preparing to engage other characters (violently). Oh, yes, you can also chat and dance and mess around, buy stuff and upgrade stuff, but Destiny is a First Person Shooter - so saying it's mostly about shooting things, albeit in a very "social" spirit, is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Now, as I said in "that other post", you launch your "activities" from orbit.  the Leader triggered his exit into Orbit, you automatically came along. The Alpha featured Four, Three "Campaign" Activities for Solo and Co-Op Play, and The Crucible, Destinies Player vs. Player Action (the latter of which will not be included here, but be looked at in the next post, specifically):

"The Dark Within" - Story Mission: Find out what the Fallen are hiding at Skywatch, part of the old Russian Cosmodrome. 

A pretty straight-forward Mission of "Go, Look, Kill" from early in the game. Fun, but nothing special. Good, creepy atmosphere, though. Playable with up to three players.

"The Devil's Lair" - Strike Mission: Deep within the Cosmodrome, a powerful evil Servitor is up to equally evil Shenanigans. Go and stab the evil Cyclops in its eye! (creative license, people!)
A Co-Op Side-Mission (Strike) that is so much better than the Story Mission, simply because it's bigger, longer and features three nice set-piece encounters: a "Survive the Enemy Waves" and two nice boss fights. Recommended to be played with the maximum three players, unless you're hopelessly overlevelled for it. 

Now, both of the Alpha's Mission Types, Story Missions and Strike Missions (and, I guess, the "Raid" Missions not present in the Alpha, all of which can be replayed) featured two Difficulties: Base and Legend. Legend (possibly an allusion to Halo's "Legendary" difficulty, who knows?) ramps up enemy level, HP, armor and damage (all of which was already said by "ramps up enemy level").
The game even tries to show you if you are prepared for it, by giving you "effectiveness percentages" of your currently equipped gear.
It's as confusing as it sounds - until you understand that the game is not lowering (red) or raising (green) your gear effectiveness by the stated percentage, just that it's better or worse than what the game deems necessary for the challenge. 
To illustrate, playing the Story Mission on Base with my low-level starting character, I didn't die once. Playing it again on Legend (which switched the Mission Level from 3 to 6) with a slightly better character, I died a lot - and felt like I was not doing much damage, to boot.

"Explore the Cosmodrome": Take a look around, see what you can find and/or kill. This time, nobody will tell you where to go.
Well, until you accept one of the myriad (and, to be cruelly honest, for the most part dreadfully boring and monotonous) Patrol Missions you can find in the wild via Beacons, that tell you to "Go and kill" or "Go and Look". Bungie did state on their website, however, that the Alpha featured content they would never let the game ship with, so I dearly hope for better and more diverse Patrol Mission in the full game (or even already in the Beta).

Here's some non-commentary footage to give you a bit of the sense and scope of the Alpha's Free Roam Exploration:

Basically, you run or speed-bike around the huge (HUGE) Cosmodrome area (I'd say about a good two to three times as big as the bigger areas in Borderlands 2 - and that's just the part of the area you had access to), kill the constantly respawning enemies, look for loot in little nooks, crannies and caves, take a few Patrol Missions, and maybe get lucky and trigger a Public Event. 

Public Events, as the name suggests, are public... well, events. Mini-Boss fights, Defend-and-Survive Missions, stuff like that. They're not easy, especially with a lower level, but the rewards are big, too. You even get some (considerably smaller) reward, for just competing. And, presumably, anyone in the area can join in - should it happen in their instance of the game. Exploration will already invariably have you meeting strangers in "your" game world, other players that do other stuff. You can help them, join up with them, or just ignore them - the choice is yours (but remember those Orbs of Light!).
Together we guard against the Darkness!

Well, that's the things you could do in the Alpha by yourself or in cooperation with others. In my next post, I will look at The Crucible PvP - and all the things you can do UNTO others :)

For Part 4 of my Destiny Blog-Series, click here: Destiny - The Crucible PvP

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...  

The Road to Destiny... Pt.2: Who you are and where you gather...

The Future. Touched by the Light of The Traveler, we have braved the Stars. But an ancient Darkness is coming to end us all...

Destiny...The Place you will end up. Whoever you are...

With more and more info constantly dropping on Destiny (like the Trophy/Achievement list), and the Beta, only two weeks away (on Playstation, a bit longer sadly on Xbox), expected to present many more people with a bigger part of the game, let's take another look at what the Alpha already showed us. And let us being with the setup, and the social stuff:

The Races and Classes:

Destiny features three Races:
Human, Awoken (who may or may not be Alien-Human-Hybrids) and Exos (who may be Sentient Robots or things wearing a robot-like Exo-Skeleton that makes them look like Sentient Robots).
Both genders are featured for each race, but the races, and their numerous customization features themselves, are only cosmetic in nature - and differ in their dance moves. Those features are quite extensive, with different faces, hair, colors for everything, and even the, almost obligatory by now, Face Paint. Or Tattoos. Or maybe the Exos have Etchings. Or something.

