You can take the Bungie out of Halo, but you’ll never take the Halo out of Bungie.
The Halo series will always be one of Bungie’s most crowning achievements regardless of future successes. This was a group of games that not only revolutionized an entire game genre, but also provided us with a science-fiction epic that spanned all manners of media, even coming within a fraction of finally being recognized on the big screen.
But although Halo physically lives on in the grateful grasp of 343 industries, its legacy is something that will forever remain encased within the walls of Bungie’s Bellevue HQ. Bungie aren’t coy about the Halo significance in regards to Destiny either, with Bungie’s Scott Shepard noting “To make a good character in Destiny, you should first look at what was successful in the past”. This is no Halo stranglehold though, rather it’s a steady eking of the same principles that catapulted Halo to the forefront of the FPS genre. Destiny is and always will be its own game, but our past will always have a telling influence over what the future makes of us. In the case of Destiny, it’s a game built on the same tenets of FPS brilliance, only with an added view to Bungie’s progressive take on the genre. And with that progressiveness in mind, here are 5 examples showing of how Halo has been delicately weaved into the Destiny tapestry.
1. The Plot
The Destiny plot doesn’t seek to cast aside the art of conventional storytelling. Instead, we’ll sample the story in a way that feels familiar to us, with Bungie content to keep things simple and understandable. “Destiny still spins a linear tale that will satisfy lovers of traditional FPS story telling” states community manager David Dague. “There is a story in this game with a distinct beginning, middle and end”.
In Halo, we had little freedom over how we progressed through the story. One mission followed the next until the beginning became the end, and in Destiny, that core ideal will remain the same. The difference here is that Destiny will provide a linear story in a non-linear world. This is your world now, and you’re free to sample its delights in any order you choose. Of course, the structure of the plot will be there to keep your journey both consistent and chronological, but the way in which you sample the world and at what pace will be entirely up to you.
2. The Gameplay
Halo was a series that prided itself on the fast, fluid nature of its combat. Tight weapon-play and responsive controls were met by a relentless pace that popularized the series throughout its journey from the living-room LAN to the professional gaming circuit and back again. Halo catered for all, yet pandered to nobody.
As Reach rolled around, Halo’s pace dwindled somewhat, its emphasis on ranged combat helping stagger the game amidst an overabundance of imbalanced vehicles and poorly implemented player load-outs. Halo 4 wouldn’t buck the trend either, its ordnance drops, like Reach’s armour abilities, simply adding too much unpredictability to an experience that used to rely primarily on weapon control and map knowledge. What Reach and Halo 4 lacked in substance though, they made up for in application. These two games, although still a ways off from being the classic Halo we had grew up with, still played similarly to Halo for the most part. There was still emphasis on movement, there was still a bit of ‘Halo’ in the combat.
And if like me you come into Destiny after an upbringing spent wandering the galleys of the Forward Unto Dawn, then you would’ve immediately noticed similarities between how Destiny and Halo both play. Just like Halo, movement is at the core of the Destiny experience, and that’s something that translates perfectly in both competitive and non-competitive environments. And unlike in Reach, player abilities like the Titan’s jetpack or Hunter’s double-jump fail to seem like an afterthought, having been melded directly into the gameplay experience rather than tacked on at the end.
3. The Environment
Picture it; you’re standing atop a snow-capped peak looking down into the valley below. There, not one, but two Covenant Scarabs await you. What you do next is entirely up to you. Do you take the tank? The Warthog? The Mongoose? Hornet? Go on foot and the board the Scarab from below? Take a Sniper Rifle and head for even higher ground? How about all of the above?
The Halo series, Halo 3 in particular, did a remarkable job of lauding player choice in environments dramatically smaller than those of Destiny. How you approached each task was entirely up to you, and although there was certainly a limit to the different ways in which you took down a Scarab or assaulted an enemy position, there was always enough space for players to be themselves.
In Destiny, the size of the environment has increased tenfold, with the same overreaching level of choice remaining present. And as Bungie senior environmental artist Jason Sussman puts it “We wanted to do something new, something bigger, something different in all the right ways, but still remaining true to our foundation.”
4. The Multiplayer
I consider Halo 3 to be the greatest game I have ever played, and part of that was due to its stellar multiplayer.
Halo 3 multiplayer just did everything right that so many modern shooters have failed to do. It catered for all types of player, it had excellent pacing, and it leaned heavily towards player skill, with there being few ways to coast to victory without putting the work in.
The fear with Destiny is that with so many class-specific abilities, it will become as overburdened as Halo Reach and Halo 4 before it. If my time with the Alpha and Beta builds of Destiny have taught me anything though, it’s that neither a Titan slam nor a Warlock’s blast will do anything to detract from the core experience.
In Reach, it felt like Bungie introduced too much, too soon. Weapon load-outs and armour abilities seemed to crop up off the back of similar mechanics in other games, whilst their usage in multiplayer left much to be desired. In Destiny however, player abilities seem intertwined with the whole experience, rather than coming across as an accessory. And unlike a Halo 4 ordnance drop, there’s little luck involved either. If you’ve accrued enough score to charge your super, then it’s up to you to find the perfect time to use it, with a single burst of the Golden Gun being enough to swing the match in your teams favour, rather than just benefitting yourself.
5. The Lore
As expected, Bungie are sparing no expense when it comes to extricating the lore of Destiny.
From the main storyline to the bodies of deceased Ghosts and even in the taglines of various weapons, Destiny is as much as journey to quell the advancing darkness as it is a journey of discovery. The world of Destiny has long since existed before your arrival, and there’s a lot you need to learn if you’re going to try and understand it.
Part of what made the Halo story so rich was Bungie’s care and attention to not only your allies, but your enemies too. The story of the Elites was one of sacrifice and discipline, whilst Brutes were much more primal and aggressive. Similarly, Destiny’s Dreg sub-species “cling to the lowest rung of Fallen society, seeking only to prove their worth in a ritual of humiliation and obedience” according to a Destiny Grimoire card. You’re not just killing faceless ghouls in Destiny, rather you’re killing enemies that each have their own traits, hierarchy and motivation, and that in-turn lends to the gravitas of the world around you.
Even in terms of the weapon descriptions that adorn each and every weapon in the game, Bungie are adding a touch of finesse that keeps the worlds expansive history pouring out into the open. This isn’t just another generic weapon you’ve found, it’s a piece of history that had seen its own battles long before it came into your possession, and a part of your own story as much as it is the story of the land.