Mark’s roller-coaster relationship with Bungie’s looter shooter continues. Having declared Destiny was dying last year, has he changed his mind?
Just over a year ago I wrote on this website that I felt Destiny 2 was dying and the future looked grim for the franchise I had put so much time into. An excellent base campaign had given way to a lacklustre end-game and two massively disappointing expansions. One by one the people I had played with regularly dropped away, they moved on to other looter-shooter type games like Warframe, got sucked into Monster Hunter World, or just gave up on the genre altogether. But since September 2018, Destiny 2 has transformed into one of the most content-rich shared world experiences out there and with the new expansion, Shadowkeep, just around the corner I want to explain just why Destiny 2 is so great now and why I think it is perfect for lapsed gamers and dedicated gamers alike.
Shared world, looter shooter, MMO-lite games have always struggled to get the right balance in their end game content between providing enough challenging content for their dedicated playerbase and making that content accessible enough for those of us without as much time to play. In years gone by Destiny has fluctuated between the two without ever getting the mix right. Once the main story has been finished and the high level content opens up there has either been an artificially difficult grind to get to the max power level in order to enjoy the almost universally excellent raids, or there has been a handful of activities that are quickly mastered leaving little for players to do. Even raiding has been a struggle in the past for less dedicated players and those without a regular crew of people to team up with. After having gotten the balance almost right with the final two expansions for Destiny, Bungie struggled to please everyone in the first 12 months of Destiny 2. All that changed with the Forsaken expansion in September 2018 though.
Forsaken introduced an entire area dedicated to end-game activities, the Dreaming City, and gave the players a wide variety of things to do. Those who wanted to raid had the Last Wish, the best and arguably most challenging raid to date. For those who couldn’t scrape together 6 people they provided the Shattered Throne dungeon, a high-level activity for fireteams of 3 players that took the co-ordination and puzzle solving of a raid and streamlined it. For solo players they created a series of challenging but accessible strikes and an excellent horde mode activity, Blind Well. For those who enjoyed PvP they made sweeping changes to the Crucible and brought back 6v6 matches as well as overhauling the competitive modes. For those who wanted something different they introduced Gambit, an interesting PvEvP mode where two teams of 4 players compete against each other to kill enemies and score the most points while doing their best to disrupt the other team’s progress.
A season pass to the Forsaken expansion introduced three updates of additional content: a more intense version of Gambit, a new matchmade horde mode with powerful and alluring loot, a slew of intriguing questlines for exotic weapons that took away the frustration of hoping RNG would be kind to you and leaving the means to obtain these weapons squarely with the players. In the last month we got the Menagerie, a matchmade series of challenges and bosses with a mechanic that allows you to shape exactly what piece of loot you will obtain at the end, as well as another excellent raid, bringing the total number of raid activities in Destiny 2 to six, two more than the original, and in less time.
All this might sound overwhelming if you’ve spent any time away from Destiny, or if you’ve never played and are thinking of jumping in when all the year one content goes free to play on October 1st. Well Bungie have taken care of that too. Once you reach the end game there is a list of activities available each week that reward powerful gear, armour or weapons that are guaranteed to be more powerful than those you already have, and the range of activities caters to all types of player. Crucible, Gambit, strikes, open world activities, adventures, all are playable solo or with friends and all regularly reward players with something meaningful for their time. The absolute glut of content available in the game means that there is always something to do and none of it feels like a waste of time. For those who want to get involved in the more co-ordinated, team-based activities there are literally hundreds of communities based around the game to get involved in.
I have been lucky enough to find a clan of active players who have helped me get through some of the hardest content in the game, but other mechanisms exist to help you if you want to raid but don’t have a team. With the Forsaken expansion Bungie introduced a system called Guided Games, where you can search for fireteams looking for an extra player, or search for other players to fill your team. This has made the prestige endgame content, mainly nightfall strikes and the raids, available to players who don’t have people to play with for the first time in Destiny’s history. The system can often take a while to match people up, but it works and has been a godsend for less active players. Whether you play alone or with friends, whether you have 30 minutes to play or 3 hours, whether you want to relax with some simple activities or tackle the hardest content in the game, Destiny 2 can accommodate all types of player ably.
The long and short of this is Destiny 2 now boasts a level of content that far exceeds most of its rivals, and is comparable to some full-blooded MMOs. Now that they are an independent studio without Activision guiding their business model, Bungie are free to take Destiny in the direction they always wanted – an ever-expanding world filled with fun activities, new locations, and most importantly, more and more aliens to shoot in the face. With the upcoming Shadowkeep expansion we are set to get a whole new campaign, a new region to explore, new end game content to enjoy, and new loot to chase. After a rocky first year, Destiny 2 is back on track and healthier than ever.