Before I start this review, I want the reader to know my deep love for the Destiny franchise. Destiny is a series that I have played since day one, however it wasn’t something that I was planning to get originally. It was a couple of days before Destiny was to be released that I was eating with some friends at a Burger King when they were like “Hey, we’re going to get this cool game called Destiny when it comes out, you should get it so that you can play it with us.” and me being an easily influenced preteen, decided to preorder it without knowing anything about it going in. And boy was it a surprise. Destiny had this strange new vibe that I had never seen in another game. I was completely sucked into this new world and truly felt like I was on some galactic wide adventure. The guns felt cool to shoot, the world had this deep lore to learn about it, and it was one of the few times I experienced a sense of community in a game. From Destiny, I have met some of my best friends. I formed my main group of friends from playing through a raid and deciding to talk further to one of the guys we ran it with. It was after returning to the Tower (a social space for players to prepare for their next adventure and to meet other players) that we began to talk a great deal while watching the in-game sunset and listening to the calming music. It was one of those moments where you know that you’re going to be deep friends with someone, similar to when David and Johnathon formed their covenant. From then we kept adding on to this little group throughout the years with some coming and going, but all while still playing Destiny or others games. So thanks to this franchise I have formed some of the closest friendships that I am privileged to have and to have had five years worth of amazing gameplay experiences!
Now that we have my personal connection to the franchise out of the way, what is Destiny? Well, it is a hybrid of a first person loot shooter with light MMO elements. You play as a Guardian, a defender of the Last City on Earth and fight against the enemies of humanity. This sends you on various quests and adventures across the Solar system as you collect loot and grow your legend.
The main gameplay revolves around collecting more and more powerful loot so that you can do harder and harder versions of the various content in the game. Once you finish the campaigns, you’re sent off to do harder content in order to get high level gear. And with this new high level gear you’re able to do harder content for even better gear. The best content in the game requires you to have reached a high enough level and have gotten decent enough weapons to be able to complete it. One example of an end game activity are the raids. These are six player activities where the team has to overcome various obstacles and bosses that have challenging mechanics and require good teamwork to overcome. The coordination that you have to put in makes raids really fun because at the end you know it was possible because of your teamwork. There are also some really sweet rewards to be obtained from raids such as some of the coolest weapons and armor pieces. There are also dungeons, which are essentially three man raids which usually aren’t as hard, but are fun nevertheless. The final high end PVE activity that you can do are Nightfalls, which are (usually) very challenging versions of the strikes already present in the game (strikes being basically a three-person mission to hunt and take out a boss). These have a difficulty known as Grandmaster which turns the enemies in these activities into some of the highest level enemies in the game. These guys have really good AI and are super deadly. In exchange for such a challenging experience, you get some of the rarest weapons and materials in the game.
This gameplay loop can be really fun, but fair warning: there is a point where you get to a high enough level to access all the content, but some people just keep going and going, chasing after what essentially becomes just a number. Don’t fall into this trap yourself. It does nothing but waste your time and create a sort of idol or pride in your life as you constantly try and try to raise your light level.
*Not to mention that endlessly grinding just exhausts you and takes the fun out of the game – MicMan
There is also a PVP side to the game called the “Crucible” which pits players against one another in typical shooter fashion. For casual play, there are six vs six game modes such as Control (domination) and Clash (TDM). Every once in a while, there are also temporary fun modes such as Mayhem and Team Scorched which switch up the gameplay in crazy ways such as letting everyone spam their superpowers or have access to giant cannons. On the more competitive side there is the three vs three gamemode called Trials of Osiris which pits players against one another in an elimination based gamemode where you have to eliminate each player on the other team to win a round, needing to win five rounds total. What makes it intense is that once you’re knocked out, you can only be revived by your teammates. Another factor to consider is that you have to assemble your own team, as there is no matchmaking. So if you want to win the sweet loot associated with this gamemode your teamwork has to be on point.
From the gameplay, we can learn a spiritual lesson, the importance of community. Man is meant to be in community, first in communion with God, and second with his neighbor. Community was essential to the message of many influential Catholics such as Dorothy Day, who believed that true community was one of the solutions to our times. Now what does this have to do with Destiny? Everything really. Destiny at its core is a social experience. Sure you can play through a lot of the game on your own, but the game is intentionally designed to be played with a group. This is why there is the clan system, you’re meant to be looking for other people to play this game with. The hardest activities in the game are meant to put the teamwork of a team to the test, and this creates the most fun experiences in the game as people have to work together to accomplish something. You have to bear with one another, managing one another’s weaknesses. I can attest that I am not the best person to play with, I often space out or start choking up during important fights, but the people I play with have come to expect this and help me.
