Destiny is one of gaming’s most amazing stories when it comes to defining a genre. When it was first released in 2014, people were incredibly excited because the masters of the FPS in Bungie were taking their talents to the MMO space for the first time. With that excitement also came a heavy dose of skepticism because what they were trying to do just had never been done before. A first-person shooter MMO? I mean, how would that even work? It got more complex when it was discovered the whole adventure would take place in space, and in just the second year of the next-gen life cycle at the time, Destiny would release.
The divisiveness of the franchise as a whole has been its defining quality throughout its now 8-year lifespan, and there are so many moving parts to it all that it’s hard to keep track of. To clear it up, we’re going to go through the whole Destiny franchise and find out how one of gaming’s biggest disasters has taken the punches and come out on top as one of gaming’s biggest success stories.
I tried Destiny for the first time at its launch date, and immediately, I was drawn in by the intriguing atmosphere it created along with the amazing graphics it had that still stand up to this day. The gunplay was also razor-sharp and had mechanics that could compare to the best first-person shooters around, and the RNG nature of the weapons you could acquire made it, so you were always thirsting for the next big discovery.
This was definitely not a smooth release, as it was soon revealed that there was tons going on behind closed doors that marred the development of the game, and the result was a completely underwhelming campaign and a narrative that felt all over the place and going nowhere somehow at the same exact time. Coming from a franchise as epic and well-received as Halo, gamers were scorned by the lack of cohesion that Destiny initially had.
There was a lot to like for sure, but at the same time, there were some glaring weak points in the opening months of the initial launch. The quest design was lacking, and a certain voice actor did his best to bog down the experience with a less than enthusiastic delivery that put people to sleep more than it inspired players to save the universe.
The skeleton of the game was there, but the barebones story and lack of variety in the quests started to drain some players. This was noted, and all of a sudden, new releases started coming fast, and with each one, interesting new dungeon mechanics and story beats started to play out, and soon, the experience started to feel cohesive and smart rather than just pretty and random.
The seasons would keep coming every couple of months for a few years, and with them came more stories and more weapon types that would soon have players in a vortex of raid dungeons and weapon hunting that would be the driving force through the ever-growing story.
Destiny attempted to do something no game had previously done, and that’s create a massive online universe to explore. At first, players thought this meant you could explore vast planets and run into things like different species of Aliens and wildlife, all while seeing your fellow players venture by your side. It wasn’t exactly that, and while there was a ton of open space to explore on each of the planets available to you, there really wasn’t much to them. Yes, the graphics were nice, but the story beats pushing you forward really were nonexistent, and after a while, it was pretty easy to see why the player base initially started to dwindle.
There was so much room for greatness here, but it just felt…empty. The characters in the story seemed bored, the enemies had about as much personality as toothpaste, and the mission variety was completely nonexistent. That world, though, would be the building blocks of something great, but in 2014, the emptiness took a lot of players, including myself, to other games pretty fast.
What’s a game worth without solid gameplay? That was the question that Destiny wrestled with a ton at the start. You could certainly argue that the gunplay here was on par with Call of Duty, and the powers that you had access to certainly changed up the feel of the game aplenty as well. Part of the problem for players at the start was the lack of clarity.
The shooting, in particular, was a major highlight. The guns were a mix of things you’d find in modern shooters and weapons that felt appropriately futuristic without being too over the top silly. The weightiness they had mixed with the satisfying punch that each of the weapons had made mowing down the endless waves of enemies a joy.
When it came to boss fights, though, things got a little bit less interesting. While the designs of some of the bosses were definitely great, a lot of them were reused, and ultimately, they just felt like massive damage sponges that had little in the way of interesting attacks, and most of the strategy used to defeat them revolved around shooting a weak point, running away to reload and rinse and repeat until you won.
While you can accuse any MMO of doing this, Destiny was particularly vague about where you were supposed to go and what you were supposed to do when you got there. For me, it ended up with me replaying missions I hadn’t realized I’d completed because of the lack of any structure to Destiny’s questing system. It wasn’t shocking, though, because Bungie had never made an RPG before, so they didn’t have to worry about quest tracking and the like, and that ended up being pretty apparent to all players in Destiny off the jump.
Once you figured out where to go through, the missions were fun enough. Your arsenal was expansive, and with each mission you completed, you would unlock more and more loot while leveling up your player class as well.
If you got tired of fighting enemies over and over, you could also wander on over to the crucible and fight players online in a team deathmatch-style environment. There were also vehicles you could use to traverse the vast planets with and plenty of secrets to discover on your own.
