Posted by Dave Sloan on 00:00, 30/10/2000
| Games, RISC OS, Reviews
|Destiny was produced by Robert Templeman and Robert Alcock. It is acclaimed as the first full 3D walkabout game homegrown on an Acorn computer, other games, such as Doom by RComp, Wolfenstein by Powerslave and Quake by TBA, being ported from the PC market. Being Acorn only has allowed a great Destiny to be designed specifically to suit Acorn machines, PC ports needing a lot of optimisation to re-write complex PC-orientated code. This game had possibly the biggest ever build up on the Acorn gaming newsgroups, and after a series of missed release dates and broken promises, it has finally arrived.|
Destiny comes in a video box, which contains some instructions as to how to begin the game, and the basics of the gameplay. These are well written and informative, and an absolute necessity given the number of keys required to play the game. Installing the game requires a huge 70Mb, of which only 40 is eventually required. The game loads to the icon bar, from where the player can re-define the keys, change the configuration of the game to suit his/her machine and eventually run the game. The interface is fairly user friendly, but, in my opinion, not explained well enough for the simple reviewer to understand first time.
When the game is run, the program informs you to save all work, as it will not quit back to the desktop. Then you are asked for the infamous "Key Disc", a safety precaution to prevent piracy. This is annoying, but seemingly necessary, to ensure that no one cheats an author out of money. Eventually a screen is presented with a menu offering to start a new game, change various options, or load an old game. You are then taken to a lovely menu which employs a clever special effect to fade into view.
|Also, there is now an option to choose between the standard 320x256 resolution (Mode 13 equivalent) and the huge 640x512 resolution. The larger resolution only runs at a playable rate on StrongARM machines, but it is well worth it if you do have a fast machine, as the graphics are vastly improved and the detail on screen is much bigger. This does make the game run a bit slower in the more active areas, but it is aesthetically pleasing to have this degree of detail, as here it produces a large playing area without the aid of a graphics enhancer card.|
When starting a game you must choose a skill level, to determine how well the enemy will fight. To begin with I chose "Practise" which claims to make the game much easier gives you the key codes. This means that even the humble reviewer, who has completed Quake, Doom etc, should be able to finish level 1 first time. Once this has been decided, you are dumped in a corridor with a pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition. Having played Wolfenstein, DIY Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and PC Quake, I found this situation fairly familiar. I took a final look at the instructions, took a quick look at the compass and set off.
On a RiscPC 600, the game now runs at a very playable rate, but on a StrongARM the action is rapid. The old ARM 600 chip managed a respectable 17 fps. To give a relative figure, "smooth" 3D games are supposed to run at about 20fps, 17fps is roughly achieved by DIY Doom on my RPC 600 (on a good day, with a following wind ;-) ). Although the speed may fluctuate in the largest of the scenes, an intelligent update system makes this barely noticiable. The walls are nicely textured, and a good wall rebound routine means that walking into a wall does not stop the player altogther, as you can just brush past them.
|The in game graphics are provided by scaled sprites, as opposed to polygons. This is similar to Doom, unlike Quake. This also means that each object can only have eight different faces, and will not alter with the angle at which it is viewed. The graphics have been re-rendered since the initial review copies and the demo versions, so the appearance has improved dramatically. The graphics are supposedly being updated for a CD-Rom Gold Edition, which should be released in the near future for approximatly 37.50 ukp. Despite this, the game still looks fairly nice overall.|
Aiming the weapons is hard to get used to at first. You do get used to this over time, and when you become accustomed to the keys it is not a problem. Aiming up and down can be done by the cursor keys, which is also very impractical, given that they are far from the default keys. However, the game now features a lovely "mouse-look" option which makes all the turning fast and greatly improves the gameplay. Once you begin to get used to the system, which you can easily do if you give the game a chance, the controlls are very easy to use, and very redefinable.
Although the relevance of the "mouse-look" has been underplayed in the advertising, and whilst the game has been discussed, it has been included, and is a gem. It allows the player not only to change the direction he is looking in, but also how far up/down to look, which is beautifully done, as you get 20-20 vision is 6 directions of face ie you can look in a 360 degree circle around and another circle up and down. This is a feature not employed by Doom, but Quake does make use of it. This adds another dimension to the game, making the game truly 3D, rather than a 2 dimensional imitation.
The first level is very hard, as it took me over an hour to play through it on the easiest mode. This is a pity, as one place that Destiny scores highly over Quake and Doom is that the levels are large and complex. The first level is covered in many parts by water, which makes progress hard, and is likely to put off someone new to this genre of game. A very positive aspect to the game is that you can find a lot of power-ups and extra weaponry on the first level, which allows you to get used to the more powerful weapons. This does detract somewhat from the later levels, as there seems to be nothing new to find after level 2. The sheer size of the levels is a delight, with lots of areas to explore, and lots of enemies to kill.
|The levels are laid out in a very clever manner, and each is very individual. Often I found myself wondering how to progress, and only solving the problem by thinking laterally. For example, on only the second level, I found that I had apparently nowhere left to go, until I noticed a fairly low ledge on one of the buildings. Dropping a mine, jumping above it, and then setting off the mine threw me into the air, and onto the ledge, allowing me to progress and complete the level. The layout of the levels makes for some interesting puzzles, which is, to my knowledge, fairly new to the genre - as Quake and Doom only had token problems to solve.|
The scenery itself is also well done, as the textured walls and floors look very nice, despite the monster graphics being a bit of a let down. The game has a bright atmosphere, and is very open, unlike most other 3D games, which are dark and enclosed. Destiny does have some dark and almost claustrophobic areas, but these are nicely balanced with wide open spaces. The sound effects are a bit of a mixture, with a disappointing "ugh" when you are hurt, yet great weaponry sounds, and realistic explosions. The music by Mirko Vidovic (over 20 tunes) is simple yet pleasing. Though it lacks atmosphere in places, it does add to the game, improving the overall experience.
