When the first Destiny came out, most gamers and journalists gave it a free pass, myself included. After all, it was an innovative game. A MMO meets first-person-shooter in a Bungie world! The game was interesting, introducing us to Strikes, Raids and the Crucible, where I spent most of my time. I eventually got bored, but this was after over seventy hours. The game had its faults, but it kept me playing and the game got better with DLC. The Taken King was particularly good and a step in the right direction. Three years later Destiny 2 was released, but it offered nothing new, different, or innovative compared to the first game, and the free pass is no longer in effect.
Destiny 2: Now With More Cutscenes!
One of my biggest gripes about the first Destiny was the story, or lack thereof. One Shacker, Wikus Van De Merwe, summed it up rather nicely "The game didn’t have time to explain, why it didn’t have time to explain…" Destiny 2 improved on storytelling, but honestly the bar was set so low it wasn't hard. The story in Destiny 2 is shallow, cliché, and boring. In a universe that’s very interesting (I read the Grimoire cards), Bungie seemingly didn’t give a lot of thought to the writing. Aside from the opening story mission, where you are fighting beside the three main characters, the rest of the game's story falls completely flat. The villain even gives the clichéd "You’re not so different, you and I" speech. The Speaker from the first game also dies in a very awkward way, if he did die. It’s not really clear. The writing just feels lazy. It's like Bungie begrudgingly added in more story in response to its community asking for it. The story is bad, the campaign short, and other than Cayde-6 and Failsafe, all of the characters are forgettable one-dimensional placeholders for you to turn in rep rewards to. Bungie told such an epic and awesome story with Halo series and set the bar high. To see them drop the ball so hard with Destiny is disappointing. A great story should leave you wanting more, but Destiny 2 is so preoccupied with trying to sell you what's around the corner that it misses the bigger picture. The Destiny 2 campaign felt more like a DLC add-on for the first game rather than a continuation of the story.
A Shallow, Hollow Shell of a Game
One of the better parts of Destiny 2 is the gameplay. It's Bungie, the people who made Halo. The gunplay is spot on, but after completing the single-player story and spending over ten hours in PVE, players will start to see how repetitive and shallow the game really is. The game loop is short. You shoot things and they die, which is the same that could be said for any FPS, however Destiny 2 lacks any depth, tactics or diversity in this matter. Games like Doom, Borderlands, and Warframe have strategies and tactics, while dealing with a variety of enemy types. However, in Destiny 2, there is no diversity or strategy to disposing of the enemies in the game. Except for the Raids, most enemies, including bosses, are defeated the exact same way. Shoot, reload, and occasionally take cover. It’s incredibly simple, too simple, with no meta or interesting abilities to spam. That’s not to say simple gameplay mechanics are bad. Take Super Mario World. Players can jump and run, but it’s the underlying mechanics that create a sense of precision, depth and strategy to the game. This shines when players take a look at the levels in Mario Marker. Destiny lacks this type of depth in every way, shape, and form.
The enemy AI is also painfully stupid. The combat simply isn’t deep enough, sorely lacking any type of diversity. The game does try to give you things to do including missions, patrols, public events, and more. Sady, all these things are all centered around dumping more bullets into the lackluster enemies. Ultimately, the game blurs together into a big mess of mindless, dull shooting. The game tries to spice things up with the the Warlock, Hunter and Titan classes, but they’re so similar it almost feels pointless to have include them. Since all of them DPS the exact same way (shoot, reload, repeat), there really isn’t a difference in play style. There’s also no penalty for death in the game. More could have been done to make the classes feel unique, like restricting Warlocks to Submachine Guns, or by giving classes roles, like having a Titan Tank/Hold Agro, so Hunters can get shots off on a strike boss. Anything to differentiate the classes beyond what Destiny 2 offers would have been welcomed. As of right now, the Destiny 2 classes offer only the illusion of choice.
