Publisher Activision Developer Bungie Format 360, PS3, PS4, Xbox One Release September 9
The servers were running long before Bungie made
Destiny’s alpha public. Some time in mid-May, friends and family were playing in a small slice of Destiny’s world, and by early June the test had been expanded to special guests and press. For a time, you could trace the PSN handles of anyone you met to the Twitter accounts of developers up and down the West Coast, and the frequent interactions Destiny thrusts upon players were consistently cordial, apparently thanks to a certain class of player hunting on these early test servers.
The secret ended on June 13, when every PS4 owner could join in the surprise alpha, but something totally unexpected happened: the atmosphere remained cordial, the interactions stayed friendly and the players – suddenly numbering in the millions – were still delightful. In part, it’s thanks to Destiny’s limited set of interactions, just a wave and a dance and a pointy finger, and it’s also due to the sheer delight of the players to be sampling the game so early. Mostly, however, it’s because Bungie has managed to build something that only gets better when people are around.
Alone, Destiny is good, but when other players stumble into your world on their way to their next quest or when they join you on yours, it becomes great. It has long been true that co-op with friends adds a lot to gaming, but that’s rarely true of co-operative interactions with strangers, as any Gears Of War player will attest. Only a rare few do it well, such as Dark Souls, with its countless layers of abstraction.
Destiny also takes an abstract approach, allowing players to meet one another as you cross into others’ games while making a journey of your own. Around every corner you find players fighting their own personal battles – sometimes they need help and sometimes they’re happier alone, but coming across them is never boring. Their stories become tiny pieces of your own, and on occasion a furious firefight will lead to a bond of sorts, and an invite to form a fireteam will cement two strangers together for a few hours of adventure. For the first time in a long while, an online shooter has become a place to make friends, not enemies.
We played Destiny last year, long before there were enough players to provide the kind of experience Bungie is after, but one year on to the day we saw that promise fulfilled. The technology works, the worldbuilding offers room to explore, the guns crack, and the players play nice. Call it respect, perhaps; Destiny demands it.
Bungie would dispute the description of Destiny as an always-online Halo in an open world, but that’s how it feels in play, and that’s what makes it one of this year’s most exciting new games