Archives for posts with tag: Destiny


Back before Destiny launched – about three years ago now – I wrote an excitable, detailed piece about the PS4 alpha test. Clearly I was onboard. But if you were to search my blog for more on Bungie’s shared world shooter, you’d turn up a single extra article since launch – an unboxing of the game’s limited edition.

So what happened? Did I hate the game? Did I abandon it altogether? No. I played Destiny for a while, and for a while I loved it. Then I reached the end of the story, and I fell out of love.

My issues with vanilla Destiny are manifold, and I’ll get into them later (indeed, some of them still persist, to varying degrees). But as the release of Destiny 2 looms ever nearer, I find myself getting drawn back to the game I so desperately wanted to love. And so, over the last few weeks, I’ve been revisiting it, now as different an experience as it is similar, to see if I really want to buy in to the sequel.

I’m probably going to get Destiny 2.

To be clear, this isn’t the first time I’ve returned. After walking away from the original game shortly after reaching level 20, and having killed a weird, pulsating cosmic heart that no one cared to even begin to explain, the excitement around the following year’s The Taken King piqued my interest. “It’s got a story now!” people would tell me, adding “there’s a lot more for solo players to do,” and “levelling is much better explained this time!”

They weren’t wrong, to be fair. I swallowed a mouthful of bile at having to re-buy Destiny and its first two expansions to play The Taken King and again, I had a lot of fun with it. And what do you know, it did have a story! A fairly decent one too, even if it still could have done with a touch more explanation (pipe down, Stranger).

Eventually though, I stopped playing again, and it’s at this point I should probably detail what my issues with Destiny were (are?). To begin with, it’s probably worth pointing out why I was so excited for the game; as a huge Halo campaign fan, I’m used to being a bit of a lore nerd, scrounging around for clues about the mysteries of the universe, be they from snippets of obscure dialogue, hidden terminals or even extended universe novels, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Bungie’s next big mythic sci-fi setting. What I got was… well, a mess, quite frankly, with a campaign that almost gloried in paper thin characters sending you on inexplicable missions packed with vague objectives against inscrutable enemies. True, the Grimoire card system hinted at a deep, interesting pool of lore beyond the surface, and it’s worth pointing out that some stories are told in those cards that probably wouldn’t work in-game, but the campaign itself exposed virtually none of that storytelling to players, instead choosing to offer up a disjointed, unsatisfying attempt at a narrative that had quite clearly been chopped up and sewn back together wrong sometime prior to release – something that Kotaku’s Jason Schreier later confirmed. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but it genuinely saddened me that Destiny‘s story was such a shambles, and I don’t think it’d be unfair to call it a disaster.

Oryx: not a looker.

As mentioned, 2015’s big expansion The Taken King did much to fix that state of affairs, offering a simpler yet more engaging tale told by actual characters, rather than cardboard cut-outs. It also introduced the Books of Sorrow, which remains the best storytelling in the entire saga (even if, again, we see very little of its intriguing detail in the game itself).

Another big reason for my interest in Destiny was my love of roleplaying games as a genre. A Halo RPG, you say? Sounds like my dream game, sign me up! Unfortunately, another of Destiny‘s missteps was the arcane levelling system after you hit the soft level cap of 20, whereupon any further XP earned would be converted into Motes of Light which you then… You know what, I can’t even remember. I barely engaged with it. I briefly tried to wrap my head around it, and then walked away, rather than grind my face against the backside of RNGesus. Thankfully, The Taken King changed things so that every piece of armour you wear and weapon you wield adds to your overall Light level. Equip a better piece of gear and your Light will go up. Simple! Quite why it had to be so mind-bending in the base game, I don’t know. Still, even with these changes in place, I once more walked away from the game partway through The Taken King, just as I had with vanilla, because my main issue with the game still persisted. And honestly, it’s a complaint that isn’t even fair to level at the game.

Each time, what made me walk away from Destiny is the fact that you can only get so far as a solo player. After a while, you need to group up with others if you want to actually progress further and see everything the game has to offer.

Well d’uh, you’re probably saying, and yes, I know – like I said, it’s not really a fair criticism of the game, given that’s its fundamental nature. It’s just that it doesn’t really work for me, as a typically solitary player that happens to jump into a game whenever I have the time; it’s difficult to schedule a raid when you don’t know if you’re going to be free (or if you can even be arsed when the time slot rolls around). I also don’t really want my gaming time to feel like a commitment, like I have to do something, rather than want to, because that way resentment lies.

