As the industry has progressed and technology has gotten better, our virtual worlds have gotten bigger and prettier. The days of being hemmed in are long gone; even the linear adventures have more sense of freedom and exploration than ever before. As for Bungie's new project, Destiny, it's probably best labeled a "MMOFPS," because you have to be online to play, although you don't necessarily have to play with others. Still, this persistent universe somehow manages to provide us with a narrative as well, and it remains to be seen how important this is to the overall experience.
As you already know, Bungie made Halo. So, it's not too surprising to see that franchise's influence on Destiny. Visually speaking, it has that epic sci-fi feel and in terms of gameplay, many say the anticipated title has a similar weight and heft. If you take a close look at the weapons, you'll see Halo's influence there as well, but it's clear that Destiny will have far more firearms with which to experiment. That's a good thing, too, because I've always thought the weaponry in Halo was its single biggest drawback.
While the game won't have the same setting or style as Borderlands, it has often been compared to Gearbox's acclaimed series. And that's because both IPs have a strong focus on cooperative gameplay within an open-world environment. Bungie is attempting to provide a seamless co-op experience, featuring smooth drop-in and drop-out play with friends. Furthermore, the team has spoken of an unparalleled dynamic nature, in that everywhere you go in Destiny, there will be something to see or do. It's not just, "go there, clear out the enemies, go somewhere else, repeat."
That has always proven to be the most boring aspect of this style of game, so I'm glad to see Bungie stepping things up. This way, you'll never know what to expect around the next bend or over the next rise. You can break off on your own or you can tackle objectives with a bunch of friends; that much is up to you. However, it has been hinted at that playing the lone wolf won't often be the best idea. We don't know yet what the maximum human player count will be, but much like any other MMO, you will continually encounter other players in various locations in Destiny's far-reaching world.
Essentially, based on everything we've heard and that excellent E3 gameplay presentation, this is a game that seeks to expand - in every conceivable way - on the co-op multiplayer formula. What you do, when you do it, and how you do it is entirely up to you. If you see a fight over yonder but you don't want to get involved, don't. If you're seeking a particular encounter with a certain enemy, or if you only want to play with a small group of close friends, so be it. If you want to go all free-wheeling and jump into anything that looks interesting, have at it. With a host of weapons, skills, and specific class abilities, the depth will be there as well.
And remember, that narrative is there, so completing missions and talking to NPCs will allow you to see an unfolding story. Of course, I get the feeling that getting stronger and finding better loot will be the crux of the experience. That's typically the case with any giant sandbox title, especially one where online multiplayer is a focus. I can't see anyone eventually recommending Destiny for the single-player experience but hey, that's not the point, right? In short, it could end up being the definitive co-op title of the next generation, if it's done correctly. And it probably will be.
8/8/2013 Ben Dutka