What Bungie’s “Destiny” Does So Well
Destiny if the kind of game that grabs an aggressive hold of you and stubbornly refuses to let go. I know this from first hand experience, because the game has dominated a bulk of my free time since it was released on September 9. It’s the spiritual successor to Halo, infused with a touch (just a touch, mind you) of highly addictive WoW-ish MMORPG crack. Other players are often milling about in your experience but they might as well be an obstruction or rock on the side of the path (unless, of course, a public event occurs, in which case you suddenly become Band of Brothers). There’s a really vague and despondent online community aspect to it that spends roughly equal amounts of time playing and complaining, with little time for anything else. This gaping flaw lends itself to an underwhelmingly hollow experience with an obscure plot but staggeringly awesome first-person shooter gameplay. Probably the best thing is that your character is always your character, whether you’re replaying a story mission or playing PvP matchmaking. It’s an integrated experience. You’re always leveling up, earning various forms of currency, and working towards some goals. Destiny is a bit of a brainless and numbing experience, but my is it fun. Not only does it become a completely different game every half-dozen levels, but it was constructed like a wet lump of clay tossed on a table. They’re still making the game, and many of the complaints about its original release were about how Bungie sort of half-assed this thing. It’s true. They did. But a ton of people still play it because experiences are constantly changing for players, surprising us and forcing us to adapt.
It’s the higher level content where Destiny truly excels: Exotic Weapon Bounties, Xur, and The Raids.
Destiny recently released its first expansion on December 9, and it enhanced all three of these things while also offering more depth to the fight against one of the alien enemy races. While all of this doesn’t necessarily make up the holes in the core gameplay, it certainly doesn’t hurt either, so let’s take a look at the best that Destiny has to offer.
Exotic Weapon Bounties
They’re special missions you get randomly — and rarely — when you trade in regular completed bounties. To actually receive one is akin to getting a holographic Charizard card. You can go weeks without even seeing one pop up, but when they do, you get 2-3 options to choose from in the hunt for some great new weaponry. In typical Destiny fashion, they give you no real initial information on these other than the name of the quest and a vague description. You don’t know what you’ll get or what the quest entails, which is why everyone just Googles the quest title to see what it gets you and how hard the quest is. Here’s a prime example:
Bounty: A Light in the Dark
Weapon: Thorn – Exotic Handgun (primary weapon)
- Complete “The Summoning Pits” strike on the Moon.
- Kill 500 Hive enemies on the Moon.
- Kill Guardians in the Crucible using void damage. Deaths slow your progress greatly! You need 500 points (1 kill = 5 points, 1 death = -2 points).
- Buy an Infusion of Light from the Speaker for 1 Mote of Light.
- Defeat Xyor, the Unwed in a special level 26 version of the Summoning Pits strike on the moon. He will appear once you have killed all of the minions around Phogoth.
Regular bounties just get you experience and reputation, both of which are ultimately useful but utterly substance-less. Exotic Weapon Bounties offer a chance at earning some of the best weapons in the game and most of them require a LOT of work. Not only can you go weeks without even seeing an Exotic Bounty pop up, but you’ll go even longer before you finally complete it. Take this Exotic Weapon Bounty for Thorn, a slow but powerful hand cannon noteworthy for its poison-esque damage. Steps 1 and 4 are easy. Step 2 is easy, but very time consuming. Step 5 is a horrible experience, unless you are level 27+ and step 3 is pretty much the most miserable thing you could ever do in the game. Not only do you have to acquire a decent Void elemental weapon to do this with, but you have to kill a lot of people without dying in the Crucible. It’s the kind of awful experience that you push through, making the ultimate reward that much sweeter.
Destiny is unlike any other game I’ve ever played in that it runs on a weekly cycle. Maybe it’s common in traditional MMORPG’s and part of the crack that keeps you coming back, but there are certain things you can only do on certain days and a weekly reset of everything every Tuesday morning. There are daily missions you can do for rewards and weekly strikes for even better rewards, but by far the most intriguing and exciting time-based occurrence in Destiny is the reliable arrival of Xur at the tower every Friday morning into Saturday afternoon.
Xur is a limited time vendor that appears in one of about six different spots in the Tower. The main currency that he takes is Strange Coins, but he also dabbles in Motes of Light. All we know about him is that he’s something called an “Agent of the Nine”. We don’t know what race he is, what his ultimate goals are, or why he wears floaty black spaghetti on his face. What we do know is that he has a rotating set of wares every week and an expanded role as a salesman in the new expansion. Reliably, Xur will sell one random piece of Exotic Armor for each class at 13 coins apiece, one random Exotic Weapon at 23 coins, and an Exotic Armor Engram for 23 Motes of Light (which gets you a random piece of Exotic Armor). With the increase level cap that came with the new expansion pack, Xur also updates your old exotic items, but only at a limited weekly variety. This element of randomness makes Xur a godly resource that is also intensely annoying. Many hardcore Destiny players will rise eagerly every Friday morning and Google his name to figure out exactly where he is in The Tower. Then they’ll make their purchases or stomp their feet in fury. It’s an exciting opportunity to get some of the best gear Destiny has to offer but also gives you some variety to mix it up with different weapons and armor.
In the course of Destiny‘s story, you download information about a secret Vex cave called the “Vault of Glass”. This eventually opened up what remains one of the hardest things you could possibly do in Destiny. Whereas most tasks direct you deftly to your primary task and have you “murder X enemies”, the Vault of Glass offers no directions in a raid puzzle cave that is staggeringly difficult even for the highest leveled in the game. The expansion also offers a new, Hive-centric raid experience that is even harder. In each, you need a team of 6 players, stellar synergy, and some really good weapons and armor to survive.
A friend of mine who also plays Destiny and is lower leveled asked me the other day what the Raid was, and I just sort of laughed. It’s nothing like the rest of the game. It’s a challenge, a puzzle, an anomaly. I proceeded to go through the step-by-step tasks you have to go through to complete it. Holding pressured sync plates while fending off hordes of enemies, navigating miles downward in near darkness across shallow ledges, hopping between platforms as they dissappear and appear. Portals. Other dimensions. Giant diamond Megatrons. Magic shields and blindness. It’s absurd really, but we learn. And the rewards you reap are great as well. The new raid, Crota’s End, only takes things further with witches and rituals, magic swords and enchanted bridges. And Darkness upon darkness.
It’s been said that Bungie has a ten-year plan for Destiny and there are a lot of naysayers out there full of complaints, but I for one find it an enjoyable experience.