Yet even with all that said, Destiny has always been in the back of my mind, and I’ve long thought that I’d like to go back to it and see what the end-game is all about. It’d take a bit of effort on my part (and I had once made the effort to get in on a run through the Vault of Glass, the raid that shipped with the base game), but with Destiny 2 on the horizon, and the thought that I’d quite like to get in on the ground level with the new instalment, I managed to ingratiate myself with a group of friendly players and go raiding. And it’s been great! Having recently run through both Crota’s End and King’s Fall, I can finally see what all the fuss is about. Destiny‘s raids really are the game at its very best, and that’s even more evident when you have a good, patient, friendly group to talk you through the often opaque, dense mechanics. I’ve never had a group to play the game with before, which has always made it very easy to walk away from, and it’s really thanks to the guys over at Town Called Malice that I was even able to experience them. It’s also pretty much down to them that I’m almost certain to buy Destiny 2 now, whereas before I was just sort of interested. ONE OF US. Or, them, I guess.

Destiny has always offered some incredible vistas. Sorry this one’s a bit rubbish.

I’m not sure how well I’ll adapt to scheduling playtimes and such, as it’s probably going to take some kind of rewiring of my brain to get properly into Destiny full-time, but I definitely want to get deeper into it this time out. And as much as I’m fully on-board the hype train now (or, well, I at least have a ticket), there are some things that have given me pause lately. Last month, it emerged that Destiny 2 was doing away with the Grimoire system, with Bungie’s Steve Cotton telling Forbes, “we want to put the lore in the game. We want people to be able to find the lore.” On the face of it, this is a really good change; the Grimoire has long been a complaint for a couple of reasons, mainly that it keeps the lore outside of the game, and having more story exposed to players while they’re in-universe is very obviously a good thing. But as I noted above, the Grimoire also plays host to some excellent story content that simply couldn’t be done in the game – unless it was loaded with lengthy cutscenes and flashbacks, which people would also complain about. As a counterpoint to this, how fucking cool would it have been to discover bits of the Books of Sorrow in a mission on the Dreadnaught, where you slowly pieced together the history of the Hive and discovered the means to defeat Oryx? If this kind of storytelling is what Bungie is going for, then consider me all in. But if all the stuff that doesn’t play an active role in the current story, yet manages to provide flavour and context to the universe is gone? Well, that’s probably not great.

More worrying are the recent pieces of news taken from a couple of interviews with Design Director Luke Smith, where he suggests that seemingly important pieces of the Destiny puzzle may not make a return. First, responding to a question from PC Gamer about whether we’d see the mystery of the Exo Stranger cleared up in Destiny 2, Smith explained that “we have a bunch of characters who are interesting, but the Exo Stranger is one that always makes me chuckle a little bit. Because I feel that’s one character where we actually wrapped up the arc. She gave you a sweet gun and then dissolved, presumably off to do something else. So I feel like, of all of our characters we’ve introduced and exited, we actually exited her effectively.”

For those not familiar with the character, the Stranger was a female Exo that effectively led you by the nose through the original game’s campaign, directing you as much as, if not more than, any other character in the story. She never explained herself, her goal, or her reasons for aiding you, and was often heard talking to some unknown ally before abruptly disappearing. At the end of the game, she offered you her rifle, which is seemingly made of parts that shouldn’t yet exist, before telling the player, “all ends are beginnings. Our fight is far from over.” So to consider her story over is odd at best, and to think her arc was ended “effectively” is absolutely ridiculous. Imagine if Cortana just didn’t turn up in Halo 2! I suspect (hope?) that, given the character’s popularity and potential for future storytelling, that she will eventually wind her way back into a future game or expansion, but given Smith’s statement that her arc is done, I won’t hold my breath until I see it for myself.

I don’t even have time to explain why her story wasn’t “effectively” wrapped up.

A couple of days after the PC Gamer interview, Smith appeared on Kotaku’s podcast, where it was confirmed that The Darkness, the formless, ancient evil of the Destiny universe, would not be appearing in Destiny 2. This makes sense, as the Cabal are the main focal antagonist of the new game, and they aren’t really allied with the Darkness, certainly not in the way other races such as the Hive or Vex are. What was a bit worrying about this was Smith’s reaction to Jason Schreier’s question of whether the omission was because nobody actually knew what the Darkness was: “So, I think that at a point, just totally candidly? We had no idea what it was. Straight up. We had no clue.”

Hmm. Let’s go back to the earlier Kotaku story, which revealed that Destiny underwent massive rewrites a year out from release. We know that Joe Staten and his team of writers spent years building the narrative foundation of Destiny, and we know that the studio leadership didn’t like how it all hung together. Even if the Darkness wasn’t formally laid out, I find it difficult to believe that there weren’t at least deep hooks written into everything else that strongly suggested where the overarching tale was headed; 343 industries’ Frank O’Connor, himself a Bungie alum, has previously stated that much of the current direction of the Halo series arose from discussions at Bungie around what a potential continuation would be, as an example.

With Staten now back at Microsoft, I wonder how much of the comments surrounding the Stranger and the Darkness are about the current writing team wanting to throw out the last vestiges of the original outline, in an effort to more thoroughly put their stamp on Destiny. Smith’s elaboration perhaps supports this: “We didn’t know what it was, and we, for a period, we chose [that] we’re going to lump all the races [in together], and you see this in the tooltips in the game — ‘minions of the darkness.’ And we had taken all the races and said, ‘Ah, they’ll just be The Darkness.’ But that’s not what the IP deserves.”

