2014 looks set to be an incredibly exciting time for the videogame industry.
Next to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 edging gracefully into the twilight years of their impressive legacies, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are slowly but surely gathering the pace required to supersede them, and with games like Titanfall, Rust, Hotline Miami 2 and Dark Souls 2 all on the horizon, whatever your format, you’re going to be well catered for.
Here though, I will be shunning a broad look at the glut of titles that are attempting to make 2014 their year in favour of focusing on just one; Destiny.
This is a game that has been in production since 2009, and although Bungie Studios have gone through a somewhat disruptive process of staff changes and the casting off of the Halo franchise, it’s every hope that Destiny will be Bungie’s next Halo-esque feat; that being a game that transcends the studios name and becomes a staple of console gaming.
But with a project this unfathomably big comes the need to really strive for perfection like never before, for if a single pillar of Destiny’s complex architecture is less polished than the others, then Destiny may have to settle for being a good game, rather than a great one.
And if you can forgive my pessimism, then allow me to expand on those aforementioned uncertainties with this article detailing seven factors of Destiny that I hope are in-keeping with its fittingly grand ambitions.
1.) The True Freedom to Explore
Picture this; you’re walking along an oblique trail in the middle of nowhere, head on a swivel as you scan the area for enemy combatants, when seemingly out of nowhere, you walk face first into an invisible wall. Maybe I’m not giving the guys at Bungie enough credit, though. Surely this sort of occurrence is tantamount to game design half a decade ago? Surely the world of Destiny won’t be one governed by a series of clear glass panes? Let’s hope not.
But next to a more intelligent approach to walling us into the set parameters of the world comes the completely disparate need to let us wander the land and carve out our own adventures. Sure, there’s a plot and a need to advance along its fixed route, but as in games like SKYRIM and Fallout, the urge to wander may overpower the urge to finish a certain quest-line, and if that’s the choice that we make, then don’t punish us for it. No time constraints, no segmented loading and the constant, unmistakable urge to roam.
2.) Diversity in Enemies
Since The Collapse, the world of Destiny has become home to several different species of foes, each more sinister than the last, and each with the desire to eradicate the remaining EXO, humans and Awoken that remain within the walls of Earth’s last city. As you traverse the Earth and its surrounding planets, you’ll come into contact with all manner of adversaries as you wage a war of desperation across the stars, but if there’s something that each unique enemy species needs to bring to the table, it’s diversity.
But with so many different types of hostiles all vying for your blood, it’s important that Bungie make each battle, be it against two groups of Vex each with a different chain of command, or against a legion of Cabal’s followed by a gang of Fallen, be decidedly different from the last, and in order to ensure this, each enemy faction needs to have its own notable style of combat. So whether it’s the hulking, heavy gait of a Gatling-gun wielding Cabal or the fleet-footed evasion of a nimble Fallen that presided over your demise, each battle, be it a successful one or not, needs to evoke a strong sense of uniqueness.
3.) New Age Customization
One of my most played games on the Xbox 360 was Borderlands 2, a game that revelled in its ability to offer tens of thousands of weapon combinations via procedurally generated loot earned throughout your adventure.
Although it wasn’t a game that allowed actual, personal weapon customization, it did provide the level of choice and multiplicity that the armoury of Destiny would do well to aspire to. But in the case of Destiny, it’s not only weaponry that could be improved via the personal touch, but also our regalia as Guardians of the last city on earth. It’s likely that colours and a fair few clothing options will be instantly available, but what about the smaller things like the dust-laden cape of a haggard adventurer or the dual bandolier of a mercenary?
Our imaginations can only reach as far as they’re allowed, and given that one of Destiny’s most important tenets is one of player choice, the depth in customization afforded to us should be in keeping with everything that Destiny is aspiring to be; suitably next-gen and bolder than anything that has come before it.
4.) Statistics Tracking
We all like to be told how well we’re doing, but for times when a living, breathing person isn’t around to feed your ego, stats are the next best thing at letting us know just how proficient we actually are.
