30 is a milestone age for many people. It feels like the dividing line between youth and full adulthood, where we put our childhood behind us and start embracing our adult lives. And in the tumultuous world of gaming, 30 is an age that most companies simply do not reach. Most disappear far earlier, but a few manage to make their mark on the word so indelibly that they reach that venerable age. And one of those companies – Bungie – are celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year.
Bungie is a name that has become legend in the gaming world. For 30 years they’ve managed to shape and reshape the gaming landscape in a myriad of ways. So we thought this would be the perfect time to take a look at their most influential games, the titles that made them the juggernaut they are today.
It’s a shame that many didn’t get the chance to try out Marathon but its influence can still be felt now, all these years later. Released in 1994, Marathon was a technical masterpiece, doing things that other games only managed in slower-paced RPGs like Ultima Underworld or System Shock. Players were finally able to look up and down, which may not seem revolutionary now but you have to remember that this was also the year Doom II was released; a game that still restricted us to a single plane of view.
In addition to its technical genius, Marathon was as much a narrative trendsetter as the more popular System Shock. Featuring aliens and AIs gone rogue, it paved the way not only for other sci-fi video games but also for their own series, Halo.
Myth: The Fallen Lords
Whilst Bungie are definitely the masters of the FPS, they’ve put a toe into other genres a few times; most notably with Myth: The Fallen Lords. This real-time strategy game sees you take on the mantle of a commander of a fantasy army, fighting your way through skirmishes and achieving objectives to further the main campaign.
With a persistent and rich multiplayer mode combined with a unique spin on the RTS genre, Myth: The Fallen Lords was an important stepping stone for the genre as a whole. We can see its legacy still writ large today in games such as Dawn of War 2, which has a similar focus on armies rather than resource gathering and building.
The other deviation from Bungie’s reign at the top of the FPS tree is Oni – a third-person action game that features some of the best hand-to-hand combat you’ll find in any game, ever. Taking inspiration from anime such as Ghost in the Shell and Akira, Oni sees you play as Konoko as you delve into a cyberpunk world set in the year 2032.
Oni’s main draw is the combat, with smooth animations and the ability to mix in combos to devastating effect. Its combination of gunplay and rewarding melee combat makes it almost unique in the gaming landscape; indeed, its effects can still be felt as many developers still look to Oni when planning combat.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The game we all knew was coming somewhere on this list. Halo: Combat Evolved was originally designed for the Mac, but a year prior to release Microsoft snapped the company up, moving the action to their new console – the Xbox. It’s probably not hyperbole to say that Halo made the Xbox. If you were buying an Xbox in 2001, it was to play Halo. If you were playing a multiplayer game, you were playing Halo.
The original Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved are synonymous for many and now, thanks to the Master Chief Collection, we can all get our hands on a (finally fixed) port to see why it’s just so special. With wide-open, sandbox-style areas combined with some of the best gunplay in the business, Halo: Combat Evolved is still a classic and feels as fresh to play now as it did 20 years ago.
If Halo: Combat Evolved made Bungie a household name, then it’s Halo 3 which cemented their reputations as legends. The first Halo game to appear on the Xbox 360, Halo 3 has a stunning single-player campaign, improving on the prior game’s storyline in almost every way.
However, it’s the multiplayer where Halo 3 really comes into its own. Halo 3’s multiplayer absolutely shines; it shines when it was released and now that it’s still active as part of the Master Chief Collection, it shines some more. Halo 3 won a huge amount of awards for its multiplayer design, and the tightness of its gameplay and helped make Bungie a name on everyone’s lips.
After Bungie left the Halo franchise in 343 Industries’ hands, we began to hear rumblings of a new game from the studio. A game called Destiny. This FPS/RPG game takes the best of Halo’s gameplay and mixes it up in a seamless single-player/multiplayer world, providing a near-endless roster of modes and missions to take on.
Playing like a cross between an MMO and a standard FPS, Destiny saw players take to the far future to engage in puzzle-like raids, public events, PvE combat, and much, much more. For many, Destiny is Bungie’s finest hour. Barring a few wizards-from-the-moon-esque roadbumps, Destiny is a highlight of Bungie’s 30 years of developing games and remains one of their most influential games.
Finally, we come to Destiny 2. The sequel to Destiny decided not to just offer more of the same as its predecessor. Instead, Bungie mixed up the action in several key ways. Many improvements have been implemented making the game easier to play and pick up, as well as easier to earn rewards making the grind less onerous than before. The story, which received criticism in the earlier entry, was overhauled making it more coherent and requiring less external reading to stay up to date.
Destiny 2 also revolutionised what it means to be a Live Service game, with many expansions and content from its early days now being moved to the “Vault”. This makes them inaccessible for players, helping to keep the install size small compared to many of its peers.
With Destiny 2, Bungie continues to show that they are utter masters of gunplay and game design, and are continually making sure that we all know why they’re at the top of their game. With a 30th Anniversary Edition available for Destiny 2 showcasing much of Bungie’s history, it’s the perfect time to jump into the game in advance of the next expansion: The Witch Queen.
Which is your favourite Bungie game from the last three decades? Have your say in our Community Forum, and grab your copy of Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Deluxe + Bungie 30th Anniversary Bundle at the link below!