That’s not what the IP deserves. That, to me, says the Darkness will return, but only when they’ve decided what the current team want their Darkness to be. I won’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing – it may even free them up to tell better stories – but I have to admit to some level of disappointment that we’ll likely never know how the universe of Destiny was originally meant to unfold. After the good work done on The Taken King, however, in both storytelling and gameplay terms, I’m certainly willing to give Smith and his team the benefit of the doubt, even if he does have a bit of a habit of inserting his foot firmly into his mouth and somehow managing to leave a bad taste for everyone.

Destiny Limited Edition
Though you probably don’t need me to tell you that. It is the most pre-ordered new IP ever, after all.

And of course, in a move that will surprise absolutely no one at all, I bought the limited edition. No, sadly not the Ghost Edition – I would have, but I’m having to buy the game on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so that would have been ridiculously expensive all-in. Nope, I went for the ‘standard’ limited edition, if that makes any sense at all.

My PS4 standard edition hasn’t managed to find its way here yet, but my XBO order has, so while it’s installing, enjoy some pics, and if you’re going to be playing Destiny this weekend, maybe I’ll see you starside.

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As a long-time Halo fanboy, Destiny has been on my radar ever since the first details leaked out. Bungie’s previous universe has kept me enthralled for over a decade now, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve ploughed through those campaigns, fighting mysterious alien forces across ancient-yet-advanced landscapes in an effort to uncover the history of these awe-inspiring constructs and the stories hidden within. Now, with Destiny, I’m ready to do it all over again.

The recent beta wasn’t my first tilt at Destiny’s world however, as I managed to get a download code for the PS4-exclusive alpha back in June, so the bulk of my initial impressions will be from that. The beta itself was essentially an expanded version of that first playable slice, so those impressions still stand having played through all the extra content, which I will touch on a little further down the page.

Before jumping into the game proper, you’ll be prompted to create a character from three base classes: Warlock, Titan and Hunter. The latter of these is a nimble scout, able to double-jump in and out of danger quickly, and possessed of a super attack called ‘Golden Gun’ that grants you three incredibly powerful shots from a glowing hand cannon. The Titan is more tank-y, and gets a powerful ground-pound super that will likely have you shouting “HULK SMASH!” every time you use it, and finally the Warlock is basically a space mage, blessed with an awesome area-of-effect, damage-over-time Nova Bomb that can clear an entire room if used effectively. In both the alpha and the beta, I went with the Warlock class, because if you offer me the use of magic, I’m going to use magic.

warlock

Diving into the game itself, the first thing that struck me was how much the game felt, sounded and even looked like Halo: Reach (certainly in that game’s more muted, earthy colour palette) – unsurprising, given that that was Bungie’s last release before work began on Destiny. It was gratifying to find that, while Destiny is a new start for the Washington-based developer, they haven’t discarded what makes them who they are – that tight handling, the holy trinity of guns, grenades and melee, those glorious skyboxes, and of course, that leisurely, floaty jump.

There’s more Halo DNA present than just looks, movement and control, too. Enemy weapons can be traced back to guns in Halo’s arsenal; certain Fallen wield weapons that shoot glowing rounds that track you like Needler bolts, while others are armed with mid-range rifles that act almost exactly like a Covenant Carbine. Hive Knights, meanwhile, fire large, arcing bolts of energy at you that can knock you back just like Halo; Reach‘s concussion rifle. The difference here is that you can’t liberate these firearms from your vanquished enemies – at least, not in the beta anyway.

But this isn’t Halo, this is Bungie’s bet for the next ten years of their existence and they’re looking to mix things up a bit. So what’s different? Well, the most immediately obvious change is in the RPG mechanics that govern how your character evolves. Bungie want you to play Destiny for a long time, and besides breadth of content, the method to keep you tied in is character personalisation. Your avatar is the in-game representation of your self, more so here than in the average shooter, and as such you can customise your appearance (picking either gender across three ‘races’), and every class has its own skill tree to work through as you complete quests and earn XP towards that next upgrade. As you work your way along the tree, you’ll boost your base stats, add modifiers to your super to keep it evolving, unlock new grenade types and more.

