On October 20, 2009, Borderlands released for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 and instantly cemented the franchise as a fan favourite for many FPS players. While not the first of its kind, Borderlands was swift in proving that a looter shooter could draw hundreds of hours from a single player without the need for constant updates. Since then, developers have sought to reinvigorate the genre and emulate Borderlands’s success.
When Bungie parted ways with Microsoft and its love child Halo, it set out to craft a world that would exceed the confines of human imagination. Teased for numerous years before its official announcement, Destiny took the looter shooter genre and perfectly blended it with Bungie’s legacy as an FPS developer. Since its launch, however, Destiny has experienced numerous controversies over its management and execution, including underperforming content and lack of respect for player time. Everything Destiny gets right comes at the expense of an already sound experience.
Destiny’s troubled life serves as a lighthouse for other titles that seek to master the looter shooter genre; it highlights how a developer should approach the balance of live service longevity and consumer interests, indicating what to avoid so that the experience will always be something a player will desire. Destiny’s own legacy showcases this approach better than any other title in the genre. Whenever Destiny finds itself with little fan-fare and desire within the public eye, Bungie finds ways of rebranding the image and revitalizing the story.
By the end of its life, the first game in the Destiny franchise found its identity and a home within its fan base. Destiny was truly the culmination of its triumphs and tribulations, and to this day remains a fond gaming experience for many. With that legacy, Destiny 2 had much to live up to with regard to public perception and fan endearment. Unfortunately, at its launch, Destiny 2 felt like a step backwards in a franchise that was shooting for the stars. What followed its poor launch was the release of underwhelming content and misguided communication between developers and players. Not until 2018 did Bungie revitalize not only Destiny, but the player-base as well with the ‘Forsaken’ expansion.
Deep and Rich Lore
When searching for what makes Destiny so good, one need look no further than the fruit it has to offer. Destiny provides some of the deepest and richest lore found in a video game, even if 90% of it is not presented to the players. The lack of story and lore found within the game is not necessarily a design fault though. Bungie understands that before anything else, Destiny must utilize its gameplay to form an addictive loop that keeps players coming back for more. Those who are willing to fall down the rabbit hole and desire to understand the world of Destiny can find these stories and lore through in-game lore tabs and external resources.
Although it may not seem this way at first, Bungie understands how to tell a story and craft a world that is beyond human existence. Some of the greatest historical memories and stories are those that are passed down through word of mouth. Most individuals have never experienced what is taught in history, but know it because of the stories told. In Destiny, Bungie replicates this approach by creating a version of history that is only experienced through storytelling and research. The players will never know for certain what happened during the Battle of Twilight Gap, but they can experience it through second-hand sources and testimonials, just as one does with any world conflict and ancient civilization.
What started as a simple story of Light vs Dark quickly diverged into a conflict of morality and existence. Within the world of Destiny exists Humanity, the alien race of the Awoken, and the robotic war-machine Exos. As self-explanatory as the human race is within the world of Destiny, they share a deeper connection to the Awoken and Exos than meets the eye. At one point, the Awoken were humans that set out to find life within the stars yet found themselves at the crux of the war between Light and Dark. This imbued their existence with a cosmic force that changed them forever. Additionally, the Exo program was developed by a scientist to further extend the reach of what humanity is capable of. An Exo is formed through the merger of human consciousness with a mechanical body, creating a super soldier capable of protecting humanity better than anything that came before.
Destiny possesses a unique narrative that should be experienced by all fans of science fiction. By allowing players to suspend their disbelief and journey through the stars, Destiny represents a franchise that has something for every kind of gamer, and this experience is only accentuated by the company of others.
Comradery Through Perseverance
At its core, the Destiny franchise is a multiplayer looter shooter that tasks players with building a team capable of slaying gods. Within its PvE offerings, players accompany others through story and outer-world events that demand the highest level of cooperation and coordination. Destiny’s selection of raids provides an experience unrivalled by other FPS titles. These large-scale encounters feature a perfect blend of puzzle-solving and gunplay that rely heavily on the support of one’s fireteam. All players must work together as a single unit to prove that they are worthy to overcome a challenge reserved for only the best.
