Destiny is a first-person perspective shooter role-playing game (FPS RPG) with a Sci-Fi theme. The lore is extensive with great depth, the core gameplay feels great, the visuals have a cleanliness element, and the music/audio is fantastic. The foundation of the game is top tier with a great marketing team. The game is rather social in design and has done an amazing job at facilitating community bonding and friendships.
So, why are a lot of people unhappy with Destiny and (most of which) stopped frequently playing the latest installment of the franchise? I’ve gone in detail for many reasons in previous articles, so I’ll keep it brief here. Some poor endgame looting design choices, infrequent sandbox updates, and what seems to be uncertainty in prioritization focus.
Bungie has done a lot to bring Destiny 2 back to a good form, but faith in the developer hasn’t quite returned for many players. With Bungie and Activision’s departure, there have been a lot of question marks regarding where this franchise will go. What has raised an alarm, is the recent announcement of two senior sandbox designers (Jon Weisnewski and Josh Hamrick) leaving Bungie.
These two had been with Bungie for numerous years and were part of creating a sandbox design that many had fallen in love with, especially PvP players. A common concern being brought up within the community is if this signals an intent to not include PvP in Destiny 3. I’d like to discuss whether or not that would be best for the franchise in this article’s entree.
An underlying issue causing strife for Destiny players for years is the seamless experience between PvE and PvP that Bungie tries to incorporate. This actually paid off pretty well (perhaps unknowing to the cause) because it allowed an RPG Shooter to finally have a competitive-feeling PvP experience. This was a massive focus for a large population of players because no previous RPG Shooter had provided a relatively balanced PvP environment.
Being able to make your own builds in abilities, weaponry, and armor allowed for many meta and metagaming discussions. This was an exciting time for gamers. No other game had this feeling in PvP. Even the minor things like how Hand Cannons felt and played out were amazing. Bungie also released Trials of Osiris, which created a way for gamers to get together for a weekly event that resembled a miniature tournament for in-game prizes.
Even with PvP being in a good state (even though it progressively declined over time), players still enjoyed the PvE experience with a fairly high scaling of character power. But, everything seemed to fall apart with Destiny 2. Bungie seemingly tried too hard to provide a better-balanced PvP experience (actual intention unknown. This is my speculation). A seamless experience naturally limits PvE’s ability to possess crazy power scaling potential due to the need to keep PvP somewhat balanced. However, this was an over-adjustment that caused both the PvP and PvE experience to feel stale. Bungie has since brought both sides of the game back to a comparatively fun state, but the full potential doesn’t feel reached by either side.
This leaves questions regarding whether or not either can realistically achieve their potential. Can PvP get the frequent sandbox balances to keep the meta fresh and competitive integrity intact without inhibiting the feeling of empowerment and fun builds in PvE? Can PvE have the gear and ability building freedom you’d want to find in a superpowered sci-fi shooter without causing PvP to be a nightmarish hurricane fiesta? Is it logistically possible to possess both entities separately in balancing and design while allowing a shared looting experience?
Destiny has been the best game to do both sides well but has struggled in the areas previously mentioned. Borderlands and Warframe have amazing PvE experiences, but their PvP experiences have always essentially been One-Shot City and are far from competitive. Division’s initial PvP was a question of who had their signature abilities available, and it’s too early to tell for Division 2. Anthem threw out the idea of having PvP altogether.
I have faith in Bungie to provide a spectacular PvE experience with Destiny 3 if they remove the PvP element and focus all of their resources on PvE. However, this would be incredibly unfortunate for the considerable amount of players who enjoy a good FPS RPG PvP experience. Even if Division 2’s PvP ends up being competitive, it would still be a third-person perspective, cover-to-cover style shooter, which isn’t the same as Destiny’s first-person perspective, free-flowing style.
If Bungie goes full-focus on PvE, then they would have to directly compete with Borderlands 3. Gearbox’s work on Borderlands 2 was incredible. Many of the players who loved playing Destiny’s PvE came from Borderlands 2 previously and will likely prioritize Borderlands 3 until they’ve ground all of the juice out of it (and then some).
There are plenty of players who will stick to Destiny because of stylistic choices, lore, or whatever other reason that would cause them to prefer being a Guardian over being a Vault Hunter. There are a significant amount of players who will want to be both as well. Still, it will be hard to compete directly with the Shooter RPG PvE powerhouse that is Borderlands.
So, Bungie could instead focus on PvP. No other major Shooter RPG has come even close to Destiny’s PvP experience. Prioritizing this side of the franchise could elevate it to being the king of the hill in its category by a large margin. Without serious competition, they would bring in a plethora of players who have been waiting for frequent balance updates and sandbox changes to make the PvP feel more fresh and fun on a regular basis.
The obvious issue with this would be needing to maintain the PvE side of the game because it is an RPG as much as it is a Shooter. This would also discourage the PvE-only players from wanting to continue investing their time and focus into the franchise. PvE is the core of the genre, so it requires the developer’s attention.
Bungie is in a tough spot if they can’t truly provide the best possible product in both PvE and PvP. Doing both is clearly the perfect world scenario, but we haven’t seen it after years of Destiny’s existence. We’ve seen glimmers of hope such as with the releases of Forsaken and The Taken King. But, even those expansions’ PvP grew stale due to the lack of followup maintenance and updates. And, their PvE has always felt held back by the connection to PvP.
The questions (those of us outside of Bungie can’t really answer) remain: Should Bungie focus on PvP and make PvE the secondary focus? Or, Should Bungie remove PvP and shoot for an astronomical PvE experience in competition with Borderlands 3? Is it even possible to have the best of both worlds within a single game?
As someone who enjoys both sides of Destiny, I’d hate to see PvP go and would love to see more frequent updates to the PvP environment. I’d also love to feel more powerful and do crazy stuff in PvE. I’m absolutely willing to see the seamless connection between the two be severed. I’ve always strategized and built my loadout for each completely differently as if they were individual entities anyway.
I want to feel like a super-powered, celestial beast manifesting insane amounts of damage while pushing the limits to gain higher-tempo action in a lore-rich PvE. I also want to experience a fun, playmaking, competitive environment with significant strategy and mechanical necessity that requires adaptation both on a minor scale from game to game and on a major scale from patch to patch (ideally once or twice a month) in PvP.
I hope Bungie steps up with their separation from Activision, which is still a fairly recent event. I don’t know what the departure of Josh Hamrick and Jon Weisnewski means for the future of Destiny’s sandbox (and I wish them well on their future endeavors), but I hope we will experience high-quality improvements and a faster velocity of changes. And, I hope we can keep both sides of the game even if it means independence.