And then there’s equipment, many pieces of which also come with their own upgrade trees. Guns can be levelled up to do more damage, apply different types of elemental effects or add new scopes, while armour can add passive boosts to your strength or discipline stats, which lower your cooldown on your class-specific melee ability and supers respectively. Speaking of the classes, as of the beta, which had a level 8 cap in place to stop us from progressing too far, the three don’t feel too dissimilar – the Titan needs to get in closer than the other two to use their super, but other than that they’re all very capable of taking down enemies. There’s no hard separation between the likes of DPS, mage or tank to really pick out, and while I don’t think Bungie will be going too far down that route, I would expect to see the classes diverge a bit more noticeably towards the endgame.

destadvance_edited

The next thing you’ll probably notice is the game’s sense of scale. The area we’re given to roam around in, while not on the scale of your average open-world game, is vast for an FPS. Granted, Halo has always had large levels, but Destiny‘s play spaces push the boundaries out even further, giving you plenty of real estate to explore and populating it with hordes of enemies to shoot. It’s not just the sheer size that marks a change though; these aren’t wide-but-linear levels to work through from one end to the other, Old Russia – the chunk of world entrusted to us in both the alpha and beta – is a wide-open space that allows you the freedom to reach almost any point you can see, whenever you feel like it, and fills it with mission objectives that take you all over the map.

Halo has always had co-op, and it’s always been a blast to burn through the massed ranks of the Covenant with a friend or three, but Destiny‘s doing something a bit different with co-operative multiplayer too, something that also plays into that sense of scale. Since the early reveals, Bungie have been very cagey about the term MMO, though it’s a little hard to understand their reticence. While Destiny isn’t a full-blown PC-style MMORPG, it sits somewhere between those experiences and the smaller-scale co-operative play of something like Borderlands. On your travels, you’ll often come across other players that you are free to completely ignore if you wish, but, besides paying a visit to the player hub Tower (to buy new gear or maybe just dance on top of huge industrial fans) there are a number of co-operative things you can do.

Firstly, you can join with other players manually to create a three-person fireteam to take on missions and strikes (the latter of which is basically your MMO dungeon run analogue, with mobs to defeat on your way to sub- and end-bosses), while public events are random occurrences in the game’s ‘explore’ spaces that task whoever is around with defending an area or defeating increasingly-difficult waves of enemies. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, these are very much like that game’s FATEs, though their spawn rate feels much, much lower, making them a fairly rare occurrence in the beta.

Lastly, Bungie has promised end-game raids for teams of six, though it has recently been confirmed that these will be friends-only – perhaps a necessity, given how much preparation and focussed teamwork will be needed for these lengthy, high-level affairs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see matchmaking added for raid content post-launch.

While there was a decent amount of content to enjoy in the alpha, the scope that Bungie are aiming for really became apparent in the beta, which added a handful of extra story missions that pad out our understanding of what’s happening in the early hours of the game, as well as hint at where the narrative might lead in the full release. Story is one of my favourite elements of the Halo series (yes, I’ve read all the books and everything), so it was great to get some indication of the threads that will be pulling us through Bungie’s new ‘mythic science-fiction’ universe.

Destiny Beta_20140726224836

After being revived in the wastes of Old Russia by Ghost, our Peter Dinklage-voiced AI companion (who cryptically informs us that we’ve been dead for a very long time), we fight through the Fallen infested perimeter wall in an effort to find a jumpship to escape back to the safety of the Last City, the only place on Earth still protected by the enormous Traveller that hovers overhead. After spending some time kitting out our Guardian and acquiring a personal transport, Ghost informs us that the Fallen seem to be searching for something in the ruins of the area’s decrepit machines.

Battling through Fallen and Hive forces, we discover what they were searching for: the Warmind Rasputin, a vast machine intelligence that once marshalled humankind’s Golden Age military against the forces of Darkness. Our final story mission in Old Russia – an attempt to activate an ancient array station that could connect us to humanity’s long lost colonies – leaves us on something of a cliffhanger: we find that Rasputin not only survived the collapse, but is still active. Though we can’t reach him, he teases us with images of places that will be important in the battles to come, one of which is Earth’s moon.

And if you were lucky enough to log in during a two-hour period last Saturday, you’d have had the opportunity to explore our dusty satellite, as well as taking in a short mission. Views on the moon are utterly gorgeous, with a twinkling starfield stretching into infinity and the blue marble of the Earth hanging high in your view. Abandoned human bases dot the landscape, while chunks of rock and enormous pits hide sinister Hive installations that hint at some of the more exotic architecture we’ll see in the full release, like the Temple of Crota at the mission’s end – who knew that there was a gothic biomechanical church built by HR Giger on our moon?

So far, so positive – though I do have some concerns. So far, enemy AI doesn’t seem as challenging as a Halo encounter: I’ve lost count of the amount of times that, for instance, an Elite has managed to flank me while I’m reloading or waiting for my shield to recharge in Halo: Reach, somehow managing to get into my blind spot and creep around behind me to spin-kick me to death. As adept as Destiny‘s opponents are at ducking in and out of cover and retreating when I advance, nothing like the above situation happened during the beta. Of course, enemy difficulty will likely be toned down when you’re out in the open, given their propensity to respawn endlessly (a necessity for a game like this to work); in more closely-packed encounters in bases and other interiors the AI does pose more of a threat, though this is mostly because you have less room to manoeuvre. These more claustrophobic encounters do however force you to pick your targets and identify the major threats more effectively, something that was always a major part of the Halo experience on higher difficulties.

