Destiny: The Never Ending Story – A Retrospective

downloadAs a Destiny player since the Beta I often find myself asking why, after three years of playing the same game, am I still addicted and having as much fun as I did when the game released back in late 2014. It certainly wasn’t the poorly executed story which seemed to start well, but quickly petered out into a mess before ending with more questions than we started with. So what is it that has me coming back for moreand garnered nearly 100,000 viewers on Twitch as Bungie announced the final update. So before their much anticipated Destiny 2 gameplay reveal on 18th May I take a look back the phenomenon that was Destiny.

Destiny has seen many changes over its nearly three year life and mostly for the better. Many have argued that Bungie have paid little attention to their fans, but I disagree. Once you look past the lacklustre two DLC’s during the first year, the big DLC named ‘The Taken King’ launched in September 2015 really changed the way the game behaved and how the story was told, even going as far as re-recording all the dialogue for the voice of Ghost an ever present companion to the player. Included with the new dialogue a new progress menu, new levelling up system, collection vendors saving vault space and introducing new items to compliment your Guardian such as Ghosts and artifacts. Even more substantial were the inclusion of one new subclass for each class which to this day remain as some of the most popular builds in the game. Many fans felt this was a step in the right direction, but to much disappointment the original raids, many strikes and weapons were left behind which meant a significant amount of the vanilla game suddenly became irrelevant or at least rarely useful. Bungie wanted Destiny to be more accessible to players and to cater for the more experienced players ‘The Taken King’ included what some would argue as one of the best raids in the game: ‘Kings Fall’.

Destiny The Taken King
Bungie had a full year cycle under their belt with Destiny and the release of ‘The Taken King’, however fans were still demanding more and here is where I believe they were and are listening resulting in their release of what became known in the Destiny community as ‘The Taken Spring’. A free update for all owners of ‘The Taken King’ and perhaps a switch in their business model resulted in more of focus on micro transactions that would pave the way for smaller free updates rather than significant and costly DLC’s. This update included a maximum level raise, ‘Prison Of Elders’ was made relevant again with ‘Challenge Of Elders’, a new strike was added and they updated a strike from the vanilla game to make it relevant again. Sterling Treasure (micro transaction currency), vault space increased and Chroma was added enabling players to change the look of their weapon or armour.

It was a significant update for a game a year and half old. One that found a lot of favour amongst the players, it was clear Bungie were listening and they wanted to give all players the opportunity to be able to hit the maximum level available. The maximum level was no longer hidden behind difficult raids requiring pre-prepared teams of 6 for a chance or the ultimate tier of PVP activity in ‘Trials of Osiris’ requiring a flawless run of 9 wins and no losses during a card… something not even I have achieved. Whilst the community appreciated the developers keeping the game fresh and meaningful in free updates rather than pricey DLC’s it wasn’t perfect; many found the ‘Challenge Of The Elders’ too easy and with the many ways of achieving maximum level people hit the maximum within hours of the update going live. Nor were the frequently requested old raids updated, but I felt Bungie were holding back and something was telling me they had something up their sleeve.

Unexpected by many a final paid DLC for Destiny arrived in September 2016 named ‘Rise Of Iron’ with a new story based around what is normally saved for the monthly PVP event ‘Iron Banner’ where player level matters. With ‘Rise Of Iron’ came a new maximum level, skeleton keys allowing you to guarantee a unique reward from strikes where it was random before, weapon and armour ornaments allowing you to select between different skins. Private PVP matches were also added after feedback from the community. ‘Rise Of Iron’ didn’t redefine Destiny as ‘The Taken King’ did, it simply added more things for the player to do. More missions, a new area to explore, new and modified strikes and the ‘Wrath Of The Machine’ raid. It was certainly a case of quality over quantity, but the community continued to cry out for more pointing in particular to two noticeable absentees in ‘The Vault Of Glass’ and ‘Crota’s End’ raids from year one plus a selection of top tier weapons still nowhere to be seen.

