Destiny of Shooters

by: Jonathan Bryant

If there’s one common complaint facing shooters these days, it’s a near-universal lack of ambition.

With the Call of Duty franchise dropping annually like sports titles (How long can warfare truly feel modern?) and other games succumbing to similar tropes (killstreaks, etc.), it’s not hard to lose a little faith in the genre.

In true Bungie fashion (on the seventh Sunday of the year), the team has finally broken the silence regarding the long-awaited Destiny, only its second non-Halo title of the century, for current-generation consoles.  Remarkably, the team has unveiled enough forward-thinking ideas that the title truly feels “next-gen” in both ambition and scope.

Humankind has been nearly wiped out by some unknown force, and the survivors find deliverance via an extraterrestrial construct called the Traveler, a spherical deus ex machina of sorts hovering slightly over Earth’s surface.  Due to the orb’s intervention, humans eventually rebuild to the point that they can once again venture beyond the sanctuary of the Traveler and reclaim the planet.

But they’ll find that the world isn’t the same as they left it; a variety of new denizens both foreign and familiar have settled in to a newly-unoccupied Earth.

You play the role of a Guardian, tasked with reestablishing humanity’s place on the planet while protecting what remains of civilization from those that would stamp it out completely.  The world of Destiny is a sprawling one, if only because it is bound to exceed beyond our own.   Humanity’s strive for reconstruction involves taking to the skies once more and exploring the outskirts of our solar system.

From verdant forests to snowcapped mountains, the concept art alone—of which there is more than every previous Bungie game combined—conveys the fact that the world is one that feels populated (whether those inhabitants are human or otherwise is a separate matter).  It’s also a persistent world that continues to exist 24/7, whether you’re logged in or not.  Most interestingly, it’s also one that requires a constant internet connection.  There is no differentiation between single-player and multiplayer modes.  In fact, Destiny allegedly doesn’t even have a main menu.  Players are simply thrown immediately into the game world.

Bungie has labeled the game as a “shared-world shooter,” stressing a sense of community and collaboration above all else.  While it’s almost a given, it’s probably a safe bet that competitive multiplayer won’t be a focus.  With a plethora of ways to personalize your Guardian with gear (There are capes, people!), weaponry and a bevy of other options, Destiny is shaping up to be a class-based, loot-driven affair.  But a fresh approach to multiplayer could make this more than a simple Borderlands clone.

Although Bungie was unclear on how, the matchmaking technology behind the scenes of Destiny is a natural evolution of the hopper technology that made Halo 2 a pioneering force for Xbox LIVE.  Several comparisons have been made to thatgamecompany’s 2012 hit, Journey, in which players shared in the experience with others in a seamless fashion.

Of course, a title facing hype of such enormity also faces an equal amount of challenges.  Will Destiny end up feeling like just another “Halo” title?  Will the persistent world—and its constant internet requirement—be the game’s ultimate undoing?  Will the game’s go-anywhere, do-anything approach harm Bungie’s otherwise stellar track record for delivering a compelling narrative?

Regardless, Bungie seems to be a team of developers not content to simply rest on their laurels.  As far as they’re concerned, Halo never happened.

“No matter what you’ve ever done, it doesn’t matter,” said Bungie’s Joseph Staten.

“Success is not guaranteed.”

If everyone at Bungie shares that mindset, this persistent world might just become one worth living in.

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