Additionally, one of the worries I had during the alpha persists into the beta, and that’s the depth of the side quests. Dotted around the play space are glowing green beacons that confer short missions upon you – missions that invariably take the form of that old mmo staple ‘kill/collect x of y’. These missions aren’t particularly well-communicated in terms of what you’re supposed to be doing and why, and they often lead to spells of running around waiting for mobs to respawn and then killing them for their precious docking caps or whatever. Of course, the core combat and environmental traversal, not to mention the carrot of an ever-increasing XP bar, mean that the missions remain fairly engaging so long as you don’t spend too long focussing exclusively on them. I hope to see more depth to these mini quests in the full game, however.

Lastly, there’s the Crucible, Destiny‘s competitive multiplayer suite. I must admit that I hardly touched this aspect of the game; during alpha, I watched a few streams and didn’t really like what I was seeing, but towards the end of the beta period I decided to jump in and see what it was all about. I played a match of 6v6 Control – essentially a King of the Hill game-type – using my maxed out Warlock equipped with all my best gear, and I found it to be quite unbalanced. I was plugging half a magazine into opponents before they dropped, but frequently got taken down in two or three shots, which was frustrating to say the least.

I’m not much of a competitive multiplayer gamer but I do enjoy Halo MP, and the main reason for that is how well-balanced it tends to be – you can guarantee that everyone has the same base stats and access to the same weapons on the map. Granted, Destiny is charting a different path with its emphasis on RPG-style progression and gear, so it’d be a bit strange if its PvP didn’t leverage that in some way, but I think it’s just not for me.

That’s fine though. PvP isn’t what’s drawing me to the game (and I’ll soon have the Halo: Master Chief Collection to take care of my competitive FPS needs). No, what’s drawing me to Destiny is the promise of a hybrid of two of my favourite things – Bungie’s unique brand of science fiction shooting and RPGs – mixed in with the ability to co-operatively quest through the game’s vast worlds with friends. The developer recently announced that almost five million players logged into the beta, so hopefully many more people will be drawn into the full game. After all, if we are to gather forth our Guardians to face down the Darkness on September 9th, we’re going to need all the friends we can get.

Cross-posted on 16bitkings

WP_20130927_015Now in its sixth year, this weekend’s Eurogamer Expo is currently playing host to Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles. With this in mind, myself and a couple of friends decided to book tickets for Friday 27th September, in an attempt to avoid the worst of the crowds. And then all four days sold out.

I guess it was to be expected: The Xbox One and PS4 may only be a couple of months from release, but many are desperate to get their hands on the new machines and their respective controllers . It’s an exciting time to be a gamer. Unfortunately, with the queues being what they were, we didn’t really get a chance to check out much next-gen stuff, but the focus on the incoming consoles did mean that other titles were relatively ignored. So what did I play? Read on to find out.

Upon entering the exhibition hall, the first thing we did was walk the perimeter and try to get a feel for where things were. We spotted a Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII demo section and decided to head over. This was on the other side:
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Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD! I hadn’t expected to see this on the show floor, so it was a nice surprise. I didn’t play it myself, but I did watch as my two friends both sat down to play. There was, sadly, no sign of a Playstation Vita build so we were served up a PS3 version of a short demo beginning, funnily enough, in Zanarkand at the beginning of the game. The short teaser ended just after Tidus’ arrival in Spira, as he evades that weird ribcage sea-monster thing that you can see in the image below.

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I suppose it’s difficult to tell from an off-screen photo, but the game looked glorious; beautifully sharp, clean and colourful. The cutscenes have also been treated to a nice HD clean-up, and though they could look a little sharper, they are now far cleaner than the blocky, low-res videos that were in the original release over a decade ago. My one niggle was that the motion blur used in the original game (that left streaks behind some moving objects) has unfortunately survived into this remaster. I guess we can’t have everything, and it is a minor issue. More worrying, perhaps, is the continued absence of a Vita version of the game. The handheld would be my preferred format for Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD, so I hope it doesn’t get quietly canned.

Now, I may not have played FFX, but I did sit down to enjoy the Lightning Returns demo. The section that these demos were in was fairly light on people thanks to the new platorms, so it was very easy to simply walk up, sit down, and start playing. But first, I decided to video a friend playing the demo. That video is currently uploading to Youtube, so I’ll write a bit more about Lightning Returns in a separate post and embed the video along with it. The short version? I really enjoyed it.

I did manage to get hands-on with one next-gen game, and that game was Xbox One exclusive launch title Killer Instinct. I loved it.

