Why I love Bungie, Halo, and Destiny: A Retrospective.

Destiny

This isn’t my first time writing this retrospective for Destiny, Halo, and Bungie. In fact I had the review for Destiny 2: Forsaken done and ready to start editing and doing voice recording for. But as I read through my review over and over again I felt that there was something…. missing. Something that I hadn’t properly conveyed. And I think I know now what that missing part is, I reviewed Destiny 2: Forsaken by itself without the context of the Destiny franchise as a whole, or even about my own personal experience with Bungie’s other games. I felt that just doing a review on Forsaken wasn’t doing Bungie justice. So this review is going to be a little long and a little different, so here we go.

My first ever experience playing a Bungie game starts in 2009, with a little known game called Halo 3. Halo 3’s release was a international phenomenon, this was the end of the most epic Sci-Fi First Person Shooter trilogy in history. News outlets all around the world were talking about it, it was plastered all over bottles of Mountain Dew and packets of Doritos, and who can forget the amazing “Believe” trailers that were all over the internet and television. This was my first introduction into the Halo series, yes I had heard of Halo but I had no idea what it was about. All I knew is that you played as a guy in green armour that shoots aliens and saves the universe. As a 13 year old that was good enough for me to want to play it. I remember playing through the campaign with a mate of mine, and subsequently my mind was blown. The game play felt incredible, every gun felt fun to shoot, the level design was interesting and creative, and the narrative it told was one of not only saving the universe, but the revenge of the human race against the homicidal Covenant. I was hooked, and needed to know more about this amazing universe. So I played through Halo Combat Evolved and eventually played through Halo 2. And as I did I became more and more aware of the studio behind the games, I had a fascination of how these people created something so spectacular, to me the developers at Bungie were my heroes, and my naive mind thought that Halo games would be made by them forever. That was, until Halo Reach was announced.

Halo Reach was to be Bungie’s last ever Halo title, since Microsoft now owned the rights to the Halo series, Bungie decided to move on to make their own new IP. After Reach they passed the torch to the newly created 343 Studios, who went on to create the Master Chief Collection, Halo 4, and Halo 5. But it wasn’t the same. For me my journey with Halo was only just beginning. You would be surprised to learn that I’ve spent the most amount of time playing Halo Reach above every other Halo title. To me, Reach was the combination of everything Bungie had wanted in a Halo game, this time you didn’t play as the legendary Master Chief, instead you played as Noble 6, a member of an elite Spartan unit tasked with protecting the planet Reach from a Covenant invasion. Although Halo Reach’s story might not of been on par with the rest of the series, we as players knew enough about the universe and lore surrounding it that it didn’t matter. The campaign was thrilling and and incredibly fun to play through, but also heartbreaking. We see a Noble team be killed off one by one trying to save Reach, but it’s futile, the Covenant are just too strong. And even your character comes to a bloody end. But as I finished the campaign, and that memorable scene comes on with Cortana telling you how your Spartan’s sacrifice was not in vain, that she and The Master Chief found a way to stop the Covenant and save the Universe, it hit me. This was the end of an era, and the start of a new one.

In 2011 Bungie signed on with Activision to make a whole new original IP. This new mysterious game was immediately on my radar, all I wanted was to know what this new game by the now legendary Bungie studios would be. And in 2013, we got our answer.
The new game by Bungie would be…. Destiny. A Sci-Fi first person shooter with an emphasis on loot, almost like a Borderlands. You could also play with your friends and random people you met online to do missions and public events with. To be honest I was blown away at how amazing it looked, it looked like Halo but better. But what Bungie were really going for was a more personal player experience. You didn’t play as a character with their own backstory like the Master Chief, you played as a Guardian, a warrior brought back from the dead by magical powers bestowed upon you from the mysterious “Traveller”. It looked like an epic tale of adventure spanning the entire solar system, and I was ready for it. And on the 9th of September 2014, Destiny was released to the world.

