Destiny’s latest update wants you to feel nostalgia, but hasn’t earned the right

Almost any gamer will tell you that nostalgia is a powerful drug. Playing that Mario or Final Fantasy game from your childhood can elicit powerful fuzzy feelings that make you want to curl up on the couch and never go to work again. With the endless remakes and reboots across pop culture these days, it’s clear that the joy of indulging in nostalgia is a near-universal experience.

The final Destiny update, “Age of Triumph”, which launched this week, desperately wants to feed that addiction. Remember that gun you used to love? Wasn’t that old raid so great? Don’t you wish you could feel those feelings again? Dust off Destiny and enter orbit one last time for a celebration of all the good times you ever had in Bungie’s ambitious but flawed sci-fi shooter, and you can. Even the menu graphics and music have reverted to their original, vanilla state.

More: Destiny‘s “Age of Triumph” will make the Nightfall great again

With the launch of The Taken King in fall 2015, Destiny’s leveling and gear systems changed significantly, making all the original content from the first year effectively obsolete. You could still use armor and weapons earned in year one content, but you’d be at a much lower level and thus at a huge disadvantage. Some players kept old gear around in storage, like they were future-proofing against any Destiny nostalgia they might develop. And although Bungie spent the year and a half since “Taken King”’s launch teasing players by bringing certain old favorites back piecemeal, in “Triumph,” they’ve opened the floodgates. The old raids are back, the awesome gear they reward has been upgraded for the current game, and we can finally pop heads with Fatebringer or make Crota kneel once again.

But what are we really nostalgic for when it comes to Destiny? “Age of Triumph” kicked off on Tuesday with the re-introduction of “Crota’s End,” a six-person raid added to the game in December, 2014. As longtime Destiny players will tell you, “Crota’s End” doesn’t rank among Destiny‘s greatest raids. Rife with bugs and general jankiness, it lacks the polish and confidence of the the game’s later raids, like “King’s Fall” and “Wrath of the Machine.” And most Destiny players agree it doesn’t hold a candle to the original raid, “Vault of Glass.”

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More importantly, the raid came out less than three years ago — have we really slid deep enough into the concentric cycles of pop culture that three years is all it takes for nostalgia to take hold?

The glory days

My old raid team spent a week planning our comeback run for the return of “Crota’s End” on Tuesday. The tone in that email thread was excited — there were even some exclamation marks. When we finally landed back at the Hellmouth on the moon and plummeted into Crota’s abyss again, though, we were quickly reminded why we never liked this raid very much to begin with. We died a lot, barely scraping into the next section, where we gave up after an hour’s worth of attempts. One teammate kept getting disconnected from the game. Others had dinner plans they didn’t feel like flaking on just to finish a raid we’ve already played 100 times.

The raid’s final boss is as tedious as ever, every small mistake adding minutes to a slog that feels like it has no planned end

Afterward, I hit up, one of many sites where Destiny players team up online, since the game’s own matchmaking features are (as they’ve always been) grossly inadequate. I hooked up with a group who wanted to see the raid through to the end, and we made it all the way.

Some encounters were surprisingly different from their original state a couple of years ago. At one point, every player gets a sword and goes totally ham on a huge flood of enemies. It’s a chaotic, unexpected, totally fun mess of visceral slams and swipes. Not everything felt so fresh, though. The raid’s final boss is as tedious as ever, every small mistake adding minutes to a slog that feels like it has no planned end. 

It turns out two and a half years is not enough time for me to form nostalgia for a video game. So what was I really excited about? Maybe I just missed coordinating with the bros — getting the raid crew together every week to tackle familiar challenges and shoot the shit over headsets.

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Part of me was hoping the “Age of Triumph” would reignite that old magic, and we’d all decide to devote hours of our lives every week to chasing the new Fatebringer, the Vex Mythoclast, or even the forever-underwhelming Necrochasm through dozens more runs of the same old raids. I think I personally might, just to see it through to the end, though it will have to be mostly with strangers.

Destiny is still fun, even if “Age of Triumph” doesn’t provide the kind of rose-tinted glasses we’d need to remember its early days fondly. What I really miss is spending quality times with the team — harder every year as responsibilities mount. Destiny 2 is set to launch in the fall, and we’ll no doubt try again then. The glory days were great, after all, even if we’re not yet ready to revisit them. Maybe give it another couple of years.