I’m still working my way through Forsaken and am waiting to (hopefully) complete the raid before giving any final thoughts on that content. I will say I am having a great time, but I’ve been having a mostly great time with Destiny 2 since just before the release of Warmind. I’ve done pretty much anything and everything I could, or at least wanted to do in the year one content. With the release of Forsaken, many fans are returning for the promise of new and exciting content, something year one didn’t always deliver in the eyes of the community. Well, for those who are interested in seeing what they missed, here is a look back at Destiny 2’s first year and all of its ups and downs.
The biggest praise I can offer the launch version of the game is that it had a campaign that was enjoyable and characters that felt more fleshed out and likable. It highlighted a villain that was motivated and at times sympathetic. Dominus Ghaul wasn’t simply trying to wipe out the Guardians or Earth, though that was certainly a part of his plan. He wanted to wield the all powerful light, but he wanted to be chosen just as the humans had. He considered it a defeat to simply take it, he needed to prove his worth. Though this ultimately fizzled by the end, I liked Ghaul and would like to see more villains such as him.
Bungie made the curious decision to take away our Guardian’s voice in D2 (though they ultimately brought it back in the face of Cayde’s death) and we now played as a silent protagonist. This was awkwardly conveyed multiple times throughout the story with some half-hearted jokes and a whole lot more Ghost dialogue but ultimately proved a non-issue. Players were given the ability to transfer over their Guardian from the previous game, but it was almost entirely a cosmetic convenience as most of the original Destiny is either ignored, retconned, or tucked away in obscure lore, with only a few brief mentions of things like defeating a god in the black garden as reminder that, “oh yeah, there was a game before this.”
Patrol zones are a little weird in Destiny 2. I feel like the zones in the original game are more memorable because I thought of them a lot while playing D2 despite not putting all the much time into the original. The new zones seem a little bit smaller, but more accessible. Public events are now displayed on the map so you never have to miss one and there are still lost sectors to explore and chests/materials strewn about. Planetary vendors offer themed gear and are generally likable characters themselves. I think I like the zones better in D2, I’m almost positive I do, I just wish there was a little bit more to them.
With Destiny 2, Bungie attempted to make the game more approachable and more rewarding for all players, not just the most devoted. At first, this was mostly appreciated as players felt they were powering up faster and getting cooler loot more frequently. The first month after launch was great until everyone was hitting or had already hit the power cap. It was at this point that many realized that by making the game more approachable, it also removed some of the mystique that made the original mesmerizing for its most devoted fans. After the raid there just wasn’t anything left worth doing, no secrets left to uncover, no expansive questlines to complete. There was a pretty substantial drop off of players and it seemed that for all its attempts to placate fans, Bungie’s response was too extreme in the other direction.
It also didn’t help that despite improving gear acquisition and progression, Guardians generally felt weaker in Destiny 2. We were slower, less powerful, and it made the game less fun. The shooting was as satisfying as ever, but you couldn’t always tell because the game had a slight sluggishness to it. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t completely realize myself until a pre-Warmind update (more on that later) that completely blew my mind. The general feeling throughout the rest of 2017 was that Destiny 2 might already be dead in the water and that the series could now be in jeopardy.
Bungie didn’t really do much to help things…
A big issue in the original Destiny was the fact that Bungie seems to control the game with an iron fist. Fans would provide feedback and criticism, Bungie would fail to properly acknowledge it and make their own fix for it, creating its own problems. This was no truer than the original game’s issue with loot drops. For several weeks, loot drops could actually drop gear lower than the colored engram reflected. That meant your legendary engram could drop a blue, a huge let down considering how hard gear was to come by. When players discovered the infamous “loot cave” they gathered in droves to farm it for the ever elusive drops.
The loot cave was my favorite part of the original game because it brought players together in a way Bungie never could, at least not intentionally. Sure you’d see people running around occasionally and would jump into some public events (if you knew how to find them), but nothing showcased the shared-world nature of the game more than the loot cave. Players would be dancing and goofing around together while also decimating the unfortunate Hive that emerged from that cave. It was great and players were finally getting quality gear (if they were lucky).
