The Destiny retrospective – Five things that Bungie got right with their brave new franchise

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Destiny 2 is on the way for a September release, which most likely means that Destiny the first is about to become a ghost town. Only with more Nolan North and less Dinklebot. Heh, in-jokes from the mooooooon. Even though Bungie has pledged to keep the servers on for the foreseeable future in Destiny, the writing is on the wall: People have done their tour of duty in the solar system, and they’re ready to do it all over again for a premium price because we’re a rather weird lot who likes new shiny stuff.

Over the course of almost three years, Destiny was fantastic. It didn’t start out that way of course, being a vague and somewhat dull new franchise that only really found its feet a year later with the introduction of Oryx in The Taken King. But when it did find that groove, it was utterly magical. Here’s a list of reasons why Destiny is one of the very best original games to emerge from this generation.

Events

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Even if it had dozens of them, Destiny’s missions were easily finished within the span of 15-20 minutes at a time. So how do you retain audiences after the end credits have rolled? By making those missions and the world itself worth replaying again and again and again. Destiny lived on events, the bread and butter of Bungie’s universe and then some. Whether it was a weekend visit from Xur, spending Saturday nights attempting the Trials of Osiris or just randomly finding yourself hunting down the Fallen captains of the House of Wolves, there was always something to do.

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Destiny is the kind of game that required not just dozens, but hundreds of hours of investment. It’s a game where you’d find yourself playing for just those few extra minutes so that you could make use of Skyburner codes, just that one extra match in the Crucible so that you can pray to RNGesus for a decent loot drop.

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There’s an entire eco-system of addiction here, and it’s magnificent stuff. From the inclusion of Crimson Days, the Sparrow Racing League and the Festival of the Lost, Destiny was designed to keep you playing. A feat which it achieved with ease once it found its feet.

Crafting your own legend

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In Destiny you’re unique, just like everybody else. It sounds paradoxical at first, but the further you went into Destiny the more you realised that you were just one Guardian in a machine filled with thousands of other protectors of humanity. And yet, you were you.  You were the Guardian who slew Crota, son of Oryx. You were the Guardian who destroyed the Black Heart of the Darkness that the Vex worshipped. You were the Guardian who hung around random spots in the Tower dancing all night long.

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Destiny excelled at making you feel like a legend, a force of light who fought back against the Darkness and protected the last remnants of humanity. Part of this sensation came from missions that threw overwhelming odds at you but were tipped ever so slightly in your favour, missions that were designed to evoke emotions of awe and wonder when you’d defeated the undefeatable. The Rise of Iron expansion is perhaps the zenith of this idea, an expansion that had you earn the mantle of Iron Lord alongside numerous other missions that further solidified your legend.

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On the cosmetic side, Destiny went a step further. With many pieces of gear available, Guardians were free to customise their favourite Guardian to the nines. Being a legend is one thing, but everybody wanted to look the part. Something that Destiny was more than happy to accommodate with its entire system of loot drops and ascension upgrades.

Story

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I know what you’re about to say: “What story?”. If Destiny had one major criticism, it’s that it launched with a vaguely cryptic narrative, a tale of Guardians emerging from the collapse of a golden age to do…stuff. It’s a valid complaint that sits somewhere between the middle of truth and un-truth. Destiny’s biggest sin during its first year wasn’t a lack of story, but rather the platform for it.

Bungie hyped a mobile companion app for Destiny, that housed the entire library of content that players would unlock for their Grimoire. Snippets and stories, of ages past and dangers on the horizon that when read would paint a clearer picture of the calamities that befell our solar system as The Darkness descended on us. In an age where we’re quite frankly lazier than ever before, the idea of having to switch from game to mobile device to get our narrative kicks was simply unappealing.

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Which is a shame, because the lore of Destiny is well worth a read. Within the dead Ghosts and broken transmissions lie legends worth exploring, myths that reveal a past of triumph and sadness that was expanded upon as new expansions were introduced. Anyone who tells you that Destiny doesn’t have a story, clearly never bothered to have a look at their phone where the real tale rested between sessions.

Raids

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With every mission milked for Legendary Marks and Strikes now something that you were capable of accomplishing while blindfolded, what was there left for the Guardians to do? Raids. I’m not talking faith-healing bug-spray here, but rather Destiny at its very best and challenging. Raids were designed to kill you as quickly as possible, but their beauty wasn’t just solely within their impossible odds, but rather in their sublime design.

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Bungie may have claimed that Destiny was more than just a single genre, but at its core beat the heart of a first-person shooter. The developer had intimate knowledge of the genre by now thanks to their work on the Halo series, and they were more than ready to just evolve the idea of loot ‘n shoot gameplay; Bungie was going to play around with the mechanics even further.

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Destiny marked the first real progress in adding to the shooter genre since Call of Duty decided to make their warfare that much more modern. Role-playing ideas played a key role here, with Guardian effectiveness being juggled with progression and the gear you had equipped to create a game that was tightly balanced and fresh.

No other game on the market managed to merge genres the way Destiny did. Very few will ever come close to it ever again without blatantly stealing its very DNA.

Guns

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What good is a game that is a shooter at heart, if it doesn’t have the guns to back up that conviction? Fortunately, that’s a problem that Destiny never experienced, not even from day one. Bungie’s legacy as one of the very best first-person shooters was more than secure here, as Guardians had access to guns which were simply magnificent to say the least. Charlton Heston’s would have been proud, as Destiny captured the very best of gun culture and amplified it with Hollywood levels of gunpowder.

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There’s a certain punchiness in the way each gun handles, as Guardians had access to several classes of weapons: Reliable scout rifles, pay ‘n spray autorifles and Dirty Harry’s fetish for hand cannons. Every gun in Destiny told a story. Quite literally actually. The mighty Gjallarhorn rocket launcher was a symbol of humanity’s greatest battle since the collapse, a baysplosive weapon of mass destruction crafted from the armour of fallen heroes.

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Bad Juju was bad luck in a pulse rifle, Monte Carlo spat out bullets like they were going out of fashion and the Touch of Malice was a prize reserved for only those Guardians who were truly capable of wielding the power of the Darkness back against itself. Perhaps the best example of Destiny’s love of guns rests within two of its hand cannons: Thorn and the Last Word.

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Two guns that were diametrically opposed in their construction, but linked across a tale of betrayal and legacy that ended with a showdown and the death of a legend. A perfect example of how Bungie made guns not only useful, but emotional investments in Destiny.

Last Updated: April 5, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

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