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  • Daniel James

Destiny 2's Trailer Shows Bungie's New Laser-like Focus

Still from Destiny 2 Trailer

Destiny 2’s trailer dropped last month. It’s short, cinematic and sweet—practically a teaser trailer. It cuts between Commander Zavala and Cayde-6’s speeches to their respective factions. From Zavala, we get the premise: The Last City has been invaded by ‘The Red Legion,’ the vanguard of a Cabal Invasion, led by their Primus, Gaul. All the while, Cayde contributes with some snappy, somewhat overdone humor, culminating in a promise of “a ton of loot.”

Prior its 2014 launch, Destiny was riding a wave of massive expectations. Bungie was following up a flawless record as the studio behind the culture shifting epic, ‘Halo.’ Prior to release, Destiny was anticipated to exceed Halo in every way. “Become Legend” rang through every advertisement, and was a perpetual war gong that moved hordes of gamers, making Destiny the most preordered game of all time.

Upon release, Destiny became the game that made millions stop preordering games.

Not only did the story fail to exceed Halo, it fell short in every way imaginable. It was a bland mix of repetitive, poorly designed levels, strung between a vague story that lacked any depth. Halo cemented their reputation for crafting epic and esoteric science-fiction mythology told through grounded, emotionally vibrant characters; Destiny destroyed it with dynamite. The added RPG elements--uninspired quests, an unrewarding loot system and poor class customization—ran it further into the ground.

Destiny’s ‘The Taken King’ expansion allowed Bungie to reset the game, fixing nearly all the game’s issues. Destiny is now a staple of console gaming, one of the most rewarding, fun and popular games you can play. But it remains a shadow of the ‘Destiny’ that was promised.

What players need from the game has been a saturated topic for nearly three years. There’s enough of a consensus that delving into it beyond previously described.

With Destiny 2, Bungie must balance the appeal of “Taken King” Destiny with the original promise for the game. An abrupt overhaul would disconnect invested players, but Destiny 2 also should be drastically different to avoid the content droughts that the RPG’s shallow nature created. This is less paradoxical that it sounds: People love the art style and gameplay of the original Destiny, while few appreciate the shallow story and RPG elements.

That makes for an easily apparent, but not easily executed solution.

So why was Destiny 2’s trailer so light? There’s no esoteric monologue, no montage of exotic worlds—instead, a succinct premise delivered by Zavala with Cayde’s jokes injecting character and personality. It’s a far cry from Destiny’s marketing, and a possible indication that Destiny is shifting to perfect what worked about ‘The Taken King,’ rather than redeveloping the series to fulfill the original vision. Destiny was criticized for reducing storytelling to Christmas lights between story missions. Rather than replace this, The Taken King took the concept and executed it better. Dialogue between characters on comms went from “minimal effort” to “background chatter.”

It’s important to praise The Taken King within reason. Its story is not great, it’s good. That’s an improvement, but outside of comparison to the original: mediocre.

Destiny 2’s first trailer targets the game’s perception and challenges the most immediate criticisms. It hits the key points that could have inhibited preorders: the characters will be interesting; the gear progression will be rewarding and the overall challenge will be memorable. It does little to address more than that because it didn’t need to, and addressing further issues would have distracted from that essential message.

The trailer doesn’t offer very much.

Bungie intentionally reduces the imagery to characters gathered around Zavala and Cayde. From this, we’re able to derive what issues Bungie identified with Destiny, and their specific angle at approaching them. Exactly how they choose to solve these problems and move the series forward will likely be revealed in their gameplay reveal on May 18th.

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