Mass Effect 4 has an enormous opportunity to succeed where Destiny faltered.
Bungie’s Destiny, in spite of its many stumbles, has been an enormous success for both the developer and publisher Activision. Keep in mind that this was an epic space opera from the studio that brought us Halo 1, 2, 3, ODST and Reach. Heck, it was a given that if it applied its FPS smarts to the MMO/online-only shooter genre, it could achieve a new era of greatness. The focus on loot-based mechanics, the ability to travel anywhere (in what’s now become arguably the most infamous of failed promises from Bungie) and a brand new universe to explore had fans across all platforms salivating.
To say the end result was disappointing would be an understatement.
That being said, Destiny is still a very good first person shooter. The Raids, Strikes and Crucible and overall co-op mechanics have been praised as much as they’ve been vilified. The visuals, especially on the PS4 and Xbox One, are amazing and the soundtrack courtesy of Martin O’Donnel nearly eclipses his work on the Halo franchise.
"It's worth noting a few things - Bioware is currently seeking individuals to help craft the online component of the next Mass Effect. Those who remember Mass Effect 3 will remember a co-op multiplayer experience that was highly addictive despite its limited scope..."
Destiny in its current state is sustainable and the fact that millions of players log in on a daily basis, despite Raid glitches and a severe lack of content until the next expansion arrives in Q2 2015, is a testament to that. However, Destiny can only remain popular until a new competitor arrives to take its place.
That’s where Bioware’s Mass Effect 4 comes in.
The comparison is one that could be scoffed at. How would Mass Effect 4, the next iteration in a series famed for its story-telling and over-arching decision making, possibly compete with an online, persistent world shooter like Destiny?
It’s worth noting a few things – Bioware is currently seeking individuals to help craft the online component of the next Mass Effect. Those who remember Mass Effect 3 will remember a co-op multiplayer experience that was highly addictive despite its limited scope (it was Horde mode with varying objectives every few waves).
Dragon Age: Inquisition further expanded on these mechanics by actually pushing a questing motive with loot to be gathered and a pre-set range of characters to build on. Dungeons were less about endless mobs of enemies and more about exploration, combining the strengths of each class and survival.
Now let’s go back to one of the biggest complaints of Destiny – the Story mode. On the first run through, you can complete the story in roughly 8 to 9 hours. If you have friends to help you power level, this can be reduced to roughly 7 hours or so (and no, cut-scenes can’t be skipped). The problem is that Destiny’s campaign is just not that good. Like Titanfall, it’s a whole lot of set-up with no clear direction or character development, much less a representation of the stellar lore the universe is built on. Even if you have friends to play with, they’ll most likely opt to farm Patrol missions rather than play the story again and hear Dinklebot’s insufferable ramblings for the umpteenth time.
"One could argue to Destiny's continued expansion and the ten year plan Bungie has for the franchise. However, let's not forget that Bioware supported Mass Effect 3 after launch with substantial content updates."
Mass Effect, on the other hand, presented one of the best single-player campaigns in all of gaming. Aside from controversy miring the ending of the third game, you could easily replay the entire series again and again, each slight change giving you a different experience throughout. It was infinitely more rewarding than Destiny and still presented plenty of challenge when you wanted it to.
If Bioware takes it upon itself to implement co-op into the campaign for Mass Effect 4 or find some way to tie multiplayer, which will likely be expanded from the third game, into it then it could easily outstrip Destiny in terms of playability and fun factor. Think less “MMO Shooter” and more like the approach that The Last of Us took – a strong campaign that could have co-op but which is supported by a great standalone multiplayer experience.
One could argue to Destiny’s continued expansion and the ten year plan Bungie has for the franchise. However, let’s not forget that Bioware supported Mass Effect 3 after launch with substantial content updates. Not only did it release several story-based DLC packs – each lasting longer than The Dark Below’s three story missions and one Strike – but it released all of its multiplayer content for free. That’s new weapons, character classes and maps, all for free.
Add in some weekly bounties for specific missions – maybe beating a mission on Platinum with specific classes or with other modifiers active – and Mass Effect 4 could easily be the next best option for the burned out Destiny addict in the coming years. Bungie’s online shooter will continue to grow for sure but the industry will continue to evolve and release titles that put its RNG-dependent, grind-based, limited content to shame.