Bungie held a PS4-exclusive Destiny alpha test this weekend. This vertical slice of the game gave us a glimpse at the competitive and cooperative sides of the shared-world shooter. It left me some with big questions, though.
It's not that I disliked the game. Destiny is a gorgeous shooter that deftly mixes open-world exploration, co-op missions and head-to-head multiplayer. The layering of MMO-like progression on top of traditional shooter elements is going to thrill many gamers.
Still, there were some aspects of Destiny that could prevent the game from being one of the top releases of the year.
StoryGames that focus on co-op often don't have strong stories. Developers want players to be able to jump right into the fray with their friends. Cutscenes and dialogue are kept to a minimum. Most of the story is told through voiceover played during the action.
Borderlands 2 is one of the few games that managed to balance storytelling with the demands of co-op. The game accomplished that feat through vivid characters. You rarely met Mr. Torgue or Tiny Tina but they were so funny and over-the-top that they made an impression on you just through their voice messages.
Destiny's characters aren't quite so memorable. Your allies tell you your objectives over the radio and then give you some slight praise on completing them. It's not that the cast isn't any good; the alpha featured voice work from Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage and The Wire's Lance Reddick. The script just doesn't give them anything to do. Dinklage sounds absolutely bored as the player's A.I. companion. A little bit of personality on these characters' parts would have gone a lot way toward making the story feel more human and real.
The game needs strong performances from the supporting cast because the player characters don't contribute at all. Player characters can have a wide range of appearances but they're all mutes. Come to think of it, so are all the enemies.
Destiny's premise is fascinating: mankind is on the brink of destruction and trying to reclaim its former colonies from aliens. However, the story's going to feel lifeless without compelling characters to drive that plot forward.