It's not as deep as other games', bu it is still quite fun to create your character. And the chances that you will see someone running the exact same face are really not that high.

The Three Classes, on the other hand, that's where the RPG elements come in. Each Class has different abilities (double-jumps, melee attacks, grenades and "super powers") and different basic stats: The Titan has more armor, but is slower, the Hunter has less armor, but moves faster, while the Warlock can recover from injuries much quicker.

Each Class has its own Ability tree, with additional abilities and ability upgrades to unlock, and it works (or worked in the alpha) by leveling up, then using the ability to upgrade it. Upgrades were not of the passive, permanent variety, though. To explain, once you gain the ability to double-jump, you will eventually unlock three different upgrades (more distance, more speed, more control in the air, etc) but only one upgrade could be applied at a time.

The most "interesting" ability are of course the "Super Powers" - Supers, in short. Once you unlock it, you charge the ability by killing enemies or just waiting for a long time (in the Campaign), or generally earning points (in "The Crucible" Multiplayer). But since Destiny is all about working together with your fellow Guardians, those life forms touched by "The Light" and chosen to fight against "The Dark" (yeah, it`s quite original) in a semi-Utopian Future, there is one more way to quickly charge your Super: Wait for someone else to use his and be effective with it. 
Every time you successfully end an enemy's existence with your super, you will generate "Orbs of Light". These pick-ups are not for you, but for every other Guardian on your team (which are all Guardians during the Campaign, but only your, well, team, in The Crucible). It's a small, but very clever way to encourage sticking and playing together.
When you are "Super Charged" - little, cute side note: the Super Charge Bar turns yellow, when filled; and so does your PS4 controller's LED light - each class can unleash it's own special brand of "Super". There are actually two different Supers per class, but in the Alpha you only had access to the first due to the Level Cap.

The Titan's Super "Fist of Havoc" has him slamming down his fists in good old "Hulk SMASH!" style to obliterate anything around him. His second Super, not unlockable for the Alpha, will see him create a bubble shield around him.
The Warlock's "Nova Blast" sees him jumping into the air, then firing an arcing"artillery" shot at what he's aiming at, similarly obliterating anything around the point of impact. The second Super, which we didn't see, "boosts the effectiveness of all his abilities" by infusing your Warlock with the Power of The Light. Whatever that means.
The Hunter's "Golden Gun" is a bit more difficult to use, but it offers you three extremely powerful shots from a Golden Handgun - powerful enough, to kill any enemy in Multiplayer with one shot. The Hunter's second Super, "Bladedancer" seems to also infuse him with light, but that light allows you to run around really fast and stab people to death. 
And I will unashamedly admit, that I very much dread this one, because it so eerily reminds me of "Marathon-Lightweight-Commando with the Tactical Knife", the most annoying thing to ever come out of Call of Duty.

Some might already have seen this vid in my first Destiny Alpha post, but it shows the three classes and races in Campaign Action (albeit only the female of each, but they are known to be the more deadly, anyway):

The Tower:

The Social Center or "Hub" is called "The Tower". And lo and behold, there is a tower at its center. The Tower is where you go to purchase weapons and new gear, decode "Engrams" (i.e. Blueprints) for weapons and new gear you looted from fallen enemies, upgrade your jump ship, your speeder bike, and much more.

Gear and weapons, as you might expect, will play a central role. The better the gear, the better the... well, gear, but better gear also comes with bonus perks, like faster reloads, more ammo, or quicker recharge of your abilities. The Tower also features a Vault, through which you can share your equipment between characters - and thankfully, it has 20 slots each for Armor, Weapons and Resources. Take that, Clap-Trap Vault. Presumably, you will also get missions here (more than just the "Do this and get stuff for it"-Bounties), enroll in a faction for PvP for more access to different gear, get mail (whatever that means), and possibly even more stuff. Or just... well, you know. Be social. (And please excuse the commentary.)

The social aspects still seemed a bit stunted, with emotes and chatting with strangers apparently the only option you had, but the Alpha really only showed a small part of what we expect to see and have available for us in the full game. And let's be honest, that whole social MMO thing is still pretty new on consoles. Console players lack the ease of impersonal communication a keyboard provides - and who wants to start chatting with some squeaky 10-year old, by mistake?
One thing you couldn't do from the tower was launch a mission. Which was weird, and, coupled with the pretty long load times, a bit aggravating. No, to launch a mission - sorry, an "activity", you had to go into Orbit. At least, if you had joined a "Fireteam" (.i.e. Party), once the Leader triggered his exit into Orbit, you automatically came along.
From Orbit, in your nifty Jump Ship, you could launch your activities -  or first gather friends, and then launch your activities.

On which I will expand (copiously) in the next posts :)

For Part 3 of my Destiny Blog Series, click here: Destiny - Things to do, Things to Kill...

For all your Playstation or Xbox or PC Gaming needs, especially the European needs, head over to Amazon UK - best deals in Europe (mostly). For TV or Movie Streaming needs, as well. Yes, I do buy there myself. Exclusively. Unless I find a better deal, elsewhere...