This week, Activision dropped yet another gameplay trailer for Destiny, Bungie’s upcoming “shared-world” first person shooter – the MMO-esque successor to the Halo franchise. The video features seven minutes of gameplay from one of the title’s “Strike” missions, with a trio of players storming through the fantastical Devil’s Lair. It’s here we see the game’s blend of science fiction and fantasy, players talking down a variety of alien enemies, most notably The Fallen, amid the ruins of Old Russia – completing various Peter Dinklage-infused objectives along the way.
Most of it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before: we get a glimpse of the UI, some pretty level design, a few more unique weapons, and another alien boss creature to plug round after round into. That’s not to say this stuff isn’t enjoyable – I have no doubt the final experience will be as fun and polished as most Bungie games are – but it’s nothing new.
The company talked a big game in the year since the reveal of this new IP, and in the eyes of many, myself included, they’re yet to actually deliver on that promise. With all this talk of revolutionary features and unadulterated fun, the game seems to lack any real draw for players. If there is any, we haven’t quite seen it yet: especially due to the fact that they’ve chosen to show basically one environment for the past year, all the while chanting about the immensity of the world. I don’t doubt it, but they’ve done a poor job of communicating its depth to casual fans. To be honest, it’s a tad confusing that they’ve botched so much of the marketing, especially with Activision at its helm.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the company leaves large portions of the game a surprise upon release, as they’ve a reputation for doing so. A decade ago, the company neglected to mention that half of Halo 2 is spent playing as the Arbiter, or the fact that the Arbiter even existed at all.
This is admirable, and it worked when it came to developing for the Halo franchise, but the same strategy doesn’t fare as well when working on an entirely new title. With Halo, the fan-base was well established – the X-Box’s “killer app”. There was no doubt people would buy it, and the company had nothing to prove. But even Halo fell out of popularity with the onslaught of Call of Duty – the latest title, Halo 4, hosting a measly few thousand players at any given moment.
Destiny, despite the popularity of the developer, has been brewing for more than four years now; certainly long enough to drop out of immediate relevance, especially in a next-gen and increasingly saturated FPS market. Bungie also has the unfortunate trouble of releasing the game across generations. While, yes, it does have an opportunity to reach even more players, the reality is that Destiny finds itself limited by the hardware of consoles eight years in the past. Sure, the graphics might improve on next-gen consoles, but the core experience is limited to what the 360 and PS4 can do. In the long run, it might have proved a smarter decision to go next-gen only, with all the advantages that brings.
In addition, the game’s emphasis on open-world, co-operative gameplay is in many ways similar to the Borderlands titles. It’s a popular comparison, and people aren’t far off in saying Destiny lacks the game’s distinctive art style and signature wit. Browsing the comment sections of numerous websites, it’s clear that most outside Bungie’s hardcore fanbase aren’t all that excited for the games release:
“Highly underwhelming and generic looking. Looked better and more exciting at last years E3.”
“I thought I was watching Borderlands 3 with an advance floating claptrap …. =P Joking aside game does indeed seems rather generic. Very much like seen that, been there and done that kind of game XD”
“This trailer actually left me with buyers remorse. I may wind up canceling before long unless E3
can change my mind.”
It’s clear that both Bungie and Activision will have to make some serious changes to their marketing strategy in the four months between now and Destiny’s release. Unless they pull off something spectacular at this years E3 (which I desperately hope they do), their expectations of a ten-year life-cycle might fall flat. Despite Bungie’s reputation, most people don’t find that kind of success more than once.