– James Orr
The ‘Sparrow Racing League’ (SRL) arrived with the latest Destiny update. It’s the first event since The Taken King launched that includes new gameplay, unlike the Halloween event, ‘Festival of the Lost’ which, while enjoyable, was entirely cosmetic. Many players, including myself, were excited at the introduction of Sparrow racing, particularly as it’s free. It’s a feature that players have requested since the launch of Destiny and its arrival shows that Bungie is definitely willing to play with the games’ mold.
Sparrows have been a great part of Destiny’s sandbox since the game launched. They’re an easy vehicle to use to get from point to point (and splatter a few enemies along the way) and most importantly, they’re fun. Despite this, I never expected actual Sparrow racing to be exciting, but Bungie has surprised me as SRL adds a layer of skill and competitiveness. It feels intense as you knock against others in a close race to the finish line, through a gauntlet of Vex, Taken, or anything else trying to stop you. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in terms of plot, but it’s not like Destiny is known for its complex storylines.
Currently there are only two SRL maps, Campus Martius on Mars, and Infinite Descent on Venus. Both are built specifically for racing, and are distinctly different between each other in appearance and design. Infinite Descent is a mostly linear track where racers move downhill, gliding over cliffs and through caverns until they reach a teleporter that sends them back to the top. Campus Martius is a circular track that sends players around hairpin turns and through bladed fans that will turn you into a fiery wreck if you hit them.
Boost gates are the key to winning in SRL. Each gate you hit gives a temporary speed boost, and missing a gate reduces your max speed until you hit the next gate. The gates become smaller the closer you are to first place, allowing slower players a handicap. But if you’re good enough, you can maintain your position at the front, leaving the competition to eat your dust and the splattered remains of your enemies.
Rewards for finishing races or completing the SRL questline are new too. Players can earn SRL armour pieces that have perks that affect your Sparrow, new-look Sparrows, unique shaders, as well as some top level gear that’s on the same tier as hard-mode raid armour. This is great for players who are unable to do raids but have some time to invest in Sparrow racing.
But if it’s free, how are Bungie earning their money? Microtransations of course! There’s a set of new emotes, Sparrows, and even Sparrow horns. Nothing you can use money to buy will give you a distinct advantage, but Bungie seems to be testing the limits with the ‘SRL Record Book’. It allows you to “track your Sparrow racing achievements and complete challenges to earn exclusive rewards,” and costs 1000 silver, or a bit over $13. These rewards are entirely cosmetic, so you’re spending all that cash on a stat book; something that many within the community think should be free as well.
But aside from that, SRL has launched with much praise. It is a limited time event, ending on December 29th; though it’s expected it will return and hopefully be expanded upon, if it’s popular enough. So is this the future of Destiny DLC? In an interview with Eurogamer, Bungie’s senior designer, Derek Carroll confirmed that Destiny has moved to an ‘event-based model’. “Rather than doing these giant, monolithic DLC packs, this way everybody who’s an owner of Taken King can enjoy these things.”
These ‘free’ events are designed to tide fans over until ‘Destiny 2’ releases next year. In the latest Bungie news update, Eric Osbourne, better known within the community as ‘Urk’, stated that the next event will be landing in early 2016 and will be close in scale to the Festival of the Lost. Likely this means it will be mostly aesthetic, but hopefully will be interesting regardless. What really has the community in a buzz is that Urk states that the event after will be “far larger than anything you’ve seen since the release of The Taken King. There’s also another significant update to the world and sandbox planned in this same window.”
Nobody outside of Bungie knows exactly what this means, but hopefully it will be similar in terms of design to either of the previous Destiny expansions, The Dark Below or House of Wolves, with new missions, world events, and gear, but for free. We might not receive as much content as those expansions (not to say there was that much), but hopefully Bungie will have enough time to grant us a new raid before ‘Destiny 2’ releases.
And preferably it’s a raid where the boss can’t be soloed.