The Interest Wains
The PVP capabilities of Destiny were woefully underdeveloped, and that was pretty shocking coming from Bungie, the masters of the multiplayer FPS. It felt thrown together at the last minute and in terms of balance? There was none to speak of, and you’d find overpowered players just mowing down the competition on a daily basis. The modes were also weirdly limited, as were the maps you could fight in, and other than some cool loot on occasion each time you’d hit a milestone, this mode was pretty much forgotten about by many in the community.
After the first couple of months with the game, most of the players had beaten the main campaign. That wasn’t all that hard to do as it was pretty brief, and when it was over? That was it; there was nothing else. Sure, there were daily missions and Strikes to embark on with your teams, but how often can you repeat the same tired style of missions over and over? The answer to that question was roughly a couple of months.
Just 3 months into the game’s lifespan, already players were starting to leave. This was an all-hands-on-deck moment for Bungie as this game was supposed to become the flagship title for the company for years to come, and it was already failing? That just wouldn’t do, and credit to Bungie, they got on their game awfully fast and started producing at a harrowing rate that would not only change the trajectory that the franchise was on but completely save it as well.
How Destiny Fulfilled its Own
The Raid Dungeons are the biggest reason Destiny survived its initial struggles. In Raid Dungeons, a 6 player team would go into a dungeon, and all of a sudden, this wasn’t just a typical first-person shooter but a highly collaborative MMO that required precise communication between teammates to overcome the various encounters and puzzles that would come to define Raid Dungeons.
This wasn’t exactly a new idea as MMOs like World of Warcraft had also delved into this type of dungeon on multiple occasions, but the fact that it was now being implemented into a game with real-time combat was a fascinating prospect.
The Vault of Glass was the first raid in the history of Destiny, and with this came the realization that Bungie still had some story chops left in them. It finally added a bit of an intriguing story, but more importantly, it had some slick game design that washed out the terrible taste of the endless “defend this point for X amount of enemy waves.” style that had defined the majority of the game previously. The dungeon was super tough and offered some fantastic rewards that would keep playing coming back week after week, and it soon became the most popular place to play in the game.
Once the Vault of Glass hit, then Bungie knew that they had something great on their hands. Their gamble paid off, and the introduction of team-based mechanics to dungeons seemed to hit the nail right on the head when it came to what players were looking for. It was released soon after the initial launch of Destiny and quickly began to restore the bad vibes that had built up in the first few weeks of Destiny’s lifespan.
Of course, players are only satisfied for so long, and after a couple of months, the cries of “Destiny is Dead” rang from message boards to Reddit pages. Bungie had their backs against the wall yet again, and their game that was supposed to last for years felt like it was being abandoned by the constantly underwhelmed player base.
The Dark Below
That was when the first expansion for Destiny launched, titled The Dark Below. This expansion hit on December 9th of 2014, right as the holiday season was heating up and the timing proved to be a franchise-saving one.
The Dark Below added a sizeable amount of content that centered on the mysterious Hive race and their deity Crota, Son of Oryx, who had come up several times in the main story of Destiny, but like many other lingering threads throughout the game, it was never explored until The Dark Below.
There were four story missions, a new strike mission, and a whole new raid was added as well. In addition to that, there were new bounties, tons of new equipment, and multiple new maps and modes added to the previously barren Crucible. This felt like a legitimate expansion pack and finally made those who paid for the season pass feel like it was going to be worth it. Destiny’s expansions, however, were just getting started.
House of Wolves
On May 19th of 2015, the next expansion would release in the form of House of Wolves. This added even more story to the world of Destiny and concerned the Fallen race while tasking players to stop a plot by Skolas, Kell of Kells, from uniting the race with him. This time around, we were given six-story missions and tons of new gear, a special weapon class, a new strike, and three more Crucible maps to boot.
This expansion was noteworthy because it added the ascending of legendary weapons was now available, and the complete overhaul of the upgrading system made it so that you could upgrade your new weapons far easier than before. This allowed players to reforge their legendary weapons in order to chase new and more powerful perks.
The campaign this time around was much better received than the Dark Below because of all of the new features that came with it. The additions to the story were praised for expanding the Destiny lore in a sensible way, and the introduction of the Etheric Light material used to reforge legendary and exotic weapons was a welcome change as well.
The initial two DLCs were a big move for Destiny as it finally had a story that people felt was worth following, but the problem was that again, once the content had run its course, you could only do the strike and raid missions so many times.
The story really wasn’t long enough, even from the beginning of base Destiny to the end of its expansion, to warrant a ton of time. You could make your way through everything in about 15 hours or so. For an MMO, that was just unacceptable because these games are supposed to be played for years and years. It’s not like a template wasn’t already in place. World of Warcraft had a massive story to play through, and at this point in time, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was also getting hot with its intriguing plot, and that left Destiny still struggling to keep pace.
Everything changed forever in Destiny when Year 2 of their expansions came along.
