I am no stranger to controversy. I don’t seek it out, but it finds me. Little did I know, when undertaking the task of reviewing Destiny 2 for GameSpace last year, that I would be joyfully painting a target on myself – without hesitation.
Why? I gave it a 10.
That’s right. I said it was perfect and I stand by it… to a point. In this article, we are going to be taking a look back at the year in review for Destiny 2. But first, why did I give it a 10?
At the time of release, Destiny 2 was everything that I wanted in a sci-fi, first-person shooter: it had a rich story that Bungie learned how to tell, it had tight controls with a wide variety of weapons to choose from, and a sweeping score to match the scale of its breath-taking vistas you would encounter throughout it.
However, Destiny 2’s first year was mired in controversies. Some were legitimate, some were conflated with outrage, but all were bad for it. Between “Shadergate,” the discovery of endgame XP throttling, and the “Road Compl-keks” outrage, Destiny 2 was bound to have an issue or two.
Can we be honest though: are we really still mad about “Shadergate” as we go the mailboxes to retrieve the shaders that won’t fit into our bags any longer? Are we still mad about sluggish XP gains at the end of a game that we have likely moved on from? Are we still mindlessly frothing about the arrangement of shapes and colors that some people on Reddit suggested bore a resemblance to a meme adopted by a subgroup of culture, causing Bungie to remove it from the game?
Probably not. Well, some people might still be chapped about the last one, but I am diverging a little bit off of the main point.
With all of its expansions released and 3 seasons worth of events under its belt, does Destiny 2 still deserve a 10?
Yes… and no.
As I said earlier: I stand by the original score based on the criteria I scored it on – story, gameplay, and cohesion of delivery. On each one of these accounts, Bungie was pitch perfect in delivering a satisfying gameplay experience with a world that I wanted to spend time in. Controls and gunplay were tight, the threat felt rather dire, the characters memorable, and, by the end, the story was a resolution. Even at endgame, there was still plenty to do… to a point.
And therein lies the main problem with Destiny 2: “to a point.” This is a qualifier that I found myself using when talking about it as we have moved further from launch. Let me share with you what I mean.
While the stream of loot felt consistent (to a point) and I acquire meaningful upgrades (to a point), I found myself repeating similar tasks (to a point) in order to progress… you guessed it, to a point. Even in the expanded (to a point) content, we get more story (to a point) with new locations (to a point) and access to new gear (to. a. point.).
Don’t misunderstand me: I still love Destiny 2 and have enjoyed some of the seasonal events. For the first time ever in my gaming career, I enjoyed PvP through playing the Crucible and Iron Banner events. When it comes to the expansions, I thoroughly enjoyed Curse of Osiris and Warmind. Being able to finally meet Osiris after so much story breadcrumbing lived up to the hype and learning more about the Warmind, Rasputin, was equal parts tantalizing and terrifying.
However, instead of the broad experience one might expect from an expansion, these felt less like a fully formed content drop and more like episodic DLC. These experiences were not fully resolved and felt like setup for something else.
Perhaps, this is me as a fickle gamer and consumer expecting more from something than it promised to deliver. Or am I? Should Destiny 2 have delivered more? If so, what should it have delivered more of?
I think that the better question (and arguably the one that would answer the other two) is this: what IS Destiny 2 supposed to be?
According to Bungie’s marketing, Destiny 2 is “an action shooter with an epic story” where you can “play your way: solo, bring friends, make some new ones.” However, the Destiny franchise has always ridden a line of ambiguity between being a story-driven, first-person shooter and a fully realized MMO.
We recently talked about this on the GameSpace GameShow (around the 43-minute mark). GameSpace staff writer Matt Keith shared this thought in a conversation about Destiny 2 and game relevancy, saying:
“Destiny is in this weird space where it doesn’t know what it wants to be half the time… I think that’s part of the problem. Sometimes it wants to be an MMO, until being an MMO gets too hard… and then it’s not… as a result, I don’t know how to engage it.”
Matt makes a valid point. If Bungie intended Destiny 2 to be an MMO, there are elements missing for it to fully function within that space. It would need to be a persistent space in which new things were happening to change the landscape of the narrative while still allowing players access to revisit old content. Had Bungie migrated the player base and content from Destiny into Destiny 2 (like many other MMO expansions have done) this would certainly have lent some gravitas to it. Curse of Osiris or Warmind really didn’t do that, outside of opening a new zone to traverse. Yes, they both produced major threats, but in each case, they were dealt with swiftly and the universe was saved, again.
But what if Destiny 2 is simply what Bungie’s marketing campaign stated and we were to judge it on the merits of what it claims to be – an action shooter with an epic story? Does it achieve that end goal?
Can you play, as they suggest, any way you like? Yup. You sure can. Do the expansion packs aid in this? They are slightly less grand in their scope, but I would argue that they are pretty epic adventures… Orisis gets a little weird running through the Infinite Forest over and over again, but thematically, it worked.
On the other side of the coin, Destiny 2 suffers from some of the missteps of its predecessor: raid content feels highly inaccessible without an active community of players, public event types are very limited, gear progression slows to a crawl at a point, and, I think I speak for a majority of players when I say this: we are over blind loot box microtransactions.
Every game shows their age after a while and has a finite grasp on our attention spans. With all of the controversies and missteps, Destiny 2 is still a stellar game. It has a lot to offer someone looking for a story-driven shooter. It handles cooperative and competitive play very well, offering variety in both. Yes, it is finite and, yes, there are moments that feel grindy, but at the end of the day, Bungie gave us a game worthy of a place at the table of highly enjoyable games with substance.
If I were to have to score Destiny 2 today, I would give it a 9. It would lose a point for all of the “to a point” moments, but it would remain as a strong contender for one of my favorite multiplayer shooters of all times.