Destiny was released on September 9, 2014, across multiple console platforms. It was Bungie’s first release since the end of their involvement with the Halo series, and marked the beginning of a ten-year agreement between themselves and Activision. Upon its initial release I reviewed Destiny for The Arcade. You can check it out here. Over the last year Destiny has expanded and grown as not only a game, but a community as well. In this article I am going to look back over the first year of the game and see if it is still as engaging as it was when I first joined the ranks of the Guardians.
Out of the gate I want to cover the one constant issue that seems to crop up among players in Destiny is that the initial release of the game felt very much like a long term beta test for the DLC that came after.Personally speaking, to me that was always going to be the nature of this game, it was going to evolve and change as it went on. Bungie would be making tweaks and changes in order to keep the game fresh and replayable, and if you have played any MMO in the past, there was always the sense of “more content is coming” so I wasn’t too bothered about the amount of content upon initial release. I was enjoying the heck out of playing strikes, running patrols and doing weekly Nightfalls with friends, for me Destiny is just as much a social thing as it is a game, I will expand on this as I go on.
It has come to light that the original release of Destiny might have been a very different game, with certain NPCs having larger parts in a much broader story. A trailer containing gameplay footage that did not make it into the final release shows a Guardian on Earth talking with the Awoken Prince Uldron Sov, as well as parts of the game mechanics and options which seemed to have been dropped in order to secure last gen console release.
But less of what could have or should have been, let’s take a look at the first two pieces of DLC, The Dark Below and The House of Wolves. Both of these were available as part of the initial Destiny season pass, as well as being available to buy as individual downloads. If you purchased the Destiny: Limited Edition, or the much sought after Destiny: Ghost Edition (this boasted a replica Ghost companion model) the DLC was included.
The Dark Below
The Dark Below landed on December 9 2014, exactly three months after the launch date of Destiny. The mysterious character of Eris Morn materialized in the Tower, warning the Vanguard about the return of the Hive Prince known as Crota. The new content expanded the story of the alien race known as the Hive.
It brought four new main story missions, two new strikes (one of these was PS4 exclusive until the release of the third piece of DLC, it was then released on Xbox 360 and Xbox one), three new crucible PVP maps, a full cache of rare, legendary and exotic weapons and finally it contained a new 6 player raid, Crota’s End.
The new raid was the big selling point for a lot of Destiny players. The four story based missions all led players to it, with unlockable items and weapons being made available as you go. The previous raid from the initial release was the Vault of Glass, and it was a much-loved event which challenged players and dished out some sweet rewards, one of which was the much coveted hand cannon ‘Fatebringer’. You and five players would descend into the bowls of Venus to take out the giant Vex construct name Atheon. Crota’s End was similar in that regard, except it resembled a boss raid from the mind of horror writer Clive Barker. It required you to take a swan-dive deep into the belly of the Moon where you would have to out run vicious razor clawed Thralls as they chased you through the darkness.
Eventually you made your way through twisting turning corridors filled with the horrors of the hive to Crota himself.
The Crota boss fight is a good slog, and a player with good agility stats is a must as they are required to be the Swordbearer, who is charged with being the front line of attack against the hulking abomination that is Crota. It’s a very satisfying Raid to take part in and there are some great rewards and items to collect which prompted users to go back to the raid more than once. It didn’t yield any weapons that lived up to Fatebringer, but some of them were pretty fantastic. I myself had a soft spot for the hand cannon known as the Word of Crota.
Initial reaction to The Dark Below was mixed, it left a lot of players wanting more. I found the new content enjoyable, and the raid was fun and challenging. Eris Morn was an interesting addition to the game, but like a lot of the other NPCs in the game so far her part was nothing more than a quest giver. The new content was being viewed as more of the same of what had come before. A lot of players felt it was like The Dark Below was meant to be part of the original games release, but just wasn’t ready in time so it was relegated to DLC.
The Dark Below content had very little longevity past the Crota’s End raid. The same, thankfully, cannot be said for the follow-up DLC.
The House of Wolves DLC dropped on May 19, and it was a welcome departure to what had come before. The one glaring difference between this DLC and The Dark Below was the absence of a raid. This time round we were getting something different, this time we were getting The Prison of Elders.
