(UPDATE: Activision decided to confirm today that Destiny is coming out next year instead of this year as expected. Still, plenty time to get excited!) So yesterday, in their usual self-aggrandising style, Bungie unveiled their first Post-Halo IP, Destiny - a Sci-Fi epic they've been dreaming of since the heady days of Halo 2, and want to be talking about for the next decade. Whilst the reveal was light on solid info or gameplay, and heavy on the studio-promotion, I have a feeling Destiny might just end up being one of the best new games this year.
Brave New(ish) Worlds
We know little of Destiny's universe, except for the fact that Humanity is kinda screwed. After a Golden Age of space expansion, an unknown alien swarm struck back, beating back the humans all the way to Earth, and then some - leaving all but a single City a wasteland until The Traveler, a giant sphere of alien origin parked itself smack bang in the atmosphere above the city and promptly wiped out the alien forces. Now, imbued with powers and technology from The Traveler, humans known as Guardians - aka the players - strike out across Earth and into the solar system once more from the relative security of what is now called Traveler's Rest, hoping to uncover the remnants of Humanity's lost intergalactic empire.
Say hi to The Traveler.
This all sounds kind of like a mash of familiar Sci-fi tropes, and even moreso for Bungie with some comparisons to the Halo Universe, but I think the blend seems quite unlike any game I've heard of - there's bits of Firefly's frontiersman ethos in there, bits of Star Wars, bits of Arthur C Clarke - and so far it all seems like it comes together in a really interesting way, with gameplay implications that just make it sound massive - not just a ravaged Earth to explore, but spaceflight to other planets (areas on Mars, the Moon and Venus were all referenced to in the unveiling), it's almost insane to think this is coming out on the current generation of consoles. Bungie have established an ambitious sense of scope with their worldbuilding for Destiny, and I really hope they can create a universe as interesting to explore and discuss as the wider Haloverse has turned out to be.
It's a kinda-sorta-MMO, but not?
The buzz phrase that's cropped up out of the mouths of Activision and Bungie reps around Destiny is that it's a 'shared world shooter' - and that it's definitely, unequivocally, absolutely not, an MMO shooter. There's no subscription fee, for a start, although it does require a constant Online connection. But to me, it kinda sounds like Space Guild Wars. As an FPS. So, an MMO shooter? Yeah, let's go with that.
Pick your Master Chief (Left to Right) - The Hunter, The Warlock and The Titan.
Bungie showed off three Guardian classes, with hints of there being more - as well as revealing there'll be oodles of cosmetic variety through loot drops for both armor and weaponry. Traveller's Rest will act as a hub. pulling out from the first person perspective to third to show off your emotes and your gear, as well as being home to a host of mission givers, the arena for competitive PvP matches (A competitive multiplayer mode in the next Bungie game? Well, I am shocked!)... and other players for you to communicate and group up with.
Similar to last year's break out co-op hit, Journey, at any time and any place, Destiny's other players can phase in and out of your game world uninvited (you can of course also team up with friends in a more traditional co-op network), that you can group with or ignore as you go off on your merry way, but Destiny's universe will be populated by other players whether you want it to be or not. Bungie even bandied about the MMO terminology, constantly refering to the areas you'd visit as Dungeons - there's even the promise of loot at the end of them! Their story discussions were based far more on emergent storytelling through gameplay experiences, rather than a strictly linear narrative. For a game that apparently defies the MMO genre, Destiny sure as hell sounds like an MMO. But I think what makes it stand out in that regard - especially in a suddenly crowded MMOFPS market again, with the likes of Planetside 2 and Hawken on the PC - is that it will be a strictly console-based affair, offering an experience quite unlike anything else you can see on the 360 or PS3 at the moment. Once again, the sheer scope of it all speaks to Bungie's frankly giddying ambitions for the game, and if it can be pulled off, it'll certainly be something special.
That dude's casting Space Magic! SPACE MAGIC! I love Space Magic, you guys.
In an almost paradoxical sense, by showing barely anything at all - perhaps about 10 seconds of gameplay in fact! - Bungie showed off so much about Destiny's dizzyingly lofty ambitions. They've tantalised me with MMO structures and an interesting Sci-Fi world to potter about in, the blend of Halo-pedigree FPS action and a social landscape in the vein of Borderlands meets World of Warcraft - it's like a checklist of game elements I love, mushed into one huge project. And whilst it's still familiar ground for Bungie, I think what appeals to me the most about Destiny is that in a year of what feels like nothing but sequels and reboots (and a lot of cool as hell ones, like Bioshock Infinite and Devil May Cry) as developers grind their gears anticipating the next generation of consoles, it's something that feels so vibrantly different and new and exciting. For all the familiarity of its Sci-Fi tropes and game ideas that went before it, the ambition and scale of Destiny is quite unlike anything I've ever seen in an IP before. And that's more than enough to shoot it to the top of my most wanted list this year.