In among the impressions of the Destiny beta will be a lot of talk of how the game is just another Halo.
Those impressions are not wrong. In fact, they are pretty much on the money. Destiny is a hell of a lot like Halo. For some, that will be a major turn off. For some, that will be a problem. For some, that will be a gateway to a lot of features criticizing people for enjoying something that is really the same as not just Halo, but every other shooter that has come out in Halo’s wake.
None of those people are wrong. Any feature criticizing the sameness of Destiny, or really the ridiculousness of people getting excited about another goddamn AAA shooter game, is valid. All of these shooters are kind of the same, and that they are so popular is kind of a strangler of the gaming industry. But in among all that sameness, sameness that I have experienced for many years and have openly criticized in the past, is something that is almost impossible for me to explain. To me, Destiny doesn’t quite feel like everything else. There’s a singular nature to Destiny, buried deep down under all of that sameness. The trouble is in finding the words to describe it.
I suppose a lot of that can be put upon the game’s incredible sense of physical place and atmosphere. The world of the Cosmodrome and Old Russia, and the Moon, for those lucky enough to get there, felt like nothing else I’ve played in years. They feel futuristic yet ancient, run down but filled with life. Destiny does a better job of creating a world that feels like it existed before my arrival into it and will continue to exist long after I’ve passed through it than any game in recent memory.
The world feels downright mystical (the game was originally straight up fantasy, and was heavily influenced by tales of knights and Camelot), and much of that also comes from Martin O’ Donnell and Michael Salvatori’s jaw dropping score. The music is sweeping and grand, but mellow and understated. It knows when to go big and when to go quiet. Nothing is overdone, nothing is bombastic, nothing is out of place. Destiny is a game with atmosphere to burn, and the music goes a long way towards that.
But the greatest part of Destiny’s whole that completely and totally sells this high-science-fantasy world Bungie has created, is the part they harp on about the most; the “living world”. Or, to use non-buzzword terms, the MMO-like elements of Destiny that match you with any given number of Guardians as you’re wandering throughout the world. As you walk through the Cosmodromo of Old Russia, and as you wind your way through the Tower, other Guardians in the same place will appear in your game. You don’t have to interact with them, but they are there. It is amazing what this element, which seemed so hard to describe for Bungie and for those who played the game in previews, brings to the world to make it feel far larger than just you. The talk of knights and Camelot was not just talk; that is how Destiny feels, like the ancient tales of knights who would go out on adventures together and alone and come back with tales of glory and the loot to prove it. Destiny is high-fantasy done in space, and it really does feel like that.
But, again, isn’t this all rather familiar?