Bungie has always had a knack for creating compelling universes, from Marathon to Halo, and now on to Destiny. However, Destiny’s aim is to go far beyond what they’ve been able to achieve with story-telling in a single player environment, and instead marry this to a bold co-operative experience for you, your friends and every other person playing the game.
Set across our solar system, in a universe where a mysterious event wiped out much of humanity, it was the giant moon-like Traveler which saved the last vestiges of human life.
The Traveler now protects the last human settlement, seemingly channelling its energy through the various Guardians of the City, who head out into the wild to combat aliens threats, and reading between the lines, maybe even go off the planet.
It’s somewhat ironic that the studio formerly owned by Microsoft looks like they will be the one to truly convince people of the validity of an ever-connected world. As you play, your journey will quite likely collide with that of other players, who are doing their own thing.
Conceptually, it sounds like a mixture of singleplayer and co-op gameplay with elements of an MMO. You will be hurtling through your own story path, joining up with friends along the way, but at many moments you could come into contact with other players, who seemingly appear out of nowhere.
This is most apparent with the major shared world events, one of which I got to see in action. As a trio of players emerged out into the open world, to head towards their mission objective, they witnessed a great big drop ship warp into the sky and fly overhead.
Other players and groups in the nearby area will see this, and spot the opportunity for an off-the-cuff event. They will undoubtedly bring people from all around, and this was the case here, as a group of much higher-levelled players swung by to help with the horde of enemies.
In particular a big Devil Walker, a many-legged robot which was the boss-like beast at the end, posed a challenge which needed teamwork to defeat. In keeping with the action-RPG shooter formula, it has weakpoints at the legs and eyes to shoot, with a major spot to attack once it’s taken enough damage.
This time saw the player-narrator presenting the demo leap in and use his super attack, a huge electrical storm of particle effects, which ties in with the combat mechanics that will surely feel quite familiar to Halo fans.
There have been changes, though, with the standard two-weapon system expanded to three, alongside these supers. There’s the primary assault weapon slot alongside another, reserved for something useful in a tight spot, like a shotgun, but these are backed up by the heavy weapon, a high damage, but limited ammunition option for when you come to a major opponent.
You can tell something about the three character classes from their names, too, as the Warlock combines heavier supers with weaponry, the demo showing off a single large bolt of energy, in comparison to the Hunter’s example of super charging her weaponry, but the abilities extend beyond that. The Hunter might also learn a double jump ability, whilst the Titan’s focus is more about dealing its damage from large guns, and so have perks based around that.
They’re classes clearly designed to work in these fire teams of three, but it’s also very much a drop-in experience, with only a Warlock and a Hunter together as they worked through the wall to Old Russia.
Bungie’s fascination with and creation of artificial intelligences for their games continued, as the Warlock threw up a floating Guilty Spark-like bot, to help light the way. As it flew off to find and enable the lighting system inside the pitch black wall, it was happily chatting away, before it bumped into the wall’s inhabitants.
These were the Fallen, essentially pirates who rove the planet, and one of the many threats the Guardians will have to tackle. Each band of pirates will have its own identity, and the trained eyes of the most fervent Bungie fans will no doubt start to piece together details, and learn how to interpret the markings which pirates might leave behind.
The world creation extends from these small incidental details right down to injecting the notion of legendary weapons like Excalibur into the game. If you find a rare weapon whilst searching through the remains of a pirate camp, it will have a story behind it, a name which backs up its greater abilities, just like the Thunder Lord machine gun in the demo.
There will be parallels drawn to other games of this ilk, with Borderlands in particular bound to be seen as a kind of inspiration, but this care and in-depth attention to the content of the world feels like the next step up from that game’s co-op play.
Taking a nuanced world which will gradually reveal its mysteries, and combining it with this co-operative element would already have been an inviting proposition. For Bungie to then add in the variety and almost pervasive instances of meeting other players along the way, shows an intention to change the way a game can unfold, and maybe redefine what people expect.