The world gives you a lot to do, but it all boils down to shooting, reloading and more shooting. The only example of diverse gameplay I saw was using shade in the Almighty: 1AU mission, to avoid sun/fire damage. Why wasn’t more of this in the game? Less shooting and more environment interaction would have been welcome changes from the original Destiny. What the hell happened? Where are all the new features? Modes? Classes? Add-ons? Why can’t we do simple MMO things like transmogrify gear on our character? Why is there no crafting system? Destiny 2 severely lacked content at launch, and it tried to make up for by having players do the same things on four different planets, but it’s all the same. Shoot, reload, and repeat until everything’s dead. With very little incentive to explore, the game becomes a mindless chore.
The Ten Year "Plan"
Before the first Destiny was released, Bungie and Activision promised a ten year plan. I thought that this ten year plan meant that they would continue to support the game and expand the world internally. I was very wrong. The ten year plan was basically just a publishing deal with Bungie and Activision, promising four separate game releases as well as DLC for the Destiny IP. This means we have two more games to go. The plan was confirmed again in an interview with a Bungie developer at E3 2017 that "this is a fresh start…" with all your gear gone and all old locations unable to be revisited (even the Post Office). They simply rebooted Destiny with Destiny 2 and quickly used PR buzz words like “boots on the ground” and “action shooter” to try to pull away from the MMO branding the franchise had become known for. However, if they just planned on releasing four separate games each with a “fresh start” would that have flown with fans? Imagine if World of Warcraft started players fresh after each expansion and prevented them from visiting old locations and trashed all their gear. Players would revolt, but for some reason this is accepted by some of the Destiny community, and looks like it will be done two more times. Why limit your game? Why not just build and expand this universe? Bungie could have done something like WoW did in The Cataclysm expansion, and reflect the old locations in Destiny 1 with the after effects of the Cabal Invasion. What did the three years of developer time go to? It seems Bungie is making one giant game, breaking it up, and selling it to us in pieces, but the pieces don’t even connect, and they’ll all be stand alone games. I think gamers, including myself, were hoping for a massive sci-fi world at the end of the ten year mark.
The "Esports" Angle
The Crucible in the first Destiny was where I spent the majority of my time playing the game. Honestly, the mode was quite fun. The maps were diverse, the game types enjoyable, and the fight for the heavy weapon ammo spawns was always a rush. Crucible was one of the original Destiny’s high points. I expected the PVP in Destiny 2 to be just as good if not better. However, it ended up being a small step backwards. Vehicles are completely gone, despite the community demanding more of them. Space Battles were not included, another example of community feedback being completely ignored by Bungie. It was one of biggest and loudest requests from the Destiny community, and Bungie confirmed they have no plans for vehicles or space battles in any Destiny games in the future. Going back to the Crucible in Destiny 2, the PVP has gotten a little worse for wear. Players have been restricted to 4v4 battles down from 6v6. Another annoying change are the smaller corridor-like maps that feel half the size of most maps from the first Destiny. The most disappointing change was to the arsenal of weapons, which became even more limited. Sniper rifles, fusion rifles, and shotguns are now power weapons, meaning they require heavy ammo to use, which is spawned in limited amounts throughout the match. These changes made the already small variety of weapons and play style even more restrictive. I understand this makes the game a lot easier to balance, but in return this leaves a small amount of weapon options for Guardians. Abilities have also taken a hit, with grenades on an annoyingly long cooldown timer, and it’s been my experience that player's class super can only be charged and used once per match. Doing this lets you focus more on skill-based gameplay, but with such a limiting weapon set, it just makes the experience less enjoyable.
The Light is Fading…
Destiny 2 is not a bad game or a good game - it's mediocre. The lavish marketing campaign, Bungie's legacy, and the extremely loyal community worked together to present the game as a genre-defining experince, but when laucnh day came around, the emporer had no clothes. We need to call developers out when they don't deliver on what was promised. The potential of the first Destiny still hasn't been reached with the sequel. Bungie gave players a mediocre game that they clearly chopped up to sell you (again) in bits of DLC. In total, players can expect to spend around $90 for the full Destiny 2 experience. How is this acceptable? Are they testing gamers to see how little they can put into a game and still be rewarded? The game-buying public should be smarter than this. Destiny 2 is a mediocre game that does not deserve the hype, positive scores, or the overly-forgiving community that it currently has.