Twist of fate.
E3 can sometimes devolve into a mass vat of buzzwords and jargon, but one word show-goers cannot get out of their mouths and minds is Destiny. You can't fault them; it's Bungie's first venture since Halo, and first to be released on multiple ports. Naturally, when a successor is announced, all eyes and ears pay attention.
Those eyes and ears have an absolutely gorgeous game to look at. While many FPS titles, even ones in sci-fi settings, indulge in muted tones and grays and other dull, dystopian colors, Destiny contains actual colors. Grays, blacks, and whites share the proverbial palette with beautiful, green, lush jungle scenes, deep red and purple skies, and crisp, architecturally-modern buildings found inside the boundaries of the last safe human city on Earth.
That city remains safe thanks to a strange, orbiting sphere called The Traveler. As for its purpose, nobody knows; the few remaining humans, however, regard it as a benevolent figure. Players assume the role of a Guardian, tasked with ensuring the safety of the city against the alien forces overtaking the planet via a mysterious force only known as The Light.
During the show, I had a chance to take a look at the Bungie title beyond its beautiful surface, in both “single-player” campaign (and I use that term loosely) and in multiplayer matches. Fortunately, the controls play as smoothly and the art and music that encapsulates the triple-A title.
Destiny's multiplayer mode is known as The Crucible, in which I joined four other Guardians against another team of five in a mode called “Control,” which plays like a domination-type event with three controllable zones instead of just one. While other players took the guise of sharpshooting Hunters or heavy-hitting Titans, I stepped into the role of a Warlock, the magic-wielding fantasy character of the sci-fi fantasy blend.
Quickly, the idea of communication amongst team members surfaced, as the random people I was partnered with started discussing strategy. We secured a zone and I stayed there, as the Warlock's magic blast was quite strong and long-ranged, keeping opponents at bay and making up for the fact that the Warlock's weaponry are not as strong as the Hunter's or Titan's artillery. The element of cooperation and communication between the Alpha team brought us to not one, but two victories—a nice boost to the ego.
I mentioned that “single-player” was used in the loosest sense in regards to the story campaign, because even the story campaign involves partnerships with online players—Bungie stresses that it Destiny is not an MMO, but a “persistent shared world,” with other live players influencing one player's campaign. I stepped into a role of a Warlock again, as I knew the controls at this point, and the weaponry was the same.
But instead of the traditional single-player campaign experience, I was enlisted as part of a three-member “fireteam,” sent by the Vanguard to complete a Strike, more difficult side missions that can be tackled by a team. Upon landing in a region of Old Russia, we came across a public event, a randomly-generated event meant to be accomplished by anyone and everyone in the region, ranging from one to hundreds. We came in at the tail-end of it, eliminated the monster, and continued on with our Strike, involving members of the enemy called the Hive. And it's not just the Hive, but undead members of the Hive, including deceased captains, wizards, and wraiths.
Controls were smooth in the strike campaign, and much like multiplayer, coordination and communication was key. Between the other journalist, the Bungie representative, and myself, we came up not only with attack strategies, but also instructions to cover while the head of the fireteam hacked a gate open. The reliance on team efforts established the mentality that all of us were in this together, and we live or die as one, not as individuals, but as the human race.
And yet, I felt something was missing. As good as the game played, and as beautiful as the title looks, I couldn't help but feel that Destiny lacked something akin to, for lack of a better word, its soul. Granted, this is only a preview, and maybe we were not shown enough story to delve into any sort of depth, but I just didn't feel a connection among anyone else other than the immediate fireteam I was playing with. Like staring into a finely-crafted porcelain doll, it comes in a very pretty package, with beauty and aesthetics in mind, but not yet much behind the jewels for eyes. Destiny looks and feels great, but I need a deeper connection.
Bungie doesn't hold a reputation for missing the mark, though. As we approach the Destiny beta and its slated September 9th release date for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360, I anticipate the hook that will show me the soul deserving of its artistic majesty.