Destiny’s Future Is Being Shaped by Its Past

Destiny’s Future Is Being Shaped by Its Past

This past weekend, I sat down to bring an end to a story I have been following for the best part of the last 10 years of my life: Bungie’s Destiny saga, told across two games, myriad expansions, seasons of living-game content, and many crushing highs and lows, came to what has long been shaped as its first proper end.

It ended in a way that was perhaps symbolic of these 10 years I’ve spent with Destiny—a game that I have followed ever since it was breathlessly discussed as the next game from the people that made Halo, all the way through to the many times I stopped and started playing again no matter how insistent I was that whatever latest arcane design change or lackluster content drop had failed to hook me was the thing that would make me put it down for good. By which I mean, in equal parts sentiment and perplexed frustration.

The Final Shape, the game’s latest expansion, released early last week, and I was enjoying it in the moment—with its narrative focused intently, for the first time in years, explicitly on the bonds of friendship between the closest thing Destiny has had to main characters in the form of Commander Zavala, Ikora Ray, and Cayde-6, the emblematic leaders of the Guardian Vanguard, as they prepared to face the Witness, this ancient villain teased through years of esoteric lore and premonitions. But when it climaxed with what was essentially a big cutscene of your player character and the Vanguard running away from the Witness, merely wounding them rather than finishing the job, essentially saying “please wait for the raid to drop” instead of coming to a remotely satisfying conclusion, I found myself perplexed.

Had all this been leading to my character—the same Warlock I made in the original Destiny Alpha, that I remade for the first game in 2014, and have played ever since, for almost as long as I have worked at io9—essentially waiting on the sidelines while people who actually did the game’s challenging raid content would get to see the “real” ending? I’ve never had the time, patience, or frankly the social circle to regularly interact with this particular aspect of Destiny’s famously perplexing and difficult endgame modes, but leaving the cathartic final battle against this long-anticipated foe up to a mode that has, historically, struggled to attract Destiny players beyond the hardest of its hardcore, felt like a damp squib.

Screenshot: Bungie/Gizmodo

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. After the first teams of players raced to be the first to finish The Final Shape’s raid, Salvation’s Edge, it was revealed there was actually one more surprise in Bungie’s arsenal. Defeating the raid unlocked a brand new, 12-player—the first of its kind in Destiny history—fight that anyone who’d finished The Final Shape’s story up to this point could participate in, that saw players and the allies they’d built up across Destiny’s story thus far come together to defeat the Witness once and for all. And it was great! It was the big damn hero moment Final Shape’s campaign had lacked; it was filled with huge fights and the kinds of amounts of enemies, players, and allies alike the game had never tried to cram into one space before; it was challenging but not frustratingly hard. And it was an end! An actual end! There was cutscenes and dramatic catharsis and everything.

But as my Warlock and I both sat, contemplating everything they’d been through in the years since 2014—gazing out at the Traveler, the giant, superpower-giving space orb that has basically been the symbol of Destiny for that decade—it was clear whatever was next for the game after this chapter had finally closed was going to have to chart a difficult path. Destiny 2 is a living game, it doesn’t just shut off because we beat up this one big threat, it keeps ticking on, even after this moment of great release. As for what comes next? Today Bungie started to lift the lid.

In a brief new video released this morning, the developer laid out its plans for the next year of content in Destiny 2: three new “episodes” that will roll out across the year that each focus on one of Destiny’s classic antagonistic factions still lingering in the wake of the Witness’ defeat. “Echoes” will focus on the Vex, “Revenant” the Fallen, and “Heresy” the Hive, examining the ways our relationships with those factions have changed in the last 10 years. In some cases, we’ve developed alliances with elements of those factions, turning foes into the friends—frenemies, in the case of the Hive, in the form of the tricksy goddess Savathun. In others, it involves revisiting locations Destiny has long controversially “vaulted”—removed from player access in an attempt to keep the size and scope of the game down—and returning to them with new light and new design sensibilities learned over those same years. Beyond that? Whatever’s really next is still kept close to Bungie’s chest, beyond a nebulous tease for something called “Codename Frontiers,” which suggests finding new horizons to explore beyond the solar system Destiny has largely been confined in up to this point.


Destiny 2 | The Journey Ahead

It’s a fitting idea for this transitory period Destiny finds itself in right now, ending one climactic saga and sowing the seeds for whatever’s next. It’s rare to see a game outside of this kind of living format actually grapple with what that transformation means for its characters and yourself as a player—it’s something one of my other great MMO loves, Final Fantasy XIV, has played with as it goes from Endwalker, the expansion touted much like The Final Shape was as the end of a story a decade in the making, and now onto Dawntrail, the impending start of a new saga. To have Destiny structure itself around revisiting factions, places, and mechanical ideas for the way the game is actually played as this living world, and seeing just how far it’s come in this moment, feels like both a great endcap to what’s been experienced and a fittingly Destiny idea: to always iterate, re-explore, and redevelop as it’s adapted and survived a decade of challenges.

If The Final Shape represents the apex of what Destiny 2 has been capable of so far, going back to these elements with new light—metaphorically and narratively speaking, with the defeat of the Witness no longer clouding our heroes and their futures—is one filled with potential. One that will perhaps keep me playing, in spite of myself, for another decade or more.

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