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Destiny is an online-only multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and previously published by Activision. Destiny is now self-published by Bungie after separating from Activision in 2019. It was released worldwide on September 9, 2014, for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One consoles. Destiny marked Bungie’s first new console franchise since the Halo series, and it was the first game in a ten-year agreement between Bungie and Activision. Set in a “mythic science fiction” world, the game features a multiplayer “shared-world” environment with elements of role-playing games. Activities in Destiny are divided among player versus environment (PvE) and player versus player (PvP) game types. In addition to normal story missions, PvE features three-player “strikes” and six-player raids. A free roam patrol mode is also available for each destination which feature public events. PvP features objective-based modes, as well as traditional deathmatch game modes.
Players take on the role of a Guardian, protectors of Earth’s last safe city as they wield a power called Light to protect the City from different alien races. Guardians are tasked with reviving a celestial being called the Traveler, while journeying to different planets to investigate and destroy the alien threats before humanity is completely wiped out. Bungie released four expansion packs, furthering the story, and adding new content, missions, and new PvP modes. Year One of Destiny featured two small expansions, The Dark Below in December 2014 and House of Wolves in May 2015. A third, larger expansion, The Taken King, was released in September 2015 and marked the beginning of Year Two, changing much of the core gameplay. The base game and the first three expansions were packaged into Destiny: The Taken King Legendary Edition. Another large expansion called Rise of Iron was released in September 2016, beginning Year Three. Rise of Iron was only released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One; PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 clients subsequently stopped receiving content updates. The base game and all four expansions were packaged into Destiny: The Collection. A sequel, Destiny 2, released in September 2017.
Upon its release, Destiny received generally positive reviews with criticism centered mostly around the game’s storyline and post-campaign content. The game was praised for its gameplay, graphics, and for maintaining lineage from the Halo franchise, particularly in regards to its competitive experiences. Some consider it to be one of the best games of all time. It sold over US$325 million at retail in its first five days, making it the biggest new franchise launch of all time.
Destiny‘s style has been described as a first-person shooter that incorporates role-playing and MMO elements, but Bungie has avoided describing Destiny as a traditional MMO game. Instead, the game has been referred to as a “shared-world shooter”, as it lacks many of the characteristics of a traditional MMO game. For instance, rather than players being able to communicate with all other players in the game or on a particular server — as is the case in many conventional MMO games — Destiny includes on-the-fly matchmaking that allows players to communicate only with other players with whom they are “matched” by the game. To communicate with other players in the game world, players must use their respective console’s messaging system. Time-limited events and modes are also occasionally added or featured in-game. Activities in Destiny are divided among player versus environment (PvE) and player versus player (PvP) game types across the Cosmodrome and the Plaguelands (added with Rise of Iron) on Earth, its Moon, Venus, and Mars. There are also PvP maps for Mars’s moon Phobos and the planet Mercury. A social space on Mercury was added with the House of Wolves expansion, but requires players to go undefeated in the Trials of Osiris Crucible mode in order to access it. Another PvE area, a massive ship called the Dreadnaught that is situated in the rings of Saturn, and two PvE missions on Phobos were added with The Taken King expansion.
Character progression and classes
Players are able to improve their characters, referred to as Guardians, by gaining experience points (EXP) — when a set number of experience points are accumulated, the player’s character will “level up” and gain improved statistics which further enhance performance in battle. Quests, including the “main scenario” quest line, are specific tasks given to the player by non-player characters which reward items and EXP. Completing main scenario quests progresses the overarching plot of the game.
Destiny features three character classes. Each class has their own specific upgrades, perks, special abilities, and three sub-classes that allow the player to finely tune their individual characters to provide a different play style. After choosing a class, players select one of three species for their character: Human, Awoken (bluish-gray-skinned descendants of Humans), or Exo (human consciousness in a machine). They can then customize their character, such as changing its gender or skin color. A character’s species is only cosmetic and does not affect gameplay. Players can create two more characters to have a character of each class. The Taken King added a third sub-class for each class, but requires the purchase of the DLC to access the new sub-classes.
