Should You Return For Destiny: Age Of Triumph?
Destiny: Age of Triumph is not like previous expansions or updates to Bungie’s long-running shared world shooter. Where previous major additions brought a wealth of new missions, additional events, and a ton of new gear to collect, this latest (and final) update for the game is much more geared toward putting a bow on three years of content that Bungie has given to its players. While a few new additions to rewards and gameplay are in the mix, even those are mostly about reconfiguring existing content and closing the door on the game. In many ways, it’s a way to put Destiny 1 into a suitable final form that reflects the totality of the game’s life cycle.
As a longtime player, it’s a novel experience. After years of named events, altered title screens, novel musical themes, and ever-changing adventures, logging in today I’m greeted by a screen that simply says: “Destiny,” just like it did in the first months of the game’s existence. Old music has returned. And rather than a cinematic that introduces the latest adventure, the new video that greets me is all about celebrating what I’ve already done. It’s odd to evoke nostalgia after only three years, but for Guardians who have invested potentially thousands of hours, that’s exactly the sensation that arises.
As I play through the content that Age of Triumph puts forward, I enjoy the new twists on activities, even while harboring some disappointment that there’s so little here that is fundamentally new. New story playlists attempt a valiant effort to make story missions relevant again with new modifiers and rewards. The Crucible has been refreshed with yet another balance change to reset the way players compete with one another. And most significantly, all four of the excellent six-person raids have been revised and updated with variations on the old rewards. If the first week’s revision of Crota’s End is any indication, those raids are once again challenging and engaging even for experienced groups. In every case, I find myself having a lot of fun as I adventure with friends through familiar locales, but much of the novelty and sense of meaningful forward progression is lost.
That’s in part because Age of Triumph itself is launching in the shadow of its sequel on the horizon. For the record, I support Bungie’s decision to reset gear for a full sequel later this year; I’m excited about having a totally new armory of content to collect. Bungie has the freedom to create a game unbound by the systems that governed the first game in the series, hopefully leading to innovation. Nonetheless, it makes the rewards of Age of Triumph shine a little less bright; it’s thrilling to collect a fully powered 400 light Necrochasm auto rifle, but what new battles will I get to confront with the weapon? These items won’t carry over, so why should I play?
The answer, of course, is that Destiny is still a lot of fun. With Age of Triumph, Destiny is wrapped up in all the ways that matter, offering a smooth leveling curve from beginning to end, countless hours of PvP and PvE battles with some of the best gunplay in gaming, and a rich science-fiction/fantasy universe of weird aliens, futuristic technology, and epic world-shattering threats. The massive Age of Triumph record book isn’t just a chronicle for this content drop, but a way for a new player to chart a full journey through the entire Destiny experience.
Ultimately, that’s what I like most about Age of Triumph. Rather than letting the first Destiny game trail off into obscurity, and leaving potential future players wondering why the title screen perpetually reads: “Destiny: Rise of Iron,” this final push for the game is like Bungie winterizing its beloved house before heading off for warmer climes. For veterans, it’s a way to ensure that they can come back and enjoy every aspect of the game they’ve loved, and have that content appropriately leveled to their experience, whether that is reliving old story missions or once again battling the likes of Atheon, Crota, Oryx, or Aksis in the raids. For anyone who has yet to try the game, or is perhaps considering a more casual run at it in advance of Destiny 2, the game in this final form is an approachable and engaging experience, with clear goal posts (represented through quest lines and record books) for what you can try and how you can progress.
There are plenty of minutiae that can be examined regarding Age of Triumph as a standalone content drop. I’m not a fan of the latest microtransactions for people who want to get the new stuff, as I’ve articulated elsewhere, but those same boxes are a fine way for people to get some of the older goodies. The new Speaker quest is a relatively boring retread of existing content, but like with everything else here, acts as a capstone to the different types of missions available to players. And the new exotic raid primary weapons solve the balance problem of elementary primaries, while simultaneously giving hardcore players something fun to chase. Frankly, focusing too much on all those individual elements misses the point of Age of Triumph. This final update does an admirable job of closing the door on a game many have played for countless hours over the last three years, and leaving that game in a state that any player, no matter their experience level, can enjoy. Age of Triumph may not have the urgency and new thrills to chase that most of the previous content drops have offered, but it subtly transforms Destiny into a game that is, at long last, complete.