Why Bungie and Destiny 1 & 2 are Developer and Game of the Decade

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It’s almost time. The clock is ticking and soon we’ll bid farewell to the decade. It’s been a decade filled with monumental triumphs and colossal failures. However, if there is one word we can use to describe these last ten years, it’s perseverance. Perseverance to continue moving forward, despite the strife and hardships we were confronted with. A lot of insane moments we never thought would happen did, but we didn’t let that stop us. We grinded, we fought, and we came out even stronger.

From a video game standpoint, I can think of no other studio or game that embodies the spirit of perseverance more than Bungie and their games Destiny and Destiny 2. Which is why they’re my Video Games of the Decade and Bungie is my Developer of the Decade.

Before the start of the decade, Bungie was best known for developing the first three games in the Halo series. After their monumental success with that series, they split from Microsoft to become their own independent brand, in 2007, leaving Halo to fall in the laps of 343 Industries. There was a lot of curiosity surrounding what was next for Bungie.

In April 2010, we’d get our first indication, as Bungie signed a publishing deal with Activision, one that was supposed to span across ten years. It was a partnership that began with such promise, but would end prematurely due to a contentious relationship and irreconcilable differences. It would end up becoming a defining moment for Bungie. One that would see them rise to the occasion and vault their flagship IP, Destiny, to greater heights with an even further reach.

To fully understand why they are my developer and game of the decade, we have to go back 5 years ago. Back in 2014, a little known movie called “Guardians of the Galaxy” blew up box offices, Germany won the World Cup, and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” was the song of the year. On September 9, 2014, Bungie was likely blaring “Happy” as the team celebrated a successful launch of their first original IP, Destiny. While the launch was exciting for the team, the reality was their hard work was only beginning.

Despite its release, Destiny Year 1 was very much an empty shell of a game. It featured a story that felt as void of life as our Guardian was before our Ghost revived us on the Cosmodrome. Moreover, even though it featured the great Peter Dinklage as our faithful Ghost companion, most fans felt he simply mailed in his performance. To make matters worse, Bungie had created an incredibly deep vault of lore for the game, but it was only accessible after you unlocked them and physically went online to Bungie’s website to view them. Those who took the time to read them were astonished by the stories, but those who simply played the base game were mostly left in the dark. These issues understandably miffed gamers, causing some to leave. But Bungie was taking community feedback to heart and working to adapt their ever-evolving IP.

It took some time, but Bungie managed to open the floodgates of content into Destiny via some epic DLCs. They released several raids that are still thought of fondly to this day (looking at you Vault of Glass), unleashed several beloved weapons to strive to get, new Supers, brought us to The Prison of Elders (a firefight-type game mode), delivered the frequent PvP event Iron Banner, and even put us face to face with the Taken and their king, Oryx. In the midst of all that, Bungie would even replace Peter Dinklage with beloved video game voice actor, Nolan North. Hearing his rendition of our “Little Light” made replaying the game from start to finish a new experience. Each subsequent DLC gave gamers more story and more content to get behind, rewarding their patience. Great as all of that was, however, it was ultimately small potatoes compared to what was on the way.

On September 6, 2017, roughly three years after Destiny 1 released, Bungie proved once again that they had been listening to their fans. They took three year’s worth of criticism and support from Destiny 1, examined it, and addressed them all in a sequel.

Destiny 2 wasn’t just a new game, when it was released. It was what Bungie had wanted for Destiny 1 all along, but weren’t capable of achieving at that time. D2 kicked off with a fantastic story that saw the Red Legion, an ancient Rome-type army of Cabal, invade and actually take control of the beloved Traveler, stripping all Guardians of their vast arsenal of abilities. We had to regroup, rebuild, and fight back to take back what was ours. This meant going to new planets and convincing the NPCs to believe in the fight again. It truly was a compelling, exciting story, the kind that were few and far between in D1.

They didn’t stop there, as Bungie had even more planned for Destiny 2 with the DLCs for the Warmind, which actually brought us to a new part of Mars and a new public event-type in Escalation Protocol; and Curse of Osiris, that saw rise to the planet Mercury and introduced us to both Osiris and “his” Infinite Forest. While those were good chapters in the story of Destiny 2, 2018 would see the Forsaken expansion arrive; changing the landscape of this galaxy, once again.

In several ways, Destiny 2 Forsaken was a callback to what we’d experienced in our time with D1. It all began with a breakout at the Prison of Elders, seeing some of the worst villains in the universe escape. An escape which brought the death of one of our favorite Vanguard Hunters, Cayde-6 (Nathan Fillion). It was without a doubt the saddest story Bungie had ever told. We didn’t have time to shed tears, though, because Bungie threw us into an epic intergalactic chase to find the man who killed Cayde: the Awoken Queen’s brother Uldren Sov. Our search would have us explore the new Tangled Shore and even the Awoken sacred city, the Dreaming City. 

