The amount of press that Destiny is garnering is almost overwhelming, but for a game that reportedly took more than $500 million to make, market and distribute, I suppose that should surprise no one. Titanfall was set up by Microsoft to be its killer video game for the Xbox One this year, and while it was good fun, even its marketing push is failing compared to what we have seen out of Destiny so far. This type of media push is both a curse and a blessing. The good news is, with awareness so high, more people are aware of the title and it will no doubt sell well. However, it tends to create expectations that almost no game can reasonably meet, and in the end is almost certain to leave some people disappointed for not having lived up to those lofty goals.
Gorgeous graphics, recognizable voice acting talent, lots of multiplayer options, progressive hooks and a development team with a killer pedigree read like a checklist and Destiny certainly fills all of those boxes. Still, after spending lots of time with the beta, I found myself enjoying it - but those hoping that Destiny will reshape the FPS genre may come away somewhat disappointed.
It is obviously way too early to pass any sort of final judgement on Destiny at this point, as Bungie has only given us a couple of tastes through the Alpha and Beta stages before the title fully releases this fall. However, these early looks at the game do give us a good idea of what is to come - but it is worth noting that plenty of aspects are still subject to change. Many people were unimpressed with Peter Dinklage's dialogue from the alpha. Apparently robotic voices are supposed to be filled with a great deal more warmth and tone inflection - who knew? I am only half-joking, as the voice in the beta has a much more robotic reverberation that certainly feels more appropriate, and some of the dialogue has been changed (the now meme-worthy "That Wizard came from the Moon" line has been replaced, showing us that a) the team has been listening to feedback and b) Peter's dialogue woes might not have been entirely his fault, despite the number of people suggesting he mailed the performance in).
Now that we have had a chance to spend some time with the beta (one of our other team members, Chris, has maxed out multiple characters and pretty much acquired everything that can be had currently - he's spent a bit of time playing it), I feel it is safe to weigh in on Destiny's early showing.
Let's start with perhaps the most important item: the game is a great deal of fun. It feels familiar to shooting fans, with a variety of options to configure the controller layout and customize the experience a bit. Visually it is every bit as impressive as one would expect with the pedigree Bungie has, with hauntingly beautiful landscapes complimented by a variety of particle and lighting effects. The sweeping views of the terrain are very impressive, with distant skies painted across the backdrop while the crumbled buildings and signs of life lost effectively portray the devastation and sorrow of the story.
Without a doubt, my favorite components are the RPG elements. A little Diablo-like loot collection coupled with a leveling and skill system complement your ability to choose from one of three basic classes and the options to customize the appearance of your characters. We have seen this blending of genres a lot more over the last generation of games and Destiny continues that trend effectively. The only disappointment is this feels more like a continued step in the same direction. For all of the marketing and promises made, the early showing by Destiny is that it is continuing down the same path but taking measured steps and not significant leaps.
Perhaps I mentally set the bar just a bit too high and need to recalibrate accordingly. There is no doubt in my mind that Destiny is going to be successful. It is more than just summer blockbuster fun, with enough progression to keep gamers coming back for more than just high score on a five or ten minute map or mode. The gameplay is quick and crisp, controlling well. The presentation values are excellent. This is by no means a bad game - it is one that I expect will score very well when sites get a chance to put their hands on it.
It is a step in the right direction, but I have heard quite a few people state the opinion that Destiny would redefine the genre. So many sites (just plug Destiny redefine fps into Google and you will find pages of results on this topic) are stating that Destiny will reshape how people look at the FPS genre. Bungie is actually one of the few who seems to understand the folly of this thinking. Bungie has gone on record as saying that such a goal or expectation would be arrogant. They have said their goal was a fun game first and foremost.
There is still a lot we have to learn about Destiny. Despite a few members on the team having had a chance to sink several (or in Chris' case, dozens) of hours of time into it, there is still a great deal we do not know. For example, Bungie has promised an endgame that will blow players' minds. That is no small statement, but it also helps to reinforce the notion that while Destiny is a shooter first, it also has an MMO engine in there (much the same way Mass Effect 3 was a shooter, but with RPG elements throughout). Anyone who has logged a great deal of time with a Call of Duty or Battlefield game knows that while new modes may appear, in the end the only real sense of progress is in the character levels or their statistics. The same Nuketown that blows up at the end of one map is still there on another play through - there is no endgame.
The online aspects look like they could be a great deal of fun. The first time a player jumped into my world with me, I was a bit surprised at how seamlessly their arrival and the continuation of the story worked. Even better was the first major event. At the time it started, there were just two of us, but partway through the fray a third member joined our team. We managed to navigate the terrain and take out our enemies without talking or using anything other than the canned gestures bound to the directional pad. Yet it felt like a shared experience when we all bowed to one another after handling said event. Eventually the other two went their own way and I continued down into a dark underground passage to continue my quest.
My prediction is that Destiny will sit well with fans of MMOs and shooters. Will it be enough to justify the enormous price tag of $500 million? Video games are big business, but that seems like an incredible amount of money to recoup. I am skeptical that Destiny will appeal enough to non-FPS fans who are asking themselves if Destiny is right for them. I will certainly get and likely enjoy Destiny when the game finally comes out, but I think my sights and hopes for the game might have to be adjusted slightly. It will not be that game that helps redefine this new generation of gaming consoles, but maybe that is good enough?
Preview by Nick