Bungie's Destiny 2 appears to have found a sizable audience right out of the gates, pulling in 1.2 million concurrent players in the days after its September 6th launch. And that's before its PC release, which is scheduled for October 24th.
Does the game correct the flaws of the original? Does it mar the magic that made the original so addictive? Gamasutra staffers who've played the game decided to chew over its merits amongst themselves.
Alex Wawro (@awawro), news editor: Hullo! I don't know if y'all heard, but Bungie released a new video game earlier this month. It's not Myth III, sure, but it seems like people are taking a shine to it anyhow.
Leaving aside the obvious misstep made in not branding it Des2ny: Traveler's Blues, I wanted to check in and get your thoughts on Destiny 2. I know we've all been playing it; after our stream on launch week I wound up playing quite a bit, and now suddenly I'm max level.
The funny thing is, I wasn't really into the first Destiny and I'm not really excited about this one, either -- yet I find myself drawn to keep playing, in large part because a lot of my friends are playing too. Am I crazy? Is there something really remarkable about this game's design that I'm just oblivious to?
The bits that stick out to me most, at this point, seem like little things: the environmental art and audio is striking. The fact that shaders have been made consumable is frustrating. My character looks amazing, and TBH all I really want to do is walk around the shared social spaces and show off her rad haircut. What doesn't stick out at all, now that I look back, is anything about the game's narrative or its characters.
Do you feel differently? What sticks out to you, now that you've spent some time with the latest iteration of Bungie's sci-fi shooter second coming? How d'you suppose it will fare in the market, now that it's expanded to PC alongside PS4 and Xbox One?
What is the best emote?
Bryant Francis (@RBryant2012), contributing editor: I’m level 20, and I’ll share some thoughts from my journey to save The Traveler and/or become a fancy-pants robro.
"Destiny’s collaborative play has a unique mix going for it, where single-player grinding and cooperative grinding can funnel toward the same rewards."
I think I remain continually interested in Destiny as a game that “feels like home,” per our discussion with Slime Rancher dev Nick Popovich a few weeks back. Destiny’s collaborative play has a unique mix going for it, where single-player grinding and cooperative grinding can funnel toward the same rewards. Because of this, it’s both pleasant to pop into Destiny 2, and use it as a space to go on adventures with your friends while shooting very sweet guns and listening to great voice actors tell you about strange proper nouns.
Now the thing is, that’s kind of what World of Warcraft did for me back in the day, except in a far more polished fashion (and with less standing around LFG). I think I’ve been a bit harsher on Destiny than I ever was on World of Warcraft, and I think that has to do with Destiny’s continual narrative push towards importance, while WoW did a good job kind of treating new dungeons/raids as a theme park and not the next secret in the tale of…something or other.
And that’s not just in the marketing, that’s in the level/mission structure. I actually applaud Destiny 2’s narrative designers for coming up with some clever reasons to “shoot here, hold this point, gather this thing,” and letting their voice actors take the reigns, but I think Destiny would be better served by a general vibe that supported its “home” sensibility. You’re a space superhero, hanging out, plundering dungeons, getting sweet sweet loot. I think that’s what Destiny’s players like about the game!
But to be fair to the fine folks at Bungie, I think this is a really hard thread to needle. Players have to care, and the quickest way to get them to care is to put megalomaniacal villains, superweapons, and cities to rescue on the board. I just kind of wish the quests sometimes were “check out this sweet place, and get yourself a sweet gun!” I’d argue there’s room to just meet characters in a fashion similar to 80 Days in a game like that.
Alex, to your question about the game’s success, I’m worried for Destiny 2 in the same way I’m worried for every game in 2017, which is, if it isn’t PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, I hope it will do enough sales to keep its developers in business.
(I do think PC will bring a huge explosion of new players to the game, I just also am concerned it will create a lot of hacking headaches for Bungie…)
Alissa McAloon (@gliitchy), contributor: I really meant to jot my thoughts on Destiny 2 down sooner, but I keep getting distracted by the game itself. I put close to 500 hours into the original Destiny and played consistently for the first two years of that game’s lifespan, and I can already feel myself slipping back into those old routines with Destiny 2.
"In the first game, the between-mission busywork was a necessary but sometimes dull way to grind for gear. In Destiny 2, that process seems much more interesting."
I haven’t been able to track how much time I’ve put into Des2ny yet, but I’m creeping up on 270 power and already in the process of roping together some friends to attempt the recently unlocked raid this weekend. Really, I thought I was moving through the game at a leisurely pace until recently and I think part of that has to do with how Bungie has brought back and improved on the small, reoccurring events and activities that dot Destiny’s open planetscapes.
Adventures in particular have done a lot to add some much needed character to Destiny 2 and its planets. The first game was very touch-and-go with its narrative, and seemed to introduce new enemies and allies without ever really fleshing either out. Now, adventures act as side-quests that link together to offer additional background on a planet’s specific enemies or the faction NPC that resides over each area.
