Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Everything Destiny 2 Did Right
Destiny 2’s newest Forsaken expansion is expected to remedy the base game’s problems. It picks up from the preceding Warmind DLC which, incidentally, was praised for making smaller steps towards that goal. It’s no secret that players were disgruntled with the game at launch, many accusing it of being “a mile wide, and an inch deep.” So, if the future of Destiny 2’s post-launch content is to be defined by its ability to fix the game, it might be worth having a different discussion first.
Let’s assume that Forsaken properly “fixes” Destiny 2. The result will be a game that keeps players obsessed and engaged. We’ll talk about how Forsaken “saved” Destiny for the foreseeable future. And I’d love to have that conversation once that’s the case.
Yet in rushing to that future, we risk missing one last, important conversation: Destiny 2 got a lot right.
In our quest to have Destiny 2 return to the first game’s greatness, we forget that that original title wasn’t perfect. In fact, its own existence was first shaped by a launch that fell woefully short of expectations and follow-up expansions that remedied its failures. Destiny 2 certainly follows tradition.
Destiny 2 offered many welcome improvements over its processor, and I’ll list my favorite ones here. After all, for all its flaws, it’s a solid bone structure that Forsaken will benefit from. A little gratitude is warranted, no?
The first slice of the Destiny 2 experience is a memorable one. The ‘Red War’ campaign cast us out of The Last City, destroyed three years of loot and brought us to our knees. The resulting battle and victory over Ghaul was told competently; something that couldn’t be said of any of the first game’s campaigns.
Destiny 1’s base game campaign is infamous as one of the worst in any game. It was rambling, incoherent, and –worst—just boring. It was the misshapen product of a dark chapter in Bungie’s history, one which saw Halo writer Joseph Staten leave the studio mid-way through development. And as many of the core team behind Halo vanished in his wake, Bungie was forced to piece together the broken pieces.
Post-launch improvements were marginal, too. The best ‘Taken King,’ could offer was a fairly spartan, unmemorable campaign that served a logical segue into its endgame. Year 1 DLC and Year 3’s ‘Rise of Iron’ couldn’t even accomplish that. The first game’s engaging gameplay was never matched by a compelling narrative, and many –myself included—despaired that Destiny would ever see a story it deserved. As the game doubled down on its lore, its admittedly legitimate saving grace, Bungie probably have been blamed for ignoring the campaign all together.
When Destiny 2 launched, they gave players a commendable, coherent campaign that represents the peak of the franchise’s storytelling. It’s no ‘Halo,’ but it’s leaps and bounds beyond the atrocity we witnessed in Year 1.
The first game’s public events were a bizarre, half-baked idea. Players would sporadically witness these events unobtrusively place themselves in social spaces and ignore them. They were too boring to commit to and lacked any reward worth pursuing.
Destiny 2’s living, breathing world presented us with public events that didn’t just solve these problems, but expand the concept into something that’s kept me coming back a full year into the game’s lifespan. Flashpoints are genuinely fun, even when destroying my 400th Cabal drill or securing yet another Warsat.
It’s good fun of the simplest kind. Where Destiny 1 demanded, “run here, shoot that,’ Destiny 2 places enemies with just enough complexity that you want to jump in, play with the mechanics until rewarded with a juicy boss with a fat health bar to burn down. Repetitive? Sure. It’s built into Destiny’s DNA. But now, the game’s designed around that repetition, not padded by it.
Destiny was designed to be a social game from Day 1, but that intention never materialized in the first game. Clans didn’t exist beyond Bungie.net, which required people to get out of game and use an internet browser. Further, there wasn’t any benefit to being in a clan.
Destiny 2 pushed clans to the forefront, going so far as to perch Hawthorne in The Tower with the sole jobs of doling out loot to Clan members. Being social has perks. It’s the best way to play the game, and Destiny 2 did a great job pushing players in that direction. It’s a pity Guided Games never worked properly, but Clans will doubtless be a great foundation for however Bungie expands the game’s social features.
Destiny 2 is a work in progress and that definitely wasn’t an acceptable way to ship. For all its flaws, though, it has good bones. It’s a foundation that can be built on. Contrast that to the first game, whose bones had to be broken and ripped out before it could become great. Ultimately, Destiny 2 was never a bad game. It was a forward thinking iteration that lacked depth.
I look forward to enjoying how Bungie builds on that game with Forsaken. As players, we won’t just be enjoying the new expansion, we’ll be experiencing the culmination of a process that started the second Bungie began work on Destiny 2.