While Halo had been the catalyst as Bungie’s rise to a respected and highly praised studio, Destiny on the other hand, had a bumpy start. It’s main campaign was short, there wasn’t much to do except run the same missions over and over again after you beat the main story. While Halo’s story was rich with lore and the games really did a good job in building the Universe around the player, whereas Destiny was the opposite. The story did little world building except give you a reason to shoot at enemies. Even though the worlds you visited were mysterious, not much information were given to the players on a surface level. But if players wanted to know more about Destiny’s universe, they could access the Grimoire Cards. These cards held small snippets of information regarding characters, places, events, enemies, even information on the different weapons the players used. The world of Destiny was there for people to discover through the cards, some players felt that this was the way for Bungie to get around having to write an interesting plot. But for most of us, this was just an exciting way to find out more of the game we all loved.

The part of the game that kept me coming back for more was the shooting mechanics. I’ve heard other people talk about this before me, but the shooting in Destiny is some of the best I’ve ever felt in a video game, even better than Halo. It’s just so satisfying, and every weapon felt different to fire. But even then, there just wasn’t that much to do in Destiny. But we didn’t have to wait long for more content however, the first post-launch expansion was called “The Dark Below”, which was released in December of 2014. The Dark Below didn’t really bring much new stuff to the game, it was a new story to run through as well as a brand new Raid, which had interesting and difficult puzzles that a fireteam of Guardians could complete for Exotic and Legendary loot. The same goes for “House of Wolves” which was released on May 19th, 2015 and was Destiny’s second expansion. House of Wolves added another smaller campaign that added to Destiny’s story, as well as a new player vs Enemy arena called the Prison of Elders in which Guardians must hold off against waves and waves of enemies in the hope of getting loot. This is when Destiny really started to take off for me, there was suddenly so much content to run through that I was jumping on most days to play with my friends. Little did we know that we were only seeing the beginning of a good game.
Then Bungie released The Taken King, officially marking the end of Year One, and the beginning of Year 2. Little did we know how different Destiny was going to become.

The Taken King marked a fundamental shift in the direction Bungie was taking Destiny. Players were blown away at the magnitude of changes that the expansion brought to the game. Not only was there a whole new area to explore called the Dreadnaught, but players were surprised to find out that Destiny’s main campaign had been changed slightly. One of the biggest changes being that the Ghost’s voice actor had been changed, originally the Ghost had been voiced by Peter Dinklage, and now Bungie had replaced him with Nolan North, the voice actor behind Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series. RIP Dinklbot. Not only that, but there were a magnitude of different changes to the inventory and loot systems and ways that Guardians interacted with quests. As well as a whole new enemy type, the Taken, who were the minions of their master, Oryx. Bungie changed Destiny completely, and for the better. The Taken King was what Destiny should of been on release. And the same goes for Destiny’s final expansion, Rise of Iron. While Rise of Iron wasn’t on the same scale that The Taken King was, it still added even more of the same amazing content that Taken King did. Rise of Iron had a whole new story campaign, Vanguard Strikes, and puzzles to unlock. To the fans of Bungie it seemed that they were unstoppable, Destiny had become an amazing game with an incredible community of players. But fans were desperate for more, they wanted more content for Destiny, but they didn’t have to wait long. On March the 30th 2017, Bungie released their new trailer for the highly anticipated Destiny 2.

The trailer for Destiny 2 was enough to tide over fans until the release date of September. But for long time fans there seemed to be trouble brewing. The trailers that Bungie and Activision were showing were full of Guardians fighting through hordes of enemies with a variety of different weapons. All the trailers were almost akin to Call of Duty trailers, full of action and scripted events, but no mystery and awe that the first Destiny had. It seemed that Bungie and Activision were trying to expand Destiny to a broader audience. Looking back at the promotional material leading up to the release of Destiny 2 this is painfully clear. And on September 6th, 2017, Destiny 2 was released to the world, but it wasn’t the Destiny that we thought we were going to get.