Uh oh, fun detected. Bungie shut that shit down quick, fast, and in a hurry. After enough fan outcry, they finally fixed engrams to drop the gear appropriate for the color. Small victories I guess. Bungie did that a lot during the first game’s run. With Destiny 2, it finally seemed that they’d loosened their grip and weren’t going to force people to play the Bungie way. But then the feedback started to come in and Bungie would go days or weeks without addressing player complaints, only to emerge and say “we hear you” before creeping back into whatever hole they were digging. Bungie just never seemed to care, and that could have really hurt the game a lot more than it did. Frankly, it should have. I spitefully disliked the original game because I thought their campaign was bullshit and everything felt meaningless.
I can say with confidence that at least a few people were listening because Forsaken addresses most if not all of the game’s major issues for most players, combining a bit of the best of both games. This could have easily been a too little too late story, but I’m glad it wasn’t. Now Bungie just needs to keep doing right by fans and actually stay in their good graces.
Bungie made a few curious changes to the crucible such as reducing the player count to 4v4 rather than 6v6. Combined with the slower, more sluggish feel of the game, Crucible matches felt like more of a chore. The maps were good, so that’s a plus, but I always had the most fun when Iron Banner rolled around at it was 6v6. Oddly, Bungie removed the power advantage from Iron Banner that was present in the original, much to the dismay of fans. While that particular issue will be addressed in Forsaken, Bungie did bring back 6v6 multiplayer, as well as a permanent Rumble playlist as part of its pre-Forsaken updates in July. Crucible is now a lot more fun and the right amount of chaotic. I hate Hunters more than anything, but at least I can say I am having fun with it.
Strikes Are Fun, Right?
First and foremost, Destiny 2 did not and still does not have enough Strikes. Even with the release of Forsaken, there are only 15 counting the still unreleased Dreaming City strike and the exclusive PS4 strike. PC and Xbox players only had 11 until the release of Forsaken which brought in the two year one PS4 exclusive strikes. Don’t worry, they have Broodhold until fall 2019 all to themselves still (ugh). Also, Exodus Crash is a dumpster fire and shouldn’t be played because it is the most boring, time-consuming strike in the entire playlist, so bad that it was previously removed from the Heroic and Nightfall strike playlists until Forsaken brought it back (WHY?!?!?!?).
You run strikes enough, it starts to feel like you just ran all of them. Some strikes are still a lot of fun, but too many can be annoying under the right circumstances. Also, let’s be real, it can’t be that hard to make a new strike. Considering a handful (see: Curse of Osiris and Warmind Strikes) are just recycled boss fights, the existing playlist is lazy. In a perfect world, new strikes would be added on a minimum monthly basis and would have a higher priority during their launch week. Go ahead Bungie, just keep recycling those boss fights, I just don’t want to keep running the Pyramidion just because I know it like the back of my hand at this point.
Also, screw Nightfalls. At launch, they had some bullshit time limit and when you get stuck with Exodus Crash as your weekly Nightfall you might as well skip that week. Nightfalls power you down to be closer to the entry requirement. Yes, that’s what I want. I want to get all this loot and get super powerful and then not benefit from it because Nightfall. It’s dumb, plain and simple. It is doable, it’s not like it’s hard once you have good gear, but it goes against the whole purpose of running it which is to get more powerful gear. Make the Nightfall harder, don’t make me weaker.
Bungie also had a tough time on their hands when they introduced Heroic Strikes, the same strikes as usual but not with modifiers like melee attacks kill you in one hit (Blackout) or jumping basically means death (Grounded) and ow my body hurts (because this sucks). These modifiers were far too punishing and made the already too familiar strike playlist feel like a chore. They also stopped timing the Nightfall by this point so it made even that feel better by comparison. Bungie has since nerfed those debuffs into obscurity, to the point where they’re mostly there for show now.
I still want more strikes, don’t think I forgot.