- Hunters are designed to be like a bounty hunter with a focus on agility and mobility. Its Solar-based “Gunslinger” sub-class tree includes stat boosts that award accurate play, a throwing knife attack, the ability to upgrade to a triple jump, and the “Golden Gun” super, a very powerful, flaming magnum with a base magazine of three shots. The Arc-based “Bladedancer” sub-class has a heavier focus on close combat, offering an extended-range “Blink Strike”, and an “Arc Blade” super (which allows the player to quickly dart between and kill enemies) with a temporary invisibility option. The Taken King added the Void-based “Nightstalker” sub-class that includes a bow-like super called “Shadowshot” that tethers enemies together, limiting movement and preventing enemies from using abilities for a short time. It can also be used to do stealth attacks or blind enemies for a brief time.
- Warlocks are designed as a mage, or a space wizard, with a larger focus on offensive abilities, recovery, and melee attacks that can reduce the cooldown time of its abilities. Its super in the “Voidwalker” sub-class, “Nova Bomb”, is an explosively powerful sphere of Void energy capable of being thrown in different ways. Its “Sunsinger” sub-class features abilities based around the Solar element, with the “Radiance” super allowing the player to temporarily improve their statistics, or revive themselves if killed. The Taken King added the Arc-based “Stormcaller” sub-class that includes the super “Stormtrance”, which produces lightning bolts that chains between enemies.
- Titans are designed to be “tanks“, with a focus on withstanding large amounts of damage to allow close quarters combat. The Titan’s super in the Arc-based “Striker” sub-class, “Fist of Havoc”, is a ground slamming attack that destroys all enemies in its radius. Its Void-based “Defender” sub-class offers the ability to generate a shield with its “Ward of Dawn” super. The shield can also provide temporary stat bonuses to other players that step within it. The Taken King added the “Sunbreaker” sub-class, which features a Solar-based super, the “Hammer of Sol”, creating a flaming hammer that can be thrown at enemies, or used for close-quarters combat.
Upon reaching the character level cap, character progression shifts to improving their “Light” level by acquiring new and better equipment. This equipment can be gained through a variety of sources, including “strikes“, raids, and in-game events. Prior to The Taken King, all legendary and exotic armor, and some rare, contained an attribute called Light. Once players reached level 20, they no longer earned experience to level up; EXP earned after level 20 went towards upgrading weapons and armor, and creating Motes of Light, an in-game currency. Players could only go beyond level 20 by obtaining armor with Light, and these levels were referred to as Light levels. The initial Light level cap was 30, which increased to 32 with The Dark Below and 34 with the House of Wolves. Update patch 2.0, released in preparation for The Taken King, made the character’s experience level and Light level separate: level 34 is now the experience level cap for all players; level 40 for players who own The Taken King and Rise of Iron. A higher character level allows for better equipment to be equipped. A character’s Light level is now an average of the attack and defense of all equipped gear. For example, if all equipped gear has 170 Light each, the character’s Light level will be 170. A higher Light level improves damage output and defense. The highest obtainable Light level was 320 for players who owned The Taken King; the expansion’s April Update increased it to 335. Rise of Iron increased the highest obtainable Light level to 400.
Players’ equipment includes weapons and armor. Legendary and exotic items are the best items for players’ characters, and only one exotic weapon and one exotic armor (excluding exotic class items) can be equipped at one time. There are several different classes of weapons that are categorized as either a primary, special (secondary), or heavy weapon. Several weapons have an elemental damage type. There is Arc (blue), Solar (orange), and Void (purple). All damage types will deplete enemy shields of that type faster, and the weapon will also do extra damage to enemies if the gameplay modifiers ‘Arc Burn’, ‘Solar Burn’ or ‘Void Burn’ are active. The original maximum attack damage for legendary and exotic weapons was 300. This increased to 331 with The Dark Below and 365 with the House of Wolves. Because of the change to the Light level system, The Taken King numerically changed weapons of 365 damage to 170, but with no loss in damage output (365 damage of Year 1 equals 170 damage of Year 2). As with armor, weapons’ attack damage contributes to the Light level and all gear can be infused to increase their numbers.
There are six armor slots: helmet, gauntlets, chest, legs, class item, and artifact (artifacts were added with The Taken King). Each class has armor specific to them with exotic armor that complement a character’s sub-class. Each piece of armor increases overall defense. Before The Taken King, class items were only cosmetic (such as the Hunter’s cloak) and did not have any stat or defense boosts. With The Taken King update, class items were given defense that contributes to players’ Light level. Players’ Ghost companion was also given defense with The Taken King update that contributes to their Light level. In addition to earning gear from loot drops by playing missions and other activities, players can purchase gear from faction vendors. Players can pledge their allegiance to one of three factions — Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, or New Monarchy — and earning enough reputation with a faction allows players to earn and purchase that faction’s legendary items. Players also earn reputation with other vendors, such as the Vanguard and Crucible, by doing playlists or bounties for that vendor, which also have their own set of legendary items.