WP_20130927_007The queue for the Double Helix-developed fighter was mercifully short and we only waited about ten minutes or so. Thankfully, the demo took place in a small enclosed area, meaning we didn’t have a queue of people watching us and scrutinising our every combo. After taking a few seconds to get acquainted with the new Xbox One pad (arcade sticks were also available), we got down to the business of kicking the crap out of each other. We had ten minutes with the game, and as there were three of us we decided on a winner stays on system.

I must say I’d been very intrigued by the game since it was announced at E3, having been a massive fan of the arcade original and its SNES port, and I came away from my quick hands-on very impressed indeed. Killer Instinct is fast, incredibly fluid and solidly impactful. It’s been close to twenty years since I last played a Killer Instinct game, so I was effectively going in blind with this demo, but once I got in control of Jago it took only a handful of seconds to get a handle on his specials and start stringing combos together. When you link a few hits together, the camera closes in (almost imperceptibly; I only noticed the effect when watching my two friends fight) and it really showcases the action, nicely framing the bone-crunching hits.

I mentioned that I’ve been following the game on Youtube since its announcement, and thanks to this I knew how to break a combo; getting that first breaker in brought a massive grin to my face and took me right back to my childhood, an instant hit of nostalgia that helped to make this my favourite game of the day. I wanted to play it again, but unfortunately the queue had grown quite considerably since our initial play. Likewise Dead Rising 3, which was in a similar enclosed space right next door. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play that.

A few words about the new XBO controller: I really quite liked it. It just felt right in the hands; the handles seemed a little more rounded than those of the 360 pad, helping it to sit very comfortably in the palms, and I liked the new sculpted triggers – my index fingers just rested perfectly on them. The shoulder buttons seemed like they might be a bit more of a stretch away from the triggers than they are on the 360 pad, but I don’t remember actually touching them much; once I got comfortable with the pad (which was literally a couple of seconds), I was too focussed on the action in Killer Instinct to think any harder about the controller. This is probably a good sign; if you don’t notice the controller, that’s likely a good thing – it didn’t get in my way during gameplay.

I think the analogue sticks will take a little more getting used to, as they feel quite a bit smaller than the sticks on the 360 controller. I think this is mainly because the ridge of the convex top part of the stick protrudes a little, meaning you don’t generally feel the textured outer edge of the stick. They also felt a bit looser, but they were very accurate for inputting specials in KI – I switched to d-pad at one point, which felt massively improved from the current implementation, and actually preferred the sticks. That is very unlike me. Overall, the Xbox One controller feels like a refinement. Whether I’ll prefer it to the 360 pad in the long run? That remains to be seen, and it’s not something I can say with confidence after ten minutes of use. But the signs are good.

Next, we headed to check out Quantic Dream’s latest, Beyond: Two Souls. I have yet to play Heavy Rain, put off as I was by Fahrenheit‘s final third, but Beyond has grabbed my interest because of its supernatural bent. And though there was effectively no queue (you just waited for a spot and sat down to play), the demo was overly long; we stood waiting for a seat for at least forty minutes, and there were also three demos to choose from. You could easily sit and play the game for over an hour if you so wished, and I’m sure some must have.

When a station opened up, my friend jumped at it. I was happy to watch (the game is out in a couple of weeks, after all), and he only played for about fifteen minutes – enough to get a feel for the controls, which were very similar to Heavy Rain, save for when the player is in control of Jodie’s counterpart Aiden. When controlling the spectral companion, you can glide around almost as if you’re in noclip mode, slipping through walls and interacting with objects to freak out NPCs or, as we saw in another part of the demo, throttle special forces soldiers to help Jodie escape their grasp.

Graphically, Beyond seems a bit of a mixed bag: character models looked uniformly excellent, with convincing facial expressions and eyes that just seemed alive. Certain parts of the environment however, such as the room in which Jodie starts out, were very basic looking. Another demo, with Jodie attempting to escape police officers on a train, did look far better, though that section was blanketed in a heavy rainfall that could help to mask other deficiencies. At the very least, I was intrigued enough to keep my pre-order in place, and we’ll see how it fares in the coming weeks.

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Our next port of call was the over-18 area, which this year was upstairs. Our main reason for this was to experience Titanfall, but the queue stretched from the demo station all the way back to the escalator and it was an expected two-and-a-half to three-hour wait. We decided to check out other things and come back later. Also in the over-18 section was a Watch_Dogs theatre (the game was not playable at the show, unfortunately), Battlefield 4 (which was also burdened with large queues), the latest Wolfenstein game, and a bunch of smaller titles like Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z which didn’t require queuing. So we gave Yaiba a bash. It’s certainly got a style of it’s own (though my first thought was ‘cel-shaded Lollipop Chainsaw‘), but it seemed very button-mashy – not what you’d expect from a Ninja Gaiden game, even if it is a spin-off.

