Destiny, what a ride it has been. Since the game’s full release on September 9 2014, there have been a lot of changes to the flow of the game. First of all let’s explain some things for those newcomers amongst you. For those of you that do not know what Destiny is exactly, here’s an introduction to the basics.
The Basics: The Story
Destiny is a post-apocalyptic, online-only, FPS developed by Bungie, (the creators of the epic Halo franchise) and published by Activision (the evil masterminds behind Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and Tony Hawks Pro Skater). It is set 700 hundred years in the future following an age of exploration, peace and technological advancement known as the Golden Age. These advances were largely instigated by the arrival of a mysterious celestial being known as The Traveler, which is more or less a colossal white sphere. However, following The Traveler’s arrival came an entity called the Darkness, which caused an event known as The Collapse. The Collapse all but decimated humanity, leaving only remnants of a once great civilisation that is now forced to make its final stand. You, the guardian, are a part of The Traveler’s light and are destined to protect the last of humanity that live under the protection of The Traveler in The Last City.
While it’s an interesting setting, in-game the story isn’t told that well and there are no real connections that you end up making with your character. The only notable characters in the story outside of you and your ghost (referred to as ‘Dinklebot’ on account of him being voiced by Peter Dinklage) are The Speaker, The Exo Stranger, The Queen and The Queen’s Brother. The story starts off strong until after your first encounter with the Speaker, from there (storytelling-wise at least) it goes downhill fast. Moments that could have been used to give background or reason to your actions are botched by hollow, lifeless lines like: “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” However, there is an abundance (in fact, most of the story is told there) of hidden lore inside the Grimoire cards that are unlocked by playing the game, collecting exotics and finding dead ghosts (Destiny’s equivalent to the Assassin’s Creed Flags, just not as numerous). Storytelling-wise, the Grimoire cards are a cool concept, but just aren’t executed well. All in all, Destiny certainly can’t be considered a story-driven first-person shooter. The Grimoire cards kind of feel like a poor execution of the way the Dark Souls series tells its lore through the items you collect.
The Basics: Weapon and Armour Rarities
Destiny is ultimately a loot-driven shooter in the spirit of games like Diablo, so you’ll want to be getting intimately familiar with the various loot drop types. First of all, there are the white, common rarity items. These are the most basic of basic weapons and armour and are regular drops from levels 1 through to roughly 15. Then there are the green, uncommon items. These are the second tier of items in Destiny and drop from about level 5 onwards. These items offer a little more of a damage and armour increase in comparison to their white counterparts. Then there are blue, rare items. These are the first items that have the ability of confer Light to the player’s stats. Your Light Level is given a numerical value based on how much total Light is associated with your individual armour pieces and is needed to level up past 20.
Almost there, we have purple legendary items. These items offer the most benefits to players but are unobtainable (and not able to be equipped) prior to reaching level 20 by regular means. Legendary items can be found as random drops in Patrol missions, as rewards for completing daily and weekly challenges and also from the Raids. They offer the most weapon damage output and armour stats. This means that these weapons will pack the most punch with every round and your armour will provide the most defensive benefits and light geared towards level progression past 20.
Last but not least, we have yellow exotic items. At any given time, only one exotic weapon and one exotic armour piece can be equipped. These offer useful and unique capabilities, which is the reason behind limiting how many you can strap to your Guardian. Also to note is the Cryptarch who will take Engrams you find in the world (linked to the rarity colours) and decrypt them into useful items. He became notorious for decrypting your legendary purple engrams into pitiful rare blue items, although this issue has largely been fixed after wide spread outrage.
State of Play: PVE (Player vs Environment)
After two DLC drops there is now a plethora of content to explore. As always there are the Weekly Nightfall Strikes, Weekly Heroic Strikes, Daily Heroic Story Missions, Vanguard Strike playlists, Daily/Weekly bounties and of course the excellent Raids. Bounties are just a small variety of objectives that can be completed for a boost in XP and faction reputation. Briefly, the Nightfall Strike has multiple difficulty modifiers enabled, the main one being that if everyone in the fire team dies, everyone is booted back to orbit and all progress in the Strike is reset. While murderously difficult without a good team, there are a range of worthwhile rewards. From the hope of receiving Gjallarhorn, the most powerful exotic rocket launcher, to the valuable Etheric Light, it is all a gamble and quite a fun one at that.
Here is an example of a Nightfall Strike with the new strike that comes with the House of Wolves DLC:
In the Weekly Heroic Strike there is only one modifier and you are rewarded with strange coins, which are used to purchase exotic gear from Xur, the vendor who only appears on weekends. These are fairly straightforward compared to Nightfall strikes. The Daily Heroic Story Mission (also quite straightforward and easy to solo for a high-level Guardian) is a regular story mission with one modifier which drops materials required for upgrading gear. The Vanguard strike playlists are randomly selected strikes brought up to a certain light level (18, 20, 22, 24, 26 and 28), and completion of these has a minimal chance of dropping legendary or exotic gear.
