Just ahead of daily reset this morning, players gathered in the Tower to witness Destiny 2’s first live event, changing the state of the world in real-time as Rasputin finally fired his missiles and finished off The Almighty, which had been hurtling towards the Last City. The Fortnite-like live spectacle wasn’t exactly a Travis Scott concert or a world-ending black hole, but for Destiny fans, this was a great example of the kind of live and impactful environmental storytelling we’ve been wanting to see since the launch of the first game back in 2014.
I logged in just before reset (11 am Mountain Time, for me) to see the Tower waiting in awe. The instance was already filled with Guardians waiting. Zavala and Shaxx had both moved, staring at the looming Almighty in the sky above us. NPCs in the Tower pointed to the sky, murmuring and taking selfies—because even in a far-flung future with space magic and humanity on the brink of collapse (again), people still gotta document where they were when tragedy nearly struck.
The clock struck 11. Nothing. Some music picked up. It was just the ambient Tower music. I took to Twitter to find out if anyone knew what was going on. Destiny reporter extraordinaire Paul Tassi was on the case. “Have been told it’s starting. Just slow. Do not leave,” he said in a tweet. Apparently the delay was a grace period to allow people to get in and to manage some server-side stuff. But that grace period lasted nearly 30 minutes before anything happened.
Finally, around 11:30 am, red streaks appeared in the sky. Rasputin’s missiles, the ones we’d spent so long mindlessly grinding out that terrible public event to create, were finally visible. But… were they doing anything? It took a while to see any movement, like trying to watch clouds move in the sky. At that distance, we’re staring at objects moving through space, well beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Of course they’re going to be slow. After about 20 minutes of watching the red lines streak across the sky, and some added red lines from below at a different angle (remember, we launched multiple WarSat networks for this), The Almighty started to… sparkle.
These sparkly lights were explosions as the missiles began impacting and destroying the threat hanging in the sky above us. It took more than half an hour after that for the core of The Almighty to explode. More sparkles. Something happening. And then… BOOOM! Bright white light, and when the sky is visible again, the flaming wreckage of The Almighty is in the Earth’s atmosphere. Debris is raining down. The fiery remains of the ship careen towards the mountains just outside of the Tower and the Last City. As it touched down there was a huge nuclear-level explosion in the distance and a shockwave that knocked back the Guardians watching.
And that was that. The mountain in the distance continues to smolder and smoke. Debris falling through the atmosphere burns up like an apocalyptic meteor shower, and there’s a decent chunk of the Tower missing near Zavala (where you can go to get your emblem as a kind of “I was here when the Almighty was destroyed” memento). The final spectacle took about five minutes to play out, the most exciting moments after nearly 90 minutes of waiting leading up to it. As exciting as it was to see, it arguably didn’t do much to propel the story into the next beat and took far too much time to get going, but it’s a really, really important development for Destiny 2 regardless, a piece of a future vision that Luke Smith began communicating last year.
Why Destiny 2’s Live Event is a Big Deal
Bungie’s Luke Smith wants Destiny 2 to be a living game with real-time environmental storytelling as the world state changes and the narrative pushes forward. I wrote back in August 2019 about why the idea of an evolving world was the most exciting thing to come out of Destiny. Back then I said:
One of the biggest issues with Destiny’s narrative structure has been the way that major events can’t move the story forward because of the necessity of having a persistent base game world. It took an entire sequel to have an attack on the Tower because there was no way Bungie could just nuke the Tower in the original game.
What we saw here was Bungie toying around with that idea. The skybox being this universal view for every Guardian watching. Damage appearing to the Tower in real-time, as little as it actually was. The new updated skybox now including what’s going on right now, that being the smoldering wreckage of The Almighty and the raining debris in the distance.
By having the base Destiny game a “free-to-play” experience, it means that the state of the world is “now” and in real-time. Bungie can change up the world as they see fit, and new Guardians are just those now joining the cause and jumping into the fight. It means Cayde is dead. It means Saint-14 is saved. It means a chunk of The Almighty took out a portion of our current Tower, a reminder of just how close we came to destruction.
If you weren’t there to see the event live, the aftermath remains. You’ll be able to see the updated skybox and the missing chunk of the Tower, but the act of Rasputin shooting The Almighty out of the sky was a one-time thing. Not a cutscene, but a live in-engine event that players were able to watch together, both in the game and through interactions in the real world and on social media as it played out.
Destiny 2’s Almighty event made us feel involved. It wasn’t just some cutscene that played out. It was actually happening. It felt real, tangible. While Season of the Worthy may have been a bounty-filled drag of a grind overall, it was exciting to see the results of our actions play out in real-time, where I could choose how to interact with that moment. I could share it with those around me. It was engaging and immersive and sparked conversation and engagement among players far more than if we’d just loaded in and each got our own cutscene. More of that please, Bungie. More dynamic world events, storytelling, and changing of the world state right there within the world as I watch and participate.
Bungie played around a lot with different ways of presenting an evolving world during the year of Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, and so far, despite some fair criticisms about its length, this one has felt like the best presentation of that yet. It feels a bit like a proof-of-concept. A test run for bigger live events that do more to really shift and evolve the world, more than just knock out a small piece of the Tower and change what the skybox looks like. And I’m beyond excited to see what ideas they have coming up.
And that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle: Destiny 2 is such a drastically different game than what launched almost three years ago. Bungie has experimented with a number of ideas within this sandbox—some better executed than others, sure, but the team has always done what it can to push the game forward, especially on the technical side. Blowing up The Almighty live for Guardians around the world was a technical marvel, the likes of which few games are really achieving even as many strive to be just like Fortnite.
While I would have liked for this event to in some way begin to tease or reveal the next season/chapter of Destiny 2 (again, would have been a nice way to actually push the world narrative forward), we’ve got that big unveiling coming up on June 9th at 9 am PT/12 pm ET, just an hour before the daily reset that will carry us into the next season, a season that we currently know basically nothing about. It should also start to pull back the curtain on year 4 of Destiny 2, including what’s coming this fall.
This is an exciting time in Destiny 2. Live events unlike anything Destiny players have seen before. We know almost nothing about what’s coming next, and that’s somehow extremely exciting as Bungie keeps its plans under wraps for the community to discover together. A sense of discovery, mystery, and excitement has always been one of Destiny’s strong points. Big things are happening—including next-gen being just around the corner—and while I hope future events aren’t just waiting around for 90 minutes for a thing to blow up in the sky, this was an exciting moment in Destiny history and something I am happy to have been a part of.