Restoking the Forge: How Destiny 2 Armed Itself for the Future

  • Yeah, yeah. We’ve been here before. Another year, another time where Will and Mikkel hop on the keyboard and discuss what it means to be a guardian. It’s like we’re stuck in an endless loop repeating the same activities on the same time tables with the same results as though a giant wish-granting Space Dragon has cursed a city of space elves and humanity is desperately trying to save everyone.

    Okay, let’s actually take a couple steps back. Let’s talk about Bungie’s Gambit. And I don’t mean the game mode. We did that already. Nah, how about September 2018…

    William:

    Let’s be clear, Destiny was dying a slow-drip death. However ironic, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that any developer who didn’t have a publisher the size of Activision backing them might have faded out past the Traveler’s light at this point. But kudos to Bungie, they did what fans really wanted: They took the bumpers off the bowling alley, and let folks enjoy themselves in the world. Which, let’s face it, included adding some new features, but also restoring some Destiny 1 standards. I won’t beat the dead horse on the random rolls argument too much, but it has made the constant accumulation of new gear more viable when you’re not getting the same gotdamn thing every strike. They gave us more pinnacle weapons. While it started slightly rough, the Black Armory has been enjoyable. Ultimately, they have re-instilled the chase and gotten (slightly) better with your economy of time. When I log in, I feel like I’m pursuing something. Not just trying to keep muscle memory between raids.

    Mikkel:

    Now, I was always gonna play Destiny because bar none, it is the best feeling shooter on the console market and from what I understand that the PC port is pretty damn smooth as well. The space magic shooter, despite some complaints about the power fantasy with the recharge rates and damage, has a visceral feeling to it. And even before Forsaken dropped, the change to the weapon sandbox introduce more weapon combinations than ever before to allow for more customizations in your loadouts, and the new superclass nodes added more option. And then you get to the point where there’s something for everyone as you try to do… everything.

    Like Will said, there is just so much to do. If you’re a casual player, you log in throughout the week and get your Crucible matches, your story missions, your strikes, and your Gambit doses get some power and log off. If you’re slightly more ambitious, you loop into some of the Dreaming City activities. And then, if you’re invested, you’re digging through directory for every scrap of golden icon, getting every bit of gear from the Forges and Raids to make that content easier. The core gameplay loop of shoot things to shoot other things hasn’t changed, but the sheer variety of ways to shoot things and the rewards you’re capable of getting has infused new light into what was a dreary world.

    William:

    The question of balance regarding Destiny 2 is always going to be: what is the stream of accessible content versus how much it’s going to cost you. I love Forsaken, I love Black Armory, and I can’t wait for the Joker’s Wild DLC. But everytime I sing the praises of Destiny 2’s current state to someone that’s interested, I gotta be like: Well, base Destiny 2 you can get for $30, and then you need Osiris and then Warmind. But don’t worry, that’s included in Forsaken…which is $40. Awesome right? But that new raid…you need that Annual Pass that will run you another $30. Now, do I feel like the $150 I’ve paid for Destiny 2 thus far is worth it? Sure, because I’ve been playing it for a couple of years now and got to enjoy content as it came out. If you’re buying the game and just want to get caught up to your friends? That’s a much different ask.

    And this isn’t a casual vs. hardcore argument as much as an onboarding issue. For a game that is about a growing world and community, at this part of the cycle, the crew you run with is kind of the crew you run with. You’re not pulling in too many new members who haven’t been playing the game all this time.

    Mikkel:

    This goes back to a constant problem Bungie has had since way back in Destiny 1 though. LFGs are a crapshoot and how much can you really trust people on the internet, especially when they are really passionate about the game. The community that has stuck with it has stuck with it to an immense degree, and thus who have been burned have been burned don’t want to come back, rightfully so. They inhale content and when are invested, they are ***invested***. Forsaken, arguably the greatest era of the Destiny Universe’s history, has incredible critical and fan reception but still was not able to meet Activision’s financials demands. One of the best-selling console expansions in the last quarter did not meet the benchmarks of their investors. Which leads us to perhaps the biggest change in the Destiny paradigm: Bungie assuming full control.

     

    Bungie’s divorce from Activision was met with equal parts confusion and optimism. We don’t exactly know what this means for the long term future: console exclusives, cross-play / cross-save, more expansions, less sequels, etc. All we really know right now is that: 1) the rest of the Annual Pass is gonna be coming at the pace the roadmap dictated which means The Last Draw and Crimson Days and 2) Bungie feels comfortable taking over one of the most expensive franchise and one of the most ambitious experience that blurs this weird line between stand-alone shooter and MMORPG. The “Shared World Shooter” has survived for so long because it’s this unique blend of Co-op and competitive. PvE and PvP and PvEvP.

    William:

    I push back a little on the Forsaken expansion being the greatest era of Destiny’s Universe history. I agree it puts the game that is Destiny in its best state, but I think one of the reasons that people elevate Forsaken over Taken King is because the state of Destiny 2 was so much shakier going into Forsaken than Destiny 1 was going into Taken King. But I digress.

