Every AAA game aims to set a new benchmark. Some games will aim to have the best graphics, others the biggest worlds. Others, still, try to reinvent genres--or create new ones entirely. Destiny is the epitome of AAA game development: it aims to be nothing less than the biggest world ever created for a video game, while reinventing the FPS. Bungie's aspirations are so extraordinary, it's not difficult to dismiss it all as hyperbole. Clearly, the team has proven itself through the original Halo games--but Destiny takes their ambition to a whole new level.
It's difficult to fully understand what Destiny even is. After a full day at Bungie's HQ in Washington, I came away with more questions than answers. To sum up Destiny, I tried to look at its individual components and compare it to what's already available.
While Destiny may be the studio's first original game since leaving Halo in 343's hands, it still shares many similarities with Microsoft's franchise. Both are futuristic sci-fi first-person shooters set to the orchestral sounds of Marty O'Donnell. Players will travel through exotic locations and fight various alien species with a wide assortment of out-there weapons. There is one key twist in the gameplay, however: we saw iron sights--a feature which the Halo franchise has long avoided.
It may look like Halo, but Destiny is probably better compared to Borderlands. Unlike the Halo series, the story of Destiny doesn't revolve around a single Master Chief-type hero. Instead, players create their own avatars, choose from a variety of different classes (each with their own magical abilities), and collect lots, and lots of loot. From the concept art shown to us, it seems like there will be hundreds of weapons to collect, with rarer weapons having special traits.
Although Borderlands can be played entirely single player, many would argue that the experience is designed around co-op. Destiny is no different, with many raids designed with cooperative play in mind. Raids, loot, aliens, co-op--Destiny shares quite a lot with Gearbox's shooter.
Fight aliens in space. Again.
Over the course of five Halo games, Bungie crafted a world memorable enough to spawn countless books, comics, live-action shorts, etc. Their talent in world-building is being used to create an even more expansive world for Destiny. The scope of the game could be compared to BioWare's Mass Effect series. Both will have you traveling from planet to planet throughout our solar system. Activision and Bungie promised a narrative that spans "multiple books" and will take "ten years" to tell--an effort that will undoubtedly take multiple expansion packs and sequels. Better hold onto those save files.
Bungie promises that Destiny will also have a "persistent world," although how that works is still unclear. Destiny will add new content on a regular basis, not unlike the "season" of Spartan Ops content in Halo 4. By connecting your game to your smartphone, you'll be able to get notifications whenever new content is added to Destiny. The exact scope and implementation of this content is unknown, but Activision did say that they do not plan on charging a subscription fee for this access.
Character classes will have different abilities
And here's the most puzzling aspect of the game. Online interaction seems to take a page from thatgamecompany's beloved Journey. Bungie wants to do away with the traditional way of doing matchmaking, where players enter a lobby and wait for a host to start a game. While you'll still be able to partner up with friends, the game will also connect players together seamlessly. For example, you and a friend may be partaking in a raid when suddenly, another player can appear in your game to help out. These moments of unexpected human interaction proved to be delightful in Journey--but will the experience carry over in a more aggressive genre? Once again, how this mechanic is being implemented isn't particularly clear, but Bungie is exploring new ways of connecting gamers in Destiny.
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Combine all these disparate elements together, and you'll scratch the surface on what Bungie is aiming to do with Destiny. There are still many other aspects of the game that have yet to be elaborated upon, like PVP, integration with Bungie.net, and if the game will appear on next-gen consoles and PC. Unfortunately, everyone at the studio was mum about the topic, with Activision's Eric Hirshberg saying that the game is only announced for PS3 and Xbox 360 right now.
'The Traveler' is the giant orb atop Earth
Disclosure: Activision provided travel and accommodations for this coverage.