E3 2013: Destiny First Look Preview – The Final Frontier
Written Sunday, June 30, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
And we thought Halo would be too hard an act to follow. After our first proper look at Destiny in action at E3, it looks like Bungie could well succeed in topping its greatest opus, which on the strength of one gameplay demo that wasn't even hands-on, might be a really stupid and foolhardy thing to say. But to hell with it. Destiny looked utterly fantastic on every conceivable level.
Before E3 and Destiny's gameplay demo, a lack of footage and screenshots in favour of concept art and ethereal, intangible ideas, meant we had relatively little interest in the game. The sci-fi setting looked somewhat derivative and we expected just another first-person shooter. Now Destiny is well and truly on our radar, showing that Bungie's ambition is definitely not in short supply here. And while words like 'ambitious', 'grand' and 'innovative' are easy to throw around along with every other hyperbolic word in our big journo's dictionary of positive praise, there's no other way to really describe our first look at Destiny.
As the action opens amid the arid wastes of Old Russia, you get your first glimpse of Destiny's antagonists, the multi-limbed Fallen, as they clamber over burnt out rusty cars stretching far into the distance. This is Earth, but not as you know it. It's out of the rubble and ashes of this apocalyptic world that you'll become “a legend in the making”, playing the role of a Guardian in Destiny's expansive connected online world. Unlike Halo's Master Chief, you're a hero with a face in Destiny, although you'll spend most of your time keeping your visage concealed inside a funky helmet.
Bungie's Destiny debut looks incredibly sharp and detailed, transporting us to a decaying, but imposing vertiginous steel wall on the outskirts of Old Russia. Riddled with gaping holes where entire sheets of rusty sheet metal have succumbed to the ravages of time and weather, the wall is just like those burnt out cars inhabited by skeletons; deserted, abandoned and foreboding. There's still a great deal of mystery surrounding Destiny's story, but that in itself adds to the game's appeal, the promise of discovering more and delving deeper into how civilisation fell.
Everything seemingly revolves around the mysterious Traveler, a city-sized orb that silently hangs in low orbit above Earth. It brought about a so-called 'Golden Age' for civilisation as it spread to other planets including the dunes of Mars and jungles of Venus, and now humanity's last city remains beneath the immobile Traveler, protected by its shield. You play as one of the guardians of the city, fighting outside threats like the Fallen on Earth and the Cabal on Mars. It sounds like the makings of a rich and intricate universe, something that Bungie has become well-versed in with Halo.
Destiny will take you from Abandoned Earth to the moon, Mars and Venus, but for this E3 demo we're shown a sliver of what Earth has to offer, taking us through the decaying Old Russia wall and into its rafters, where the lighting is something to behold. Deploying a Ghost Drone, you're able to shed light on the wall's creaky innards, as the glowing orb rises through the criss-crossing steel girders and shafts, projecting glimmers of bright light through the gaps. It's a startling early glimpse of what next-gen consoles can do as far as creating immersive and engaging environments is concerned. It's exciting stuff.
Throughout the entirety of the demo, we're teetering on the edge of our seat, hypnotised by what's unfolding on-screen. At its core, Destiny is a first-person shooter, but its MMO structure promises to deliver so much more. Imagine Borderlands-style co-op and loot on the most epic scale imaginable, and you're almost there.
Besieged by Fallen Dregs and Fallen Vandals alerted by the Ghost Drone's light, we get to see Destiny's robust-looking gunplay, as enemies actively seek cover and attempt to retreat when they're injured. A Fallen Vandal makes a break for it and tries to escape the fracas, only to be stopped in his tracks by a critical hit to the head from your pistol, while your co-op buddy does some crowd control keeping the grunt-like Dregs at bay, as the stronger more proficient Vandals attempt to outflank you.
As well as raining rifle fire upon enemies, your character also has a special ability, as illustrated by one Guardian's fireball. The camera quickly pans out to third-person view as he leaps to the air, throwing a blue ball of energy into the throng of Fallen enemies. Hadouken. Boom. Knifing enemies with melee attacks is also an option when things go close-quarters, a tactic that probably won't be all that effective against Fallen mini-boss, Rixis the Archon Slayer, who's been biding his time hiding in a large tunnel at the back of the decrepit industrial building.
Leaping from the darkness of the hole, Rixis wields a big gun that can decimate your health if you're not careful. Sliding to a safe spot, you can blast away at Rixis, lobbing a few grenades his way to bring him down. With the fearsome Archon Slayer slain, you're free to pick up the loot he leaves behind, which in this case is a Thunderlord rifle, a chunky elemental lightning weapon that packs a punch and has its very own upgrade tree.
Emerging into the cold light of day on the other side of the wall, a Public Event shows Destiny's MMO objectives at work as you're joined by a whole group of players of various classes, whether it's Hunters, Warlocks or Titans. An explosion on the horizon heralds the arrival of a Fallen dropship, which ejects a Fallen Devil Walker along with some reinforcements. Together you and your team can work to tackle the spider-like mechanical monstrosity, with the Public Event tasking you and the rest of your buddies with eliminating all of the targets. Chipping away at its armour, the level 20 walker soon succumbs to fireballs and bullets, and as you're able to keep your team at full strength by reviving downed friends, taking on the Fallen looks like a blast.
Destiny's a game that we can't wait to get hands-on time with. It came away with our Game of the Show Award with good reason, as the potential it displayed far outstripped almost everything else we saw at E3 this year. Bungie's first multi-format effort could be the developer's biggest game yet, and the start of something truly special. Fusing co-op and competitive multiplayer with MMORPG sensibilities, first-person combat and third-person community areas, Destiny certainly can't be accused of lacking ambition and scope. Can we play it now, please?
Destiny is out on current and next-gen consoles in 2014.