The Taken King
The Taken King was not only the best DLC that Destiny had produced, but it also became a landmark release, showing other games what an expansion can do for a game if it was treated with the right amount of care, passion, and most of all effort. The Taken King was released on September 15th, 2015, about a year after the game’s initial release, and with it came the biggest and best thing Destiny had ever done.
In a culmination of the first two DLCs, the Taken King had a plot that focused on Oryx, The Taken King, and the father of Crota in his quest for revenge for his son. The story was dark and had some powerful beats to it that would start to have players remembering what made the stories of the Halo games so enjoyable to take in all those years ago.
With The Taken King came a massive PVE area called the Dreadnaught, which was Oryx’s massive ship. This area was easily the coolest one to explore in the entire game, and the sheer vastness of the area, along with the design, was just mesmerizing to behold. It also came with playable missions on Mars’ Moon Phobos, the raid Kings Fall, A new public activity filled with random bosses and three levels of difficulty, three new strikes, three revised strikes that now included Taken enemies in them, seven new Crucible maps and three new PvP modes. The coolest addition of all came in the addition of a sword weapon, which came built with its own mechanics and suddenly added a whole new dimension to the already thrilling combat that Destiny had.
There were also new subclasses added for each of the three classes that already exist, called Nightstalker, Stormcaller, and Sunbreaker. There was also a follow-up in April of 2016 that had the players fighting Malok, who was a Taken prince that attempted to rise to power after the events of The Taken King.
This expansion was massive, and it had tons of timed exclusive events that would play out over time. The exclusive events lasted until September 2016. The release of The Taken King was incredibly well-received, absolutely blowing away the previous scores that were given to the other expansions. Reviews all over the place emphasized the improvement in the characters in the story, the way the boss encounters felt nothing like bullet sponges anymore, and also the huge improvement to the class system. It was also filled with much clearer goals and showed you where to go as opposed to the vagueness that pervaded through most of the first year of Destiny.
It was at this point that Destiny was finally considered a complete game. It was a common thing for players to jump into Destiny for the first time at this point, and gone were the people calling for the death of Destiny, and instead, they were clamoring for more, this time not because there wasn’t enough, but because what there was became an elite product suddenly.
Just two days after the release of The Taken King expansion, Sony announced that it had broken the record for the most downloaded day-one game in Playstation history. If that doesn’t tell you the impact The Taken King had with not only the Destiny fanbase but the gaming community as a whole, then nothing will.
Bungie then released Destiny: The Legendary edition, which included all of the Year One content. Players who bought this version of the game ended up getting a special item called Spark of Light, which boosted a new character to level 25 immediately, giving them access to The Taken King content right from the start of the game.
Rise of Iron
Coming off the massive success of The Taken King, Destiny had already announced the production of Destiny 2, so in order to get the masses salivating for their product just one more time, Bungie released the Rise of Iron expansion on September 20th, 2016, a year after The Taken King released. This expansion focused on the Fallen race. In the story, they have breached the wall that surrounds the city and are armed with the SIVA virus, a terrifying device built from nanotechnology. Lord Saladin, known mostly for his heading of the Iron Banner PVP event, is the leader in this story and guides the players as they journey to become the new Iron Lords and wipe out SIVA once and for all.
With the new expansion came a brand new social space called the Iron Temple. This gave players a social area on Earth in the game for the first time. Players also gained access to a place on Earth called the Plaguelands, which was a patrol zone that would see a fair share of content. In the Plagulands, a new type of Fallen enemy can be encountered called the Devil Splicers, and it was here that a new public event could be accessed as well. In addition to all of that, there was a new strike, another new raid called Wrath of the Machine, new maps for the Crucible, a new PVP mode, and a new, limited use, Flaming Battle Axe that could be used in certain missions.
Rise of Iron was received pretty well, although it was not given the same type of praise that The Taken King was. At this point, you were either in or out on Destiny, and while Rise of Iron wasn’t the reason to play like The Taken King was, it was certainly a good enough reason to stay. The story itself was just a precursor of what was to come, rather than a proper end to the story of Destiny. Gamers wouldn’t have to wait all that long, though, because Destiny 2 was right around the corner.
To say expectations were sky high here would be an understatement. Everything Destiny had done wrong at the start had been more or less rectified by the end of its run in 2016, and with the sequel, fans were expecting bigger and better things than ever, thinking that Bungie had perfected its product and was ready to dish out the goods in pristine fashion from the get-go this time.
With all of this expectation behind it, it was then pretty concerning that not only did Bungie not nail it with the initial release like they did with Destiny 1, they also somehow made the game worse…Uh oh.