The new content with The House of Wolves was six new story missions, one new strike, four pvp maps, an entire new PVP section and event called the Trials of Osiris and arena area known as the Prison of Elders. The story content this time around concerned the escape of a notorious Fallen Kell named Skolas, the Awoken have enlisted Guardians to help track him down and bring him to justice. Aiding us in this fight are the Queen’s representative Petra Venj and the Awoken aligned Fallen scribe and warden to the Prison of Elders Variks, The Loyal. Together they guide you through the story missions and the capture of Skolas. These two add so much to the game play at this point. Previously the only character interaction during missions would have been your Ghost, but for the first time we get full character interaction between Petra and Variks as we play through the missions.
Their characters shine, and you really feel immersed in the story as they guide you through the hunt for Skolas. Destiny had been a lot of fun up to this point, but something so simple as inclusion of the NPCs as part of the actual story during the missions suddenly made a huge difference, the story which up to this point had been quite thin on the ground, and mostly allocated to grimoires which you had to read online on the Bungie website or through the mobile app was now being played out in front of you.
Once you finished the six story missions, the arena of the Prison of Elders (PoE) was open to you. As in game story goes the prison itself is a prison facility in The Reef, under the oversight of Variks, the Loyal. It is based on the House of Judgment’s traditions for settling disputes between Fallen through trial by combat. It contains Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal inmates who have at some point tried and failed to attack and claim the Reef for themselves. These prisoners are considered “trophies” by the Reef, kept cryogenically frozen for the Queen’s benefit. Though since Skolas’ rebellion, the Queen now wants the prison cleared out, and has recruited the Guardians to get the job done. Some players were a tad upset with the lack of Raid with the House of Wolves DLC, but I welcomed the change.
The Prison of Elders is a much more accessible game type than a boss raid. For starters it’s only a three player event, so there’s no need to worry about having to try and form a full raiding party of six. Also it has four different levels ranging from lvl 28- 35 which allows players to jump in and run the PoE even if they haven’t reach the max level cap (at the time) The lvl 35 event saw you facing off against Skolas once more. This time he is a tougher opponent than when faced in the story mission, maybe prison life suited him, who knows.
The House of Wolves gave Destiny a shot in the arm, it brought players back into the fold. I myself had not dipped into the game for a while, but when this DLC dropped I was hooked once again, and I didn’t stop playing until the next piece of DLC came along. But before I get into that I want to take a moment to chat about something that happened while myself and a few friends were playing destiny.
Gaming is a universal language. So many folks own games consoles with some of the more dedicated players going down the route of PC gaming. Massive Multiplayer Online games are nothing new. I myself was swept up in the big World of Warcraft craze when it first launched in 2004, but it has been long time since I had gotten into an mmo that involved a bunch of my friends. Having a group of mates invested in the same thing you are putting time into makes it more than a game, any game that has friends playing alongside you becomes a social event. When you are contacting buddies in order to arrange your weekly Destiny session it is clear that this is more than a run of the mill video game. One of the Guardians in the group, Craig O’Connor created Clan and we all banded together to form the most unorganized but dedicated bunch of misfits in the history of gaming. So was born the “Sexy Irish Guardians“.
Destiny is a game that is great as a single-player, but it’s an absolute blast when played with friends. Every aspect of it is better when you have a “Fireteam” to watch your back. The Strike Playlists, the Nightfalls and the Raids all work better when you know the group you are playing with. Bungie have always been fantastic at putting together a title that excels with online play, and Destiny is no exception to this rule. The Sexy Irish Guardians are one of the many reasons I return to Destiny on a daily and weekly basis. The online community for Destiny has garnered a reputation for being one of the friendliest online gaming environments around, which is a nice break from previous online communities Activision are associated with. Now onto the final piece of DLC that was released to mark the end of year one of Destiny, and this one is a total game changer – literally.
The Taken King
The Taken King was released on September 15, 2015, just over one year since the original release. The week before saw a huge game update being rolled out to prepare players for the changes ahead. The entire game layout from its UI to the mission structure was receiving a big overhaul. The DlC’s story is structured around two main acts that contain numerous missions. Taking a different path than previous DLC, the universe of Destiny now looks very different. The previous two pieces of DLC were now being restructured within the game, with their missions becoming part of the overall story. The NPC system had been redefined so when missions were being assigned it wasn’t just one character getting involved, others were as well. For example, if your character was Warlock class a lot of your Vanguard missions would come from Ikora Rei (voiced by Gina Torres), but now you were collecting missions from Hunter Vanguard leader Cayde-6 (voiced by Nathan Fillion) or Titan Vanguard leader Commander Zavala. Interaction with the overall NPC community was increased, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. When The Taken King dropped on September 15 the entire dynamic of Destiny changed and it was glorious. The narrative flowed better and the story as more engaging. A direct follow-up to the lesser of the two previous pieces of DLC, The Dark Below, The Taken King sees Oryx, Father of Crota coming to Earth to seek revenge for the death of his son at your hands.
