Can Bungie Save Destiny 2 From Itself?
When I first reviewed Destiny 2, I described it as a game of two parts. The first part comprised of the minute to minute gameplay, hinging on silky smooth shooting mechanics. This part was very good, as crisp and enjoyable as just about any shooter on the market today. The second part is the MMO-lite nature of the series. In this area the game was disappointing, and as time has passed, that disappointment has merely been compounded.
Frankly, there isn’t much to do in Destiny 2. Once you hit the Power cap for any activity, there is no real reason to advance your level beyond it. Because of the way the game scales all threats to you, and you to all threats, it doesn’t really matter if you get more powerful. Limited activities with little reason to grind them and a hard weapons meta mean only a small number of those are worth using. A disappointing DLC that doesn’t expand upon its one interesting idea with regard to replay value. Destiny 2 is, frankly, a lame duck. Once you have done something, there is little reason to do it again.
Player engagement and satisfaction has been an issue since launch in certain places on the internet. Both Reddit and the Bungie forums have been awash with unhappy players expressing their concerns with the game. Where some people may see angry and entitled consumers who would never be happy, I have spent enough time in the marketing world to be able to hazard a guess that this isn’t what Bungie sees. For the developers, they see a worrying trend; the erosion of one of the most valuable assets modern games can have. Bungie are losing the hyper connected players that help grow a series from release to release.
While casual gamers represent most of the sales numbers for any games, in a DLC and microtransaction driven game like Destiny 2 the hardcore represent most of the money. Even when they don’t spend money themselves, the most engaged players are a constant source of free advertising and resources. They make videos, write fan fiction, and produce fan art. They tweet and post about the game constantly, theorizing about plot, mechanics and future releases. They are the foundation of most communities, the leaders of clans and the moderators of forums. Having them both on-side and on-message is vital to a game in this era of social media.
The move from the more fleshed out and rewarding Destiny into the somewhat barren Destiny 2 was quite a shock for many gamers. They wondered why Bungie didn’t seem to keep many of the improvements that had been made over the years. Bungie took the risky move of throwing out many of the systems that had been brought in by the Live Team, and it did not pay off. Many sites reviewed the game well, because it was designed to be reviewed well. An easily runnable yet exciting campaign, then a short sharp run into the end game to make you feel rewarded. The problem, I feel, is that the allotted time given to finish a review at a gaming site simply cannot be long enough to find out if something that wants to engage people long term is actually able to do that.
The issue was that there was nothing to do after that, and this is where the veteran players really started to stumble. There are only so many self-generated reasons that a community can come up with to keep doing the same thing, and Destiny 2 made it harder than ever to do that. The good news is, that all is not lost for Destiny 2. Nothing is happening here that we didn’t see with Destiny 1, for better or worse.
I think that Bungie are aware that if they start to focus on those who wish for an endgame, that those people will return. Anyone who has stopped playing, due to a lack of reasons to do so, doesn’t hate or even dislike Destiny 2. They love it. They just don’t have any reason to spend time with it any more.
We can already see Bungie exploring ways to help expand the game, but their current attempts are simply too shallow, possibly the result of being a rushed reaction to player dissatisfaction. Masterwork weapons are interesting, but one extra perk from a small pool of possible options just falls victim to the same problems the rest of the game does. One choice rapidly stands out as the best choice, and after that you are done.
I hope to see Bungie return to strike and raid specific loot and perks, achievement tracking such as in the Age of Triumph changes that Destiny 1 saw, and more variety in weapons and armor instead of a seemingly constant flow of re-skinned or re-released weapons. What the game needs, and fast, is depth. Deeper, more meaningful and complex systems will appeal to the veterans and, if implemented correctly, need not be a turn off to new players. While events like the recent Dawning, and the upcoming Valentine’s event are fun, they are no substitution for deeper, more engaging long term additions to the game.
I do believe that Bungie can, and will, do these things. There is, however, one final thing to consider. They need to rebuild trust and interest in their player base and somehow put forth the message that Destiny 3 will be a different experience. That they will build upon the better work they do, and not just throw it all out for the sake of making changes and providing a stripped-down experience to those that need it. Only then can Bungie even hope to deliver on the original promise of their ten-year plan.