Destiny, also known as the most pre-ordered new video game franchise in history, hit the market worldwide last week. Developed by Bungie in a big fanfare, Destiny marks their first move away from the Halo franchise they were tied to by Microsoft for nearly ten years.
For a while, Bungie managed to keep plot details thin on the ground. Basically, the player takes the role of a ‘guardian’. Remnants of the defenders of humanity, after an event known so far only as ‘The Collapse’ bought an end to a period of rapid inter-planetary colonisation and technological growth. A major element of gameplay will be ‘The Light’, a power wielded by the player. This power apparently derives from ‘The Traveller’ a celestial body which the coming of allowed humanity’s rapid growth. Readers noticing more than a slight resemblance here to Halo, rest assured you are not alone. Clearly, Bungie have a comfort zone in thier writing, and they are sticking to it. Expect power armour, plasma guns, and other sci-fi cliches in abundance.
In terms of gameplay, scale seems to be the name of the game here. Described as an ‘online shooter’, Bungie has promised that the FPS gameplay will serve as a core mechanic, whilst also including MMO elements. Likely, this is intended to free the player from the heavily scripted gameplay that blights other shooter franchises. In the last console generation Bungie proved that they could craft sublime shooters, and revolutionised the concept of online competetive play. The question is, can they repeat this success on the scale of which they have hyped themselves up?
As one of the bigger hitters of the new IPs, Destiny has a lot to live up to. This may prove to be an example of how well a top tier game can sell on new system without having to rely on brand name reconnection. This is crucial for developers as the new generation slowly becomes more adopted and existing franchises see their sales figures dip as brand fatigue sets in. When the sales numbers are published, publishers will be looking with a keen eye.
Reviews of Destiny prior to its initial release are guaranteed to be few and far between. With a main element of the game being online play and player interaction, Bungie seem to be loath to provide review copies that would not demonstrate what they consider a core part of gameplay.
This, unfortunately, is a double edged sword. Reviewers will of course not be in a position to judge the game in an incomplete state, possibly impacting negative criticism that becomes irrelevant once the game has reached a mass market. On the other hand, not having a review copy available for the major gaming press will no doubt impact on swaying early adopters, and could have an adverse effect on day one sales figures. This also seems to run counter productive to Bungie’s marketing stratergy so far. Common practice in the gaming industry, seen this year with Watch Dogs, is to over-hype a game developers don’t have any lasting faith in. This is done in order to boost day one figures to off-set a drop in sales as news travels that the game isn’t up to standard. With Destiny as hyped as it is, combined with review copies being denied to press, consumers may do well to be more than a little alarmed.