There’s little denying that 2013 was a marvellous year for videogames, a well deserved swan song for the sternly loyal long lived last generation of consoles – Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. 2013 was arguably one of gamings best years in recent memory. But who cares, old game is old – right? The moment Playstation 4 and Xbox One were released last year gamings most dedicated communities suddenly cast their expectant gaze forward. So then, to celebrate the beginning of 2014, and a hopefully yet another fantastic year for gaming we’ve decided to count down a top ten list of our most anticipated titles slated for release this year, things are starting to heat up as we enter the top three with #3 Destiny.
Over a decade, that’s how long it’s been since developer Bungie changed the landscape of console FPS forever with their original Xbox title Halo: Combat Evolved. Today almost every FPS released onto consoles, yes even the gargantuan Call of Duty franchise, owes it existence to the ground breaking sci-fi shooter that launched in way back in 2001. Indeed if former Infinity Ward employees working at Respawn revolutionised online FPS games with their Call of Duty franchise then it was invented by Bungie. After years of success with Microsoft studios, and five iterations of the Halo franchise Bungie grew bored of working on the same series. So after production on Halo: ODST finished their team split in two with one side starting work on a new title: Destiny. After work finished on their last Halo game “Reach”, they handed the keys to Halo to Microsoft and moved in with Activision, who agreed to publish their latest creation on PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox360.
In many regards Destiny isn’t an exotic change in direction for Bungie. The first person shooter has it’s feet firmly planted in the studios area of expertise, sporting a sci-fi setting with hordes of varying alien species baring down on the human protagonists. Set in a dire future Destiny sees the human race all but extinguished excluding one city on Earth who was saved by a giant ominous white orb named “the traveller”. With the help of the mysterious ball the last of humanities forces survived to regroup, and now strive to retake the solar system from a host of vicious extraterrestrial forces that threaten to wipe them out. Alien vs humans is a formula that struck gold for Bungie in the past so it’s hardly surprising they’ve returned to the premise, what’s more their knowledge of alien design is borderline masterful thanks to work on Halo – most gamers can easily identify a grunt or elite in a matter of seconds, so iconic is their appearance. From what we’ve seen that visual mastery is evident here.
Despite returning to their traditional stomping ground the team at Bungie isn’t complaint. The team is seriously committed to not only pushing themselves, implementing a host of gameplay features new to them, but also by joining the new revolution of persistently online worlds that foster sociability. Most intriguing of all Destiny’s promised systems is the ability to earn loot, much like Gearbox’s quirky Borderlands series Destiny encourages players to team up to tackle progressively more powerful foes netting better equipment for their character – whether it be armour or weaponry. Player avatars will be selected from three different variants of human, but more importantly three different classes – the “space wizard” warlock, the heavily armoured titans and the rougish hunters. How dramatically the different choices will affect gameplay isn’t yet known, regardless it’ll be a welcome layer of customisation as each sports a noticeably unique aesthetic.
No matter the players race or class they’ll be tasked with defending The City and reclaiming our civilizations colonies on local planets that have been overrun by varied hostile aliens. Destiny is unique in that players won’t be alone in their quest, as the world is persistently online they’ll be automatically match making on fly placed in teams with those who naturally suit to them. This all sounds very reminiscent of a traditional MMO; Bungie are quick to point out this isn’t the case though as players can only see those they’re currently matched with, unlike a full scale MMO where it’s possible to communicate with anyone on a shared server. Instead Bungie calls Destiny - a shared world shooter. Of course Destiny can be tackled completely alone, with the exception end game encounters, but where’d be the fun in that?
Bungie’s track record with first person shooters is phenomenal, it’s impossible to point to a bad game developed by the company; that’s what makes the prospect of Destiny so reassuring. Carving through hordes of well designed aliens with close friends is always a treat, a prospect that’s made all the more compelling by the presence of an engaging story, world and generous heaps of shiny loot. The shared world idea might not be everyone’s ideal situation, but it’s a fresh take on the FPS genre which could turn out to be the next big game changer – if not you can always turn it off. It’s been a decade since Bungie altered the console FPS landscape forever – maybe it’s time they did it again.