My total playing time in the entire Halo series amounts to roughly three to five minutes of Halo 3: ODST. So my experience with games developed by the Bellevue, Washington-based company Bungie is minimal. The official Alpha and Beta periods for their next game, Destiny, have come and gone. The full game proper launches on the 9th of September and from my time playing the early parts of it, I couldn’t be more excited. I even went to so far as to pre-order one of those stupidly rare Collector’s Editions. Complete with talking Peter Dinklage floating robot thing.
It’s been a good long while since a major, multi-million dollar game sunk its claws into my delicate skin but all signs point to me playing Destiny for an obscene amount of hours. The main reason is it’s a great deal of fun. The world is fascinating, the combat is impactful and the prospect of scouring each and every planet for loot is a lure too strong to ignore. Every inch of the game has me utterly enchanted. I want to take my time. Sit on the ground and just breathe in and out in this universe.
In addition to the desire for solitude, Destiny’s multiplayer aspects are also my cup of tea. Running around (and dancing) with friends is enjoyable but I especially like the concept of completing a mission together, returning to the Tower and everyone splitting up to take care of their own respective business. Check your mail. Redeem your bounties. Upgrade your weapons. Everyone meet back here in ten minutes because we need get back into the hunt. That loot ain’t gonna collect itself. Or head out to the Crucible for more traditional PvP multiplayer. There was only one mode on offer during the Beta (two, if you count the Iron Banner limited time events) and it was a good way to get to grips with the most hectic of skirmishes. There seems to be a lot more modes to come in the full game so it will be interesting how and where everyone’s skills will fit.
The class that best suited me was the Hunter. I enjoy the sniper and scout rifles and the frenetic pace of stabbing enemies up close is the perfect amount of slightly-too-satisfying-violence. Plus, the Vanguard who sells you Hunter-specific gear in the Tower is voiced by Nathan Fillion so you can’t really go wrong there. In fact, the voice acting across the board is phenomenal. Fillion, Gina Torres (Zoe From Firefly), Lance Reddick (Colonel Daniels from The Wire), Bill Nighy (Bill Nighy from everything), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Tali’s mother from Mass Effect 3) and James Remar (Ajax from The Warriors) all suit the atmosphere of Destiny’s world in such a uniform way so as to never feel like you’re just talking to an actor in a recording booth.
On the whole, Destiny seems fantastic. Packed with enough content to sink your Guardian’s teeth into but at the same time, there’s enough space to breathe and quietly reflect on the surroundings if you need to. I plan to do this a lot.
Despite my positive feelings, there has been a slow but steady criticism of the Beta period of the game. Players are concerned there won’t be enough on offer when the game finally ships in September. Will there be enough areas to explore? The enemies seem to be spawning way too fast. Will the level cap be high enough? All these points are valid.
All these concerns seem to come from one place: hope. Bungie have said they plan to support Destiny for ten years. Whether that simply means a ton of add-on content or several sequels is not exactly known. But it’s this ambitious fortitude that is giving potential fans some pause. Everyone who wants to jump into these deep waters wants to make sure the water is warm enough first. Remember, Bungie made five Halo games before starting work on Destiny so they know a thing or two about the longevity of fictional universes. Players are simply hoping that when they jump off, Bungie will be there to catch them with meaningful content and satisfying worlds.
I have faith, and that slightly confuses me. I have no history with Bungie. No past knowledge of their products. So why is it that I believe they’ll come through with the goods? I had a great time with the Alpha and Beta but those are barely scratching the surface of Destiny. What makes me think it will fulfill my expectations?
Before I try to figure out the answer, have a look at this. Back in May of 2012, Bungie’s publisher, Activision, was neck-deep in lawsuits surrounding the developers of Call Of Duty. During these proceedings, a ‘highly-confidential’ contract with Bungie first came to light detailing the first hints of what Destiny would be. Here’s some highlights:
- The contract between Activision and Bungie stipulates that Bungie will develop four “sci-fi fantasy, action shooter games” codenamed Destiny. Additional content packs or DLC, codenamed Comet will also be released. The four Destiny games will be released in the Fall of 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 followed by Comet DLC in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020.
- The contract states that Destiny will initially only be available on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and later systems, codenamed Xbox 720.
- “Licensor agrees that it shall not wilfully take any actions (or make any omissions) in its development for the Xbox 360 version of Destiny Game #1 to hinder or undermine the ability to also develop Destiny Game #1 for the PS3. In no event shall Licensor be required to simultaneously ship Destiny Game #1 for the Xbox 360 and PS3 in the Fall of 2013.”
- Bungie owns the intellectual property for both Destiny and the Comet additional content.
- The commencement date for development is April 16 2010.
- Activision will pay Bungie a ‘Quality Bonus’ of $2.5 million should Destiny score at least 90 or higher on GameRankings.com (“or equivalent reputable services if gamerankings.com is no longer in service”) within 30 days of release. Bungie will receive $2.5 million per year between 2010 and 2013 regardless, just as long as development milestones and quality projections are met.
Fascinating, no? Obviously, certain dates and console platforms have changed but that contract sure does contains some zingers. It’s also interesting from a business perspective. Take away all the spider tanks, Vanguards and Guardian cloaks and what you’re left with is a product designed to potentially earn billions of dollars. Both Activision and Bungie are banking a hell of a lot on Destiny so it’s probably extremely smart for them to go through an exhaustive Alpha and Beta period for the final release. They need to make sure this thing drops as smoothly as possible. Especially considering a lot of games in previous years with heavy focus on multiplayer aspects have, shall we say, crashed and burned on launch day.
I’ll be there to see it happen. And I won’t be alone. I have never before seen my PlayStation Network friends list join together in unison under the same banner like this one. At one point during the Beta, I saw a 21 out of a possible 62 online. Every single one of them was playing Destiny. Worldwide, the Beta attracted 4.6 million players. So it’s almost a foregone conclusion there will be enough people dancing like fools all over the Moon.
Whether Destiny becomes a global phenomenon or a colossal failure, I’m already excited to know more. There were a lot of sections on the Beta maps that were sealed off. Either by smoky doors or invincible enemies. What’s in there? What secrets do these ruins hold? Also, the Collector’s Edition comes with a myriad of fiction-expanding journals and manuals. All ripe for picking. That’s what truly great video games can do. They can convince you that this make-believe world is not only worth your time and money but is something you desperately want to fall headlong into and never come out.
I’ll be looking out over the horizon until September.