It’s not often that I want to write an article on a soon-releasing game. Especially a game that will be releasing soon. Very soon. However, I’ve been wanting to write this since playing the Beta, and it’s better late than never. This is entirely a perspective (and speculation) of Destiny, its design, and how it revived and coincidentally evolved the concepts of various games that came before it, including Phantasy Star Online.
Phantasy Star Online was a very large influence in gaming history; it was a Dreamcast game in a time where most online gaming was happening on PCs. The game was naturally influenced by Blizzard Entertainment’s very own Diablo and was one of the main reasons that quite a few other popular JRPGs exist to this day. Games like Final Fantasy XI and even Monster Hunter were influenced by PSO’s online mode, with many reviewers praising it for paving the way for online console gaming. There’s no doubt that Phantasy Star Online left behind a legacy.
So how is Phantasy Star Online similar to Destiny, I hear you asking. Well, let’s dig into the overall concepts of gameplay first. Naturally, not everything is going to be exact, but the approach itself is similar. For example, things like the design of levels and how each area ends are not the same, and naturally, Destiny is not a full-on MMO like PSO was. Each character class in PSO has benefits when using specific weapons, which Destiny does not have.
However, Destiny does have three strikingly similar classes and races of character to PSO. In Phantasy Star Online, you had three races: Human, Newman, and CASTs. Newmans are defined as bio-engineered “elves,” while CASTs are defined as “androids.” If that doesn’t entirely sound familiar, then let’s look at Destiny’s races. You have the humans, that’s a given, but then you have the Awoken. Bungie has gone on record saying that their inspiration for the Awoken were mythological creatures like angels, vampires, ghosts, and elves. Then you have the Exos, a humanoid machine; if you look up ‘android’ on Google, they define it as “a robot with a human appearance.”
There are three races in Phantasy Star Online: Hunters, Rangers, and Forces. Now those of you who see the Hunter class in that short list, you might already consider that to be the same as Destiny’s Hunter class. However, PSO’s Hunter class excels with close range weapons like swords and daggers, basically excelling in getting up close and personal; something that we’ve seen players of the Titan class do. PSO’s Ranger class is adept with long-range weapons (which are all firearms, including of all things a shotgun), which is what Destiny’s Hunter is like (which we’ve seen with their ability, the Golden Gun). Finally, the Forces, a mage class that focuses around attack and support techniques. Again, something we’ve seen with Destiny’s Warlock class, with Nova Bomb and of course the Sunsinger’s special ability, Radiance.
In the future, Destiny has currently two new “episodes” planned so far, “The Dark Below” and “House of Wolves.” Both plan on having extra content that adds to the already expansive world that Destiny promises to offer. The reason I bring this up is because, again, PSO did the same thing. PSO released as a single game, but as the game aged, they added more content in the form of episodes. When the game got released onto other platforms like Xbox and the GameCube, they typically bundled the first two episodes together as the full package, and released two more episodes over the game’s lifespan.
Destiny is loot-driven, much like other RPGs. You get weapons and equipment through various means, usually while on-mission from fallen enemies or for completing your mission, finishing a round of PvP, and raising your rank for various groups like the Crucible or Iron Banner. Much like other games like Borderlands or again, Diablo. The latter being Phantasy Star Online’s main influence.
For the online, Destiny has the Tower, a basic “home” world for players to relax and obtain new loot or missions to improve themselves. It’s also the last safe place on Earth, featuring the collection of many talents from gunsmiths to shipwrights. Phantasy Star Online, among other things, has such a place; Pioneer-II. Altogether, Destiny has proven itself to be an adaptation of already familiar concepts, including those we’ve seen from Phantasy Star Online and Diablo; so how about finding out how it’s evolved?
Destiny has many definitions by fans. The most familiar one is usually “Halo with loot” or “Halo crossed Borderlands.” However, Destiny is more than that. Where Borderlands has drop-in, drop-out sessions of four players, Destiny has parties of up to three-to-six players based on gametype (Mission, Strike, specific PvP modes, etc.). The parties are called “fireteams,” and are invite-in, drop-out; except in the case of Strikes, where players are matched up, which is fine considering that Strikes are fairly difficult and require a lot of teamwork.
Along with this, things like level-based and equipment-based progression are similar to other RPGs like Borderlands or Diablo, but instead of having a locked choice, players can freely switch out specific skills, and weapons can be switched out to fit whatever situation you find yourself to be in. This also counts in PvP, which allows you to freely switch your weapons at will instead of locking yourself into a ‘loadout’ upon starting the game. Now, this is a common thing, except for the skill-side of your character. Usually, if you wanted to switch around your skillset, you would need to buy a respec somewhere, usually a vendor or at the hub world. Destiny creates a shift in design where players can adapt to any situation whenever they feel, rather than worrying about having a tougher time because of their skills.
Returning to characters briefly, the story is no longer detached from your character. Because the story is not about the journey you take, it’s the paths you walk, the people you meet, and the places you see. Every interaction is you and your character, exploring the worlds you walk and making your own story along with unraveling the lore you find along the way through the game’s Grimoire Cards, and naturally, the story featured in the game. Much like MMOs, the story you as the player create is the spotlight of your journey. You’re no longer voiceless, restricted to “Accept Quest” or “Decline Quest.”
The entire game itself is meant to follow the perspective of community involvement; even the Tower has small things that players can take part in. Things like kicking around a soccer ball, or flash dancing with several strangers. You aren’t meant to play this game alone; you can, but you shouldn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s really difficult not to get involved in something community-wise. For instance, Public Events. These little uncommon events happen randomly while on-mission, and can be anything from clearing waves of enemies in specific areas to defending a specific point while you, along with your fireteam and random players you meet in the world, fend off various enemies. Sure you could ignore the notification and move on, but then you’d miss out on quite the opportunity. You could stay in the Tower and wait for a meetup, or you could temporarily team up with another player on-mission and part ways after both of you have finished with your task. However, that’s all up to you, the player.
See, the focus of this article was not to create hype or interest in the game, it was to let loose a “could be.” Destiny could be all that I’ve explained, but it all depends on you and what you do. You could play alone, telling your friends how you single-handedly fought off several waves of Fallen with just melee because you ran out of ammo, but you could play with your friends, fighting together in the same situation and perhaps swapping stories on the way to your destination in your Sparrows. Then perhaps in the end, you all can sit down near a cliff and reminisce as you stare off into the wild horizons, wondering where your crazy journey will take you next. This is an MMO, evolved from the concepts of an RPG that impacted how we play games today, built to last a very long time.
Destiny launches on September 9th for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. It will have content exclusive and early on PS3/PS4.