An update to a good game makes it near-perfect.
Now is the best possible time to get into Destiny.
You might have heard about all of the issues players had with the game after it launched. You might have heard that it features a garbled story, mindless grinding, and a community of players that seem to love to hate it. You might have even played it yourself and thrown it aside in frustration for another game, wondering just how Bungie made so many wrongheaded decisions along the way.
I’m here to tell you that all these concerns are valid, but they’ve all been fixed. It just took a year for Destiny to figure out what kind of game it is.
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true- the new Destiny 2.0 update that came shortly before the recent Taken King expansion has completely revamped the experience and transformed it from a mechanically solid game with deep flaws into a straight-up essential game.
As someone who played the alpha and betas of Destiny, as well as a few demos at press events, I wasn’t too excited for the release. Even though these were early versions, they showed a game full of backtracking, long and frustrating boss battles, and a confusing story that the producers themselves had a hard time explaining. When a review copy came in at the site I was writing for at the time, I handed it to one of my writers to cover, and watched as he slowly became more and more absorbed into the game. It was certainly curious to watch-- how can someone who complains about the design decisions made at every point still keep coming back to it week after week, leveling up characters for every single class and enjoying himself enough to play for hundreds of hours?
But that’s because Destiny’s core mechanics are sound. If any company knows how to craft a satisfying first-person shooter it’s Bungie, and adding MMO features to the genre- loot, massive online battles, and daily events-- made for a game that would leave you hopelessly addicted, striving for that next engram fix. The problem was simply one of delivery and what was felt as a distinct lack of respect for player’s time. How else would fans explain it when Bungie suddenly wiped their exotic weapon progress to prep for an upgrade? Why else would expansions effectively negate old weapons and equipment by making them woefully underpowered? Why would the player constantly find useless equipment after completing lengthy Strikes and Raids?
This led to Destiny being the worst-reviewed game in Bungie's history, despite its incredible financial success. Theories that something went wrong with development were recently proven via an article by Kotaku, which revealed that the game was completely revamped a mere year from release. The release version’s story was cobbled together from scraps of an older plot, while the backstory was pushed away to “grimoire cards” that are only accessible on Bungie's website or via a companion app. Play through the game and it’s likely you’ll still have no idea what exactly is going on, but with the support and criticism of the community a focus on story is finally emerging. Compare the missions from the vanilla game with those of The Taken King and you’ll find a more assertive game with better pacing and a more exciting story. The shift in quality is sizeable, and while you’ll certainly have fun playing through the main campaign, it picks up tremendously when the newer material finally becomes the epic space opera you were hoping for all along.
Join the game for the first time now and you will find a staggering amount of content to experience, missions and Strikes and Raids that have amassed over an entire year of updates. Bungie has figured out how to keep supplying everyone with exciting daily activities and special events, such as the recent Halloween-themed festival that lets players collect masks and candy, events that take note of compelling F2P models and apply them here. You will come into the game with the knowledge of countless players before you, effortlessly sifting through the game to find all the resources, weapons and armor you desire. That’s a good thing, because there’s no way that you’ll be able to start playing without being completely confused by the sheer amount of new terms thrown at you. Just during the first few hours of play you’ll collect all sorts of strange objects and have no idea why they’re cluttering up your inventory or what they do. Strange coins? Legendary marks? Black Wax Idols? What is all this stuff and where do you even use it? Discovering things is part of the game’s appeal, but you really understand Destiny by becoming part of the community, teaming up with players and reading websites devoted to its deep lore. Once you dive in you won’t be coming up for air anytime soon.
Price is another concern. Destiny now requires an $80 investment for a bundle that includes the first two smaller expansions (The Dark Below and The House of Wolves), as well as The Taken King. You’ll be spending more money on expansions in the future, too. Activision plans to support the Destiny franchise over ten years, so if you want to keep playing it you’ll have to pony up a little dough every year to keep getting all the new stuff.
The changes to the Crucible, which was stripped of all but its simplest 2v2 and 3v3 matches to players that didn’t upgrade to The Taken King expansion, is another way Bungie ticked longtimers off. Imagine Destiny as a subscription-based MMO (a genre most console players aren’t familiar with) and it’s an easier pill to swallow.
Players love what Destiny has gradually morphed into but there’s a new concern with the recent inclusion of Silver, an in-game currency. Rather than releasing smaller expansion packs, the developers at Bungie have introduced microtransactions, a dirty word for console gamers. “There was a bet that was, ‘Hey if we did microtransactions, I bet you we could generate enough revenue to make up for the loss of DLCs,’” said a source to Kotaku. Bungie has promised that the things you can buy with Silver—like special emotes and dances-- will be purely cosmetic and have no effect on gameplay, but gamers worry that this will lead to something similar to what happened to Payday 2, a game whose developers pledged not to include microtranscations only to include them in a recent update. What was worse in this case is that they included items that were essential for gameplay, leaving frustrated gamers little choice but to pony up the dough.
But it’d be good to give Bungie the benefit of the doubt at this point, and I have no qualms saying that Destiny is now a legitimately great game. Every time I play through a new story mission and remark on the plot, or talk about how easy it is to track quests and bounties, or the multitude of strikes and raids to complete, a friend reminds me that these things were much worse twelve months ago. Ask anyone who’s played from the beginning how awful the loot system was, or how much grinding was required to level up your character, and you’ll hear horror stories from shell-shocked frontline combatants. The bad old days, however, are gone, and you won’t ever find anyone wishing the game hadn’t evolved.
So go explore the universe! Go to new planets and moons, kill thousands of aliens, and take their equipment! Try your luck in the Crucible or the intense co-op Strike missions, or gather together five friends and attempt a six-player Raid, one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences in modern gaming. Grab your ghost and your sparrow and head to the stars. It’s time to experience Destiny as it was meant to be.
Alex Riviello is a freelance writer who has played Destiny daily since The Taken King was released. You can follow him @alexriviello.