Destiny means so many different things to different people. For some, it was a complete failure; an experience severely lacking in content, variety, and story were the cries of its dismissers as they joined the growing air of disappointment surrounding Bungie’s Halo successor. They seemingly formed the bulk of online opinion upon the game’s 2014 launch, but underneath, a different viewpoint was beginning to take shape that only gained momentum as time passed. 

A perspective that acknowledged the lacking content, but agreed that what was on offer was something different – something special. And it’s this sentiment that shines brightest in 2017 as the title that released three years ago is a wholly different game to the one you can pick up today. This first-person shooter went through some very rough patches, but as it comes out the other side with a sequel on the way, it can now be generally agreed upon that Destiny is one of the greatest first-person shooters of the generation.

Teething Problems

There’s no two ways about it – Destiny absolutely had a content problem during its first few months. The base game shipped with a 10 hour campaign that largely revolved around taking on waves of enemies while your Ghost, then voiced by Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, would hack things in order to progress. The gameplay itself even in the early days was top-notch as you popped off a Fallen’s head, took a tour of the Black Garden, or fought through the encounter that led to the infamous “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain” line, but for many players this wasn’t enough. The shooting itself was second to none and each weapon felt different to wield thanks to a large amount of gun variety in the way they shot and acted, but most users were looking for different things to actually do. A competent multiplayer offering extended playtime somewhat and a raid followed a week after launch, but for many the Destiny experience ended after obtaining The Stranger’s Rifle in the closing cutscene.

But again, we return to the outspoken community that was bubbling under the surface. It’s this collection of players that took the trip into the Vault of Glass to defeat Atheon, found the famous loot cave, and perilously hunted down every exotic weapon. Without them, a lot of the game’s initial intrigue and mystery would have been lost on those looking in from a distance, as dedicated fireteams fuelled the search for the missing chest in the VoG raid or tried all manner of ways of obtaining a Gjallahorn. They stuck by the game through thick and thin thanks to the feel and satisfaction gained from the shooting mechanics, with their hopes for new missions pinned on the expansion pass.

But if anything, that expansion pass could only be described as a let-down to even the most hardcore of Destiny fans. It brought with it two major pieces of DLC – The Dark Below and The House of Wolves. While both did indeed add more quests, strikes, and multiplayer maps, an overwhelming majority simply saw it as more of the same. With The Dark Below’s offensive clocking in at just over an hour and The House of Wolves’ not taking too much longer, it’s easy to see why as well. The first DLC drop did bring with it a new raid in the form of Crota’s End, but it failed to live up to the standard set by the Vault of Glass which coupled with the fact it was relatively short, meant that Destiny’s second raid was a big disappointment. The second piece of content opted not to include a raid and instead introduced two brand new modes: Trials of Osiris and the Prison of Elders – the former a highly competitive 3 vs 3 multiplayer mode, and the latter a wave based co-operative romp that got progressively tougher as you progressed. Both modes were fine in their own right, but they failed to reinvent or expand on the wheel.

At the conclusion of Bungie’s first year with Destiny, thoughts and feelings were mixed. Following a lacking 2014 launch, the expansion pass blunder only sustained the backlash the studio was facing from a large part of its audience. The hardcore were still there, but they were becoming disengaged thanks to a large content drought and uncertainty over what was to come. The studio needed to act fast.

The Taken King Reboots

At Sony’s 2015 E3 press conference, Destiny: The Taken King was announced, a major expansion that would overhaul many of the game’s core mechanics, add a brand new campaign, and introduce a new enemy known as the Taken. This was exactly what the game needed since its release, and it’s why many see The Taken King as Destiny’s true coming out party.

The add-on brought in a plot far more entertaining and engaging than anything witnessed previously, as Guardians boarded the Dreadnaught in a fight against Oryx, as well as introducing us to a character we had actually already known in the form of Cayde-6, but he was so lifeless and dull prior to the expansion drop that he could be pretty much considered a brand new individual. Alongside that, a quest log made the experience feel like more of an RPG as multiple storylines you could follow at any time expanded the universe and ensured you always had something new to do.