All this is important because of the game’s target audience, teenagers. These are the people who have become disillusioned with the important things in life, one of them being community, with them seeing it as nothing more than some lofty ideal that is pretty sounding but isn’t practical. Thus leaving some to believe that the best way to go through life is to huddle yourself in and only worry about yourself. Through games like Destiny, young players are able to see the idea of community in action in something they enjoy. They see the importance of having to work with other people to accomplish something that wouldn’t be possible by oneself. And many probably do go through playing Destiny not realizing that this living example of community could be transferred to the real world (myself included). This could be at our local parish helping with Catechism, evangelization efforts, works of mercy, etc. It could be helping our next door neighbor or family member we don’t talk to with something. So many meaningful things could come from forming a community if we were just willing to stretch out our hands to one another. Man is not meant to be alone, and Destiny does a good job at showing the good that can come when people put in the effort to work together.
Another factor important to Destiny’s gameplay structure is the season system. Every year a major DLC is released near the end of the year that revolutionizes the game in major ways. It also sets the story and tone of the game for the next year. This is then followed by four smaller sized content drops known as seasons. Seasons keep players going until the next major DLC is released and bring their own weapons and activities. They also have a Battle Pass that comes with them where you can unlock armor sets, new exotics, and crafting materials. Seasons are a way to make sure there is always something going on in the world of Destiny. And while that might seem like a time sink, seasons last three months and the content is trickled so you can play at your own pace. Seasons also come with stuff like full voice acting and some cutscenes, though not to the extent of a major DLC. Once the season’s time period is over, content can only be accessed by those who bought the season or have the legendary version which comes with all the seasons in a given year. I believe that this makes Destiny one of the best “live service” games because we always roughly know the amount of content we are getting and when. However there is also the fear of missing out (FOMO) that is created by seasons coming and going away after a year. So there is some good and some bad to come from this system.
Moving on to one of the biggest barriers to entry, the sheer amount of DLC that is available. Destiny 2 is technically free to play (F2P), yes, but the F2P experience is severely lacking today. You can explore all the planets and get a good amount of loot, but in terms of end game content you are only given one dungeon, one raid, and the nightfalls. This is because of the introduction of the Destiny Content Vault which is a system where old content is taken out of the game for various technical issues to make room for newer content. Before it’s implementation F2P players were given three whole campaigns and three raids! So nowadays it isn’t as fun to play F2P as you have to at least buy at least the latest major DLC if you want to stay ahead with everyone. And this is on top of buying the seasons every three months, so every year you could spend $100ish. Thankfully major DLCs go on sale pretty often and you can get them pretty cheap. So before you buy any DLC, play some of the game to see if constantly investing in Destiny is worth it for you. I personally have gotten my value out of it, but the experience might not be the same for you.
Transitioning to the narrative, the story of Destiny is centered around the Guardians, protectors of the Last City on Earth. They are people resurrected as warriors by a benevolent being known as the Traveler who has supposedly come to the aid of humanity through the use of a power known as the “Light”. Guardians are gifted with the ability to use the Light themselves which gives them superhuman strength, the ability to control elements such as electricity and fire, and near immortality as long as their “Ghost” companions are able to revive them (Ghosts being small robotic-like creatures sent forth from the Traveler to find and resurrect people worthy of being Guardians). The player themselves is a Guardian and they go through the game fighting against the enemies of the Last City and ultimately are set to fight against the Pyramids, which use the power of Darkness (a celestial manifestation of evil, just as the Light is a celestial manifestation of good) in hopes of creating a universe where they are the only beings standing.
*As someone who is very fascinated with the lore of games (a fascination I’m sure largely thanks to the amount of lore to learn in this game), Destiny is a paradise. It is insane how much detailed lore there is (and they are always adding more), and the past year or so they have been especially drawing from the lore to create the current story rather than making up new stuff. What I have always liked about Destiny is that the lore and the world can be both extremely science-fiction (to the point where there’s a robotic race that exists across all time at once and simulates reality) and extremely fantastical (to the point where the celestial manifestations of good and evil of the universe are fighting for cosmic control) – MicMan.