The Tragic Launch
There were a myriad of issues with the initial launch of Destiny 2, but the biggest and most egregious misfire of them all had to be that they made all of the weapons fixed-rolls. What this meant is that every time you got a rare gun to drop, it would then be identical to every other rare gun of that type you’ve ever owned. So no matter where you found it, that gun would have a fixed damage, and the RNG factor that kept gamers glued to their screens with the first Destiny was suddenly out the window.
How could a shooter with no loot survive? Imagine a game like Borderlands, but every time you picked up a gun, it had the same stats as the previous one! How is that fun? Bungie saw gamers losing their minds over this and decided to add back in the RNG factor at the end of the year.
To be fair, plenty of games do this. They have set stats for a particular gun, and that’s fine. Those other games that do this also have a massive amount of content and a satisfying story to explore, so surely Destiny 2 would at least have that, right? Well, at the start, that’s another big no.
Destiny 2’s story started out on a strong note, with a very dark and violent beginning that seemed to promise a more serious and more focused story this time around. Unfortunately, while the experience was again a gorgeous one, it quickly became a vague scavenger hunt across multiple planets with so little payoff and barely anything in the way of interesting characters.
Somehow, Destiny 2 managed to start just as poorly as the first game and lost a ton of players in the first few months because of it. A savior was on the way once again, though.
Year one was a rocky one for Destiny 2, and the two post-launch mini-expansions did little to shake things up. That’s when Forsaken arrived just as The Taken King before it to completely save the game. Immediately, the tone of the story was darker than ever as the guardian sought to get revenge on Uldren Sov for the death of fan-favorite Cayde-6. The emotional drive of the story was excellent, and with it comes a great deal of new locations, offering up some of the best visuals in the series. Coming along for the ride was a massive overhaul of how the gameplay worked as well.
There was a brand new enemy species called The Scorn, a new team mode, new supers added to the game, new subclasses, and a new weapon type, the bow, and arrow was added into the game as well.
The release was again hailed as a high point in the franchise, almost matching the reviews of The Taken King. Destiny 2 had also gone free to play at this point, making a point of entry for less costly than ever before, and this gave new players more of a chance to play.
With the Forsaken release upping the ante once again for the team at Bungie, Shadowkeep was released on June 6th of 2019 and added some very unique elements into the game. The story focused on the discovery of a pyramid-shaped ship deep within the Moon and led the player into a new raid called the Garden of Salvation. Tons of innovation came with this expansion that changed the gameplay of Destiny 2 even further. Finishers were introduced to the game for the first time ever, giving combat a more brutal and strategic feeling than it had previously, and a new enemy type called Champions were introduced, which required you to mod your weapons in a specific way in order to damage them.
Shadowkeep was not the massive release that the Forsaken was, but it was a solid mini DLC that added some very important things into the game, with finishers being the most prominent.
Beyond Light grabbed the story baton once more and set us on an intriguing adventure through Europa, the Moon of Jupiter. In this plot, Aramis, Kell of the Fallen House of Salvation, has discovered a way to wield Darkness and is using it to take revenge on the Traveler for abandoning the Fallen. This story leads to some very interesting places and starts to have you doubt what the meaning of the Darkness really is, and if the Traveler is the benevolent entity, it has been built to be thus far.
With this intriguing story came a handful of missions, a new raid called the Deep Stone Crypt, a revamped Vault of Glass release, and also the first use of the Destiny Vault for the story mode. This took areas in the game and essentially wiped them out of existence due to the Darkness enveloping them.
Destiny 2 relied on its DLC to drag itself out of the mud much like its predecessor and, despite the odds, has become one of today’s most popular games ever, and in just 4 days, we’re going to finally get to play the next expansion, the Witcher Queen, which will deal with Savathun and her infiltration of the Last City. It’s going to pay off storylines that have been built all the way back to Destiny 1, and we are so ready for it.
Question: Is Destiny 2 better than Destiny 1?
Answer: I think so. The combat is much more varied, the story since the DLC expansions has been far more engaging, and overall, the game is a more cohesive creation than Destiny 1.
Question: How long will Destiny 2 be supported?
Answer: With at least two more expansions on the horizon following The Witch Queen, Destiny 2 will at least be supported until 2024.
Question: Is Destiny 2 free to play still?
Answer: Destiny 2 is still a free to play game; the expansions, though, will require you to purchase a season pass or the individual downloads in order to access them.
Destiny as a whole has managed to go from constant disappointment to epic triumph in a rollercoaster of the last 8 years. It was the most hated game to the most loved and has seemed to follow that trajection faithfully throughout both its releases. Right now, Destiny 2 love is at an all-time high, and the story has become one of the best science fiction tales ever told in a video game. With strong characters, great voice acting, incredible gunplay, and endless amounts of content to enjoy, I can confidently say that this is the best time ever to jump into the world of Destiny. See you out there, Guardian.
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