During the run of Halo 3, Bungie.net took up the task of collating all user stats from every aspect of the games multiplayer. Everything from weapon kills to objective participation and even heat-maps were offered as part of a completely free, yet completely expansive addition to the main game. And seeing as how the stats were offered only through the external outlet of Bungie’s website, there was little emphasis on constant number-crunching for those who didn’t particularly enjoy scrutinizing every facet of their gameplay.
Stats will always mean more or less depending on the type of player, but the prospect of being able to turn on my phone, analyse last night’s mission and then plan another siege all whilst being glumly sat on the morning commute is a little thing that could go a long way to making Destiny the complete package. And with app functionality for not only phones, but also tablets and the PS Vita a tantalizing prospect, the tools are in place for Bungie to make Destiny transcend the console platform, whilst also establishing itself on other, more portable devices.
5.) Community Emphasis
Part of what made Halo 3 such a popular game with its players was through Bungie’s unrelenting rapport with the community. From in-game features like the glorification of peoples original content, be it map or game type, to little things like forum interaction and refreshing transparency, the continual survival of Halo 3 against a roll-out of constant FPS rivals was due in part to Bungie’s unabashed level of player interactivity.
And it was this positive attitude that lead to Bungie garnering immense popularity with its player base, and if Destiny is to follow suit, then Bungie need to stick to this precedent. Community interaction through all of the proper channels, plus regular in-game events, bonuses and seasonal freebies would be more than enough input to keep Destiny steadily ticking over, whilst developer transparency would also be well received given some of the more notable recent examples to the contrary.
6.) A Seamless Cooperative Experience
It wasn’t too long ago that the tantalizing prospect of ‘Drop in/Drop out’ co-op was a mere myth, but as games like Diablo 3 and Borderlands 2 will attest to, it’s a very real and all too useful feature to cast aside without a second thought. As trailers have already suggested, ‘Drop in/Drop Out’ co-op is something that Destiny will likely have stashed away in its repertoire. And given its suitability for the type of game that Destiny is, effortlessly leaving and joining friends multiplayer games shouldn’t be too much trouble.
But, where there are multiplayer games as big and open as Destiny, there will always be connectivity problems. If, unlike Halo 3, Destiny is a game that runs on dedicated servers rather than having a single player as a host, things will likely not be too detrimental, however if a single player is hosting the game, then host migration will have to be relatively quick and painless. I’m not expecting this aspect of Destiny to be perfectly attuned to our wants and needs as early as the games release, but hopefully Bungie garner enough information from the upcoming Beta to really make the game run as smooth as possible prior to its full release.
7.) The Grandeur of the Universe
Destiny has been billed by its creators as a ‘shared-world shooter’, and that is fair description, but it’s easy to look past Bungie’s coining of a new term and seeing Destiny simply for what it is; a role-playing game.
For even with its emphasis in online connectivity and being a part of a team, Destiny is an RPG, and that in turn means wide-open exploration, player customization and, unlike any other genre out there, the complete and total immersion in the story of you, the avatar. You may be playing as a nefarious marksman selling his skillset to the highest bidder, or a paragon of virtue lending a helping hand to all across the galaxy, but even in the smallest of acts, you are playing as an extension of yourself above all else. You’re not Soap MacTavish, Nathan Drake or John 117, rather you’re Adam, John or Anna, and this is your story to tell.
But your story is only going to be as good as the universe that encompasses it, and so it’s Bungie’s job to make said universe not only big, but full to the brim with places to explore, people to meet and moments of both glory and disdain to revel in.
In short, I need to feel like a Guardian.
I need to feel like the man in front of the mountain, my journey an increasingly perilous ascent to the summit. I need each battle to feel like an absolute microcosm of the conflict at large, and most importantly, for my actions and interactions to be proportionate to their context. Let me stand on the rocks edge and watch the river flow, and let me celebrate the defeat of an enemy figurehead all within the same morning. Give me depth and give me substance, but most importantly, give me the freedom to roam, and allow this to be less a story about a Guardian, and more a story about James; the Guardian, the protagonist, and the man at the centre of Earth’s redemption.
Give me a blank canvas, a brush and the rigidity of a story-line to guide me.
I’ll do the rest.