Enter the Leviathan
Destiny 2 launched with a brand new Raid and overall raid environment known as The Leviathan. This massive, world-eating Cabal vessel was home to the Emperor of the Cabal himself, Calus. For some time it acted as a prison as he was exiled by Ghaul and the Red Legion, but he has since reclaimed his throne and is looking forward to challenging Earth’s mightiest heroes (sorry Avengers, it was us the whole time). The Leviathan features a large central room where you’re tasked with gathering banners to unlock the various rooms of the ship. Each room features its own mechanics, challenges, and opportunities to flex your Guardian’s prowess. Though I didn’t complete the raid until after Warmind was already released I still made sure my team of also never runs went in blind for maximum effect.
The Leviathan was and probably still is the most fun I’ve had playing Destiny 2. There is something about running the raid with your friends and discovering the different mechanics, piecing together the overall puzzle and earning that satisfaction. When we reached the final room and managed to struggle our way through to the final round with Calus, I remember we were throwing everything we had at him but we didn’t have enough. As my friends and I were dying and he was about to wipe us again, I just remember my super filling, popping it, and jumping at him to smack him with my shield. I gave him everything he could take before we wiped, but we didn’t reset. We sat on the edge of our seats, all six of us wondering, “did we do it?” Calus finally finished monologuing and we saw the proof of our victory. Within the last day one of my buddies brought it up, a reminder of not just what I did (WHICH WAS AWESOME BY THE WAY, WOOO), but of how amazing the whole raid was. We still run it from time to time but that first time will always be the best.
Once you complete the raid (unless you already know the secrets of the ship) you can enter the underbelly. The maze-like halls can keep you busy for almost as long as the raid itself as you search for the loot chests hidden inside. Completing the raid rewards you with three keys for three different chests, all in major locations of the ship. For those who are quick to pick up on it, you can also discover ways to traverse the raid itself without having to return to the central room after each clear. That can not only save a lot of time but can also help you get at these chests much faster as you’re already completing the raid.
In a departure from the original, Destiny 2 does not include new raids with its DLC, but rather Raid Lairs. These lairs take place in the Leviathan, but take us to new parts of the ship and have Calus telling us how amused he is. I like Calus, and I like these lairs. They’re much shorter than the raid itself but can be equally rewarding. Prior to the release of Forsaken, you could also get 400 power weapons from completing Prestige Raid Lairs, a great reason to keep heading back to the Leviathan each week.
Curse of Osiris (And The Not So Infinite Forest)
Bungie promised at least two pieces of post-release content for Destiny 2. The first manifested as Curse of Osiris. The content promised to introduce us to the legendary Warlock who trained Ikora and previously led the Vanguard before being shunned for his beliefs. We’re taken to Mercury which, if the name Osiris is any indication, has some mild Egyptian inspirations. The story involved the Vex using something called the Infinite Forest to try and discover a way to wipe out humanity and all other life. The Forest was capable of running an infinite number of simulations to help them figure out the best/easiest path. Unfortunately for them, they can’t calculate your Guardian (the plot armor is strong with this one).
I’m not as down on the story of Curse of Osiris as most. I thought it was fine if a little flat. Osiris is a cool character that was ultimately built up too much for his own good. All you ever hear is he was “Zavala before Zavala” and that he was the Guardian. Turns out he isn’t quite all he’s cracked up to be. He is a capable combatant but is in way over his head and if not for our Guardian would surely have left the system in ruin due to his stubbornness. As we learn in the strikes he is also prone to some questionable decision making such as reviving dangerous Vex minds because “I thought I could control it.”
This content’s flaws are two-fold. Mercury is small, like, really small, small enough they won’t even let you ride your sparrow (assholes). It feels insignificant, even if is is packed with plenty of planetary materials and the like. It only has one public event, albeit a very cool one, that takes way too long to pop up. The zone looks the part, but overall feels half-assed, especially the Infinite Forest. For a place with infinite in the name, I expected more than to follow a few randomly assembled pathways that my fireteam almost entirely skips every time we’re in there. The “infinite” part of the Infinite Forest is inconsequential and barely worth mentioning if not for the fact Bungie felt it necessary to hype up prior to release.
