Opinion: Old Exotics Returning is Good News for Destiny 2.
Yesterday, Bungie released a new trailer highlighting the new Competitive multiplayer offering. Players quickly noted new weapons and Crucible maps. But a few eagle-eyed viewers noticed something odd: Destiny 1 gear.
Destiny Lore Master and YouTuber, MyNameisByf made a video addressing these findings and confirmed that the gear in question, was in fact from Destiny 1. In particular, two exotic pieces of armor returned, in the form of The Taikonaut and Starfire Protocol.
Player response, hasn't been positive to say the lease. While some are surely glad that they're familiar gear will be available, the vocal majority at the moment seem to be lambasting Bungie for "reusing" gear.
Gear in Question:
Now, this was immediately met with reactions of “ugh, reused content,” and “we want something new.”
Okay, I get that. After vanilla Destiny, that’s a valid concern.
But there’s a problem with Destiny, and its sequels going forward, especially when it comes to exotics. Exotics are weapons designed for utility in niche situations. Bungie’s philosophy on exotics are that exotics are designed as “exceptions” to the world’s rules.
The thing is, the world’s rules haven’t changed very much, so why should exotics? Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of Destiny’s exotics need to be new. And if they aren’t, Bungie should face the full brunt of player’s outrage.
But Destiny 2 is still the same type of game, with the same rules. It’s a first-person shooter with rechargeable grenades, abilities and supers. The actual rules these exotics have to prove exceptions to are still pretty much the same. The majority of exotics push the outskirts of what’s possible, but a select set of exotics are designed around subclasses, in ways that can’t be replaced.
There are two types of exotics. While both go about the same goal: breaking the rules of Destiny's world, they go about it in two different ways. The most notable type of exotic breaks the rules of Destiny's gameplay. Twilight Garrison, for example, or the Fr0st EE5, dramatically change the way you play the game. In particular, both change mobility. Garrison grants Titans a dodge, and the Fr0st EE5 allow Hunters some nifty mobility options.
These kinds of exotics change the game in such unique ways that they have loadouts built around them. Hunters frequently pair the Fr0st EE5 with the Memory of Jolder. It basically turns you into The Flash. You can sprint infinitely with incredible accuracy. Twilight Garrison, from what I've seen, is frequently paired with builds that emphasize mobility and the Titan charge.
They're exceptions to gameplay rules, and create new ones for the player to work with. Which brings me to the second type of exotic: Exotics that break the rules of the player's subclass.
With these exotics, you're not being granted insane perks that allow you to play entirely differently. These exotics are for players who want to stretch the limits of their character's ability's. The Starfire Protocol--as seen in the Destiny 2 trailer--grants Warlocks an additional firebolt grenade. Similarly, Young Ahamkara's Spine grants Hunters an additional Tripmine grenade
These aren't dramatic perks, but they're popular and frequently used. In particular, using Sealed Ahamkara's Graps, allowing me an additional throwing knife, lets me choose different character perks. Now I can pick Chain of Woe, granting me a triple-stacking reload bonus with precision kills. It doesn't break the way the game's played. It lets me explore it better.
As long as those subclasses exist, those kinds of perks need to. Otherwise the game will become stale. These staple exotics allow for flexibility when creating builds, which in turn, allows players access to the gear, weapons and perks they actually want to use, rather than the ones they need to use.
The bulk of Destiny 1’s exotics should not return in Destiny 2. On launch day, with an entirely new RPG ahead of me, I want the full thrill of discovering new gear, and how it fits into my character’s play style.
But there remains a core set of exotics that have to return. Exotics that let us have two grenades or two abilities are essential. They free up character abilities and give players freedom in spec’ing optimal builds. Destiny’s existing subclasses warrant these exotics to balance out their own inherent gameplay restrictions.
The Starfire Protocol appearing in the Destiny 2 Crucible trailer doesn’t alarm me at all. It’s something to be expected. Warlocks need an exotic that grants them two fusion grenades. I’d expect Hunters to get Young Ahamkara’s Spine as well. There’s roughly a dozen exotic armor pieces that cover similar bases.
Technically, Bungie could just dream up brand new exotics to cover the subclasses. That wouldn’t be hard. But it would do far more irreparable damage to the game than benefit.
Imagine getting a brand-new exotic gauntlet that grants Hunters an additional Tripmine grenade. But rather than “Young Ahamkara’s Spine,” it’s “Plumage of S’Renya.” Instead of having a baby dragon’s spinal column protruding from your forearm, you have a plume of Peacock-esque feathers running up till your elbow. It’s a beautiful exotic. That’s…utterly wasted on you.
First off, you’re still essentially wearing the exact same armor piece as before—it’s just called something different. And I guarantee you’ll absolutely be thinking that the entire time. The “new” factor just isn’t coming back—which was the whole point of leaving old exotics behind. Any discussion about your kickass new gear would boil down to “yeah, it’s Year 4 Ahamakara’s Spine.” The “Plumage of S’Renya” is a gorgeous exotic that deserves its own unique perks to gloat over.
Which brings me to my second point: Rebranding old exotic perks onto new exotic gear would absolutely wreck the game’s immersion. Exotic weapons aren’t just unique to the player and gameplay. Exotic weapons also have lore and connection to events, people and locations. Whatever power the exotic holds is intrinsically tied to the universe.
“Young Ahamkara’s Spine” is a look at a race of intelligent, wish-fulfilling dragons that spoke in cryptic riddles. Its unique power to grant an extra Tripmine grenade is testament to its importance.
Granting that exotic perk to a brand-new weapon breaks that commitment from the world. If these new S’Renya birds have this exact same power, what makes the Ahamkara so special? Not only does it wreck the importance of the original exotic, it waters down anything the new exotic has to offer. Its only purpose is to offer a new aesthetic and flavor text…that the player’s much less interested in. What’s to say I can’t just find some mollusks in Old Russia that, whattya know, grant extra Tripmines? Why are these birds so important, if the Ahamkara weren’t?
New gear would hit the field with their identities watered down. It would be distracting to players, disrespectful of the world, and just flat-out redundant to gameplay. Such gear just wouldn’t be unique and certainly wouldn’t be “exotic.”
In sum, there’s a certain number of perks that Destiny 2 just has to have. Not having them would cripple the overall game, and rebranding them with new gear would utterly destroy the world’s immersion. Bringing in select pieces of old gear is unquestionably the best solution to this problem.
There’s a third option, which I’m sure someone is going to advocate: Not bringing exotic gear or their perks forward at all. This idea has some merit. Bungie should go forward looking for new rules of their world to break.
They’re undoubtedly going to create new rules, both in lore and gameplay, with which to do so. And I totally agree. We don’t need another Zhalo Supercell, or Dreg’s Promise, or even another Last Word. I’ll do fine without my Celestial Nighthawk or Fr0st 335. They’re cool exotics to be sure, but they’re designed to stretch the limits of Destiny. Bungie will find new ways to do that, and Destiny 2’s new exotics prove that it’s entirely possible.
But at the core of Destiny are gameplay elements that require certain exotics to exist. And the bulk of these are linked to subclasses that are returning to Destiny 2. Removing this gear would neuter the player’s choices. Replacing them would weaken the game’s world. The only real choice is to bring them forward.
And really, what’s the harm? Some arbitrary standard? Purging all Destiny 1 gear from the game is impossible to explain from a story perspective and would weaken the world's immersion. Its minimal benefits to the RPG experience would be overwhelmed by the neutered flexibility of the subclasses. Ultimately, Bungie has to deliver a self-consistent world with enjoyable gameplay. Bringing back the Taikonaut or Starfire Protocol delivers both, while sacrificing nothing.