Player versus environment (PvE)
Player versus environment game types makes up the majority of the game. PvE story missions can be played either solo or as part of a “fireteam” of up to three players. Initially, although there was an order to the story missions, they could be played in any order as more missions became available. For example, after completing Earth’s second story mission, three more became available, but did not have to be played in story order. The questing system introduced in House of Wolves and refined in The Taken King requires story missions to be played in order due to quest step progression. Every day, a random story mission is featured as the Daily Heroic Story Mission, featuring bonus rewards. Each playable area offers an open world “Patrol” mode, where players can travel freely around the area and perform small tasks gathered from beacons, and they can collect materials that are used for upgrading weapons and armor. Players travel around the areas on foot or with their vehicles called Sparrows (very similar to the speeder bikes of Star Wars). Public events happen periodically and any player in the same location can participate. These location-specific events include eliminating a target, defeating incoming waves of enemies, and defending a Warsat (a crashed satellite).
“Strikes” are cooperative missions played with a party of three players that culminate with a boss; most strikes are side missions that are not part of the main plot. Players can play much harder versions of the strikes in what are called the SIVA Crisis Strike (formerly Vanguard Heroic Playlist) and the Weekly Nightfall Strike, which grant bonus rewards. While the SIVA Crisis is a playlist of strikes from The Taken King and Rise of Iron (as well as older strikes updated with Taken and SIVA-infected enemies), the Weekly Nightfall Strike, which is harder than heroic, is only one strike that changes every week with a chance for greater rewards. The Daily Heroic Story Mission, SIVA Crisis Strike, and Weekly Nightfall Strike each feature game modifiers that increase difficulty. Game modifiers can be positive or negative for the player. For example, a positive modifier would be “Small Arms”, where damage for the player’s primary weapons are doubled, but a negative modifier would be “Chaff”, where the player’s radar is disabled. Raids are advanced cooperative missions designed to be played by a team of six players — the only PvE game type that allows more than three players in a fireteam. Raids culminate with the elimination of a major boss that relates to the story. With the release of Rise of Iron, there are four raids in Destiny.
From social spaces (the Tower on Earth, the Vestian Outpost added with House of Wolves, and the Iron Temple added with Rise of Iron), players can redeem “engrams” into items, buy items, and collect challenges known as bounties to complete during activities to earn experience, build their reputation among factions, and sometimes earn items. Beyond armor and weapons, items that players can obtain include ships that represent themselves during travel cutscenes, shaders for customizing the color scheme of their armor, emblems which are banners for players’ names, emotes such as a dance or gesture, and shells for their Ghost companion.
Player versus player (PvP)
In addition to these player versus environment challenges, player versus player combat exists in what is called the Crucible. The Crucible, which can have a maximum of twelve players depending on game type, contains playlists of PvP modes, including “Control”, “Clash”, “Rumble”, and “Skirmish”. Control is six-versus-six where teams try to capture and maintain control of zones. Clash is a classic six-versus-six team deathmatch. Rumble is a six-player free-for-all deathmatch. Skirmish is a three-versus-three deathmatch where players can revive allies. New modes have been added via expansions, including “Elimination” (House of Wolves), a similar mode to Skirmish except divided into nine rounds in which the team must kill all three of their opponents at once, “Rift” (The Taken King), a six-versus-six capture the flag-like mode where players must deliver a “Spark” to the opposing team’s base, killing enemies in its radius, and “Supremacy” (Rise of Iron), a six-versus-six mode where players drop crests when killed and points are scored by picking up crests dropped by the enemy team.
Other modes are available occasionally during time-limited periods, such as “Salvage”, a three-versus-three king of the hill game type, “Combined Arms”, where the Control and Clash modes are on maps with vehicles and turrets, “Inferno” (The Dark Below), a modifier on multiple game modes where points are solely scored on kills and the player’s radar is disabled, “Doubles” (The Dark Below), a two-versus-two version of Skirmish, “Mayhem” (The Taken King), a modifier on Clash and Rumble where cooldown times for all abilities are greatly reduced, and “Zone Control” (The Taken King), a modified version of Control where points are only scored for maintaining control of zones, and not by kills or point captures. A random mode is featured as the Daily and Weekly Crucible mode with bonus rewards. As of September 2015, players who do not own The Taken King or Rise of Iron expansions only have access to three-versus-three and six-versus-six Crucible playlists on previous maps with assorted modes, and no longer have access to playlists for individual modes.