Moving on to the music in Destiny, it is in my opinion some of the best in the industry, you have the former Halo composer, Michael Salvatori, so you know right off that you are going to get some truly epic songs. Boss music in Destiny is some of the most intense stuff that you will hear, it truly gets your adrenaline pumping and pushes you to keep trying. I can’t tell you how many times the epic music has helped me keep going when I feel like giving up because my team and I keep failing. On the flip side, you also have some amazing ambient pieces that are perfect for studying or reflecting on life. One of the few consistents in the Destiny franchise is that the music is good. No matter if everything else in a Destiny release is disappointing, the music will be there to carry it.
*True dat – MicMan
Overall I believe Destiny 2 is one of the better “games as a service” models. There is fun to be had in both it’s PVE and PVP content. And as of now, the future of the game is looking bright, although there are some blemishes here and there in regards to it’s monetization and content vaulting. If you want to have a teamwork based shooter experience, then playing through the Destiny endgame as a group is one of the only places that you’ll get it.
Story: 4/5 (hard for new players to know what is going on because of the series having gone on for 7 years)
Art and Graphics: 5/5
Replayability: 4/5 (heavily dependent on if you can find a group)
30th Anniversary DLC
(This section of the review will be more geared towards current players, however I will try my best to explain it to newer players)
The 30th Anniversary DLC event is a huge celebration of Bungie’s 30 years as a game developer. This DLC is split into two parts, the free section gives all players a new six man activity and various weapons inspired from older Bungie titles, and the paid section (available for $25 US and $31 Can), where players are given access to a new dungeon, a returning exotic, and some bonus cosmetic goodies.
In this event, there are tons of references to older games made by Bungie such as Halo, Marathon, and even the first Destiny. From Halo we now have the battle rifle, magnum, and energy sword in Destiny, and they are all really good! The armor exclusive to the paid portion of the new six man activity is based off of Marathon. And for Destiny fans, there is the return of arguably one of the most iconic weapons in modern gaming, the Gjallarhorn.
Gjallarhorn, obtainable as part of the paid section of the event, was one of the most powerful heavy weapons back in the original Destiny. It has returned to attempt to reclaim it’s throne with a new and improved form to challenge the current meta of fusion rifles. This new form gives the rocket a ton more wolfpack rounds (powerful tracking grenades that spawn when a Gjallarhorn rocket explodes) than before, making it better at ad clearing than EoT and Deathbringer (other powerful rocket launchers in the game). It also has a new perk called Pack Hunter, which gives the legendary rocket launchers of your teammates their own wolfpack rounds, which is insane, as legendary rocket launchers potentially have the ability to outdamage the Gjallarhorn. It also stops it from being pay to win or creating a toxic LFG environment where the weapon is needed to even get into a group for an end game activity such as a raid. Once this fusion rifle meta is over, things are looking like Gjallarhorn will reign once again as it is doing so well without the help of any seasonal mods (temporary buffs that change over the course of the game’s life). Lastly, while the quest to get the Gjallarhorn isn’t that exciting, Bungie did a good job preserving it’s legacy by bringing it back as a powerhouse!
A new dungeon, Grasp of Avarice, which takes place in the Cosmodrome (a location on Earth) is also available as part of the paid section of the 30th anniversary DLC. Grasp of Avarice takes you on a quest to follow the trial of a guardian known as Wilhem-7 who went mad searching for this lost treasure rumored to be hidden in a large underground cave system. The cave system is one of the prettiest places in the game, as there are giant quartz-like crystals and waterfalls everywhere. As you go through the caves, you’ll fight against some nesting Hive, Fallen looking to get in on the spoils themselves, and a bunch of traps placed by the Guardian mentioned earlier. Overall, while I thought that the dungeon was solid, it didn’t have that wow factor that other events like Prophecy or even Pit of Hersey had.
