Back in 2010, Bungie had just finished work on their magnum opus, Halo: Reach – still the best Halo game and I will bash anyone who disagrees with a Grav Hammer – before handing the reins over to 343 Industries. They needed something new to work on, and started a secret project under the name ‘Paper Tiger’. It wasn’t for another 2 years though that this changed to ‘Project Destiny’ and the public got their first view at what they had been working on:
And that is where we were given one piece of concept art. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
Further drops of information and gameplay videos released over the next two years but it wasn’t until June 2014 and the announcement of the beta that people got their first chance to play it. And the overall impression of that beta was that it was okay, but nothing spectacular. Myself included, and as a result I cancelled my pre-order.
Destiny is best described as an MMOFPS – Massively Multiplayer Online First Person Shooter – taking the best parts of MMORPGs such as online PvE and PvP, raids, regular updates and elaborate levelling systems, and putting them in a satisfying FPS where the gunplay was unrivalled. There was a loot system that was addictive to say the least. In terms of plot though, most would agree that it was severely lacking.
The release date came – Tuesday 9th September 2014 – and became the biggest new IP launch for a game in history at the time, breaking the record set by Watch_Dogs only a few months prior (which in turn beat L.A. Noire). A success then it’s fair to say. Not that the reviewers necessarily saw it that way. The same comments were mentioned that followed the beta; it was a huge grind, enemies were bullet sponges, and there wasn’t much to do in the endgame, at least until the raid came a few weeks later. All valid points at the start. But people were lapping it up on Twitch and within the first week over 240 million hours had been watched on the streaming platform, far more than any other console game. I had to see what all the fuss was about. I tuned in on Twitch and that’s when it all hit me.
The first thing I appreciated was the menu screen. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a crisp UI and brilliantly designed. It made weapon and armour selection easy. The cursor based control and selection was strange on a console controller first but felt intuitive after only a short time.
The stream I was watching had a fireteam trying to take down Sepik’s Prime. It was enjoyable seeing how tough the Devil Walker (at the time) was, thinking then this must be the final boss. They took the Walker down but there was still more to come. The fireteam ran through the door behind it and onto the actual final part. Things were getting more tense, skulls adorned spikes on the ground, there was a crescendo building in the atmosphere. The doors opened and there was Sepik’s Prime, a huge sphere floating in the middle of the area.
And then the music kicked in.
The horns blasted out at the arrival of the fireteam. The fast paced cello indicating this would be a frenetic fight. Even watching I was on the edge of my seat, and I felt this euphoric rush come over me when the team finally took the boss down. I needed this in my life; I was completely hooked on the aesthetics and the sound of the game. I went out the very next day and bought it.
The satisfying gunplay, the loot cave, the phenomenal soundtrack, the raid mechanics, the smooth UI, the loot cave, the multiplayer maps. Did I mention the loot cave? It was shallow in terms of content – for the first year at least – but what Bungie had built a foundation on with Halo transferred right over into Destiny and yet it felt more refined and precise. I still never tire of getting a precision shot with a Pulse Rifle and seeing that yellow number rise up from the enemies’ skull. Those that had caught the Destiny bug knew it was flawed but were able to put those issues to one side because there was an excellent game tucked in there somewhere.
Destiny also introduced me to the most personally terrifying alien race around: the Vex. Half robotic and half humanoid, these beings are terrifying in the same way that a film like It Follows would scare people; they are relentless in their pursuit of their end goal. The first encounter with them on Venus will forever stay with me: a long corridor arena where they appear at the end of the map, phasing in from out of nowhere. They attack in groups, but it is the way that they continue to walk forward in an attempt to try and reach you, overpowering you with their numbers. They have a weak-point to shoot at, but even when you shoot off appendages from them, they don’t stop marching forward. I’ll never forget it and am not afraid to say I have had the occasional nightmare about them.
Throughout its’ 3-year lifecycle Destiny received numerous updates ranging from the slightly disappointing The Dark Below to the completely game-changing The Taken King. It was with this release a year after the base game launch that Destiny started getting the plaudits it deserved. The game was fuller, had an interesting story to accompany the missions, the bosses were challenging in different ways that didn’t just require a shed load of bullets, and there was a revamped levelling and loot system that felt more rewarding for the grind players were putting in. The game kept the great stuff and worked on everything else to bring it to the same level.
The Taken King also introduced the Sparrow Racing League, where players use their sparrows – a hoverbike-esque vehicle that allows players to travel round maps quicker – in competitive racing. This was only available for three weeks over the Christmas period but is perhaps one of the few limited events where I made sure I unlocked everything.
Normally at this point it would be prudent to explain the different ways to pick up Destiny, but instead it makes more sense to now pick up the sequel, appropriately named Destiny 2. This released in 2017 and being an MMO-type game, this will be the version that most players have now migrated to. The whole games-as-a-service thing can be a tricky beast to get into and with Destiny 2 going free-to-play – the base game and a few extras at least – it always helps to have a populated server. Plus, there is a big expansion in Shadowkeep coming on 1st October, to ensure there is plenty to keep you busy.
Despite putting over 200 hours into Destiny, that is still a minimal amount compared to the really hardcore players, with a friend playing for over 3500 hours, just in the first game! Can you compete with that, let us know in the comments below.