We don’t know nearly enough about Destiny, the next big shooter from Bungie, to say whether it will live up to the hype. But at the very least, I want to believe.
The company that created Halo–and two years ago left the series behind to work with publisher Activision on something new–has set its sights high. It’s promising a kind of massive online shooter where you roam the solar system, meet other players along the way, and together fight bad guys and collect awesome loot. Yes, that sounds like the first-person shooter equivalent of World of Warcraft (or maybe Guild Wars), but you know what? No one’s actually pulled it off before.
So count me on board with Destiny’s high-level concept, but also somewhat skeptical given that we’re in the dark about many of the key details. Here’s what I’m left wondering:
What does it feel like to actually play it?
Bungie has said plenty about the sort of meta-experiences that it wants to provide–those moments where you’re miraculously saved by an incoming player, or gambling for gear in hub cities, or drawn in to unexpected adventures. But those layers of role-playing are just icing. What about the actual running around and shooting stuff? You can see a few seconds of the game at about 3:18 in this video, but in that brief glimpse it’s hard to tell Destiny apart from any other first-person shooter. There’s plenty of nitty-gritty to wonder about, like what the game’s character classes will be, or how vehicles will come into play, but I’m more curious on a general level: Will Bungie stick closely to Halo’s tried-and-true formula, or try to reinvent the shooter as it did so many years ago?
How much will the structure remind us of other MMOs?
Bungie and publisher Activision desperately don’t want to paint Destiny as an MMO. They’ve even created their own jargon, “shared world shooter,” which as far as I can tell means exactly the same thing. Despite the lofty promises, I’m guessing Destiny will at times remind us of other MMOs. The idea of dungeon-like raids, as described by Kotaku, should feel familiar to anyone who’s played World of Warcraft, and the idea of live events and time-limited activities, as Gamasutra describes, makes me think of Guild Wars 2 and its pinball-like quest structure. And for what it’s worth, the idea of a persistent shooter has been tried before in games like Firefall and Planetside 2. I suppose it behooves Activision and Bungie to describe Destiny as something totally new–but only if they can deliver.
How will competitive multiplayer work?
Although Halo always had a knack for enemy AI, the real hallmark of the series was its competitive multiplayer. In Destiny, Bungie promises that players will be able to fight amongst themselves, but hasn’t offered any details. That makes me wonder how it’ll work in context with the story, which is supposed to be about building a character and fighting bad guys in a big, open world. My best guess is that players will square off in simulated battlegrounds, kind of like how Halo 4 bills its multiplayer as one big training simulation for new Spartan recruits.
Can Bungie make mobile apps that don’t feel pointless?
We’ve seen plenty of console publishers dabble in mobile apps, and they generally fall into two categories. There are organization apps like Call of Duty Elite, which let you fiddle with weapon loadouts and view your stats, and there are supplemental games like Mass Effect Infiltrator, which can have a minor impact on the main game through bonus rewards. Neither approach really feels essential. The 1:00 mark of this video teases a way to chat with friends and organize games through the app, but I wonder how many people would actually use those features. Hopefully Bungie has bigger plans in store.
Would a next-gen console release preclude a current-gen one?
Officially, Destiny is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but as Polygon points out, Bungie has a new graphics engine that works across platforms, including future, unannounced ones. That makes me wonder what the transition to future consoles will be like. Certainly Bungie will want to take advantage of those consoles’ extra processing power and features some day. At what point can Destiny leave current consoles behind?
What’s the 10-year plan?
Activision has said that Destiny will not be subscription-based, but that’s all we know. Will Bungie simply add onto the world with expansion packs, like Blizzard does with World of Warcraft? Will players be able to spend their way to better weapons or gear? Will there be a premium subscription-based service, like the one Activision attempted (and later abandoned) with Call of Duty Elite? Activision and Bungie have a 10-year partnership ahead of them; the business model can go down all kinds of roads from here.