Destiny E3 2013 Preview

If there’s one thing that Destiny showed me at E3 2013, it’s promise. Promise that the company is looking to take first-person shooter gameplay in a whole new direction and bring some much-needed innovation to the genre. The little taste that I got during Bungie’s hands-off demonstration didn’t do enough for me to immediately buy what they’re selling, but the game does have my curiosity and attention at this point.

To be fair, it’s difficult to hook someone in a fifteen-minute demo for an MMO that comprises hundreds upon hundreds of hours of gameplay; especially when that MMO design is being used as a means to redefine the possibilities of an entirely different genre. Bungie did its best in this short span of time to show off how these MMO elements are helping make up the core of this unique title. They’re all admirable and focus solely on cooperation among players for the betterment of all, an approach previously taken by Guild Wars 2 and the in-development The Elder Scrolls Online.

It all starts with the drop-in, drop-out style of play that’s at the core of Destiny‘s quests and events. After landing on Earth in the remnants of Russia, my demonstrator was quickly joined by a friend of his who had dropped in from the sky to see what he was up to. He informed her of his desire to go through a prominent wall in the duo’s vicinity in order to investigate what lay beyond. She agreed to join him and the two adventured into the area, encountering enemies and a boss along the way.

Upon emerging from the wall, the duo was joined by another one of their friends, who also dropped in to see what his buddies were up to. These both act as examples of just how easy it is to group up, but some questions still remain. Both friends joined the game’s overall open world, and not in the confines of the wall and its quest. This leaves me to wonder if these sections are cordoned off from the larger world and others are not allow to join until they’re finished.

Regardless of how or where players join up within the world, Destiny‘s environments are rendered in a highly detailed and gorgeous fashion. In order to drive that feeling home, my demonstrator made sure to give a slow look around to the surrounding area before he even met his pals. All around, rivers flowed, mountains sprawled, and remnants of a society long gone – such as empty, rusted out cars – were spread across the landscape. To prove he wasn’t lying and these were all open environments to which players will be able to venture, he threw grenades into the river and among the cars, showing us that they were landing and exploding, not hitting invisible walls and bouncing away.

Destiny‘s attention to detail in the visual department also applies its numerous guns, which are similar to those found in the Borderlands titles. These weapons show off their unique designs during play, sometimes with elemental effects that radiate around them in a subtle yet fitting manner. They can also be customized via dedicated talent trees.

When it came time to using those guns to drop some Fallen – the game’s antagonistic race of four-armed aliens – this is where I got the chance to see some of Destiny‘s core shooter combat for the first time. If anyone has played an FPS in recent years, then the act of running and gunning won’t be lost upon them. Certain classes have access to and specialize in the use of specific weapon types, but it’s each class’ powers that add something extra to the combat and make the game more interesting.

But before the combat had even begun, there was another facet to the game that brought more character into the world… literally. My demonstrator’s class summoned an AI companion known as Ghost, who is voiced by none other than Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage. Not just a typical AI, Ghost has his own witty personality, cracking jokes and bringing some welcome levity to the game. On a functional standpoint, Ghost is intended to aid players in difficult non-combat situations, such as a locating and switching breakers to power and light the abandoned interior of the wall.

When the bullets do fly, each quest appears to end in a traditional boss fight. Bosses can be differentiated from normal enemies based on their size as well as their details on the game’s HUD. Instead of showing their level, bosses show unique symbols to indicate that they’re special. They’re names are also displayed in an orange light, which is unique from the blue that denotes allies and red for standard enemies. Though they are tough and demand teamwork from players, these baddies – once downed – will drop loot for everyone in the quest. In this case, both my demonstrator and his friend got themselves each a new gun.

Finally, to prove that Bungie intends to follow through on what it has promised, I was given a taste of what the team is calling Destiny‘s “public events.” During this segments, the area that the demonstrator and his friends occupied became the site of an assault by the Fallen. The enemy ships dropped troops and a giant insectoid crawler mech to take over the area. It was then that we saw just how open the game’s world will truly be, as another group of players came rushing into the battle to take on this new menace.

Wanting to aid the others, my demonstrator and his friends jumped into the fray and a massive battle ensued. Powers, bullets, cannon fire, and bodies flew around the screen in a fight that was just frantic enough to get the adrenaline flowing, but not enough to cause aggravating chaos. All of the players talked positioning and tactics as the encounter raged on, but it was unclear whether that was because they were all playing right next to one another or if it was to emulate potential in-game voice chat with other players.

With everything wrapped up, Destiny left the impression on my mind that Bungie is on the verge of doing something great for the FPS genre and online gaming. The pieces that were shown prove that they work as intended and the lofty potential is there, but with such a small sample of a game that’s sure to be gargantuan in scale, it’s hard to fully jump on board just yet. We’ll all have a better idea in the coming months and a concrete opinion when Destiny launches for the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One sometime in 2014.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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