With the Dreaming City, gamers were able to uncover tons of mysteries and secrets of this city stuck in a constant Time Loop, thanks to the elusive witch Savathun. Included in those mysteries was learning the truth of what happened to the Awoken Queen. Initially, it was believed she died when the Awoken battled Oryx in D1’s The Taken King expansion. The Dreaming City was even home to the excellent The Last Wish raid, that saw us take down Riven of the Thousand Voices, the Taken Ahamkara that was manipulating Uldren Sov by mimicking his lost sister’s voice.

An excellent story and a fantastic raid weren’t the only thing Bungie brought to the table. Forsaken also saw new Super abilities to come light and a new game mode that combined PvE and PvP in one game. That game was called Gambit and it introduced us to the wily rogue Guardian, known as The Drifter. Both the game and character were so good, they became mainstays to the overall game.

On a gameplay standpoint, everything was aces for Destiny 2. It felt like there was plenty to do in a variety of intriguing places. Little did we know that all was not as rosey back at Bungie headquarters.

At the start of 2019, in a move that surprised the entire gaming world, Bungie and Activision split. The split was reportedly mutual as Activision was rumored to be unhappy with sales for Destiny and Destiny 2. Meanwhile, Bungie had constantly felt restricted and restrained by their former publisher. Because of this, Bungie was once again an independent studio and somehow a AAA title like Destiny 2 became an indie game. Crazy how that works.

Instead of letting the pressure get to them, Bungie persevered and continued on with scheduled releases for Season of the Forge, Drifter, and Opulence. However, those were all DLCs crafted under the Activision brand. It wouldn’t be until September-October of 2019 when Bungie would finally unleash their full potential and it was simply incredible.

With shackles removed, Bungie was able to let Destiny 2 become the most inclusive version of itself. They started by developing Cross-save capabilities, allowing gamers to play with their Guardian on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and eventually Google Stadia whenever they wished. Moreover, Bungie released Destiny 2: New Light as a free game for new players. Tons of hours of gaming suddenly became free for those interested in Destiny, as new Guardians got to experience the Red War, The Curse of Osiris, The Warmind, and even parts of Forsaken (Access to The Last Wish raid and The Shattered Throne area would require purchase of the expansion). The result saw tons of new Guardians being revived in the Cosmodrome and joining the fight against the darkness. There were so many, in fact, servers went haywire on the first day of New Light’s release.

Alternatively, servers also could’ve gone haywire because on the same day Bungie released their first expansion as an indie developer, Shadowkeep. Shadowkeep brought back the moon from D1, but with some drastic changes. The hive had been busy making the moon their own, but there was an even bigger threat looming. A mysterious pyramid appeared within a chasm of the moon and began reviving the dead, including enemies we’d defeated in both D1 and D2. It was terrifying, enthralling, and downright fun to experience. To make matters even more interesting, the ending finally revealed our true enemy: The Darkness. We had known it was coming for ages and even heard stories about its battles with The Traveler, but we had not yet met it. It was dangerous, foreboding, and intimidating all without doing much. All the qualities of an excellent villain.

With Shadowkeep, Bungie also changed the layout for how they release content. Rather than just doing DLC after DLC with just a new story or game mode, Bungie opted to adopt the Season format that games like Fortnite and Apex Legends have found success in. This meant bigger and better rewards for those who upgraded their season pass. Plus, it meant tons of new content to make it hard to play anything other than Destiny 2. Destiny 2 had finally reached and surpassed its potential.

There were thousands of incredible games made by incredibly hard-working development teams. For me, though, none had to persevere more than Bungie did. They underwent a decade of struggle and strife with criticism of both D1 and D2 and constant tension with their publisher, Activision. That would be enough for any team to fold. However, Bungie isn’t just any team. They are team led by remarkable veterans of the industry that encourage creativity from their artists. It’s also a team with the best community management team in the business, who works hand-in-hand with the powers that be to craft a game that the fans desire. That team has even done what they can to empower the community with Twitter interactions and weekly art and cosplay contests. Moreover, they accepted and promoted their streamers like Datto, My Name is Byf, and KingGothalion, to name a few, as a thank you for helping them build up D2. 

Over the course of this decade, Bungie has had to evolve just as much as their flagship IP has. It’s resulted in them becoming a transparent, charismatic developer that truly tries to put the gamer first. Doing so has allowed Destiny 2 to finally reach its full potential and rise to even greater heights. It’s because of this and how they persevered throughout this decade why Bungie is my Developer of the Decade and why Destiny 1 & 2 are my Games of the Decade.

Cheers to Bungie and all the Guardians fighting the good fight! Here’s to another decade of fighting the Darkness!