Looking at Destiny since the launch of The Taken King expansion last month, it almost seems like a new game. The core mechanics are still intact, but everything from the leveling system to the game's renewed focus on story have been markedly improved by the update. Small additions to the game continue to roll out, encouraging players to replay missions and challenging them in new ways.
However, for as far as the game has come in the last year, developer Bungie cannot escape the shadow of its shaky launch. The game's lack of a coherent story and its repetitive mission structure earned plenty of criticism, but it also led longtime Bungie fans to question what could have gone so wrong. This wasn't the game the developer had promised, with much of the content from the promotional material was missing from Destiny entirely.
Thanks to a year-long investigation by Kotaku's Jason Schreier, there is finally an explanation behind Destiny's launch. Schreier's report confirms what many have long suspected - Destiny's story was completely scrapped less than a year before the game's release. The writing team, led by Bungie veteran Joe Staten, apparently put together a 'supercut' of the game's cutscenes and major plot points to present to the studio's leaders. Those leaders weren't pleased and chose to start the story again from scratch.
Much of Staten's work is still a part of the Destiny universe. In particular, the lore surrounding the Traveler and the Guardians and much of what is available from the game's Grimoire cards remained intact. It was the game's storyline that was cut. The crux of the report is that Destiny's plot was written to connect already existing levels and missions, not the other way around. What was released was an amalgam of plot devices and existing resources, repurposed to create a functional narrative.
Rumors of the scrapped storyline have been circulating since the game launched, but the recent release of court documents from composer Marty O'Donnell's lawsuit against Bungie offered the first piece of real evidence. The documents indicate the reason for Destiny's delay was due to late revisions to the narrative. Schreier's report provides further evidence that this was the case, though there has been no official word from Bungie.
The report also reveals a possible change to Destiny and the planned future of the franchise. Specifically, it indicates that microtransactions were introduced to the in-game economy in lieu of further DLC packs. Instead, Bungie will regularly introduce small pieces of content while it ramps up for a full-sized Destiny sequel in 2016.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, it's a wonder that Bungie managed to release a working version of Destiny in 2014. The story and characters might have been disappointing, but the fact that they rebuilt the plot from scratch so quickly is impressive. It wasn't a good story, but it was a functional vehicle for the game's impressive visuals and mechanics.
The Taken King expansion had the unenviable task of fixing Destiny. Now that the game is closer to what was originally promised, Bungie can focus on making the sequel a better experience overall. Rather than introduce a few more content packs that include small improvements, a sequel could capitalize on the game's current momentum. It would allow Bungie the opportunity to come out of the gate strong, rather than scrabbling to recover from a faulty start.
Destiny: The Taken King is now available. King's Fall hard mode launches on October 23rd.
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