You thought nothing would ever be better than Halo. Bungie’s masterpiece. Its signature franchise, most notable for one of the most memorable characters in gaming history. How could anything top that?
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And then, Destiny came knocking.
Yes, Bungie has finally unveiled its new IP, Destiny, and immediately grabbed the attention of gamers the world over.
“Everything changed with the arrival of the Traveler. It sparked a Golden Age when our civilization spanned the solar system, but it didn’t last. Something hit us, knocked us down.
The survivors built a city beneath the Traveler, and have begun to explore our old worlds, only to find them filled with deadly foes.
You are a Guardian of the last safe city on Earth, able to wield incredible power. Defend the city. Defeat our enemies. Reclaim all that we have lost. Fail and the last light of civilization will go out.
This poignant opening statement is the prelude to what appears to be Bungie’s most ambitious title to date. In what could loosely be termed an MMOFPS, but which Bungie calls a “First Person Shared World Shooter”, Destiny is fully playable as a single player, but in reality is designed to be cooperative, and to connect you with your friends.
Players can explore the solar system either alone or cooperatively playing as a generic but fully customisable character called a Guardian. There are at least three different character classes, currently identified as the Titan, the Hunter, and the Warlock, using guns, stealth and magic respectively. Battle a variety of alien species that include evil space zombies and Spider Pirates among others, all as a part of a shared and social world experience.
Now before you get all in a tizz about the whole MMO aspect of this game, Bungie have emphasised that you will NOT need a subscription to play this game. You will however need an internet connection, so if you ever needed a reason to invest in fast broadband, now is the time.
Destiny is built on an all-new engine designed specifically for use across multiple platforms, in fact it’s designed to be played on “future generation technology”, so it’s likely that it will be released on the Xbox 720/PS4 or whatever you wish to call them, but they’ve indicated that we will see an Xbox 360/PS3 release as well. There has been a consistent reference by Bungie to the “console shooter” nature of this game, however speculation is currently rife as to whether a PC version is on the cards. Bungie have refused to confirm or deny this so far, but we can live in hope.
The most exciting thing about Destiny is despite the success of Halo, Bungie is looking to completely revamp the shooter genre, and although it’s currently vague about how it plans to do this, if this comes about it could mean the beginning of a new era in the somewhat tired FPS format.
Destiny has no main menu. The standard format of a lobby and loadout has been done away with as you are dropped straight into the world. Your choice of character and the way you choose to interact with the world is said to be a blend of single and multiplayer, although at this point no-one is really certain how this is going to look. Perhaps this won’t revolutionise the FPS genre like we all hope, but at the very least it’s an attempt to shake it up in ways that other developers have never attempted.
During its big unveil event, Bungie showcased some of Destiny’s concept art, its new graphics engine, music as well as character models, and top execs and developers went into great detail explaining the development and concept behind the game, without actually revealing too much of the gameplay.
What we can gather from a combination of the reveal video and press releases however, is that the narrative arc of Destiny is conceptualised as taking place over 10 years. Yes, you read right, 10 years. The idea is that the Destiny story will unfold gradually, in much the same manner as a series of books, but little indication was given as to how this would work in practice.
While everyone might play as a Guardian, each player will be able to customise their character with armor, clothing, weapons and the like, all items that they can acquire through various means. Space exploration has been hinted at and there are at least two vehicles available.
Destiny is a persistent world set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. It is always connected, always alive. Players can meet online to fight or complete any number of activities. Destiny is conceived as a world where players come together seamlessly and naturally, without being forced together out of circumstance.
“We’re building something alive, it has a nature that we don’t totally control, things are going to happen that we don’t plan and that’s amazing.”
Each character will be customizable in its own way and there is no main protagonist such as Master Chief as the focus is on the interaction and communication between players. Even with an overarching narrative, the premise is to make your own stories, not complete another’s.
Jason Jones, co-founder of Bungie states, “We’re really putting players at the centre of the world and giving them control of their experience.”
As is typical of Bungie if you know anything about its history, Destiny is conceptualized under 7 tenets, or “Pillars”.
The first of these is “A world players want to be in.” Do players want to be in and more importantly, stay in this world? Destiny needs to give us a reason to return time and again.
Second, “A bunch of fun things to do.” Bungie has been quite deliberate in creating a broad range of activities that cater to a variety of tastes.
Third, “Rewards players care about.” Everything you do generates rewards that enable you to customise your character to your taste, from weapons, to armour and vehicles, there is a definite goal to collecting loot.
Fourth, “A new experience every night.” Bungie essentially wants players to have a different experience every single time they log on, and with the variety of activities available this sounds entirely possible.
Fifth, “Shared with other people.” This is pretty self-explanatory, however Destiny is always a shared world, so even if you’re playing on your own, there will always be other people around.
Sixth, “Enjoyable by all skill levels.” Again quite an obvious one, but something that people lose sight of frequently. By making this one of their key principles, Bungie ensures that Destiny is accessible to more players.
And lastly, “Enjoyable by the tired, impatient and distracted.” Probably one of the most important pillars in the development of this world – Bungie feels that gamers, “don’t want to work hard, they don’t want to read or go to the internet to figure out our bullshit.” If the core experience is simple and straightforward, then the player experience will be more enjoyable. To keep you involved in the Destiny experience there is even a mobile app to keep you connected when you’re not in the game.
Music is always an integral part of Bungie’s games, and longtime composer of the Halo themes, Marty O’Donnell is scoring Destiny, including a collaboration with Paul McCartney. Although no samples are available, by all accounts the score is in no way a replica of Halo – it’s something entirely new and different and of course, completely epic.
Destiny is a sandbox world. You’re free to move around as you wish, explore different areas like the swamp that used to be Chicago, areas of Mars, in fact the entire solar system is open for exploration. Dubbed “mythic science fiction” by the art director Christopher Barrett, more concept art was created for this game than for all previous Bungie games put together. That’s quite an undertaking!
So with so many new and exciting features, beautiful visuals and general overall excitement, it’s easy to get bogged down so let’s quickly breakdown the facts:
Gameplay. So far none has been released. A fair amount of concept art, along with the video documentary that was a part of the reveal announcement, but nothing else.
Currently TBA. “We’ll have announcements about release timing when we’re ready,” says publisher Activision. Typical. It has however indicated that Destiny is not a part of its 2013 outlook, so this indicates it might be closer to a 2014 release.
What is this talk of an iOS app? We’ll see hints of how this works in the video documentary, but nothing has really been explained in terms of its functionality as yet, other than a discussion around notifications when there are new things to do in the world. There is talk that you might be able to interact and influence the world via this app, but none of this has been confirmed.
How many classes will there be? Only three have been revealed – Titan, Hunter and Warlock – but if more will be added remains to be seen.
So much has been revealed and yet simultaneously nothing is really known. To see a developer like Bungie take such a big leap in a different direction is both exciting and terrifying at the same time, but given its track record it’s unlikely it will allow itself to fail in what could well be a groundbreaking undertaking.
Considering that Halo has been such a huge and successful franchise, and its core mechanic is that of the traditional FPS, it’s refreshing to see them want to break away from that completely in order to not just try something new, but develop a different approach to shooters that might just change the way we play them forever.
Says Destiny’s community development manager and writer Eric Osborne, “We truly believe we can change the way they play games together.”