There aren't many games that have us looking forward to 2014 half as much as Destiny. The studio behind Halo have left behind their iconic franchise and are going cross-platform with their new open-world online shooter. For PlayStation fans it represents the first time that they'll be able to get their hands on a Bungie shooter, and it's these gamers that we're particularly excited for. The game will be releasing across different platforms and different generations, with it set to land on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PS3 on September 9. There's a beta coming in the summer (there is a slight delay on that, as it was originally planned to arrive earlier in the year), and it'll be landing on Sony's platforms first. Considering that Bungie used to be tucked up in bed with Microsoft, read from that what you will...
As with everything that Bungie does, the lore surrounding the new game has been carefully constructed. Set on a futuristic Earth, humanity is on its knees and fighting off aliens who have descended on our solar system. Our last hope is "the Traveler", a spherical presence that hovers over the last great human city, protecting its inhabitants from danger and granting them special powers. Basically space magic.
Before he left the studio, we talked to design director and writer Joseph Staten on that very same subject: "Space magic is kind of the silly phrase that we use for it, but the magic, the abilities in the game, are this really great, visceral, kinetic weapon that you have at your disposal. When you shoot the power of the Sun out of your hands it feels like the best thing ever..."
There's going to be a selection of diverse missions (well, diverse within the sphere of standard first-person shooter mission types), with players able to team up with friends online, or go at it alone as a solo player. There's going to be co-operative gameplay, with tasty loot drops available to those who can take down the harder challenges, and let's not forget the cornerstone of any Bungie title, fiercely competitive PvP.
Bungie's community manager, David Dague, explained how the equipment worn and weapons used by those in the community will tell other players about the different journeys taken through the game: "The gear that you acquire along the way, the weapons that you win, or earn, or score by completing your missions, will be the things that define you. They will tell a story about you, and all of these things will also have their own backstory. So at a glance I'll be able to tell what type of player you are. I'll be able to tell what sort of destinations you've conquered. I'll be able to tell what game modes you prefer. I'll be able to tell how far you might be through the story. That's what we mean by "Become Legend." You have a reputation that precedes you, because you're awesome at this game."
There's still no word from the studio as to whether they'll be bringing a version of the game to PC somewhere further down the line. They are, however, bringing the game to both generations, and to two different platforms. Staten confirmed to us that no matter which platform you play Destiny on, the core experience will remain the same: "The number one important thing about our design is no matter what platform you play it on, the design experience is the same. So the number of AI, the way they behave, the sandbox, all the weapons, the public events; whether you're playing on Playstation 3 or Xbox One or PS4, it's going to feel the same."
What we don't know yet is how the different versions will interact with each other, for example, will PS4 and PS3 players be able to play together online, and will Xbox 360 players be able to take their saves with them when they finally pick up an Xbox One.
Players will be playing in what Bungie are calling a "shared world", so not quite an MMO in terms of scale, but still populated by other players in the online space. So far Earth, the Moon, Mars and Venus have been announced as explorable destinations (whether more will be revealed for Destiny, or whether other planets will be appearing in subsequent releases - Bungie and Activision are signed up for a 10 year deal - remains to be seen), and players will have access to three different classes; Hunter, Titan and Warlock.
We're expecting a ton of customisation options, watertight enemy AI, first-in-class online multiplayer, and a story that'll reel us in for a long-term relationship. Expectations are high for this one, but given Bungie's pedigree, we've every reason to believe that they'll deliver.