Between Adventures and the new in-game timers for Public Events, I accidentally hit level cap when I was maybe only halfway through the actual campaign. In the first game, the between-mission busywork was a necessary but sometimes dull way to grind for gear. In Destiny 2, at least at the end of the first week, that process is much more interesting.
But something I’ve noticed more and more since we first played Destiny 2 on stream last week is how little the game actually clearly communicates about itself. While Destiny 2 has improved from a narrative standpoint, it still doesn’t do a great job of directing players through the game mechanics themselves. Especially in the post-campaign world of gear-dependent ‘power’ levels, Destiny 2 doesn’t clearly explain how to progress in the game.
I realized most of what I’ve been doing to beef up my Warlock is based on the things I know from Destiny 1 rather than from the game I’m actually playing. Even with that prior knowledge, I’m still flipping through Google to find a guide that’ll tell me why my blue and purple gear drops have all capped out at 265 and how I break through that soft cap to reach the 280 or 290 power I’m seeing other Guardians reach.
Oh, also, I was worried that the PC version would steal my PS4 players away, but I might be making the jump myself after playing the beta and seeing how beautiful the game looks on PC. If only crossplatform saves were a thing.
Watch Gamasutra staffers play Destiny 2
Alex Wawro: Yeah! Alissa, I really like your point about how this version of Destiny seems to have more character, thanks in part to the little side quests ("Adventures") sprinkled throughout the various zones.
"Everything is grand and heroic and terrifying, and it works -- but some of my most beloved bits are the quiet moments between missions, when you're talking to NPCs and unraveling who they are, where they came from, and why they're here."
The last Destiny seemed bereft of spirit and personality; you would get these occasional infusions of capital L Lore (usually via slightly confusing cutscene) throughout the campaign, and when that was over I remember feeling very adrift -- what was the Black Garden? How does The Traveler work? Why is everything a proper noun?
I think this jibes with what Bryant was getting at: the Destiny games seem to have their narrative tone pegged at max volume. Everything is grand and heroic and terrifying throughout most of Des2ny, and it works -- but some of my most beloved bits are the quiet moments between missions, when you're talking to NPCs and unraveling who they are, where they came from, and why they're here.
To be fair, I don't think those are the questions Des2ny sets out to answer, but they're some of my favorite questions to ask.
What are you curious to see, now that the game has been out for 2+ weeks and a lot of players are hitting the endgame? Is there something Des2ny could do to keep you coming back, in the face of so many remarkable games coming out every month?
Bryant Francis: My wish? If Bungie uses the big content updates to also ship updated adventures (or V.O for adventures) so you can keep getting those small character moments. I really like the mission design on those things, since they seem to have gotten more creative with their various assets and the design verbs built into their game. (We did one as a trio that involved exploding barrels being teleported into the area. Alex threw himself on them a few times.)
I also wouldn’t mind some interesting mechanics to let you modify the loot you have to better fit your playstyle? I know there’s stat modifiers, but some mechanic to shift a given shotgun to an assault rifle at the cost of some currency I’m currently not spending would be swell. I think it’s okay for Des2ny to just be a Diablo-inspired lootfest, so maybe more fun mechanics/objectives about modifying loot would hook me in.
I’m sure Bungie has a solid mission plan for raids/strikes/endgame but if the theme of Destiny 2 is “improving quality of life” I wouldn’t mind if that was a running theme through its continuing updates.
Alissa McAloon: I’ve been popping into Destiny nearly every morning before work, and I’m glad to see the sequel has been able to capture and even improve on that sense of ‘home’ mentioned earlier on by giving players a way to just pop in and play at their leisure with very little friction. As long as the rotating daily, event-specific challenges or weekly milestones don’t get stale, I can see those less demanding tasks keeping players engaged for quite some time.
"I’m holding my final verdict on Destiny 2 until we find out how Bungie handles pacing and content later on. Give me some meaty expansions that both build on Destiny 2’s base game content and introduce new, compelling stories and activities and I’ll be set."
To the tune of Bryant’s hope for more personal weapons, I’d like to see a revision of the current ‘infusion’ system. In both Destiny 1 and 2, there’s a system that that lets you feed one gun to another to raise its light/power level. While D1 let you feed guns that shared a category (primary, special or heavy), Destiny 2 ties infusion to actual weapon types. Shotguns feed shotguns, side arms feed side arms.
The new system feels like it's there to nudge players toward trying new weapon types, but in my experience, it just means I end up with a weak gun-of-choice and an inventory full of 280+ power grenade launchers I’ll never need and it's beyond frustrating.
I mentioned it forever ago on the Destiny 2 Beta stream we did, but I’m holding my final verdict on Destiny 2 until we find out how Bungie handles pacing and content later on. Give me some meaty expansions that both build on Destiny 2’s base game content and introduce new, compelling stories and activities and I’ll be set.
I’ve only managed to get halfway through the raid so far, but the amount of stuff hidden off the beaten path is amazing. If that same kind of depth shows up in the rest of the endgame, I don’t think Destiny 2 players have much to worry about.