    Yes, Bungie is gambling big, but also, maybe this was the natural amalgamation of their contentious relationship that they maintained with Activision. I think they will pull it off and that we will still enjoy the world of Destiny, but what that world will look like in future content beyond the roadmap is anyone’s guess. I think, now that they are flexing their new-found freedom, they need to do some more quality of life things to make / keep them a top tier franchise for years to come. You mentioned cross-play / cross-save, and I really just want the latter. I’ve long labored that the PC version is superior, but my clan is mostly on the PS4. I wouldn’t mind raiding on my PS4 if it meant I could grind out my daily and weekly drops on my PC version.

    Mikkel:

     

    I mean, I have access to the most titan super that has ever Titan’ed or Super’ed with Thundercrash, one of the most devastating primaries in the game, and my favorite game mode that blends the best parts of Destiny. But now I’m digressing.

     

    I just think back to every comment section with the same line saying “Destiny? LOL Dead Game” and how many Destiny killers have come and gone. There’s a magic to the Light of the Traveler. The options with the loadout and personalization. The persistence of the game is a testament to how many lives have been impacted by this game for the better. If they continue to smooth out the disconnects between the different demographics (vet v. new, hardcore v. casual, console v. PC), you’ll have a veritable juggernaut that will remain in the history books. Especially since now that I’ve tasted 100+ FPS and no recoil, I’d easily invest in a proper rig to grind the daily on PC and social time on the console.

    William:

    So now, the great pondering is what happens next. Bungie has stated that the roadmap presented before will continue as scheduled with the DLC drops. But the biggest questions are probably: Will there be another big Fall release? What is Destiny 3, as in, will it be called that, will it be delayed, etc? And, how will Bungie pay the bills without the largest stack of cash in gaming distributing and marketing their game?

    Those are all unknown at this time, but here’s what I don’t hear people talking about: The biggest *freedom* for Bungie is that now they aren’t locked into that content release schedule, which means they won’t have to rush content. That’s extremely good. But let’s not act like there haven’t been huge lapses in activity where players were trying to find something to do. While I think it’s been ok, I imagine the Season Pass approach was the great compromise, but if that’s changing again, are we going to face long durations of running out of shit to do?

    Mikkel:

    You have to be thinking that the next big title in the Destiny series (whether it is a Destiny 3 or something sort of Legends of Destiny rebrand) is gonna be on a next gen of consoles slated for debut in 2021 and that with a new flexible schedule, they play out of the long game.

    Destiny 2_20190115151045

    But other than the rough start at the start of Black Armory where the forges were just a little too intense for those who had climbed to 600, Bungie did manage to create a gauntlet of content that has continued the story of the Dreaming City, introduced the single most convoluted puzzle encounter of Destiny’s history that took 72+ hours to solve, and the grind for some of the most powerful weapons in the game. I’m pretty confident that we’ll manage till September, but after that… it’s hard to say.

    And speaking briefly to monetization, I know a lot of cheers from the Activation divorce were about microtransactions being toned down, but I think Eververse is gonna play a role in generating funds for the next iteration of our legend.

    William:

    I guess that’s the great balance. I appreciate Bungie shooting for the stars on some things, even if they miss, if it’s an earnest attempt and enhancing the game. I would assume that people were frustrated with the Niobe Labs puzzle, but I can’t understand the folks that threatened to leave the game over it after we came out of some real scandalous shit like the XP throttling or expansion locking folks out of activities stuff. Again, my biggest concern is that I want to feel like the hours I spend on Destiny are in service of something. The current roadmap has seemed to provide that. I only hope they can continue to do that without a big company over their shoulder holding them accountable.

    As for things to look forward to, I think I’m actually more excited about the lore we’ll get from The Draw quest than I am getting the Last Word back. What are you looking forward to?

    Mikkel:

    I’m not looking forward to the Destiny 1 Anti-Shotgun Hand Cannon to be reintroduced back into the meta, but then again, I’m not in the Crucible that often these days.

    We alluded to it at the start, but Joker’s Wild is not only introducing more Gambit maps and private matches, it’s also making the best NPC a.k.a. The Drifter the center of the expansion. Ever since his introduction as a “very clearly not good person and definitely some sort of mad scientist,” The Drifter has this swagger about him with a mystery surrounding his convoluted game as well as his ship, the Derelict, which is carrying… something, in addition to that Crota looking black mass in the back.

    This is a dude who summoned 9 Primevals to handle some Cabal legionnaires, who saw creatures of pure darkness on a planet of ice, who is associated with one of the biggest bads in the canon. And who may not be reintroducing us to the weapon I’m looking forward to the most: Thorn.

    William:

    I guess in summary, I think we’re both happy where the game is right now, but so much depends upon if they can continue to listen to the community (mostly) to improve experiences, take meaningful chances, and be good about how folks can spend their time. Any closing thoughts?

    Mikkel:

    This time last year, we were in the death throes of the Infinite Forest and now we’re up in the Bergusia Forge throwing radiant batteries trying to reroll one more frame before reset. It’s been a good year to be a Destiny fan, and it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future. And that optimism has been consumed before, but at least for now I’m going to revel in this joy.

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