Destiny is set in the far future. Mankind knew an era of unparalleled peace and prosperity after the arrival of an alien being, the Traveler. He also signaled the arrival of The Darkness, a violent force that signaled the near-extinction of mankind. Now humanity is trapped in The Tower, the last city that the Traveler is capable of protecting. Players take on the role of a Guardian, an ancient human resurrected by the Tower to serve as a protector and save the species from extinction.
Destiny is a shooter designed in the vein of an MMO that has a lot in common with Borderlands. Once you finish the tutorial, you're taken to The Tower, which serves as your social hub and home base. You can buy and sell, get mail, and take quests. Once you leave The Tower, you can go to one of the hubs. So far, only Russia on Old Earth and the Moon have been shown. You have the option to explore these hubs and take on side-quests or take on story quests. Finishing quests rewards you with experience points, money and loot, which you can use to tackle harder quests.
An important thing to note is that Destiny is a shared-world shooter. Other players show up in the world, even when you're on story quests, and things don't stop just because you're trying to take down a bad guy. I'd often find other players going on similar quests. Sometimes we'd take on enemies together, and other times, we'd split up after a brief meeting. During one story quest, I ran into a special event boss, and every player in the area was summoned to help take it down. Some could have ignored it, but working together offered the potential for significant rewards. Players don't seem to be able to directly interfere in each other's quests, but you can be saved from a bad situation by the sudden appearance of another player, and that lends a lot of excitement to the experience. There are also special bosses and areas designed to be taken on by a fire team of multiple players — or multiple fire teams. You can form teams with friends or random players to take on these types of events.
Players can choose from one of three classes: Hunter, Titan and Warlock. Hunters are mid- to long-range fighters and are closest to the rogue archetype. They aren't slouches in melee combat, but they lack the Titan's durability. They have a powerful throwing knife to do melee-style damage from a distance. Their special move is an incredibly powerful golden gun that inflicts a lot of damage but has a limited number of shots. Sneaking up on enemies and using hit-and-run techniques is the name of the game when playing as a Hunter. In the higher-level subclasses, you can choose whether you want to focus on guns or your knife.
Titans are melee fighters, and they have a number of related special abilities, including special passive skills that boost their armor, a leaping smash attack, and a melee attack called the Fist of Storm. Titans want to stay close to their enemies, and they're incredibly satisfying to play. Their heavily melee-oriented style encourages players to stay in the action, punching and shooting things like there's no tomorrow. As Titans progress, they'll need to decide whether to focus on being tank or making their combat brutal and unstoppable.
As you'd imagine, the Warlock is the mage of the three classes. As a Warlock, you can drain health or energy with melee attacks and throw energy bombs. Even your grenades have special effects. The Warlock is the class for those who like to use abilities and pile on bad stats. They can fight with guns as well as the other classes, but the emphasis is on their special abilities. They'll also be able to play a support role with abilities that can assist or heal their allies.
There's no best class in Destiny, as each has strengths and weaknesses. Titans are incredibly fun to play but need to get close to their enemies. This is fine during regular fights but becomes more stressful in boss battles or against other human-controlled opponents. The Warlock was most fun to play when partnering up with teammates. None of the classes seems to need a party; every class can work equally well alone or with other players.
Loot comes in the form of weapons and armor. Among other attributes, armor can give boost a specific ability, increase your ammunition, and provide special defenses. It can even raise your discipline, intellect and strength stats, which in turn increase the cooldown or power of your special abilities. Weapons are similarly specialized. There are regular machine guns; special weapons, like shotguns; and heavy weapons, which include powerful heavy rifles. Stats and abilities can include anything from passive bonuses to elemental damage types. Half of the fun in the game is finding the proper loot and equipment.
For players who prefer it, competitive multiplayer is also an option. Once players finish the early game, they'll unlock the Crucible, which pits players against each other in battles in pre-designated maps. It's a lot closer to a traditional shooter than it is the MMO-styling of the main story. Players can bring in their character from the single-player story, which allows for serious customization. In multiplayer, you earn experience points and rewards that can be used in the single-player campaign. When you win matches against other players, you earn special Crucible Marks and Crucible Reputation, which you can use to unlock equipment.
Destiny is quite possibly the most highly anticipated game of the year, and it's easy to see why. While the concept brings to mind Borderlands, it has a level of polish and Halo-style gameplay that sets it apart from its rivals. While our E3 2014 demos and the beta only provided a taste of Destiny's gameplay, it has left us excited for more. The MMO-style loot collection and fast-paced gunplay are an addictive combination before you even take into account the PvP multiplayer. Destiny will be out on Sept. 9, 2014, for current- and previous-generation PlayStation and Xbox consoles.
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