There were some cool mechanics such as Brother Vance’s Verses (say that 10 times fast) that require you to play different modes and complete different events to earn materials to unlock weapons. It was busy work, sure, but it was the type of content people were looking for. Players wanted to be rewarded for playing the game and this offered an opportunity to do that. There was also a brief but cool story about Saint-14, the former Titan Vanguard member and his fate. Unfortunately, Curse of Osiris did not offer enough to make players feel like it made Destiny 2 better. They (rightfully) expected their $20 to go further and do more to improve the game. Full disclosure, I played the intro mission of the DLC before dropping Destiny entirely until their next major update. I didn’t end up playing through it until just before Warmind.
The Fan Designated “Gotta Go Fast Update” (Cue the Sonic Adventure Music) And Future Updates Roadmap
It was around this time that Bungie finally decided to start taking the fan feedback seriously. Maybe seeing their fanbase shrink rapidly since release and that even a PC version wasn’t keeping people interested finally opened their eyes. They set out with the goal of making the game feel better to play as they prepared to release their second DLC. The “Gotta Go Fast” update increased Guardian speed and the speed at which Supers charged. Now you could use your special abilities more often and make your Guardian feel more powerful.
When I tell you this was a day and night change, I am not over exaggerating. When I booted up the game and started running around I almost thought something was wrong. I couldn’t believe how much better the game felt right away. It was around this time that I got back into the game in a big way and haven’t looked back since. If it weren’t for this update, I wouldn’t have even written this.
It was also around this time that Bungie became a lot more transparent about what they were working on. The regularly put up development roadmaps highlighting changes big and small and started to bring the community back into the game. This was really all we were asking for, our feedback to be heard and a clear reaction to it. Bungie was making all the right moves to keep the game alive, as well as build hype for what was to come after Warmind (see: Forsaken)
Warmind (“I am Rasputin, Guardian of all I survey. I have no Equal.”)
Warmind is certainly the better of the two post-launch DLCs if for no other reason than the fact that it tells an interesting story revolving around Rasputin, the Warmind from the original Destiny. Rasputin or Raspy as his friends (myself included) call him, is a powerful A.I. weapon that the Vanguard is too scared to wield and so they would rather see him fade into obscurity. Ana Bray, a Guardian who goes against the grain and starts digging into her past, believes she shares a connection to the Warmind and believes she can bring him in line with the Vanguards ideal with regards to protecting humanity.
Rasputin is being threatened by a Hive worm god, Xol, who knows Rasputin is capable of defeating him. The story is brief but impactful. I remember listening to Rasputin tell us how no threat will ever again escape his sight and that he has no equal. That was awesome, I’m a big fan. Bray is a likable enough Guardian who takes a lot of credit for someone who doesn’t actually do any field work once we arrive. Zavala begins to display the signs of his upcoming cowardice in the face of Cayde’s murder (never gonna let him live that down) and is a little too preachy. Regardless, for as brief as these missions can feel, the content feels a bit more substantial than anything in Osiris.
Warmind takes place in a new section of Mars the will feel familiar to any players of the original despite the ice, snow, and the Clovis Bray facility. There was word going around that Warmind was content that was originally cut from the first Destiny and repurposed during the development of the sequel. Being that Warmind is developed by an outside team with only oversight from Bungie, I’d like to think that isn’t true, but that would be the most Destiny thing to happen since Destiny cut almost all of its story less than a year before release in 2013. There are a few areas that actually look pretty striking with industrial type structures built into cave walls and mountainsides. Bungie tried to tell us we had a new enemy to fight, but it’s really just Hive with a cold…they have ice on them. It’s super lame, I almost said at least they’re trying but they didn’t. I just have to remember this was a different studio and give them the benefit of the doubt.
