opinion

Opinion – Now Is The Best Time To Get (Back) Into Destiny

by Brian Shea on May 15, 2015 at 12:18 PM

Since its launch in September of last year, Destiny has become one of the most polarizing experiences in gaming. Whether it’s due to the fact that the people who do love it do so passionately or unapologetically, or simply the fact that it wasn’t the type of shooter they thought it would be going in, the game gets a lot of vitriol thrown its way. No matter the side you fall on, Destiny evokes a strong response whenever it is discussed in gaming circles. I count myself among those who optimistically tried Destiny before quickly falling out of love with the experience and moving on. I’m here to tell you that now is the perfect time to start playing.

Leading up to the launch of Destiny, I was not exactly teeming with excitement. I played the beta and enjoyed it, but it didn’t set my world on fire like it seemed to for the people I was playing alongside. Still, I loved the Halo franchise and thought the shooting mechanics of Destiny were super solid, so I put my faith in Bungie and picked up a copy for Xbox One.

Now, hear me out – I had my reasons for buying it on Xbox One. Not only were the two people who I most wanted to play with getting it for Xbox One as well, but I vastly prefer the Xbox One controller over the PS4 controller when it comes to shooters. Destiny is a game that is better enjoyed with friends, and up to level 20, I had a great time. Sadly, the lack of effective storytelling and the sheer grind of playing the same missions and strikes over again to get the gear necessary to level past 20 turned me off. Less than a month into my Destiny experience, I stepped away and rarely looked back.

Fast forward three months and I’m the newest member of the Game Informer staff. I hear the Destiny water cooler chatter that happens between a small group of editors here and all I can think is how much fun it sounds like they have and how I wish I could have that same amount of fun with the game. I gave it my best shot back when it launched, but with so many improvements and months of hearing how much fun my co-workers still have with it, I wanted to try it again. I still own my Xbox One copy, but I figured that if I was going to try it again, I would go with the PlayStation 4 version since it plays host to all of the exclusive content.

The first time I played Destiny on PS4, I still didn’t like it. It initially felt like the same game I had been disenchanted with more than six months prior, but once I got past the barrier set by the less familiar controller, I was surprised to learn that – despite going it alone – I was enjoying my time with Destiny much more this time around. 

With The Dark Below, Destiny’s first expansion, already available, a good chunk of content that wasn’t present my first time through exists, but with House of Wolves launching next week, there is so much I have yet to explore. With so many new strikes, raids, and missions that I never played during my initial run, plus the PlayStation exclusives I didn’t already experience, it’s as if I have a whole new game’s worth of content waiting for me.

Bungie has clearly taken the correct approach to post-launch support. In addition to the paid expansions, the Destiny team has made the world ever-evolving. Multiple regular events that have started up since I left the game behind give me something to look forward to almost every day I put the game in. In addition to the nine strikes that will be available in the strike playlist starting on Tuesday (seven if you’re on Xbox), Queen’s Wrath has become a more regular occurrence, Xur’s visits continue to be a highlight, and Bungie has even diversified the weekly and nightfall strikes, making sure that you have plenty to do in any given session.

Sure, the story missions are familiar from my first time through, and the storytelling hasn’t been improved upon in the main missions, but Bungie has demonstrated that it is improving on this criticism through effectively evolving its narrative experience with The Dark Below. Hopefully House of Wolves is able to do an even better job with telling the story, demonstrating that Bungie is receptive to the complaints of the player base.

The light leveling – the way you upgrade your character after reaching level 20 – and the weapon balancing also feel better now, and as a result, the grind that rose to the top of my list of Destiny gripes during my first playthrough feels significantly better. That grind is also significantly reduced through the ability to obtain resources via methods other than farming, making one of the mundane parts of the experience avoidable. You can even exchange ascendant and radiant upgrading materials you don’t need, making each one you acquire at least nominally useful.

Another one of my major gripes, the way the Cryptarch would often downgrade your legendary engram into an uncommon item, has also been addressed, and I now feel excitement rather than cynicism when I pay him a visit. Because of this, raising your light level after reaching 20 is substantially easier and your progress no longer feels like it’s grinding to a halt. This is particularly important with the light level cap being raised to 34 by next week’s House of Wolves. House of Wolves will also bring with it the Prison of Elders, which means you will no longer need to round up a team of six in order to obtain end-game items. Instead, Prison of Elders will enable you to reach level cap with a team of just three, making it much more accessible.

Bungie has also expanded the space available in your vault, enabling players to play the collection game for legendary and exotic gear and weapons. This is particularly important since Bungie has also introduced a large number of new weapons and items into the ecosystem, providing players with more weapons to collect than ever before. In addition, every legendary and exotic weapon can now be upgraded to the new power cap of 365 through adding light or exotic shards to them, meaning that if you find a legendary or exotic weapon that you truly like, you can stick with it and make it about as good as any other weapon in the game. This also means that the raid weapons have increased in value as they are all able to be leveled up to the power cap. 

As a big fan of the game’s PvP, I’m also excited for the attention Bungie will be paying to the Crucible once House of Wolves launches by making it a more rewarding experience overall. The Iron Banner events have been instrumental in getting me excited to face the fires of the Crucible, but I’m really anticipating the rewarding nature of the upcoming Trials of Osiris, which promises weapons and gear throughout each weekend based on your performance.

That is the crux of Destiny’s experience. No matter what part of the game players are participating in, Bungie needs to make sure that they feel rewarded. The grind of Destiny is still present, but Bungie has done a much better job of making it feel less like uninspired tasks and more like you’re going in and actually getting something in return for your time and effort.

All of these factors have contributed to making my second attempt at playing Destiny substantially more enjoyable than the first. I’m still not completely in love with the game, but I’m continuing my journey as a Guardian and I can finally put myself in the shoes of those I work with who go home and enthusiastically play every single night.