In Crucible modes, player statistics (such as weapon power and defense) are balanced between players. The periodic events Iron Banner and Trials of Osiris are offered, which disable balancing. These events have their own set of bounties and allows players the chance to earn exclusive items. Iron Banner became available shortly after the launch of Destiny and originally only used the Control game mode; with the release of Rise of Iron, it rotates between Control, Clash, Rift, and Supremacy. It is available during the last week of each month. Trials of Osiris was added with the House of Wolves expansion and uses the Elimination mode. It is available every weekend from Friday until the weekly reset on Tuesday. Players who go undefeated in this mode gain access to an exclusive social space on Mercury called The Lighthouse.
A week prior to the launch of the Rise of Iron expansion, the option to make private matches was added; this option is available to all players on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, regardless if they purchase Rise of Iron. Private matches allow players to set up their own custom matches. Customization options include game mode, map, score and time limits, enabling Light level, and time of day. Players can choose the number of players for the match, including beginning a match by themselves.
Bungie described the setting of Destiny as a “mythic science-fiction” world. The setting, about 700 years in the future, follows a prosperous period of exploration, peace, and technological advancement known as the Golden Age. In a universe where humans have spread out and colonized planets in the Solar System, an event known as “the Collapse” saw the mysterious dissolution of these colonies, the end of the Golden Age, and mankind teetering on the brink of extinction. The only known survivors of the Collapse are those living on Earth, who were saved by “the Traveler”, a white, spherical celestial body whose appearance centuries before had enabled humans to reach the stars. The Collapse was caused by a mysterious force called the Darkness, an ancient enemy of the Traveler that plagues the galaxy. The Traveler now hovers above the last safe city on Earth, simply called The Last City, which is surrounded by a massive Wall, and its presence allows the Guardians — the defenders of the City — the ability to wield an unknown power, only referred to as “Light”. The player takes on the role of a Guardian, and is tasked with reviving the Traveler while investigating and destroying alien threats before humanity is completely wiped out.
Upon mankind’s first attempt to repopulate and reconstruct after the Collapse, it is discovered that hostile alien races have occupied mankind’s former colonies and civilizations, and are now encroaching upon the City. Throughout the game, players have to combat aggressive aliens who have occupied the Solar System. Just like the Light for the Guardians, the Darkness lends powers to these alien threats. There are five separate races in the game, each occupying different planets. The Fallen are an insectoid race of nomadic pirates who scavenge ruined settlements on Earth, the Moon, and Venus for resources. The Hive are a macabre race of ancient aliens who have created massive underground settlements beneath Earth and the Moon’s surface. The Vex are semi-organic androids who are attempting to seize control of Venus and Mars by turning them into their machines, which they have already done to Mercury. The Cabal are a military-industrial empire of gigantic amphibians who have established massive fortifications on Mars. The Taken, a race introduced in The Taken King, are ghostly-looking corrupted versions of regular enemies, who infest areas on every planet. Rise of Iron added a faction of Fallen called the Devil Splicers, which are Fallen who have been modified by a technological plague called SIVA. They are found on Earth in a zone outside of the Wall called the Plaguelands.
Every race utilizes different tactics and weapons in combat. The Fallen possess cloaking and short-range teleportation technologies to increase their mobility. The Hive use superior numbers to overwhelm their opponents in close quarters while more elite units attack from a distance. The Vex utilize hard-light shields and teleport units of infantry into the battlefield en-masse. The Cabal rely on heavy armor, ballistic shields, and jump packs to combat players. The Taken, in addition to all the other races specialties, use high mobility and plenty of long-range attacks to out-maneuver the player. The Devil Splicers use multiple, unpredictable, lightning-like shots to surprise the player and hit them even while strafing. All of these races are hostile towards each other (with the exception of the Hive and the Taken), as they can often be observed attacking one another in-game for territorial dominance. The majority of the game’s lore, detailing backstory on characters, weapons, the alien races, planets, etc., was found in Grimoire cards collected throughout the game but could only be accessed through Bungie’s website and the Destiny app.