Destiny 2 was highly praised by critics upon release for it’s focus on delivering an excellent story driven campaign, there were some people that didn’t think this way, myself included. The campaign has your Guardian returning from a mission only to find that the city is under attack from the Cabal, an enemy who we had fought before in the first Destiny. Their leader Ghaul, was here to steal the Light from the Traveller from which the Guardians get their power from. You then must go on an adventure around the solar system to gain your light back, rally the Vanguard, and defeat Ghaul. Throughout the campaign we see Ghaul struggling with how he should use the light, and why he isn’t worthy to be a servant of the Light. Bungie made him an interesting character (even though he does look like an over size grunt from Halo) but it still wasn’t enough to save the overall campaign. The story felt short, and as I previously stated, lacked the mystery and awe that the first Destiny’s campaign offered. In fact Bungie had even stated before the release of Destiny 2 that they were dropping some of the main story lines from the first Destiny, meaning we weren’t going to figure out what the darkness was, or how it destroyed humanity. And while there were more areas to explore, more missions and strikes to complete, I stopped playing Destiny 2 only a few weeks after release. There was no point in playing it until the DLC’s were released, there was nothing to strive for, nothing to unlock. I felt let down by Bungie, how could they go from The Taken King to this? This was even more apparent with the first two DLC’s Curse of Osiris and Warmind. I was hoping that Curse of Osiris would start to fix Destiny 2’s problems, but it didn’t.

Curse of Osiris is one of the worst DLC’s that Bungie has ever released. It follows Osiris, one of the most important Guardians of all time in Destiny law who can travel through time, and you have to help him save the universe from the time travelling Vex. Throughout this story you barely get to know Osiris, and he leaves right after you defeat the Vex boss with little more than a “thank you”. Not only that, but the DLC also introduces a procedural-generated area called “The infinite forest” on Mercury. This was an interesting idea on Bungie’s part, but it ultimately fell short. The procedural generation has different platforms spawn in front of you which makes battles interesting, but after you run through it a few times you start to see that the platforms all spawn the same way, and you don’t even need to kill all the enemies on the platforms, you can simply run straight past them to get to the end.

Warmind improved slightly on Curse of Osiris. It has a bigger patrol area to explore on Mars, as well as an interesting story about the Golden Age Warmind called Rasputin (who we learn a lot about in the first Destiny) and the Bray company who is a major part in Destiny lore. I’m not going to go into the lore here, there are other people and YouTube channels that do an excellent job discussing the lore side of Destiny. Warmind also introduces a new type of public event called Escalation. Escalation has you and a bunch of other Guardians fighting against hordes of Hive in a limited time frame. It’s difficult for lower light level players to complete, but once you do and defeat the boss on the last wave, you can unlock a chest with a certain key to get powerful gear. It’s an interesting spin on public events and makes Destiny feel fresh again. But even then there was something missing, we needed our Taken King of Destiny 2, we needed something to bring Destiny 2 back from the dead. And that’s when we got…. Forsaken.

Forsaken is Destiny 2’s biggest and most ambitious expansion yet. It has everything that a Destiny fan could want. An amazing story, a bunch of new and interesting bosses to hunt down and kill, two new patrol areas to explore, new weapons and armour, as well as bringing back what Destiny 2 has been missing all along, lore! Lots and lots of lore! Now I’m going to go into a bit of detail about Forsaken here, so if you don’t want spoilers move past this part to the next section of the review, you’ve been warned!

