Destiny: seven months later, seven changes that transformed Bungie’s shooter

Thursday, 9 April 2015 12:41 GMT By Paul Davies

Seven months since launch, those of you struggling to reach level 32 are having it easy, says Paul Davies. Back in the days, Destiny was a different beast.

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Launched seven months ago to the day, Destiny has seen a great deal of change. Talk to Guardians who’ve been here since the beginning and you’ll need to politely oblige their tales of conquest, axes to grind, hearing how Fatebringer is forever and that there’s never enough glimmer.

Since seven is such a curiously significant number for Bungie, and indeed Destiny, I’ve chosen seven events that have considerably transformed the landscape so far. Even if you’re familiar with some or all of them, it’s fun and often funny to look back at the building blocks of today’s still-evolving game.

Our Loot Cave, booted

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Week one and the race to reach level 20 and beyond in readiness for the fabled Vault of Glass raid was afoot. Starting as they meant to go on, Destiny’s earliest inhabitants took to exploiting every inch of the game in pursuit of Guardian-enhancing loot. One particular cave in the Skywatch area of Earth’s Cosmodrome spawned enemies at a ridiculous rate, word spread like wildfire and enormous crowds gathered to spray bullets into a dark gaping hole.

It was desperately unattractive but fun and very effective for Guardians at this early stage, as countless Engrams (encoded weapons/armour items) lay scattered for an easy collect. Bungie responded very swiftly to end this unfortunate behaviour. Those that partook have their own memories, but as a monument to this defining moment Bungie’s designers later created a pile of remains which, when disturbed, summon a voice from the grave.

Cussing of the Cryptarch

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Visits to Master Rahool, aka the Cryptarch, in Destiny’s social hub The Tower remain underwhelming today. A chore you might say, though occasionally you will strike lucky and life is good… well, better. For what seemed like an eternity after launch (in fact only three weeks) the Cryptarch behaved like the greatest troll imaginable, downgrading higher-class Legendary Engrams to lowly Rare items, only adding to fledgling Guardians’ anxieties.

Writing in the 1.0.2 Patch Preview on September 26, 2014, Bungie cheerfully acknowledged the hitch, advising that: “Legendary Engram items that exist in your inventory will be demoted to Rare quality when the patch goes live, so decode them while you can. But let’s be honest – even if you don’t, we all know they were blues already…”

Strike hidey-hole struck, match-made Heroics enforced

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Presently it is not legitimately possible for Guardians to solo the Weekly Heroic Strikes – set-piece missions that grant valuable Strange Coins and a bunch of pretty Engrams to humour Master Rahool. Back in the day (before February 25) those of us taking our Destiny into our own hands were driven to discover the best places to camp out in order to avoid time-wasting deaths, most of which remain to this day and passed on by word of mouth.

Only one particularly cowardly spot has been closed by Bungie, this entailed crouching beneath a landing platform during the Archon Priest Strike on Venus. Guardians making solo attempts would often set Fireteam options to Invite Only, this was because having other Guardians along for the ride made the job statistically harder not easier. With Bungie so keen on keeping the community spirit alive, Patch 1.1.1 enforced matchmaking upon Heroic Strikes with the sweetener being that more Guardians makes for merrier and speedier run-throughs. Gluttons for punishment may still go it alone through the more punishing Nightfalls however!

Cheese in the Vault of Glass

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There are five known chests in the Vault of Glass raid, only one of which has a chance of providing an exotic weapon while the rest are only Ascendant shards/materials used to upgrade armour and guns. The most elusive is now the one that only appears if a Fireteam prevents the Templar boss from teleporting around its misty lair. This used to be so simple. Prior to being patched out, Guardians – ideally Warlocks with solar grenades blooming – could edge the Templar backwards until it dropped off the ledge, causing immediate death and celebration.

After December 1, 2014, this was no longer possible. Prior to this we had also briefly enjoyed being able to predict who’d get teleported during the final stage of the Atheon confrontation, simply assigning three Guardians to hug the back wall. It was unimpressive tactics like these, to be fair, that prompted Bungie to respond. Now everyone may as well run the whole raid ‘legit’, although the ‘cheese’ that allows snipers to pop oracles and later punish the Templar from a safe distance seems officially allowed… for now. Good teams can now race through a hard mode VoG inside of an hour. The first clan to reach the end, PrimeGuard, recorded a colossal 10 hours, 42 minutes and 3 seconds and suffered 1,605 deaths!

Ironing out kinks in Iron Banner

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With no small amount of pomp, the supposedly hard-line PvP mode dubbed Iron Banner made its debut on October 7, 2014 for one week only. It was an opportunity for the Level 30 goliaths of Destiny to crush those hoping to be their David. What actually happened is that a level 4 Warlock could ruin everybody’s day rocking the beat-up Khvostov 7G-02 obtained at the start of the game. Not surprisingly, Bungie took the whole shebang back to the strategy table for four long months, returning with it on February 17, 2015.

Lower level characters can still pose problems based on player skill, but higher level characters have the cushion of stronger armour and speedier Time to Kill, essentially making Iron Banner 2.0 more or less how we all imagined in the first place. On a related note, Bungie is also constantly monitoring weapon usage across all game modes. Recently this prompted several changes in Update 1.1.1, nerfing auto rifles, boosting pulse rifles and making shotguns literally more of a blast against non-Guardian foes in story mode, strikes and raids. Iron Banner gear is seriously awesome, so make sure you get on it the moment this playlist re-returns.

Buying happiness (Level 31 for sale)

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Speaking on behalf of all Guardians that struggled to stretch beyond level 28, by far the most controversial decision that Bungie has made with Destiny is freedom to purchase Light Level 33 armour from the vendors and Crucible quartermaster. That’s not to say this wasn’t the right idea, rather it removed the badge of honour worn by so many – those that had grinded through countless Vault of Glass sessions in pursuit of the elusive raid helm, even missing boots, chests and gloves.

Vault of Glass is still comparatively stingy when you look at how freely the Crota’s End raid dishes out the requisite gear to reach level 32. Nobody can disrespect the dedication still required by Guardians that signed up for duty after December 9, 2014 and the Dark Below expansion. This isn’t about your perseverance, fellow Guardians, it’s about the pain that you will never know.

Call of off-duty

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Now here’s our ‘last but not least’ that really points to a subtle but very important climate change in Destiny. In preparation for the Dark Below DLC, on December 1, 2014, update 1.1 made it possible to purchase upgrade materials. This was, of course, a huge and very welcome convenience for anyone in need of large quantities of Spinmetal, Relic Iron, Spirit Bloom or Helium Filaments to unlock perks and damage boosts in a hurry. As a consequence, though, Guardians no longer have the need to hop down to Mars, Venus, Earth and our Moon and source these materials locally.

What this means is that the casual business of hanging out with buddies, just blastin’ and relaxin’ as somebody once coined the phrase, has all but vanished unless as a side-order to hitting that new patrol bounty. One of things I miss the most about ‘old’ Destiny already is showing politeness to strangers by waiting to open what would often be a chest containing one Spirit Bloom and a crappy uncommon fusion rifle. Heck, one guy that we still raid with was a random doing pretty much this near the Vault on Venus.

These were different times, if not really the best of times. If you are among those that have toiled through Destiny since the beginning, we salute you.

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