Moving on to the free side of content there is a new six man activity known as Dares of Eternity which is basically a giant game show run by the vendor Xur and a space horse to see if we are worthy of the Nine’s help (a mysterious organization which claims to want to help those it proves worthy). Xur acts as an enthusiastic announcer for the game show along with his buddy star horse giving “insightful” commentary here and there. All the encounters in the activity are randomized, with there being three stages in total. Each stage brings its own enemies and challenges to overcome, with there being typical game show tropes throughout each of them such as a wheel of fortune or a wipeout course. It’s a pretty cool activity, however I believe that it is too easy and found myself getting a little bored because of that, however there is a Heroic version so that might change my mind. Another gripe is that there aren’t that many scenarios, so I’m not sure how long it will keep players engaged. I can’t personally see this as something people would come back to again and again after they have gotten all the loot they want from it. Although there is also some praise to be given here as the whole activity is free and so are all the Halo themed weapons you can get from it, the only thing that owning the DLC gives you access to is to collect the armor and other cosmetics rewards. They could have easily forced players to buy the DLC to access the activity, but keeping it free was a smart idea for a six man activity. And while I said it didn’t seem like it would keep it’s fun factor, it is so much better then the seasonal activity Astral Alignment that I paid for access to! The game show theme is also great as Destiny is a game that takes its narrative very seriously, which I am a huge fan of, but to see something as wacky as Dares of Eternity is refreshing. However I don’t want the same thing that happened to Brother Lance (an important character in Destiny’s past) to happen to Xur, eg: a mysterious character being turned into an over the top comedic relief. So overall, while I have my gripes with the activity, Bungie did a good job here.
The big question, is the paid portion of the 30th anniversary DLC worth it? Well like I mentioned in regards to the other DLCs, that depends. If you’re someone who plays the game regularly then absolutely. You’re going to get a solid dungeon to grind and one of the coolest rocket launchers in the game. If you like cosmetic stuff then this pack is filled with some awesome looking armor and emotes. If you are just someone who plays here and there or doesn’t have a lot of money, then you can totally skip the paid portion without fearing missing out on anything too big.
Art and Graphics: 5/5
Time Sink: In Destiny it is easy to get caught up in the “grind” because of the MMO like elements. This can be in chasing the highest power level or the gear with the best rolls. There are also a bunch of vanity items such as titles or small upgrades to weapons that become very time consuming. For new players, there is the ‘all that is thrown at you at once’ feeling, such as a bunch of campaigns and quests which can leave you playing the game to just finish the stuff rather than have fun with it. While this is a turn off to some, I manage to play the game only a couple times a week and find it really fun because I know I’ll always have something new to do since I don’t grind the game very hard.
Bad philosophy/worldview: While most of the time Destiny is a game about being the hero and sticking to the right path, it has begun to promote a utilitarian view of sorts. This is due to the fact that the game allows players to wield the powers of the Darkness (the literal celestial manifestation of evil, as mentioned earlier), with most characters seeing the powers of Light and Dark as just tools and that only actions determine if someone is right or wrong. This is against Christian thought as we would never use a wrong to achieve a good, believing that good outcomes should always come from good means. Destiny 2 has also promoted getting revenge when an important character committed a grave wrong against the Guardians.
Occult: Various characters and organizations in the game are based on magic, such as the tech witches who use magic to control machines and create portals, or ancient religions such as the Cult of Osiris which has an Egyptian theme to it.
*As well, the humans all seem to worship the Traveler like a god, and the Light and Darkness are the ones that created the universe. Also, the enemy race called the Hive use dark magic, and certain enemies use the Darkness too – MicMan
Violence: Despite being in the future, many guns in the game have realistic sounds and models. The players use these to shoot at enemies and at one another in various game modes, however there is almost no blood present in the game beside the small amount on the sides of screen when the player is damaged heavily or the black oil/energy that comes out of certain enemies when defeated. However, Destiny isn’t a mindless shooter, as characters constantly reflect on the deaths of their enemies, and there have even been attempts to find peace with them.
Language: Destiny is a very clean game in terms of language. The worst word I can remember is the b word, which was in a very intense scene for the characters. Other than that I can only remember someone being called a “butthole” once and ‘hell’ being used.
Consumerism/value concerns: There are tons and tons of vanity items that you can buy from the in-game store using real money. Be careful not to spend that much, because in reality you don’t need any of this stuff to enjoy the game. Bungie also releases new DLCs and seasons all the time – not only do they add more player content, but they advance the game’s story in very significant ways. However a lot of the seasonal content is free and you can visit the DLC maps for free so that’s pretty good. There is also the infamous implementation of content vaulting, which involves Bungie taking out older content in the game to make more room for newer content. This is very controversial as parts of the game that many players enjoy are taken out after a year or two. It also rubs people the wrong way that they can no longer access content that they paid money for. This might set a dangerous precedent for the industry and honestly stings for both new and old players. It stems from various technical issues and the content vault seems to be a necessary evil for now. However it has given us a much smoother game and faster updates, so there is some good.
LGBT/politics: Bungie in recent years has begun to push for a more “inclusive” environment both in their game and community. This has lead to two important characters being in a gay relationship. There are also various pride and BLM emblems up for grabs. There has even been public support for abortion from the development team, which is no good.