In 2014, Bungie released Destiny, a loot-based multiplayer shooter with exceptional mechanics that also featured a shallow, frustrating endgame grind. Over the course of three years, Bungie turned it around to become a game with plenty of things to do and see. Destiny 2 followed the same trajectory, with a so-so launch in 2017 and its improved Forsaken expansion in 2018. But there’s a small contingent of players who still spend most of their time with the original Destiny.
In the wake of Destiny 2: Forsaken’s release, we’ve spoken with people in the original Destiny community, from members of the various Destiny subreddits to the admin of The Last Destiny City Discord, a server devoted to the first game. Old-school players have complicated feelings toward the sequel, but one thread is common with all of them: They think the original Destiny is more fun.
When the original Destiny ended in March 2017, Bungie released a final celebration that gave players reasons to go back and collect everything in the game. Called Age of Triumph, the update revitalized the game, setting it up to have a life beyond any ongoing developer support. Bungie also returned the old raids to full power, making them viable once again, and made quality-of-life changes to vendors. This final update to Destiny created the game that players had spent three years asking for: a game with meaningful, repeatable content and progression systems to go with Bungie’s satisfying combat.
When Destiny 2 launched in September 2017, it failed to reach the standards set by Destiny Year 3, a problem that was compounded by some unsatisfying combat tweaks. In an attempt to make the game’s competitive multiplayer component more fair, Bungie placed all one-hit-kill weapons like shotguns and sniper rifles in the power weapon slot (alongside rocket launchers and swords). This meant that players could only use these powerful weapons when their scarce ammo was available.
In general, power was harder to come by in Destiny 2. Without easy access to weapons like shotguns or sniper rifles, players struggled to take down larger enemies en masse. Abilities were less potent and didn’t regenerate as quickly. Guardians even moved more slowly than they did in Destiny 1. Combat had always kept Destiny bustling through the bad times, even when there wasn’t enough content. Players still refer to Destiny 1’s combat with loving nostalgia. One user from the Destiny Legacy subreddit, L0r3_titan, told us, “My D1 Titan could beat up all three of my D2 characters at the same time with one hand tied behind his back.”
There was also no endgame to Destiny 2, meaning that players were once again left waiting for meaningful, repeatable content and progression systems to go along with it. By December rolled around, many of Destiny 2’s hardcore players had already gone through the campaign, reached the max power level, mastered the Leviathan raid, and gathered all the gear in the game. Destiny 2 was beaten.
But Destiny 1 could never be beaten. Random rolls kept weapons interesting every time you picked one up, with new perks creating new scenarios to wield it in. There are Destiny 1 players in 2019 still looking for that perfect Hawksaw roll. At launch, Destiny 2 didn’t have random rolls or secret quests. Reddit user morphine_sulfate told us that they relied on Destiny to keep them busy when Destiny 2 ran out of content.
“I found myself spending much more time on a fresh D1 Hunter than all three of my D2 characters,” morphine_sulfate said.
As players dragged their feet through Destiny 2’s lack of an endgame, the rage began to grow. Players left Destiny 2, disappointed and angry that it was — at the time — the inferior Destiny game. Over a year later, folks are still playing Destiny 1. They raid through the challenge modes, play Crucible, collect randomly rolled weapons with perfect perks, and chase exotics that elude them. Aside from holiday events like Festival of the Lost, everything is still playable in the Age of Triumph.
“The community is fairly healthy,” said andromolek from the Destiny subreddit. “It’s really held together by an intense dislike of [Destiny 2]. Can’t join a party without someone (completely justifiably) ragging on D2 for being a bad game and inferior to its predecessor.”
Destiny and Destiny 2 players love to complain about each game’s shortcomings: bad loot drops, bad items, bad boss fights, bad physics engine, bad deaths, bad everything. It’s a tough love language that the Destiny community all uses with each other, but it’s jarring when you first come into it.
Two worlds united
In response to the complaints, Bungie released Forsaken in September 2018 to bring Destiny 2 closer to Destiny. It brought back random rolls, and players were now able to wield powerful weapons in a secondary slot. It fixed Destiny 2’s content problem by adding repeatable activities like Gambit, and an endgame environment that contains secrets. Players started coming back to Destiny 2, but that doesn’t mean people have abandoned the original Destiny.
Specter, the admin of The Last Destiny City Discord, told us that even as Destiny 2 improves, he finds himself saying, “This is definitely better, but it’s still not D1.”
Destiny has always been a flawed series, but Destiny’s launch issues made players come together in solidarity to find the beauty in the experience. To walk away and play something else, even a sequel, feels like abandoning home. Redditor morphine_sulfate of the Destiny Legacy subreddit told us that trying a “throwback raid” — Crota’s End, from Destiny’s first expansion, The Dark Below — encouraged them to spend more time collecting the items they’d missed in that game.
They told us that while they play more Destiny 2 than 1 nowadays, the first game helped keep them engaged when things were bad in Destiny 2. “I haven’t had success bringing my clan back to D1,” they told us. “But I have to remind myself that they’ve played D1 content into the ground. For me it’s still pretty fresh. I log on weekly and run strikes because I enjoy the gameplay and still have a ton of loot to find. Nightfall attempts have mixed results solo, but I give it a shot every week. I load up on strange coins and hit up the squid guy (the Exotic merchant, Xur) every Friday.”
Players still have loot items to chase in Destiny, and new content to look forward to in Destiny 2. And while some have said the legacy community died with Forsaken, plenty of others say they have no problem getting a crew together to run an old raid or take out some fellow Guardians in the Crucible.
New things are scary, and old things can be outdated. But exploring the solar system as a Light-wielding wizard warrior still feels exciting for Destiny 1 fans.
During the drought between Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris in December 2017 and Destiny 2: Warmind in May 2018, I myself dipped my toe back into Destiny to play through the Wrath of the Machine raid’s challenge mode. It’d been so long that my character wasn’t up to snuff, and I was running with folks I’d never met before. But they pulled me through and reminded me what to do, as if they were Destiny professionals.
As we raided, we chatted a bit about the differences between the two games. Everyone was interested in Destiny’s future. Destiny 1 could live on forever, or Bungie could shut down the servers tomorrow (though they’ve given no indication of doing this). Destiny 2 split the Destiny community — ride or die for the original or the sequel — and things have changed.
Destiny and Destiny 2 haven’t achieved parity, and they never will. But each is beloved for its own reasons. In 2019, you can love both games without betraying the core principles of the other.