The intro video set the tone for the story for The Taken King, wiping out The Awoken Queen and all of her forces with the opening salvo. Coming off the back of the success of the Awoken-centric DLC that was House of Wolves this was a bold move. One of the biggest gripes that Destiny’s fan base had up to this point was that so much of the story had been taken out of the game, NPCs were nothing more than quest givers with zero interaction outside of that role, this was all going to change with The Taken King. Bungie had listened to all of the issues players had with previous piece of DLC and look to address these issues with this new release. NPCs like Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 were given centre-stage, with more character interaction than before and a more varied approach to missions and events.
There was also the big and slightly controversial change of the voice of your faithful Ghost companion. Originally voiced by Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, Bungie recast his role with the voice talents of Nolan North. Dinklagebot is gone but never forgotten. One of the main key elements to Bungie’s approach this time around was the way they staggered the content. Even after the main story against Oryx had been completed there were still missions and quests being added, the most recent was the Exotic Weapon quest-line for the mysterious Sleeper Simulant. A heavy fusion rifle that had Reddit threads aplenty trying to figure out how players could track down and get their hands on it.
The new DLC also saw a brand new subclass being introduced for each Guardian class. Sunbreaker for Titans, Stormcaller for Warlocks and Nightstalker for the Hunter class. These three sub-classes gave the Guardians some impressive power ups. Titans could now wield a Hammer of fire, seeing a fully powered up Titan taking on an army of bad guys is sight to behold.
The Stormcaller sub-class basically fulfills any dreams of being a fully powered Sith Lord, as you hover around shouting bolts of lightning that fry enemies on contact, and the Night Stalker power up allows Hunters to control large foes as well as any minions they may have long enough to deliver that fatal blow. These sub-classes really do make the player feel like a total badass, able to take on whole armies.
Not all of the content of The Taken King was available on day one. The raid which was titled “The King’s Fall” was not released until September 18. The structure of the quests this time around was done so much better, the story spread out across numerous locations, most of them leading towards the raid, others being contained within their own plot. The Awoken were not left on the sidelines, with both Petra and Variks adding their support to the war against the Taken. Players also got to explore the Warmind AI Rasptuin who had pretty much remained a mystery up to this point, apart from the one strike which was contained in The Dark Below. The Taken King is very much the game a lot of players wanted Destiny to be from the start.
Now you may think that I’ve drank Bungie’s kool-aid, but I firmly believe that Destiny has been as much as about the journey of playing this game than it has been about watching the developers tinker and change the game as it went along. The big difference I see with Destiny and how Bungie have approached it compared to other developers is that this game wasn’t broken in any way when it was first released. It didn’t suffer from game glitches that ruined gameplay, it didn’t need constant updates and patches to fix broken game dynamics. The core of this game worked from day one. The mechanics were amazing, the gameplay top-notch. The inclusion of playing this game with friends definitely helps.
I’m going to finish on a bit of a whimsical addition by Bungie and Activision. As of last week microtransactions have made their way into Destiny, but they’re nothing too game-changing. These micro transactions are for game emotes, such as the Carlton Dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and a ropey looking baseball swing. They can be purchased in the tower using the new ingame currency silver, which you can purchase through the PSN store or the Xbox Live store. Bungie guarantee that nothing that will influence how you play Destiny will ever be sold this way, so dont expect to see armor or weapons being flogged to the highest real life bidder. No these are just for fun. I have included a video of my Warlock checking out the store and trying out the emotes.
The first year of Destiny for me has been a huge success. From its basic but highly enjoyable beginnings through The Dark Below and The House Wolves right up to The Taken King, Destiny has really delivered for me as a gamer. Don’t get me wrong, there have been bumps in the road here and there, but I have enjoyed every second of my time spent in this world. It did help that i have a large group of friends who where there throughout, Destiny is best enjoyed with friends.
Until next time.
I shall see you in the Tower, Guardians.