Joe Vs Destiny: The Taken King
Me and Bungie we once close, real close. So close the courts became involved and things got tricky for a little while but thankfully they released Destiny which was so bad it gave me chronic Diarrhoea and a real inconvenient urinary tract infection. A combination of antibiotics and fluids helped with 2 of those issues but my issues with Destiny were only resolved once i uninstalled it from my Xbox. I was crushingly, bitterly disappointed with the dish served up by my favourite developer Bungie and to make matters worse it was the lack of Story and Narrative 2 things Bungie excelled with on the Halo series. All through it’s development Destiny was being described as Gamings equivalent to star wars, a huge universe built for exploration and discovery it’s hard not to be disappointed. When it launched it was clear the internal strife within Bungie had taken it’s toll on the ambitious project but i couldn’t imagine how badly they would impact the finished game.
Richard Hewitt an avid Destiny fan was unequivocal in his assessment of the game at launch and stated “[Destiny was} Flawed due to the complete lack of a cohesive storyline let alone cut scenes that were so few and far apart not to mention underwhelming which led to never being fully pulled into the game. I’d still say I had fun playing it though and the expansions added some fun little things at the time. Which have kind of been made null and void by TTK but are still there and just as good for a laugh”.
From day 1 the game was at it’s core, a broken, empty shell full of wasted promise and a million miles away from the promised gaming Nirvana. Bungie had always prided themselves on creating rich, well written and lore filled universes for players to explore yet Destiny was none of those. Even more incriminating was the clearly hastily removed content, broken story arcs and bizarrely segregated off areas that added to the sense of frustration and exploitation. In the following year as more details were released it has been widely reported to be the direct consequence of the departure of Joe Staten who was the lead writer for Destiny. So significant was the impact of Joe Staten leaving Bungie that the game was delayed to enable Bungie time to hastily rewrite large parts of the story and to carry out the necessary work to remove areas of the game. The whole thing was a poorly handled mess and directly impacted the finished product so badly that Bungie effectively shut up shop and started hiding behind a solid firewall.
Numerous mishaps followed presumably as Bungie reshaped, reassessed and restarted the Destiny project in the wake of overwhelming negativity form it’s fans. The follow up DLC did little to stem the tide of players exiting the Destiny universe helped in no small part to the content already existing within the game and the high price of entry but slowly, piece by piece the game has improved as Bungie has tweaked and adapted. This bring us nicely up to the most recent DLC expansion and the main reason why i decided to go back to Destiny.
The Taken King
Having returned to Destiny after the release of The Taken King Destiny is a very different place. Not all of the issues have been resolved but the painful upgrade system and in the case of the new DLC the Narrative and Story issues that killed the game for me have clearly received a vast amount of attention. I know where the DLC is going, what is happening and the atrocious voice acting has thankfully been shit canned. It’s almost like Destiny was a Beta release or a Free to play experiment that started with this huge universe and gradually added these epic stories that fleshed out the Universe and took us on these promised Epic quests.
That’s what The Taken King felt like to play through, like Bungie had finally nailed the magic formula with Destiny, the same formula that helped cement Bungie’s place amongst the elite developers. I struggled playing Destiny solo it was such an empty soulless void devoid of any real interaction outside of shooting the various faceless bad guys but I’ve played through most of the DLC solo and had a blast. With friends Destiny is a mighty experience full of frantic fire fights and live saving heroics buoyed by the new story driven approach it feels elevated to new heights and sits alongside Halo as a premier cooperative experience on consoles.
That’s not to say it’s perfect and all it’s problems are solved but it’s one massive leap forward for Bungie. The new missions and side quests are well scripted, well voiced and enjoyable to play through without feeling like you’re playing the same section over and over again. The pacing is perfect and sees the story surging forward from epic encounter to epic encounter with barely enough time to take it all in before you’re thrown back into the fray. The excellent combat mechanics really shine through this time they often felt like they carried the game forward when it should have been the story. The weapons are punchy, accurate and highly varied and when combined with the games super move system it’s possible to really bring the pain to the varied enemy types you face throughout the game. I always stuck with the same basic load of our Scout Rifle and Sniper Rifle with a Rocket launcher for when it got particularly hairy which it seems to this time around.
There are still pacing issues and the quests outside the latest DLC are still poorly written and directed with little more to do apart from listen to a few bits of dialogue before rinse\repeating the same basic gameplay. The contrast is striking at times which is apt because the Destiny we had at launch feels a million miles away from the one we have now. Other major issues surround the pricing of the 2 DLC chapters and the major Taken King expansion. Each of the 2 DLC chapters, The House of Wolves and The Dark below went on sale for £!9.99 each and neither justified that hefty price tag in either content or quality. Sure both pieces are worthy additions to the main game but at that price much more should rightly have been included. I picked up The Taken King Legendary Edition which came with all the DLC so far for £40 and whilst that maybe steep for many it’s actually not to bad from a value perspective when you look into what i got in return. Having already purchased Destiny digitally i can say safely that i’m comfortable with my total financial investment made so far in Destiny and much of that is to do with quality that comes with The Taken King.
It all bodes well for the Future of Destiny and if Bungie can continue to develop the franchise in this manner they could have another monster franchise on their hands. It’s where Bungie goes from here that is most interesting do they continue the traditional model of releasing a few expansion packs and go quiet till the sequel is ready or stick with the Universe and use The Taken King as their future model. Yearly large scale expansions with smaller updates and patches seem a perfect fit for Destiny on Console and would be a good way of keeping the Universe populated and interesting. New quests, bounties, new gear, weapons packs and weekly challenges would keep players coming back and would ensure a consistent revenue stream in between the larger expansion packs.
Games that follow the traditional 3 year cycle are rarely as ambitious as Destiny and tend be played in bursts then traded or uninstalled. Destiny is that rare game where the universe is the star, the sandbox we gravitate around holds all the experiences so why not utilise this?
I hope Bungie, my Bungie are still there and that they are brave enough to still aim for the stars.