New exotic weapons, armour pieces, and class abilities gave players something new to aim for, three new game modes revamped the Crucible, and new sub-class supers gave Guardians brand new powers. All of this culminated in a new raid, King’s Fall, which was a return to form for Bungie when it came to encounter design, structure, and length.

All in all, The Taken King was the injection that Destiny sorely needed. Jaded fans heralded it as the closest the developer has gotten to its original vision for the game, and those who had supported the title since its inception got the content they desperately needed in a brand new form. But it didn’t stop there.

Eight days after the launch of The Taken King, Bungie brought back the mystery surrounding its game. If you were to take a specific turn during the Lost to Light daily mission on 23rd September 2015, you would end up in a different area with a new quest. Completing this incredibly tough level would unlock a new exotic sniper rifle – the Black Spindle. This caught the whole community by surprise as there was no prior talk of its existence, and it opened the door to even further secrecy. Were there other missions like this that had been missed? Are there more to come? These questions were answered by the slightly less mysterious No Time To Explain exotic quest line, but for a short time, community threads were on fire with speculation and excitement.

It’s these riddles combined with the quality of The Taken King that set Destiny up for an incredibly successful second year. The gameplay had remained quality since day one and now that it was combined with a multitude of things to do, players began sinking hundreds of hours into the title all over again. Free updates kept things going, but it was time for another expansion.

A Familiar Brew

The final piece of paid downloadable content to go Destiny’s way was Rise of Iron, a slightly less essential addition than the one that preceded it. A small case of déjà vu it could be described as for dedicated players as while once again the DLC adds a new area and another enemy type, it feels like familiar ground for those who have been there since the beginning.

Rise of Iron wasn’t quite the showstopper that the quest to put an end to Oryx was thanks to it returning to the flaw the overall experience suffered from in its debut year – more of the same. Once again a ton of new weapons and pieces of armour could be obtained, but the narrative scope felt smaller, and the gameplay loop didn’t evolve in any sort of way.

Of course there was the raid, Wrath of the Machine, which helped things to a degree with its snowy setting, but in terms of overall quality, it didn’t quite manage to reach the heights of King’s Fall or the Vault of Glass.

A Guardian's Future

It’s a shame that Destiny’s final piece of paid content ended on a slightly disappointing note, but looking back over its three year lifetime, it’s safe to say that it offered up one incredible experience. Unforgettable moments and exhilarating quests powered the Bungie engine and kept players going through content droughts and hard times, and it’s this that makes Destiny unique to anything else. It is clear to see the monumental effect that the Halo follow-up has had on the video game industry thanks to the release of The Division and Bioware’s upcoming Anthem, as well as the general shift to game’s having a living and connected world, but we doubt any other IP will come close to the social interactions we’ve had throughout our time in the Tower and every other planet. It can only be bettered by Destiny 2.

Destiny 2 is on course to be even bigger and better than its 30 million seller predecessor, with the number of players who experienced its beta already blowing past the original’s pre-release tests. The sequel is pretty much guaranteed success, but it’s important that Bungie learns from its mistakes.

While all signs are pointing to this being an impossibility, Destiny 2 must not launch with any lacking content. It would be a disaster for the series to return to the flaws of its origin and repeat what the 2014 original was plagued by. And while short content droughts are almost inevitable, a more active live team could alleviate most concerns of there being nothing new to do for multiple months.

But on the other hand, you’re guaranteed a sublime gameplay experience when it comes to a Bungie product. The simple act of shooting is something to be commended in Destiny as every gun feels different, and thanks to exotic perks, there’s something for every situation. The series absolutely nails the thing most important to it, and if everything surrounding it can match that height, we’re in for one hell of a journey in the upcoming sequel. The entire Destiny experience in 2017 is an absolutely incredible one. Destiny 2 can be even better.

Where do you stand on Destiny? Have you been a fan since the beginning or did its launch leave you disinterested? Let us know in the comments below.