Next there are the Vault of Glass and Crota’s End raids (The Dark Below expansion is required for Crota’s End). They are currently the only two raids available, but they offer unique legendary gear and one exclusive exotic each, plus two chances per raid at obtaining randomly dropped exotics. Unfortunately, there is still no matchmaking for these raids and you’ll have to head to destinylfg.net if you haven’t got five other friends willing to fight alongside you at the same time.
Last but not least, we have the Prison of Elders (POE) and its challenge modes which came with the most recent House Of Wolves expansion. Prison of Elders is a round-based arena/survival mode whereby three guardians (your fireteam) must survive five rounds that consist of three waves each. In most cases, Round 2 to Round 4 will have objectives like destroying mines or eliminating targets but this is fairly simple stuff. In Round 5 five you’ll fight a boss that will have certain specific mechanics which combine to make these fights quite interesting. Follow the link here for a detailed breakdown of POE including modifiers and boss mechanics.
All of these activities, save for the Daily, are reset on a weekly timer which clocks over on Tuesday 7pm AEST, 8pm ACST, and 9pm AWST. Given all the activities that are available for players who currently own both expansions there is a fair amount of content to play on a weekly and daily basis. PVE has remained strong as a whole and it has seemed more or less Bungie’s main focus for Destiny.
In terms of weaponry in PVE, much has changed. When Destiny first released, auto rifles reigned supreme as they packed a massive punch and were easy to use. They truly were the easiest way to get into what is initially an unforgiving game with a punishing delta scaling system. Pulse rifles were laughably weak in comparison, and people only slowly warmed to scout rifles and hand cannons too. Patch 1.1.1 (notably nicknamed “The Pulse Rifle Patch”) was released February 25 of this year and made auto rifles almost obsolete in comparison to pulse rifles and the like. The Red Death exotic pulse rifle in particular has risen among the ranks and become one of the most valuable weapons for the Crota’s End raid on hard mode. This is due to the fact that the final boss strips you of a healing mechanism outside of the abilities tied to weapons and armour such as Red Death, SUROS Regime and certain helmets.
Now let’s discuss something in Destiny called “cheese.” In Destiny, “cheese” is finding an exploit or glitch and using it to your advantage. These tactics are employed in the PVE side (I don’t know of any cheeses in PVP) and often are used as workarounds for mechanics and in boss fights. Some of the most notable cheese was in the Vault of Glass raid where if you used solar grenades you could push The Templar and Atheon off of the edge and they’d die and players would receive the rewards for killing these bosses. The same tactic was employed on Crota and had the same effect. These cheeses were nerfed and no longer work. There are still some cheese (like swinging your way across an unconstructed bridge in Crota’s End) that work, but a majority of them have been looked at and nerfed, so sorry those of you who like everything the easy way but you’re probably going to have to deal with those encounters as Bungie intended.
State of Play: PVP (Player versus Player)
Much like in PVE, when Destiny first released, PVP was all about the auto rifles. The exotic SUROS Regime more specifically was the powerhouse of the crucible. It had crazy high stability and packed the focused fire perk (aiming down sights slows the rate of fire and increases impact), hammer forged perk (range and accuracy is greatly increased) and the SUROS Regime perk (bottom half of the magazine deals bonus damage and has a chance to recover health). All of this together made it the go-to exotic weapon in PVP alongside the infamous Vex Mythoclast. Vex is currently the only fusion rifle that can be carried as a primary weapon and shoots in full auto instead of having to be charged.
As patch after patch dropped, the Vex was nerfed into oblivion although recently it was brought back to life with a buff to its overall damage output in both PVE and PVP. This was balanced by reducing its absurdly large magazine of 56 down to 35. Thankfully it isn’t the overpowered beast it once was, but it’s still a decent choice and remains one of the most sought after drops in the Vault of Glass hard mode raid. Then came the aforementioned pulse rifle patch. The mighty SUROS was slain and the exotic hand cannons and Red Death were now the go-to exotic primaries. The meta of the Crucible has changed from auto rifles and fusion rifles to exotic hand cannons and high impact shotguns.
