The Staying Power of Destiny 2
How Bungie is reeling me back in
I will admit straight up: yes, I was one of those people, the ones who got super hyped about the first Destiny game, then was apoplectic when it didn’t turn out the way we all expected (and were promised).
Skepticism was prevalent as Destiny 2 was announced and then released. “Oh, here we go again,” I thought. Nothing looked that different. It appeared to be a glorified expansion to the base game. Gameplay and engagement were never Destiny’s issues, but its sustainability and meaningfulness were.
It took Destiny 2 being included in a Humble Bundle monthly package for me to finally take the plunge and fire it up on my PC last year. Some friends and I grinded everyday for a few weeks, levelled up all our gear and finished the campaign. Part of my problem was I didn’t ration my sessions, but I completely burnt out. Uninstalled. I only made it through 20 or so hours of gameplay.
Destiny 2 has fluctuated significantly during its lifespan, meaning that evaluating it is an interesting but difficult exercise. Despite now being relatively old at over two years old, it still thrives today. Going from a full priced release to now free-to-play, it began on PC with Blizzard’s Battle.Net platform, but is now found on Steam.
The move to New Light means new (or returning) players have access to the original campaign, plus the Curse of Osiris and Warmind campaigns. Likewise, the Leviathan raid is also accessible. A six player activity like the other raids, it can take multiple hours to finish.
Yet, with all the changes, there are still so many qualities and strengths of Destiny 2 that have been sustained and even improved. After over 20 healthy hours of fresh gameplay since my return to New Light, here are my thoughts on what keeps enticing others and I back.
As always, that gorgeous gameplay
It was the same with the original Destiny, and it’s always been the case with Destiny 2. The gameplay is simply sublime. Each weapon in the game still feels unique, with large differences even within specific weapon types.
I love the feel and handling of certain guns, but also absolutely hate the handling of others. One hand cannon might have better accuracy and a larger magazine, but pack less punch with each shot. Or one may have a smaller magazine with more volatile handling, yet do high damage.
Likewise, the individual perks of guns are important. Legendary and exotic weapons can have super specific perks that alter their effectiveness and damage outside base characteristics. For instance, the Ten Paces hand cannon has extra payloads attached to every bullet that explode shortly after impact, doing damage on top of the normal rounds.
Perhaps my favourite weapon perk is the Arc Conductor for the Riskrunner submachine gun. When you receive Arc damage in game, for a short period of time the gun outputs extra damage and shoots essentially limitless ammo (it reloads bullets as quickly as you fire them).
Each weapon and piece of armor can also be modded to increase other characteristics. Armor has six base ratings that affect gameplay aspects such as super regeneration and health regeneration. Power level is not the sole determinant of success in Destiny 2.
I could go on and on, but these are a few of the extensive ways that Destiny 2 has solidified and expanded its experience. This attention to detail and subtlety in Destiny 2’s gameplay are what make it such an attractive title.
Shooting and defeating enemies still has the same satisfaction and feel it always has. Whether it’s the explosion of a Vex’s head or the shriek of a demolished Hive wizard, Bungie still provides the immense pleasure and fun of gameplay that set Destiny 2 and its predecessor apart from the competitors (and was present in Halo franchise). There’s just this indescribable rush of adrenaline and sensory feedback from destroying enemies that spruiks joy.
I would like to stress however, that I’m talking primarily about the PvE gameplay. At times PvP can still feel a bit hit and miss, but this is as much to do with the lack of specific gun balancing rather than the mechanics of gameplay itself.
Those who have played know that the Crucible can be super rewarding and fun at its best, while excruciatingly painful at its worst. I always have those games where every spawn seems unfair, where I swear I’m always instantly headshotted, where my guns appear to be shooting peanuts instead of live rounds.
The power of…repetition?
Though it may seem counter-intuitive at first, the repetition of Destiny 2 is actually incredibly fun. To be clear, repetition here doesn’t equate to laborious trudging. The grind of maxing out and improving armor, and trying to get those exotic weapon drops can be extremely rewarding, especially when playing with friends.
