The much anticipated video game Destiny has finally arrived on the market for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Destiny is at its heart a science-fantasy first person shooter in an open world setting, but also incorporates some significant MMO aspects. Developers Bungie (the creators of Halo) have termed the game a shared-world shooter, because though the game universe will be persistent and alive, featuring events not planned by the developer, the players cannot, for example, see or interact with all other players. Instead, on the fly matchmaking is used to create dynamism without an immediately obvious community presence.
Destiny is set 700 years in the future in a post-apocalyptic setting following humanity’s Golden Age, a period of exploration, technological advancement, and prosperity during which humans spread out and colonized planets in the Solar System. This was made possible by the arrival of the Traveler, an immense, mysterious spherical body that rendered Mars, Venus and Mercury habitable. But a Darkness followed the Traveler to Earth and now, after sacrificing itself to save humanity during the Collapse, the wounded orb hovers over the last safe city on Earth. In its last act the Traveler created Ghosts, hovering robotic AIs that seek out a Guardian companion from amongst the ancient dead, reviving them and infusing them with the ability to wield The Light, an unknown power (indeed the game begins with the player being reanimated by a ghost). These Guardians act as the defenders of the last city against the alien hordes that now inhabit humanity’s former empire and against the return of the Darkness itself – a threat that only the successfully revived Traveler can face.
The player controlled Guardians will be divided into three races (male or female): Humans, Awoken, and Exo. Humans require no explanation; Awoken, on the other hand, are a race born out of the Collapse – altered by exposure to the Darkness, while Exos are a race of advanced sentient humanoid robots originally developed by humanity for defense purposes - rebooted after the Collapse, they had lost all memory of their function. Though the player's choice of race doesn't alter the game, it does offer a chance for in-depth personalisation: facial appearance is fully customisable.
Guardians are further subdivided into three classes of warrior: the heavily armed and armored Titans, the power wielding, wizard-like Warlocks, and the bounty hunter themed Hunters. The choice of one of these classes is much more important than the Human-Awoken-Exo split, as these warriors fight in entirely different ways. Titans, befitting their role as future soldiers, belong in the thick of the fight; the first Titans built and defended the Wall that protects the last city, and their descendants are just as steadfast. Warlocks are more versatile, combining modern weapons with arcane powers gained from their long study of the Traveler; they are truly the Jedi Knights of Destiny, their mastery of The Light unparalleled amongst the Guardians. Lastly the Hunters, the masters of the frontier, the ex-outlaws that make their own rules: they are the invaluable scouts, quick on the trigger and deadly with a blade, who have well earned their reputations for daring and ingenuity.
While may sound like a fearsome cadre, the enemies the player faces are equally dangerous, wielding powers granted by the Darkness. These foes include the Fallen, the Hive, the Cabal, and the Vex. The Fallen are a technologically advance race of nomadic four-armed humanoids busy scavenging Golden Age remains on the Earth and the Moon. The Hive is an ancient race of zombie-like humanoids that have burrowed into the Moon, carving out an underground kingdom called the Hellmouth; there they remain silently, growing ever stronger. The Cabal Empire is a sophisticated military industrial complex bent on expansion and conquest; already its towering soldiers and war machines occupy entrenched positions on Mars, posing perhaps the greatest threat to the last city on Earth. Lastly, the Vex is a robotic species with a massive stronghold on Venus, the Citadel, from which they launch overwhelming attacks via warp gates; little is known of them save that they are part organic and entirely unrelenting.
Throughout the game players will have the help of the community to face off against these enemies, though the alien races will also fight each other - the Vex, for example, hate the Cabal as much as humanity and spend much of their time fighting them on Mars - creating a truly dynamic universe. Leveling up will allow the player to fly around the Solar System to take on increasingly strong adversaries, developing his ideal three man fire team along the way. Better weapons and armor are of course on offer for purchase or as rewards, while special powers can be developed by battle, in which a speedy respawn is only a death away. All of this is centered on the Tower, where the player returns between missions to interact with other players, visit vendors, and turn in quest items. Overall this system allows for a myriad of diversity in the personalization of each character, creating the sense of accomplishment classic to the MMO genre. There is also a competitive multiplayer; an aspect that one can only believe will become a sideshow alongside such a consuming campaign.
Destiny, it must be mentioned, is also beautiful, running at a smooth 1080p on PS4 and Xbox One (if bought digitally for PS3 or Xbox 360 the next gen version can then be downloaded free). The game also takes advantage of a new game engine that allows global illumination and real time dynamic lighting to occur simultaneously. Aesthetics however, will be secondary to the quality and size of the community, which, due to the world’s persistent and unscripted nature, will truly make or break the game. With so much hope resting on its shoulders, it would be a disappointment to see Destiny crushed down and forgotten. But if that is to be its fate, well, at least we have Tom Clancy’s The Division to look forward to (set to release in 2015, hopefully).