Over the last two and a half years, I've played more than 1000 hours of Destiny. Over the last five months, I've barely played any. This week I returned to the game, and let me tell you, it is no small feat to climb back into a game you used to play obsessively.
This week Bungie began their much hyped Age of Triumph event. It's their way of celebrating three years of Destiny 1 before they prepare to move on to Destiny 2 this September. I'm not that interested in filling out the huge record book of challenges Bungie has added to the game, but I am interested in the new, updated raids.
Each week during the Age of Triumph, one of Destiny's four raids will be the featured weekly raid. It will have new, tougher enemies, new loot, and a few new challenges and surprises. This first week the featured raid was Crota's End, which launched with the 2014 expansion The Dark Below.
On Tuesday, my raid buddies and I downloaded the update and hopped back in to Destiny. Well, first, we wasted an appropriate amount of time trying to get everyone into the same party. Wait, this party's private. Oh no, this other guy invited me to his party. Let's all leave. No, let's stay. Just invite him. Oh no, someone already left. Ha ha ha isn't this perfect?
Once we were all set, it was time to play. I dusted off my Hunter's cloak, worked the joints of his armour, and hopped back into the fight. Here are some thoughts I had, more or less in order.
1. Oh my god, how did I ever keep track of all this stuff?
Before I started playing, I opened up Destiny Item Manager, the helpful third-party app I use to keep all my gear straight.
Here is a dramatic reenactment of that moment:
"ZUUL!" croaked an eldritch voice. I screamed and closed the tab.
After I calmed down and collected myself, I returned to my browser, accompanied by a helpful scientist. (Well, he said he was a scientist. He seemed more like a game show host to me.)
I opened the tab again and took a closer look.
My god… look at all the
junk food gear! How the fuck did I ever keep this stuff straight? I use about 10 of those guns, and have held onto the other thousand because I'm afraid to get rid of them.
The gut-level horror I feel when I think about cleaning out my vault is the only thing I need to be convinced that Bungie is making the right call by giving us a fresh start with Destiny 2. Who wants to decide whether or not their year-one solar Jewel of Osiris is worth keeping around for another three years? Not me.
2. What do buttons do? And which buttons... wait...
This is a little thing, and eventually it went away. But I've played so many video games between now and the last time I played Destiny that my fingers have begun to forget where they're supposed to go.
You press the PS4 trackpad to get to the map in Horizon: Zero Dawn, and triangle to pause in Persona 5, for example. So I kept hitting the trackpad to pause, when it in fact calls up your Ghost and lets you go to orbit. I almost accidentally went to orbit a couple of times, because I kept hitting triangle. Turns out there are only so many PS4 button layouts I can keep in my brain at once.
3. It's fascinating playing with my old Destiny crew again.
My Destiny raid group consists of a mix of other games journalists and friends, all of whom play Destiny a lot. My colleague Jason Schreier and I, self-proclaimed Destiny obsessives, are actually two of the least dedicated members of our group, at least according to our comparative light levels. He and I both bailed on Rise of Iron before we even got to 390, while everyone else is near 400.
I've talked to most of these guys in other capacities over the intervening months, but there's something different about getting your raid group back together after a break. Everyone takes a minute to feel one another out and ease back into their roles. There's the focused disciplinarian, who usually gives orders. There's the unprepared guy who needs a minute to get his shit together. (That was me, this time around.) There's the guy who keeps dying, then apologising. There's the guy who keeps cracking jokes, the guy who's just glad to be here, and so on.
It took a bit for us all to rediscover our groove. Part of that was just figuring out everyone's current commitment level. Back when each of these raids first launched, we were all in. We'd spend multiple afternoons, stretching into the evening, just to see how far we could get. We'd stay up way past midnight trying (and often failing!) to bring down a boss for the first or second time. We'd plan for hard mode a week in advance.
That was then; this is now. My current life no longer really leaves room for Destiny, and I already had dinner plans on Tuesday. I could only play for a couple of hours, which I figured would be fine. Didn't we used to beat this raid in two or three hours?
About an hour in, I realised how hilariously short two hours really is, in Destiny terms. If I was lucky, we'd clear the first part of the raid before I had to go. There was no way on Earth I was even going to reach the Deathsinger, let alone Crota himself.
In the end it was fine — another player also had to leave early. I think we'll all be more on our game next week for the Vault of Glass. More than anything, it was nice to get back into that conversational rhythm with everyone again. It's a peculiar but enjoyable mix of casual chatter, careful planning, frustrated venting, light passive aggression, and clowning around. Raid socialising stands apart from the other kinds of socialising I do, and I miss it.
4. Crota's End wasn't the best choice for the first refreshed raid.
There are four raids in Destiny. If I had to rank them, my ranking would be:
- Vault of Glass
- Wrath of the Machine
- King's Fall
- Crota's End
Those first three are up for debate, and I've probably ranked them differently at various points. My top pick for the Vault of Glass is surely fuelled in part by nostalgia. Wrath of the Machine is in many ways the most fun raid to play, and King's Fall is an epic. The only unambiguous ranking for me is Crota's End, which is, fittingly, at the end. It's just not a great raid, and this week I was reminded why.
My team made it to the bridge section before I had to bail, but even by that point I had remembered why I don't willingly replay this raid. The opening lanterns section is actually pretty fun, and probably my favourite part of the raid. It's enjoyable right until you get to the showdown at the end, when your team has to hold out against an onslaught of enemies while waiting for a bridge to build.
We were not up to the task of beating this section. It's likely just that our team was rusty and uncoordinated, but with the light level raised, it was a mess. Our squad wiped a couple of times, until finally one of our hunters used the tried-and-true method of letting everyone else die, becoming invisible, waiting for the bridge to build, and running across solo. I sat there, camera floating above my character's corpse, as he crouched for a minute or two, then ran across the bridge.
I got a sub-par loot drop. Woo-hoo. It was a very Destiny experience, but not exactly the triumphant rush of teamwork that accompanies the best moments of a Destiny raid.
We bailed on the bridge section that comes after the lanterns, and I gather there is a cool new addition that caps off that section. For the couple of hours I played, however, nothing felt fresh. The enemies were dangerous again, and there were a few new monsters in a few new places. But during the bridge section I mostly just stood in one place under the upper totem and shot Thralls while my teammates tried to get across the bridge alive. Here I was, going through the motions on my least favourite raid, and it was time to go to dinner.
I'll be back next week for the Vault of Glass, and I hope it's more fun. But Crota's End wasn't the best choice to kick off the Age of Triumph.
5. I am content to remain a Destiny casual until September.
After I and a couple others of our group called it for the night, at least one of our crew carried on. He went to an LFG site and picked up a team of randoms. Later he told me they completed the entire raid. (He said he got some great loot, and I don't doubt it.) It was another reminder that I just don't have that in me for this game anymore. I don't care enough to spend the entire night playing Destiny, and certainly don't care about whatever guns I may or may not get.
There was a time in Destiny when I was grinding skeleton keys to try to get a perfect Imago Loop. (I got a pretty good one.) There was a time when I would pause and figure out the perfect way to optimise my light level at the Cryptarch. There was a time when the return of Ice Breaker would have gotten me playing again, excited to hear that weird sound once more. Those times are safely in the past. Which is fine.
I'm looking forward to hanging out with my raid crew again as we replay Vault of Glass and King's Fall. I have my doubts I'll actually finish any of those raids, but I'll be happy to make the attempt.
And OK, fine, I do hope I get a new Fatebringer.