Destiny – Bungie’s brave new world finally revealed
If there is one thing that the gaming industry does well, it’s crafting out adventures with elements inspired from other games. Without Batman: Arkham Asylum we wouldn’t have a gritty successor such as Sleeping Dogs, or if Gran Turismo had never popped up, hyper realistic racing games would still be a pipe dream to enthusiasts. Over a decade ago, Bungie got the ball rolling with their console shooter Halo. It set a new benchmark back then for a genre largely seen as the domain of PC gamers. Years later and with a successful franchise behind them, Bungie is looking to recapture that spark of a new and exciting universe. A universe that they’ve named…Destiny.
It was a cold day in Seattle when we got ushered into Bungie Studios. It’s an old movie house packed to the brim with mementos from the past, and a working environment all geared towards one game: Destiny. Sitting down, Bungie and Activision representatives talked the assembled journalists through the upcoming project. And it might just be another evolution for the house of Halo when they finally release this game. Here’s what we learnt;
Bungie isn’t straying too far from their recent science fiction roots with Destiny, but they’re looking to once again craft a universe that has its own distinct atmosphere and history. “It’s been couple of years now, dodging questions”, said Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirschberg at the press event. “The next great game for Bungie is ambitious in scope, innovative in tone. It’s the only kind of game that Bungie could create.
Very few games can transcend their medium and genre, but Destiny is one of those rare games. It belongs to a genre that we couldn’t quite pin down. There are FPS elements and a sandbox open world, but we’d be underselling the game if we described it as one of those. Destiny is more a shared-world shooter with wide boundaries.
The world is always shared.
While Bungie isn’t ready to just slap any old label on a project that they’ve been slaving away on for six years now, they are comfortable to let the game be known as a mythic science-fiction western. Judging by the art work shown, the brief glimpses of gameplay highlighted and the various talks given, it’s a genre that suits the project rather well.
There’s a dash of influences present here, from a hostile galaxy teaming with all manner of cosmic horrors and threats that could have easily been at home in Warhammer 40 000, through to showdowns with hulking armour-clad abominations on the surface of Mars. Between these missions though, players will have a chance to take stock and team up back at their home-base, the sanctuary city where the massive sphere of the Traveller now rests above, as they discover their heritage and grow over the course of the game.
“It’s more than a game, it’s a world”, Hirschberg continued to say. At that point, the obvious question in the room though, was how much extra such a persistent online world cost us after retail. Much like what other games in the Activision stable do on the more Blizzard side. To which Hirschberg responded:
There are absolutely no plans to charge a subscription fee for Destiny.
So who is the face of Destiny? The Halo franchise had Master Chief in that role, a mysterious faceless hero who shot first and asked questions later. That’s not the case in Destiny however. The hero, is you. “We’re doing something big”, said co-director Jason Jones. “What comes next? What do we point it at? We revolutionized the FPS genre with Halo. With Destiny, we’re going to turn the genre on its head again.
If you enjoy console FPS games, Destiny will be the best one that you ever play. It’s a new universe to build and grow your own character, and legend. A co-operative social experience.
Hammering in that co-operative idea, Jones explained that Destiny was designed to be a game that encourages people to team up and play alongside one another.”Life is more fun with other people around”, Jones said. “We’ve put a big investment into co-op, for Destiny”. On the other side though, Bungie is aware that a majority of players are looking to have a solo experience, and Destiny will allow for them to explore on their own. Because after all, no one should force you to explore the dark side of the moon with StuMuffin69 if you don’t want to.
“We’re all storytellers”, Design Director Joe Staten said as he took the stage to showcase the personal narrative structure of the game.
We wanted to build a world where any story is possible . Stories that matter, stories that endure and earn a big audience, told by us. The legends of Destiny won’t be told by us, they’ll be told by the players. These will be personal legends built from shared adventures, where the hero is you.
Destiny is also aiming to be a game that can be enjoyed by any skill level, and is designed to be inviting to newcomers and rewarding to veterans. At this point, Staten described a scenario of the game, where his Warlock player character decided to jet off towards Mars, in his own personal space ship. Having honed his Traveller inherited skills on the frontier of our home planet, Jones described his abilities as being the equivalent of “hitting someone in the face with a piece of the sun”.
Joining him on his Mars quest, Staten picked up his fellow brother in space-arms, a Guardian Titan controlled by Jones who looked “like he had a long list of asses to kick, and was running late”. Together, the two of them set off for the red planet, to explore the lost ruins of an old Human civilization. “My adventures take me all over the solar system”, Staten added.
Of course, like much of the solar system where Destiny takes place, Mars was less than inviting to the duo. Attacked by a group that Staten called “Sand-Eaters”, the Cabal Exclusion zone had the pair pinned down until they received some help from a third warrior, The Hunter. “And then in this co-op fight to the death, she showed up out of nowhere” Staten said.
A Hunter with exotic gear, she joins the fight with her trusty gun at her side, the Fate Of All Fools. So after that fight, we invite her to the group and become a team of three.
It’s not exactly clear yet as to how player invites will work, as Bungie has described Destiny as having minimal menus and a completely new User Interface, one that throws out the cluttered HUDS of today for something more streamlined. But nevertheless, this Hunter has the opportunity to join the group, through some sort of system that Bungie is keeping secret. Raiding the depths of the Martian ruins, the trio soon finds themselves tasked with recovering a piece of sentient machine AI, that goes by the name of Charlemagne.
Fighting their way past more hulking Sand-Eaters, Staten and his crew eventually recover the AI piece, and reward themselves with the one driving force that binds all players in such online games: Loot.
While the Guardian and the Titan get their own custom weapons, Staten receives Thorn, a “hand cannon that glows like stardust”. And with that, the Guardian and Hunter take their leave, with places to go and asses to kick. That was just a small idea of what to expect in Destiny, as players explore the entire solar system.
It’s a hopeful world, a world worth fighting for.
And in that world worth fighting for, is a world worth also shooting to pieces. Bungie isn’t straying too far from their FPS roots. “Destiny is a First person shooter, first and foremost”, Said Activision CEO Eric Hirschberg. “But it’s also the next logical step in the genre. Pete Parsons added to that, saying that Destiny is “The next evolution in first-person shooters, in persistent online play”.
But Destiny is clearly a game that has been greatly influenced by other genres to become a “mythic Science Fiction game”, Although one other aspect of it that was glossed over, was space travel. Players will get to customise their own ships during their journey, ships with which to explore the solar system. But will those ships also be fully armed and operational, much like the fighter jets were in the final Bungie Halo game, Reach?
“We’re not talking about that”, Parsons said.