If you’ve played a first-person shooter in the past decade, you’ve probably encountered a game that Bungie created or influenced. The studio responsible for Halo, Bungie has long been the Luc Besson of the gaming world, consistently inventing new and exciting ways of killing imaginary people. Now, the halcyon days of Halo are over and the studio is pushing $500-million Destiny, which feels – at first – like one innovation too many.
When it was introduced, Destiny was billed as a shared-world shooter, a group experience without precedence in gaming history. The assumption, based on press releases and leaks, was that friends would be able to complete missions together and experience events in the Destiny universe. That’s more or less what happened, but gamers were (and are) still baffled by the game laid out before them. Leveling systems are everywhere, inventories are chock full of inexplicable items and progress is hard to make. With Destiny, Bungie created something opened ended and hoped that fans would figure it out.
That strategy has not worked out well for producers of mass amusements in the past. But times change.
The lackluster experience of early pedestrian tasks soon gave way to players learning the ins and outs of their characters and their abilities and bringing those skills to all the missions available in Destiny’s universe. When it debuted, trial and error were the only ways to figure out that a daily bounty would reward you for a particular style of play or that the competitive online Crucible matches gave you an alternate way of boosting your stats, weapons and armor. Completing a weekly Strike mission could earn you rare loot to enhance your player if you were diligent enough to learn its importance. This depth was present from the get-go but the game refused to explain how to use it. Bungie left all that to the internet and the internet did its thing.
No part of Destiny better exemplifies this dynamic than “The Raid.” Six strangers go in and, four hours later, a band of brothers comes out. The mission type is reserved for only the highest ranked players (you’ll get smoked immediately if you’re underpowered) and, even then, it’s not for the faint of thumb. It is a multi-part mission that requires patience, teamwork, technique and - at least before the wikis and guides went up – a willingness to fail. In every sense of the word, you had to earn victory over The Raid, first by understanding it and then by executing it with your team.
Their first expansion to Destiny, a DLC pack called "The Dark Below" that launched this week, includes an all-new Raid which took the first intrepid pioneers over eight hours to solve. Bungie is still fine-tuning some of the results of the expansion but that’s just a testament to the unique newness of the bleeding edge of gaming where a mob of gamers rush to trounce on paths laid out by Bungie mere weeks before. One thing is certain; as long as Bungie continues to create brain-twisting missions, gamers will attempt to solve them. The formula has been so successful - 3.2 million people log in every day - that we expect it to become an industry norm. Only Bungie outdoes Bungie.