Destiny Rise Of Iron WotM
The final considerable update for Destiny named the ‘Age Of Triumph’ landed on 28th March, a swan song of everything that was good about Destiny, a final foray before switching focus to Destiny 2. All four raids (‘The Vault Of Glass’, ‘Crota’s End’, ‘Kings Fall’ and ‘The Wrath Of The Machine’) were brought back and up to the maximum level, not only made relevant again but changes made to fix glitches or exploits including new challenges for players to be able to achieve elemental primaries now classed as exotic. Bungie also added a new ‘Nightfall’ modifier Daybreak which results in the players super charging much quicker meaning almost endless supers throughout which results in mindless fun. Everything else in game is brought up to the maximum level with a chance of equal rewards. Alongside these changes a book of achievements allowing the player to track their progress throughout their journey, awarding emblems players could proudly display to show they had been there since the early days, or a hardcore raider or somebody who enjoyed the sweat fest of PVP and ‘Trials of Osiris’, a collector, a perfectionist, a Hunter, Warlock, Titan… there is something for everyone. For me it feels like a fitting end.

‘Age Of Triumph’ was a celebration of Destiny allowing Bungie to conclude and move all their focus on Destiny 2. Although don’t expect any of your hard earned guns or armour to move with you to Destiny 2 with Bungie confirming your gear will not transfer over and just to make sure they cleverly built this into the storyline as we are informed all our loot is destroyed along with what was our home during Destiny, the ‘Tower’. I’m okay with that, after obsessively playing Destiny for everything it can offer, I don’t particularly want to still be using the same guns and using the same armour for another three years. That said I can understand the frustration for some who have spent real money on obtaining emotes, aesthetic armour and ornaments. With the (supposedly) leaked poster reveal of Destiny 2 reintroducing us to our accustomed player classes with our Hunters, Warlocks and Titans I felt a little disappointed. I do not want to spend another three years using the same grenades or melee attacks or the well-designed super abilities.

Like Borderlands before, new effective supers across sequels and pre-sequels whilst continuing the story are possible and can remain just has fun to use. I just hope that Bungie are planning new supers and abilities, but I wouldn’t begrudge them a nostalgic subclass. What I will begrudge them is the unnecessary amount of what is known as social space, a place the player can store items in central vaults, buy equipment, pick up bounties etc. The game launched with the ‘Tower’ a huge space which had potential for much more and played a part in ‘Iron Banner’ before ‘Rise Of iron’ launched, plus the hugely popular ‘Queens Wrath’ event enabling players to earn exclusive weapons and armour, although after its short stint bizarrely it was never seen again  and nothing simliar ever surfaced. With the launch of ‘House Of Wolves’ arrived the Reef which included Brother Vance for the PVP event ‘Trials Of Osiris’ plus Variks as the gatekeeper to the ‘Prison Of Elders’. If that wasn’t enough with the launch of ‘Rise Of Iron’ arrived the ‘Iron Temple’, a place enabling you to interact with Lord Saladin, Tyra Karn and Shiro-4 mainly there as quest givers to move the main storyline forward. All of this could have easily been accommodated in the ‘Tower’ and that wasted space could have resulted in more story or strike missions, not to mention the wasted time loading between each space to pick up bounties, missions, packages etc. Please don’t do it again Bungie, one social space is more than enough if it is done right.

Destiny AoT
So this is our farewell to Destiny and a time to look forward to Destiny 2. The ‘Age of Triumph’ book really does cater for everyone whether you were there from day one or just starting your adventure with ‘Rise Of Iron’. Forget the poor disjointed story and the overly grindy mechanics from the first year, focus on the solid shooting mechanics and the fun super abilities across all classes. A game that caters for those that enjoy blasting AI enemies through story missions or gathering up friends to take on some of the most difficult challenges or those that enjoy facing players from around the world in PVP with no gameplay mechanic changes between the two. How your guns or armour perform during a raid, perform exactly the same way during an online elimination match against another human. Destiny has given me some of the most memorable moments in gaming.

That first experience of going into a raid not knowing what lies before you with 5 of your friends has brought out the best in teamwork and communication for all participating. I for one cannot wait to see what Destiny 2 offers and I will be sure to be there on the start line when the first raid becomes available with the same friends who have travelled with me through the highs and lows of the first game. I’ve made new friends along the way, I’ve annoyed my real life partner with my loud screams of joy finally defeating that boss that has taken my raid group hours to defeat. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, Bungie somehow got the gameplay right and if that gameplay transfers over to Destiny 2 plus everything else they have learned along the way we could be in for something very special. I have never enjoyed a game more than Destiny and it’s not through an over-elaborate story or real life graphics, it’s just down to pure adrenaline pumping fun and it’s reminded me that what gaming is all about as a gamer . On that note it’s time to say goodbye, until Destiny 2 that is, I’m ready for you Gary… I mean Ghaul.