Since patch 1.1.1 released, the Crucible has been filled with a few things. There’s the Thorn exotic hand cannon, which is easily the most hated weapon in the game for its ability to kill someone with two shots to the head and leaving the lingering damage to do its work. There’s also The Last Word exotic hand cannon, with the quickest time to kill in the game and really unique handling and firing animations. You’ll also see a lot of Hawkmoons (although only on PlayStation until The Taken King drops as it’s a timed-exclusive weapon), which has the slightest chance of killing someone with one headshot. The Red Death is also everywhere and can kill with two bursts to the head and heals upon every kill. It’s also a massive shotgun-fest with the favourites being Felwinter’s Lie, Party Crasher +1 and Matador 64.
For new players, the Crucible will be rather punishing at first, however it is not too hard to learn the flow. In order to remain competitive it is recommended that you have these weapons as eventually you’ll be punished for not having them. Don’t get too comfortable with the current state of weaponry though as Patch 2.0 will launch close to The Taken King expansion which releases on September 15. Patch 2.0 will feature a myriad of game-changing weapon rebalances. Hopefully the Crucible will become a lot more accessible to a lot more people with the reported changes, but still manage to maintain the competitive skill gap. Among the changes promised: Thorn’s damage over time won’t be as potent, The Last Word will no longer be able to kill people in 9 frames (around 0.357 seconds) when aimed down sights and the Hawkmoon will lose its ability to kill people in one shot to the head. Auto rifles will be useful once more, hand cannons will no longer be accurate at the range of a scout rifle and pulse rifles will be a little harder to handle to help alleviate the pain of all those two burst kills from Red Death and The Messenger.
Currently the flow of the crucible is a very quick-paced style of play, where hand cannons and blink-shotguns are the main strategies of choice. Personally, I feel like adding the larger maps that are currently only available in the Combined Arms playlist would also encourage the use of scout rifles and sniper rifles and more of a laid-back style of play. Tighter areas within the large maps could still cater towards the blink-shotgun strategy that everyone seems to love a little too much.
Overall, the Crucible has a lot to offer. There are slight chances at exotic and legendary drops inside the crucible itself after a game has been completed. However these drops are not guaranteed, even if you perform well in the crucible as it is all based off of a random number generator (RNG for short). Sometimes you’ll see people with 0 kills and some absurd number of deaths like 25 and they’ll be the ones to receive a Gjallarhorn.
Asides from the regular Crucible playlists, there are also the monthly Iron Banner (IB) events where your weapon’s damage stats and your light level actually matter, because in regular Crucible they don’t. You don’t have to have the best weapons to play (I’ve seen people wreck me with the Stranger’s Rifle) but it certainly makes a difference, and being a lower level will result in dealing less damage while taking more damage from others at the same time. Iron Banner is definitely worth it as there are exclusive legendary rewards and precious Etheric Light once you reach rank 3 and 5 of IB.
There is also an event that happens every weekend (for those who own the House of Wolves expansion) called the Trials of Osiris. Trials of Osiris is like the Iron Banner where your weapon stats and light level make a difference (even more so here than in Iron Banner). It also plays a different game mode called “Elimination” where two fire teams consisting of 3 people face off in a selected arena. Players cannot respawn themselves; they can only be revived by teammates after being deceased for 5 seconds. Once the entire fireteam is dead, the round is over. A game consists of a maximum of nine rounds, where the first to five round victories is named the winner of the game.
You can play as much as you want but you are required to have a Trials passage, which only allows three losses per ticket, but can be renewed if you have received the three losses. Trials cannot be soloed and there is NO matchmaking so you have to form your own fireteam. The Trials of Osiris is the only place to obtain the Adept version of the legendary weapons available (Adept versions have an elemental burn applied to them). There is plenty of content available for those who like to reside within the Crucible and for those who would like to give it a try I highly recommend it as it is a very fun experience when not taken too seriously. However if you go into the crucible expecting to succeed without enough practice you are going to have a bad time. There are possible counters to the current powerhouse weapons, but they don’t always work.
All in all, the current state of play within Destiny is much more varied than when the game first launched, although the PVP in particular suffers from some balancing issues. The Destiny community is great (one of the best I’ve experienced) in terms of being welcoming and having advice for newcomers (ignoring any of those people that just whine and moan and all that malarky).
For those of you who previously left Destiny after the letdown that was The Dark Below expansion, the game has grown since you left. The House of Wolves expansion offers plenty of fun and exciting new content for both PVE and PVP. There is no need to worry about losing your progression on your exotic gear, the House of Wolves expansion offers exotic weapon ascension that keeps your progress towards maxing out your beloved Icebreakers and Gjallarhorns (or Hawkmoons for you PlayStation people). If you were sitting on the fence about Destiny or even decide not to get into it because of The Dark Below I would highly recommend giving Destiny another chance. A lot of the wrongs made in The Dark Below have been rectified by the House of Wolves expansion. I hope to see you all patrolling Earth’s Cosmodrome, The Moon, Venus, and Mars soon.