Forsaken’s main story campaign has our Guardian travelling to The Prison of Elders to help stop a massive breakout. There we join up with Petra Venj and Cayde-6, and we work with them to help stop the inmates from shooting their way out of the prison. We make our way through the maze of hallways and bridges to get to the core of the prison, where both Petra and Cayde have found out that the maximum security part of the prison has been opened. The writing and cut scenes in this first part of the campaign are incredible, we see Cayde do something incredibly dangerous, and he finds himself face to face with the Forsaken Barons. He tries to hold off against the onslaught of enemies, but he fails. And out steps the one person us Destiny Veterans least expected, Uldren Sov. Brother of Queen Mara Sov who had died all the way back at the start of The Taken King’s campaign. And he shoots Cayde, killing him in cold blood. To me, this was Bungie literally killing off the old Destiny 2. (I’m no longer going to be talking about story spoilers!) Destiny had always been a dark and mysterious universe with danger and horror around every corner. Destiny 2 was light-hearted, concentrating more on the action and jokes which drove a lot of the long-time Destiny fans away. Forsaken changes this, our Guardian is no longer on a mission to save the universe from an imminent threat, we are on a mission for revenge. It’s a dark story about slaughtering the Barons one by one until you find Uldren.

Killing all the Barons is the most interesting part of the campaign, each Baron has a different personality and uses different weapons and abilities. One is crazy about explosives and throws grenades at you while making you disarms mines. While another rides Pikes and makes you chase her through a wasteland on a pike of your own, and another uses decoys to trick you while he shoots at you from a different position. It’s refreshing to have bosses that use different abilities instead of fighting a normal enemy with a yellow bar like Destiny 2’s base game used to do. The two new patrol areas are also incredible, The Tangled Shore has heaps of secrets and mysteries to find. You will spend your entire time here until you beat the campaign, then you will have to unlock a key to gain access to the Dreaming City, the second Forsaken patrol area. Exploring the Dreaming city is my favourite part of the DLC, there’s so much stuff to do and mysteries to solve that I could spend an entire review just explaining them all. My friends and I just recently completed a dungeon called “The Shattered Throne”, which only appears every 3 weeks in the Dreaming City. It was almost like a miniature raid with puzzles and interesting bosses to fight. That leads me onto Forsaken’s raid: The Last Wish. I myself have not completed it, but in typical Bungie fashion once the first fireteam completed the raid, a bunch of new quests and activities (including the shattered throne) were unlocked for all Destiny 2 players. And this leads me onto the last part of this “review” or “retrospective” of Destiny and Bungie.

Most recently Bungie split from their publisher Activision. Bungie was signed with Activision for a 10 year deal to make 4 Destiny games. The research I’ve done paints the picture that the relationship between Bungie and Activision was strained all the way from the very start, even before the release of the first Destiny. It seems that Activision was pressuring Bungie to make Destiny titles with its corresponding DLC as quickly as possible. It seems that Activision was disappointed with both Destiny 2’s launch and the launch of Forsaken, they weren’t performing as well when it comes to sales compared to Activision’s other IP’s (Call of Duty to be specific). Activision was very vocal about this, and was even thinking about implementing even more micro-transactions to boost revenue. This was far enough for Bungie, and they were also very vocal at about how they were proud of the release for Forsaken, that they were making Destiny for the players to enjoy and not just for money. Now I’m not going to go into how awful Activision is when it comes to terrible and shady micro-transactions (all you have to do is look at their recent attempt to sell a red dot for $1 in COD Black Ops 4) but what I am going to say is thank god Bungie have split with them and have gone independent. It’s going to be a long and hard road for them, going independent means they can’t rely on Activision to fund anymore of their game development. Mind you Bungie recently gained a $100 million dollar investment from Chinese company Netease, so that might be influencing this sudden move. But aside from that, Bungie can now do what they like with Destiny, and that’s fantastic.

As you can tell from this “retrospective” I’ve grown up on playing Bungie’s games, from Halo 3, to Halo CE and 2, through to Halo Reach and of course, Destiny. They defined both my childhood and the start of being an adult, and I don’t know who I would be without their games. As you can see by the length of this review I feel very passionately about Destiny and the community that plays it. I wanted to make a review that is informative to those people that have never played Destiny, and also to those long-time veterans like myself. It’s always good to look back at the road we’ve been on to help us look forward to journey ahead. Bungie have crafted something special with Destiny, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. See you star-side Guardians, over and out.

 

 

 

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