Destiny 2 has been one of those live service games with many ups and downs since its release in 2017. Before that game dropped, I wrote about the success of Destiny as a franchise and how it is one of the greatest games ever made and is perhaps the most successful console experiment ever developed. I still stand by that statement for the original Destiny, whereas Destiny 2 has been a roller coaster of a ride as both a fan and player.
The ride got its biggest shakeup when Bungie left Activision back in 2019, on the literal heels of their Forsaken expansion which saw a shift in design back to the Destiny we knew and loved from the good old days of the original Destiny. Destiny 2 was met with mixed reviews at launch, with an amazing campaign being the star but setback by a poorly designed loot experience and endgame content. The Curse of Osiris and Warmind expansions saw a slow but noticeable course correction over the year and eventually Bungie decided it had to take back its toy and be on their own. The Forsaken and Shadowkeep expansions saw a renewed Bungie, now self-publishing and making their own choices and content. Eventually implementing a season pass approach instead of multiple paid expansions every three months and allowing the focus to be one major paid expansion per year seemed to be a step in the right direction and many fans came back to the familiar grind they loved.
2020 was a tough year for many in the video game industry, and it is heavily evident with how Bungie has been approaching the season pass model within the past year and likely still with its Beyond Light expansion. Beyond Light has both been a step back and a step forward for the franchise, removing a ton of content into a Destiny Content Vault to be utilized at whim, and even taking away a bunch of weapons and armor with a process known as Sunsetting, giving your powerful Legendary weapons a sort of expiration date counting down from the time you earn it until a year later of the expansion date. Weapons earned during the Beyond Light campaign and Season of the Hunt are basically able to be powered up for a year, so by this time next year they’ll rotate out of usability to make room for hopefully newer weapons and armor. I say hopefully because Bungie realized they removed too much of the loot pool, and had to retroactively add some things back into said pool when it was discovered that the loot pool for Beyond Light and Season of the Hunt was drastically small.
That is not to say the campaign was devoid of content or lack thereof. Beyond Light saw the ever-looming threat of the Darkness make a bold move and wipe out entire planets from our solar system. We traveled to Europa where the Darkness first touched down and discovered many secrets including the birthplace of the Exo race, the return of the Stranger from the original Destiny game and much more. It was a step forward for the franchise while also presenting a clean slate to start fresh. Without it being shown in the title, for all intent and purpose this was Destiny 3 without being Destiny 3.
Unfortunately that refresh may have been a little too steep for some, and the loot grind and endgame grind has been so hard focused into the Season Pass that it’s becoming more a chore and less the fun moment to moment stuff us longtime fans have enjoyed and clamor for. The Season Pass loop is just cleverly disguised bounty missions, of which you can add more bounty missions from other vendors to chain together a weird XP loop and level up your Season Pass as you build up your character. This core loop has definitely put off a bunch of players, and those who stick around generally do one of two things: either hard focus the season pass and then stop playing, or ignore the season pass altogether and check in on Destiny once every few weeks or months to see what is new.
I’m a firm believer that Destiny can find its footing again. I also believe they need to move away from the Season Pass model, and just focus on one major expansion a year partnered with a smaller expansion at least three to four months after that major release. Drip feeding updates normally found in the season pass every few weeks instead of tying it to random bounties and the pass model may work a bit better than what’s currently being delivered.
Despite my criticisms on the current expansion, I still love Destiny. In fact, the playability of the game has never been better in the gameplay aspect but as far as the PvE content is concerned, the Strikes are too easy, the Nightfall is repetitive (yet is, sometimes, the most rewarding) and the Raid and Dungeon experiences are perhaps the best content found for those that partake in them. The only stickler is that those experiences can only be done with other people, an oft found dilemma for solo players unless you’re a madman like me and you solo the Dungeons just to test your skill. I can’t say the same for its multiplayer offerings, as the new Stasis superpower has made Crucible a blithering mess. The high-level monthly Iron Banner contest is full of 4, 5 and 6 stack clans all with stasis grenades at the ready and proceed to mud stomp you from the beginning before you can even capture a point. Given that Iron Banner is a source for up to 4 Pinnacle gear rewards, it’s the best time to level up your characters but you will also be banging your head against a wall while you endure it. For the hardcore PvP’er, Trials of Osiris has been jokingly referred to as Try-Hards of Osiris due to how sweaty and unskilled the matches can become. Too many win buttons have been given to players just so that the skill quotient of Destiny has been lowered way below the floor and Trials itself is now a mess of RNG, luck and whether or not you’ve unlocked the full capability of Stasis and have grinded content for that perfect “god roll” hand cannon.
As is often the case with Destiny, it once again finds itself at a precipice of good and bad, teetering ever so lightly between the two points as Bungie tries to find its footing with their IP. It must be commended though, that building something like this with so many moving parts while under a quarantine and many having to work from home and still manage to put out a full product is outright impressive. I say this when other studios can’t even get their game right out the gate (I’m looking right at you Anthem, Avengers and Godfall) and suffer the fate of dead game syndrome. The fact that Destiny is still alive and kicking despite so many copycat games releasing and failing is a testament to its innovation and adaptability. However I do wonder just how many times Destiny has to be so close to death for it to spring up anew with an expansion that delivers us the experience we always wanted, to then fall back into the cycle of a chore of a grind and general un-fun only to yet again breathe some fresh air with another expansion. It’s a repeatable loop for sure, not unlike the grind these types of games tend to have but some have moved away from. It almost seems like Bungie wants you to play their game and only their game, not understanding that we as gamers like to partake in other things. As an example, I like playing other games because they move me away from having to play Destiny so much that I’ve sat out much of the season, only to grind it out these past few weeks because I wanted to see the lore and where it went.
The next season is dropping soon (probably out now by the time you read this) and the question is what direction is Destiny heading in? With yet more older weapons being unvaulted to satiate the loot grind community, and a slow drip of yet more bounties to tick off, it screams more of the same we’ve been dealing with since Beyond Light released and the prior season pass model. Shadowkeep’s seasonal grind had the right idea by including a 6-player matchmade activity for most of its offerings, but nothing of that sort seems to be created for this year’s current model. Season of the Chosen is including a three player matchmade activity, so one hopes that this is good enough grind with rewarding items that we don’t mind diving in a few times a week to complete. I know I’ll be jumping in occasionally, but it definitely will be in moderation as I focus on a lot more of the other offerings the industry has to showcase as the year progresses.