For those who would prefer to showcase their own talents and prove dominance over others, Destiny’s Crucible pits guardian against guardian. In this mode, friendships can be forged and rivalries will ignite. Destiny’s PvP offering takes the perfect gunplay found within the PvE experience and finds its home on the battlefield. The Crucible offers an experience unlike other competitive multiplayer shooters, in that players can utilize anything they have accumulated through their journey of protecting the solar system. This means that any weapon or armor that is earned during PvE can be used to turn the tide of battle in PvP.
Furthermore, if one is a fan of both PvE and PvP, Destiny’s newest addition to its game mode roster is Gambit: a four-versus-four mode where combatants work together to see who can kill the most enemies the fastest. The defining feature of this mode is the invasion mechanic, which allows players who prefer to flex their combat skills to teleport into enemy territory and halt their progress. The constant back and forth of Gambit allow for the mode’s true competitive spirit to shine through, making it one of the greatest game modes found within an FPS multiplayer experience.
Admittedly, all of Destiny’s success would not be warranted without a gameplay loop that was fun and addicting. By taking the looter shooter genre and adding an MMO-esque mechanic structure to it, Bungie successfully found a way to introduce a new audience to systems that are reminiscent of older titles. The Destiny franchise has now found its way onto PC with Destiny 2, but the original game was restricted to console hardware due to the limited resources of Bungie at the time. Many console players had never heard words such as RNG and raids before, providing an entirely new gameplay experience to explore and enjoy.
Much like other titles of similar ilk, the Destiny franchise utilizes “the chase” to incentivize returning visits to its world. For a looter shooter, “the chase” represents coveted items that stand out among others in their class by providing a gameplay experience that is vastly different for each one. These items can feature alternative modes of operation that require players to restructure their approach to gear, or simply provide damage benefits that would not be received otherwise. In the Destiny franchise, these coveted items are known as exotics and “the chase” can be found through its implementation of RNG-based loot drops. Finally acquiring one of these items creates a sense of accomplishment, as the time spent grinding for their drop can feel rewarding once their benefits are used.
Joy can be found in simply hunting these coveted exotics, but Destiny also offers a justifiable reason for their uses. Aside from the normal gameplay experiences Destiny 2 has to offer, Bungie has recently implemented in-game dungeons for players to conquer. The concept of a dungeon is partially new for the franchise, and ones such as The Shattered Throne and Ascendant Challenges provide challenging experiences even for a seasoned Guardian. Additionally, the community has found pleasure in conducting solo attempts for these dungeons, which were originally intended for a fireteam of three skilled players. Bungie has made clear that it welcomes the community challenge and promise to introduce new dungeon experiences in the future.
Destiny’s gameplay loop culminates in the end game grind, as the player’s desire for a higher power score intensifies. The hunger for power found within Destiny serves to justify a player’s experience with the game; those who desire for a greater power score will spend more time in Destiny’s universe accomplishing tasks and grinding for gear. All of this time spent is not without purpose, however, and in Destiny 2, the higher a player’s power, the greater the activity they can partake in. Every new expansion is accompanied by an increase to the maximum power level, creating a new “chase”, and locking desired activities behind a higher level. This incentivizes players to continue their grind to experience the newest activities Destiny 2 has to offer, while rewarding them with coveted loot along the way.
The Destiny franchise has built a legacy that the players keep alive. Through all of its dark days, Destiny’s loyal fan base has given Bungie a reason to reignite the passion found within the community, constantly breathing new life into an aging experience. Although Destiny 2’s launch proved to be a step backwards for Bungie, the developer has worked tirelessly to restore its game to its former glory, cementing the franchise in history. At this point, Destiny 2 provides enough content to keep one satiated for months on end, and its roadmap outlines future experiences that are sure to uphold this philosophy. Destiny 2 provides an experience for every gamer, goading them to shoot for the stars.