Once you reach armor level 900, you can repeat activities such as Nightfall strikes and Crucible playlists to unlock the chance for even better gear drops. Performing story missions and strikes at higher difficulties also garner greater chances for exotic drops.
There are indeed times when grinding can be detrimental to a game’s enjoyment. This occurred early on with my experience of the original Destiny, and to be fair, it also happened when I originally purchased Destiny 2 last year.
Through this repetition you also learn how to manage your inventory efficiently. Breaking down any new gear after a strike or Crucible match that aren’t higher power levels becomes second nature.
Banshee-44, the gunsmith, is your best friend, bestowing upon you legendary engrams each time you give him enough of your gunsmith materials. Muscle memory kicks in every time you’re at the Tower, as you seek out all the available NPCs for bounties, rewards and quests.
Triumphs are also a great way of tracking your progress in game. They’re a mix of traditional achievements and the previous Grimoire that was featured in Destiny. It further helps to fuel that intense grind when you’re trying to boost that Triumph score (along with other numbers like your season rank). Something about seeing that number climb is infectious.
More content than ever
Another aspect Destiny 2 has thrived in where its predecessor failed is the breadth of content available. Even though I haven’t purchased either the Shadowkeep or Forsaken expansion packs, there’s still been more than enough gameplay for me to sink my teeth in.
Bungie did release multiple expansion packs for Destiny, but I thought they went about it the wrong way, charging too high a price. It’s harsh charging full retail prices when players have already paid for a base game. You also got locked out of significant amounts of content if you didn’t have all the expansions. There also wasn’t the simultaneous release of free content like we’re seeing with Destiny 2. There were no additions like Gambit.
The new Gambit game mode has impressed me the most. It was introduced with the Forsaken expansion and it’s an incredibly fun mixture of PvP and PvE that succeeds in distinguishing itself from the other gameplay and modes offered in Destiny 2. Players who want to squad up in groups of four will also be pleased, as Gambit is comprised of two 4-guardian teams.
Gambit involves defeating waves of enemies and collecting motes which have to be deposited. Once a certain amount of motes is reached, a boss is unlocked which then has to be defeated. Players can also teleport into the other team’s side for temporary periods, in order to attempt to defeat the other team members and stifle their own progression towards accruing motes and defeating the boss.
I have absolutely loved Gambit since jumping back into Destiny 2. Fresh content always buoys my attention to a game, and I wasn’t disappointed. The different maps, with learning the new mechanics and subtleties of Gambit have really entertained me. It’s safe to say I still suck at it, but I will not be dissuaded. Tactically, it’s unique, challenging and altogether rewarding.
As always, Destiny 2 also enables gamers to play in whatever style they wish. You can choose from Hunters, Warlocks or Titans, each with three different sub-classes that have their own strengths and weaknesses. Even though Titans can at times feel overpowered in Crucible matches, the classes are still mostly balanced, and provide a lot of nuance whether you like to play aggressively or conservatively, fast or slow.
One of the only slightly disappointing aspects of Destiny 2 New Light is that all new guardians start at power level 750, and reach the soft cap of 900 relatively easily. Then you have to grind pretty hard to reach 980 from 900. I honestly wish that Bungie hadn’t brought the base power level up so high. For me it made the process feel less meaningful.
Even if it took the same time to reach 900, if you started at a base power level of say 500, it would definitely feel like more progression is taking place. It’s a minor gripe for sure, but still one to note for any new or lapsed players thinking of returning.
Overall, none of the new and expanding content in Destiny 2 feels rushed. Again, the level of polish that Bungie achieves is astounding and it’s truly laudable what they’ve achieved. The game is best enjoyed with friends for sure, but Destiny 2 is definitely back, and with the flux of players since the launch of New Light, it appears it’s here to stay.
Kudos to Bungie for remaining patient and creating in the end a far superior game to the one I played last year.