After a brief break for beer, food and a look around the stalls, we decided to head back up and join the Titanfall queue again. It was about 5:45 at this point, an hour and a quarter before the end of the show, and we were initially quite positive; the queue was only about half the length it had been earlier. Unfortunately, an EA rep sidled up next to us and told us that, while we were welcome to queue, there was no guarantee we’d get a game as the queue was currently expected to be – you guessed it – an hour and a quarter. Dejected, we decided to stay in the queue long enough to watch a round and it did look fantastically fluid and smooth, and it was great to watch players getting to grips with wall-running, double-jumping and frantically trying to eject from their Titans before they exploded. If only I could have played it for myself.

Any other disappointments? Well, a couple. Firstly, I would have liked to get on Forza 5 (especially as I’ve already pre-paid for it), but it was pretty busy all day. Secondly, Destiny. When we first entered the Expo in the morning, we were all happy to see that Destiny‘s logo was printed on the wristbands. Sadly, the game’s only presence was a model of a Fallen captain flanked by a couple of video screens showing an old demo of the game.
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People were being invited by a couple of staffers to come and have their picture taken with the captain, so I waited until everyone had cleared out before taking my own pics. It’s disappointing that Destiny wasn’t playable, but then I guess it would’ve been another game with a two- or three-hour queue. As much as I’d like to play these games, I’m not willing to spend half a day to get ten minutes on one thing when I could play a handful of other titles in that time. Likewise, I would have loved to get my hands on Bayonetta 2 in the Wii U section, but there looked to be only two demo stations for that game, and the Wii U area was surprisingly busy all day.

I mentioned we abandoned the Titanfall queue after about twenty minutes. So what did we do with our last hour? We hit up the retro section of course! In this area were Gameboys, Game Gears, old Ataris, Super Nintendos, Saturns, PS2s… every machine you could imagine. We made a beeline for a SNES running Street Fighter II Turbo and had a few rounds between us. I of course was undefeated (just like in Killer Instinct earlier in the day), though one fight was incredibly close. Next up, two of us played a 100 CC GP on Super Mario Kart. Neither of us had played the game in close to two decades, so the first race was a comedy of errors, with me coming in sixth place. I managed to get my bearings however and finished the next four races in first, taking the cup in the process. Ok, that’s enough boasting from me! We also grabbed a couple of Dualshock 2’s and jumped into an abandoned Timesplitters MP game, though the Expo came to an end before we could finish the round. I’d forgotten how much fun that series was.

With that, our time at Eurogamer Expo 2013 came to a close. It wasn’t quite the day I had expected before we arrived, but with the benefit of hindsight it was always going to be difficult to get a look at the new consoles. We didn’t even make it into the cordoned-off Playstation area – you had to join a queue just to get in, and then queue for a game separately, which just seemed like a horrible use of time. I still had a lot of fun though, and it certainly got one thing straight in my mind: I’m definitely buying Killer Instinct on launch day.

Until next year, EGX.

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Enjoy a few more shots from the show floor:

destinytravBungie have officially torn the veil from their secret project Destiny. Actually, they did yesterday, and I was busy. But enough about me.

Destiny is the first result of Bungie’s current deal with massive publisher Activision, a project they hope to expand across the next decade and the coming console generational divide. It seems to take the form of some kind of Massively Multiplayer FPS, as had been rumoured for some time. This, despite Activision publishing chap Eric Hirschberg saying that it’s definitely not an MMO. Well, that’s that settled then.

Bungie invited press to their offices earlier this week to unveil their new universe, so it’s worth scouring those articles for more detail.
Here I’ll just touch on a few things gleaned from them.

Destiny is Bungie’s big plan for the next ten years of their existence, and it’s described (by that same Activision fellow) as the “world’s first shared-world shooter”. What this appears to mean is that the game takes place in a persistent world (like an MMO), with your avatar being one of many player-characters in that world (like an MMO), and these characters can tackle missions together (like an MMO…). To be honest, I’m intrigued by a sci-fi shooter where I can team up with friends whenever I want to take on missions, as long as I can also enjoy any content I want as a single player, and Bungie suggests that Destiny will be perfectly playable in isolation… though you will need to be connected at all times while playing, meaning other player-characters will at least be visible to you in the world.

What really draws me toward Destiny is the opportunity to explore a new Bungie-created universe. I am an enormous Halo fan (you could quite accurately call me a total Halo fanboy), and part of that is down to the expansive universe that the series is set in and the depth of lore and history that can be found in the extended universe content. With a wide-open persistent world that’s begging to be explored, Bungie have an opportunity to bake a lot of that background into the world itself with Destiny, allowing players to stumble upon the secrets of the universe through their own rangings, and the concept art we’ve seen so far has me salivating. To accompany yesterday’s various press pieces, a ViDoc was posted to YouTube showing off various pieces of that concept art (and a few glimpses of in-game footage too), and I just can’t wait to explore these spaces, with or without friends. (And also, +1 internets to whichever Bungie guy named the ViDoc as an homage to their 1993 release Pathways into Darkness).