The enemies are placed fairly well around the levels, although sometimes I bumped into a guy with a plasma gun whilst only holding a pistol. I often found that enemies attack quickly, and some of them are impossible to kill unless you have found a powerful weapon. However the attacking style does make for some interesting situations, as you often have to take on large numbers of enemies in a vast area, which can lead to some fantastic gameplay, attacking the enemies with the beautiful rocket launcher or fast plasma gun, whilst avoiding returned rocket fire. Once you get onto the harder levels, the more advanced AI kicks in. Enemies will begin to stalk you from the moment they see you, and although some of the dinosaurs are not clever enought to work out a route to you, they learn to follow more intelligent enemies to catch you. This is nicely done, as you can be chased across an entire level by an accumulating number of people and dinosaurs.
It is very hard to guess what weapon an enemy has until he has shot at you, which could be useful in the earlier stages as I had to decide whether to attack or run, which is also seemingly unique to Destiny, as with Doom or Quake there are few places where outright carnage does not complete the level. It does make you flex you thinking muscles, but is far less satisfying and makes it quite easy to get yourself ambushed whilst walking around searching for extra equipment. Some enemies are far too powerful, such as the ones wielding bazookas, as one hit will kill the player instantly, with no warning.
|A great positive aspect of the game is the large array of weaponry that is at your disposal, once you find it. Weapons range from a pistol through RPGs and enormous missile launchers to huge mines and mini guns. The latter are very powerful, but hard to use and heavy, slowing progress. The weapons all look good, and work excellently, but the more powerful ones take a lot of getting used to. Proximity mines proved to be fun in performing a variation on Quake style "Rocket Jumps", and I will leave it to you to decide what I should do with "Carribean Bananas"! On a personal note, I believe that the weaponry in this game is second to none, and outclasses Quake or Doom by a long way.|
The use of weaponry is also unrestricted - you can drop huge mines into large clearings, wake up a few guys and the odd dinosaur, then run away, leaving them to stumble upon your trap. Often, when faced with bazooka weilding enemies, I found that a wise option was to throw a mine and then run, as being fireballed from a distance has an adverse effect on your health. However, the enemies are not stupid, and will try to avoid your firepower if at all possible, although it is quite possible to trap huge dinosaurs in small corridors and set off a huge cluster mine next to them, leading to immense carnage.
Some new features include a nice inventory of all the items that you have picked up, which is very useful, as health bonuses can be stored until you really need them. Also, the weight of the items that you are carrying is taken into account when swimming, jumping or climbing, and if you are too heavy movement becomes restricted. This idea is very well implemented, as carrying too much equpment may mean that you cannot jump onto a high ledge, so you may have to decide what to leave behind, taking the lightest or most effective weapons only. The intelligent physics applied means that you can use bouyancy acceleration from going deep underwater and dropping heavy objects to get out of the water onto high platforms. Ladders are also (to my knowledge) new to the genre, as all the other games had lifts.
The running water is a little hard to get used to, as you can be swept away by a fast moving current. However, there is a way of getting through each level if you go around in the correct order, and try to only have to move downstream in water sections. Lava covered areas are highly dangerous also, as touching the boilling hot substance reduces your health vastly. Explosions seem to consist of randomly spread orange and red dots, which remove health when you touch them, being probably the poorest effect in the game. The in-game games are a nice idea, and the ones which I have found proved very rewarding, being variants on old classics which bring a bit of nostalgia into the game. The compass is also a nice touch, but the game lacks a map, so it is easy to get very lost in the larger levels.
|The levels are well laid out, and do consist of some fairly well laid out puzzles, and some good action scenes. I will leave you to come to your own conclusions when I tell you that there are bazooka wielding enemies and Dinosaurs on the first two levles, and a minigun sentry cannon, all of which are hard to defeat until you work out a strategy (eg shoot, leg it, shoot etc :-)). Despite the puzzles, there is often little to do but trek from one end of the level to the other to find something that you missed the first time, which is a shame, but almost unavoidable in this genre.|
Most of the levels take a long time to play through, and you often will have missed quite a lot of the equipment and bad guys. The arenas are great fun, as you can snipe through windows and hide behind doors in order to jump out and surprise your enemies, shoot them, then back away. Here, Destiny outclasses Doom by quite a way, as there is little speed lost in large areas, whereas Doom slows to a minmal. I would estimate that the levels are 10 times as big as the average Doom level, and about 5 to 6 times that of Quake.
The order in which a level is played out is non-linear, as you can complete each area in any order, though you do need to complete most of the areas in order to get all the access codes necessary to gain entrance into the next level. The sheer size of the levels means that there is a lot to be done, and it is quite possible to complete a level in many totally different orders, having done many different things each time.
Destiny's only flaw is that its monster graphics are such a huge let down. Basically Destiny is a good game to play on any Risc PC, particularly one with a StrongARM, as it runs well, and has a great array of weaponry, whilst maintaining great playability, and nice action scenes. I have found that once you get used to the various eccentricities, the game is quite good fun, and using some of the weapons, and in some areas it is sheer bliss. It is infuriating, however, to be killed by an enemy before he is visible (I was often killed by shrapnel from a bazooka shot that came from an invisible gunman), and the action can sometimes become so slow that the game becomes tedious when lost in a huge level. I would say that it is a good buy for all Risc PC owners.
To sum up
The good...Very playableGreat large killing scenesFantastic weaponryHuge levelsLong lifetimeLarge screen resolution
...the badPoor monster graphicsCould be addictive!