Bungie has finally revealed their new franchise to the world. It's been a long time in coming, but at long last they've shown (some of) their hand. Destiny is coming, and the studio behind Halo are thinking big. Really, really big.
Last night the studio released a slice of the information that an eager community has long been waiting for. Talk of the new IP - Destiny - started to seep through to the public via mainstream outlets last year, but fan sites have been speculating about the new franchise since details first emerged in Halo 3: ODST.
There's been a lot of speculation flying around, and now some of that can be put to bed, as we've now got a clearer idea as to what the new series will entail, both in terms of story and scope. It's a project on an unprecedented scale: a series built from the ground up to be huge. Bolder than anything undertaken by the studio before, bolder than perhaps anything attempted by any studio before, ever.
The Ten Year Plan
Bungie hopped off the good ship Microsoft after the release of Halo: Reach, handing over their sci-fi shooter to fledgling studio 343 Industries. Their first effort, Halo 4, was warmly accepted by gamers, but for some it felt hollow, at least compared to the games that preceded it. Bungie's talent for innovation was replaced by a 343's need for stability. Whilst we may see more innovation from the series in the future, Halo 4 was all about continuity, about reassuring fans that the series would remain quintessentially Halo.
The lack of forward steps made by 343 Industries has left the door open for Bungie to once again demonstrate exactly why they're the masters of innovation, and why Halo became a behemoth of the gaming world. There's still plenty of legs left in the sci-fi shooter genre, and this wildly ambitious project hopes to demonstrate this unequivocally.
After leaving Microsoft behind, a ten year deal was signed with Activision. The deal will obviously see the transition to next-gen consoles later this year, and maybe even another hardware cycle further down the line. This bold new IP has been conceived with continuity in mind, Bungie are taking a ten year journey with Destiny, and they're inviting us to come along for the ride.
A Brave New World
The setting for Destiny is certainly compelling, perhaps even more so than that of Halo. It's to be set in a post-apocalyptic future, one where humanity rests on the brink of extinction. The time of Destiny follows on from a golden age where Humanity had spread out across the solar system, only for unknown forces to try and stamp them out of existence.
The Traveler, a mysterious Moon-sized orb settles above the planet Earth, offering sanctuary and strength to those who flock to its protection. Civilisation begins to reform underneath its watchful presence, and a city is born, where the species is able to once again gather its strength before eventually taking to the stars once again.
Exploring their old stomping ground, Bungie's vision of Mankind discovers that we're no longer alone, with several aggressive species living on our doorstep, controlling what once was ours. Destiny is the story of Humanity's ongoing struggle against these outside forces, as our species seeks to reestablish themselves in their seat of power.
In this war-torn future players will assume the role of a Guardian of the last remaining city on Earth, and according to Bungie we'll be able to "wield incredible power." Magic. Combat will take place across a multitude of combat hotspots, with players returning to The City, a "third person social space to refuel, repair, and rearm."
Seven is the Magic Number
Anyone with more than a passing interest in Bungie's output will know and understand the importance of the number seven, and will be all too aware of how often it pops up. Once again it features prominently in their newest IP. The studio are building Destiny around seven core pillars, and on a conceptual level, everything must satisfy these core tenements or else be thrown from to the cutting room floor, never to be heard of again.
Pillar 1: A World Players Want to Be In
Bungie knows that community is important, and that the story they have to tell only provides the backdrop to the player-led narratives that we'll be creating on our own.
Pillar 2: A Bunch of Fun Things to Do
With such an expansive universe, built for longevity, there's going to be a wide variety of different activities for players to engage in. Destiny isn't just going to be about PvP and pwning noobs, expect a nice mix of co-op, PvP and single-player driven experiences.
Pillar 3: Rewards Players Care About
Rewarding players is a sure-fire way of keeping them coming back for more, and Bungie are planning on making this an important part of the Destiny experience.
Pillar 4: A New Experience Every Night
The persistent setting means that no two nights spent with Destiny will play out the same way. And Bungie are promising a plethora of distractions, with the emphasis firmly on keeping you coming back for more.
Pillar 5: Shared With Other People
Unless you're a lone wolf kind of gamer, you'll likely appreciate the efforts going into making sure Destiny is an experience best shared with friends.
Pillar 6: Enjoyable By All Skill Levels
Suitable for the good, the bad and the ugly.
Pillar 7: Enjoyable by the Impatient and Distracted
Some gamers love digging into lore, finding out more about the universes they're heavily invested in, whilst others couldn't give a rat's arse. Bungie want to make sure they cater for both camps.
What We Don't Know
There's a few buzz words flying around at the moment, but they reveal more about what we don't know than what we do. Described by Bungie as a "shared-world shooter" - in fact, they call it the first of its kind - the description leaves plenty of unanswered questions. Is it an MMO? Well it sounds like one. Pillar 2: "A Bunch of Fun Things to Do" suggests that there's going to be more to do than just shooting stuff, which sounds awfully MMO-like if you ask us. And a persistent world is nothing new, Planetside 2 has been doing that on epic scale for months now.
The seven pillars mentioned earlier are all pretty vague. Ideals that they're adhering to, rather than anything more tangible we can look forward to. Whilst it's reassuring to know which keys areas Bungie are looking to exploit, we can't help but wish they'd told us just a little bit more about what they're planning.
The game is to require an always-on internet connection, something likely to alienate an (admittedly) small section of the community. A strength of Bungie's has always been the replayability of their single-player campaigns. Is this now going to be much less of a focus for the studio with this new IP? There'll be plenty of disappointed fans if this is the case.
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over Destiny is: will it be any good? Whilst nobody could argue with the pedigree that Bungie bring to the table, the vibe coming out of the studio is "trust us - we're Bungie." For many that's not going to be enough, and there was an underwhelming amount of actual content unveiled during the game's big "unveiling". We've seen plenty of concept art, but just seconds of gameplay footage, and that doesn't paint the clearest picture. In fact, it looks decidedly current-gen in its presentation, and as a result it's difficult to get super excited about how the game might shape up when it hits the next generation of hardware that's currently looming over the horizon.
Having said all that, there's plenty to be optimistic about. Bungie's work on Halo gives them a certain amount of credibility when making such bold claims. We know that they can can deliver, and it'd be more of a surprise were they to fail in making good on the bold promises they're making.
The new world that they're envisaging, the new story that they want to tell, it all sounds very interesting. Compelling even. But perhaps it's not as ground-breaking as they're telling us it is. It sounds an awful lot like an MMOFPS, with increased social-connectivity and a greater emphasis on narrative than that which we've seen before, but without clarification on some of the finer points, it really is impossible to tell exactly what we're dealing with right now.
What we can say for sure is that we're excited to see more, and in that respect the big reveal for Destiny was a success. Not because it showed us something tangible, but because the promise of what's to come has been pointed towards. The direction that Bungie is taking is quite clear, but the details are still shrouded in mystery. We're really looking forward to Destiny, but we're still not sure exactly why. Perhaps Bungie want it that way.