The biggest addition was new endgame content, the Escalation Protocol. Think of it as a lighter horde mode with multiple levels and objectives for different waves. Levels end with a powerful boss that can sometimes take everything you have and it still isn’t enough. Bungie insists it is designed for a single fireteam on three max level Guardians, I want to see them pull it off. I’m sure there are people out there who can do what Bungie claims, but for the majority of us, we’re lucky that it can be activated in the live patrol zone. The EP is the closest I’ve felt to the old loot cave days in terms of bringing people together in a natural and unintended way (way to go Bungie). Getting a big team together (or making one if you have enough friends and the patience to keep resetting zones until you find them) and running through can be quick but a lot of fun. Plus it has some pretty cool rewards, including some really good guns, not that I would know since they won’t drop for me (way to go Bungie).
That Awkward Moment Where Bungie Ruined the Exotic Economy, Twice
Exotics are cool, right? Everyone loves that booming thud when you pick one up and then again when you unlock it and the yellow text in the chat tells everyone you’re special. The vanilla Destiny 2 exotics were fine, but they didn’t always feel exotic. Sure the Wardcliff Coil and Sweet Business look cool, but there are better weapons to use on those slots in the vast majority of situations. Also, exotics had a nasty habit of repeating early and often (Ross’ first four exotic drops were all Wardcliff Coils, no joke). Bungie addressed this with everyone’s favorite Agent of the Nine, Xur.
In addition to selling four exotics each weekend, he eventually sold a Fated Engram, an engram that guaranteed an exotic you didn’t already own. Shortly after that, I had every exotic I could have on a Titan…oh. If you weren’t so lucky you could buy the newly re-introduced Three of Coins, and items that maybe kinda sorta increased the likelihood of an exotic drop (the community pretty much said it wasn’t worth your likely abundant legendary shards). Curse of Osiris and Warmind introduced some pretty exciting exotics (love my Huckleberry) while also updating some older exotics (that Graviton Lance became something special after that).
Bungie started creating their own problems again when they introduced the Masterworking mechanic for legendaries. Masterworks offered big buffs, similar to the catalysts being featured on some of the more popular exotics. Suddenly, exotics lost almost all of their value. Not only could you only have one equipped at a time, meaning you always had at least two legendaries, but they also can’t grant the masterwork cores required for the process. Exotic drops became a missed opportunity because even though not every legendary dropped a core, it took away any chance whatsoever.
By the end of year one, some people were breaking down the unopened exotic engrams simply because it couldn’t give them anything of value, especially since at the time they were bound by the soft power cap and wouldn’t drop at your current level. A simple solution would have been to guarantee core drops from exotics since they’re so fancy after all, but as you’ve probably figured out, Bungie never takes the easy route.
(I know I talk bad about them a lot, but it’s because I love this game and want it to be the best it can be.)
Oh, and then they went and made the most powerful gun in the game, the Whisper of the Worm, and made it available through a cool hidden boss during a public event. Then it became a jumping puzzle and it stopped being cool. Still got my gun though, that thing is unfair. I guess they did take the easy way out…
This is the Part Where I Realize I Wrote Way More Than I Planned and Have to Wrap It Up
Destiny 2 was, is, and probably always will be a flawed game. It will never be exactly the game I or anyone else want, Bungie included, but that’s part of what makes it so special. I could go on and on in equal amount of what I like and dislike about this game, but I just keep coming back to it just about every day. Destiny 2, for all its missteps, is in an overall great place right now. Not even taking Forsaken into account, this is the best the series has ever been. We have the quality gameplay we’ve had since the beginning, but we also have the emerging story elements and character development we were missing. We have a developer that is finally listening and properly addressing feedback to make the game better. I’ve never had higher hopes for the future of this series and especially this particular game. We’re finally getting the game we were promised all those years ago when this journey began with Bungie and Activision.
If you haven’t already played the year one content, I’m not going to say it is must play but I’d say it is worth seeing. If you’re wondering if the game is worth jumping into, I want to say 100% yes, but realistically that’s not the case. Destiny requires concessions. It is give and take and you need to be willing and able to accept that. You’re going to have moments where your jaw is on the floor because something awesome happens, but you’re also going to have moments where you curse at the screen and say, “thank you Bungie, you bunch of assholes” especially when they still can’t seem to figure out how to not make me restart the game because it forgot I was logged into Battle.net. My relationship with this game is complicated, but it’s getting better all the time.