I like the premise behind the story, too; that a golden age of humankind was shattered by some unknown enemy, only for an equally mysterious saviour to come to our rescue. I want to know more about the enormous sphere that floats above humanity’s last city and learn who this cryptic benefactor is and what their motives were. I want to discover why these antagonistic aliens decimated our solar system and left our worlds in ruin. I want to journey to Mars and run through ancient human structures ravaged by battle. And I want to bound across the surface of the moon and look down on the besieged Earth below.
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Here’s hoping that Destiny offers all that and more, and that I can also drag a couple of friends along for the ride. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye or three on this in the coming months as Destiny nears release on Xbox 360 and PS3. A PC release is apparently under consideration.


Bungie have posted a piece of concept art from their in-development multi-platform ‘new universe’, currently known as Destiny, on their website Bungie.net.

The post came as a response to a story posted on IGN last night that gave early plot details and more concept art, said to have been passed to them by a reader, which Bungie then confirmed to be material from an advertising agency document.

The game is described as “fun and accessible to all,” and that the development aim is “to create a universe as deep, tangible and relatable as that of the Star Wars franchise.” Coupled with a quote from Bungie co-founder Jason Jones that reads, “Destiny is designed for your inner seven year old. We want to make it feel like a mythic adventure.”, it now seems as if Bungie are crafting something for all ages in Destiny.

The document also calls the game “social at its core,” and says it will offer “a world to explore with friends, both old and new.” These comments seem to back-up assumptions many have made that the new series will be an MMOG in some way (assumptions not helped by anonymous claims that Destiny would be World of Warcraft in space – comments later refuted by Bungie’s David Aldridge).

IGN’s materials also detail the basic premise of the plot: “Our story begins seven hundred years from now in the Last City on Earth, in a Solar System littered with the ruins of man’s Golden Age. A massive, mysterious alien ship hangs overhead like a second Moon. No one knows where it came from or what it’s here for, but only that it’s our protector. Meanwhile, strange, alien monsters creep in from the edge of the universe, determined to take Earth and the Last City. We are young ‘knights’ tasked with defending the remains of humanity, discovering the source of these monsters and – eventually – overcoming it.”

The Traveler – image courtesy of IGN.

Elsewhere, the document names the satellite-like ship ‘The Traveler’, and I must say the image above reminds me somewhat of the Didact’s cryptum in Halo 4. Another of IGN’s procured images shows a PS3 logo, which seems odd, given the details that emerged from the West/Zampella vs Activision case. The released documents revealed that the first title would be exclusive to the Xbox 360 and its next-gen successor, while a later port to the PS3 was at the time only under consideration – perhaps this serves as confirmation that the first game will indeed come to Sony’s current machine.

I am very interested to see what comes of this, and perhaps we’ll be hearing more about it come E3 next summer -perhaps it’ll even be part of a next-gen reveal? I’m still not sure how I’ll feel if Destiny does indeed turn out to be an MMO, but I’m hopeful that Bungie will create a new universe that can keep me enthralled for a decade – just like they did with Halo back in 2001.

Head over to IGN to see the images handed to them:
http://uk.ign.com/articles/2012/11/28/destiny-story-details-concept-art-leaked

Details of Bungie’s new “sci-fantasy, action shooter” project have leaked onto the net, an unfortunate side-effect of the Activision vs West/Zampella case.

The Halo developer’s contract with Activision was made public as part of the publisher’s ongoing legal spat with the Call of Duty creators and subsequently published by the New York Times. The document refers to Bungie’s new universe as Destiny (a name we’ve seen before, so it could still be at the codename stage) and states that it will launch on Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s next console in 2013. Activision and Bungie are apparently considering a PS3 port.

The document also reveals that Bungie are under contract to deliver four games in this new franchise, one every other year until 2019, and these titles will also appear on PC and Playstation 4 if the publisher deems them feasible. The gaps in between will be filled with downloadable content packs codenamed ‘Comet’, and although the game will launch at retail, it will also be supported with subscriptions and micro-transactions.

All of this seems to tally with the general assumption that Bungie are prepping a Shooter-MMO hybrid, and I have to say I’m a little disappointed. I’m a massive Bungie fan, but I’m not an MMO player (perhaps that will change when Phantasy Star Online 2 launches for the Vita and I can quest anywhere, anytime?); I was hoping for something more single-player based. Maybe I’ll get over my misgivings come release and jump in, focusing on the fact that I adore Bungie’s last big Sci-Fi universe? But then I’m pretty sure I wondered the same thing when I first heard that Knights of the Old Republic was going the MMO route…

It’s easy to feel sorry for Bungie in all this – they have, after all, just had their entire release schedule for the rest of the decade exposed to the scrutiny of the internet. There’s a nice little bonus nugget squirreled away in the contract, however: Bungie are allowed to work on a Marathon follow-up in the meantime. Well, five percent of them are. Still, it’s a start, right?