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Austin Wood

I don't want another 10 years of this Destiny 2

Destiny 2 The Final Shape teaser

For the past few months, I've been thinking about Destiny 2 a lot – a lot more than I've been playing it, that's for sure. The latest rupture in the dam of community outrage, cleaved right open by a downright ugly State of the Game blog post, has pushed those thoughts to the front of my mind. Destiny has been part of my personal and professional life for nine years, so it's with some experience that I find myself once again trying to unpack the community's frustrations and articulate my own.

A lot of people are saying the same old things. The game is dead, the devs at Bungie are lazy, they want to end this thing and be done with it. Those statements are as untrue as ever. Destiny 2 is unquestionably in a dip right now – the loudest alarm in my mind is the sudden disinterest of my famously hardcore clanmate – but it is not dying. It's still one of the most consistently successful live service games ever, and it's still got arguably the best gunplay in the history of video games. But at the same time, it does feel to me like a game near the end of its life. 

I don't actually think Destiny 2 is near the end of its life, but it feels like it is, and that's what's weighing on my mind. It's an old game that feels old, as if vital systems are starting to give out under the unstoppable march of time. We are in Season 21 of Destiny 2, people. I don't know how much more this game has to give. I don't know how much more I want to play it. 

Maybe this is just the inevitable fate of a seasonal model that's gone on this long. Every time Bungie gets a decent sandcastle going, a new season washes it away. Loot has become unappealing compared to stuff we already have, core playlists have deteriorated, the servers are on fire (obviously for different reasons, but it ain't helping), and the narrative is once again up in the air. I'm past the point of discussing what should be done and am now pondering what can be done. With Bungie openly throwing up its hands and declaring parts of its game unsalvageable, I'm not overflowing with optimism. 

The state of the game  

(Image credit: Bungie)

I've read a lot of Destiny State of the Game blog posts in these nine years, and it's rare for Bungie to sound so defeated. Destiny 2 is asking for more money than ever, yet at the same time, Bungie is saying it can't or won't dedicate resources to several sizable elements of the game.  

I've seen some players point out that, after this State of the Game, at least we can put some age-old hopes to bed. Yeah, sure. But I'd argue that 'it's as bad as you thought and it's not getting better' is not the message the game needed. It's becoming increasingly difficult to have fun in Destiny 2 once you leave the bubble of the newest content, and that content rot is apparently only going to get worse. 

Look at Gambit. For god's sake, look at Gambit. Anyone who ever makes any kind of PvPvE game ought to study the bruised, battered, and burned corpse of Destiny 2's Gambit mode, which Bungie has now thrown into a woodchipper for good measure. Gambit was once touted as a premier addition for Forsaken – one of the game's biggest and most-loved expansions – and the middle ground for the core playlists. You've got PvE in Strikes, PvP in Crucible, and PvPvE in Gambit. And guess what: Gambit used to be fun! 

People have looked at Gambit mourners and asked where this sudden love for the mode came from when the data shows almost nobody was playing it. I can honestly say I did like Gambit once upon a time. I would like to like it again! But lacking loot, heavy weapons, obnoxious Invader design, and a dire lack of updates has left it in such disrepair that Bungie would rather condemn it like an abandoned house and tell everyone they don't need to worry about it anymore. There's a logical argument for this decision, but I get enough harm reduction from US elections and don't find it any more encouraging here. 

(Image credit: Bungie)

Look at PvP. I don't know how Destiny 2 still has the PvP player base that it does, because gunplay aside, any half-decent competitive shooter will serve you better. Playing Destiny 2 for PvP is like buying a whole burger just to eat the pickles off it. You know people sell whole jars of pickles, right? I was once a top-50 Clash player in Destiny 1 (according to Destiny Tracker anyway), but at this point I think of PvP in Destiny 2 the way I think of PvP in Diablo 4. It's an unabashedly unbalanced and vestigial mess that most people can only enjoy if they like getting messy. If you go into it expecting anything else, you will get burned. 

Maybe it is good for people to finally know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Bungie does hear the requests for more PvP maps but isn't going to make more because that would require resources it apparently can't spare. I guess that's better than players hanging onto threadbare wishes for years. And it's not like PvP is as neglected as Gambit. It's getting some new modes, loot, balance changes, and so on. But it just feels bad to hear a company known for multiplayer shooters, and actively making a new PvP shooter, say it can't make maps. 

I've seen people complain about Marathon allegedly sucking up Destiny 2's resources, but the fact is, it's normal and good for a company to spend revenue from one success on new projects. That's how businesses work. I've also seen misconceptions over how the $3.6 billion Sony acquisition surely must have filled Bungie's coffers to the point that it can snap its fingers and buy a solution to anything. But that's not how acquisitions work, nor is that how money works. With all of that said, it doesn't feel good to see Bungie open a State of the Game by talking about all the things it can't do when it really doesn't feel like people are asking for the moon here. 

The loot problem  

(Image credit: Bungie)

With Gambit updates and PvP maps, I can at least see where Bungie is coming from even if it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. But the armor thing? Come on. Making one ritual armor set a year "has become increasingly challenging, especially considering these sets have historically had very low adoption by players as both base armor and cosmetic ornaments." Come on, Bungie.

Players aren't wearing ritual armor because it drops with low stats. This is also one of the reasons most people don't like to grind the standard Vanguard playlist; Strikes, especially, are unrewarding. (A lot of Destiny 2 is unrewarding, which is a big problem for a loot game!) And people aren't transmogging this armor because the sets have been pretty darn ugly. But instead of making more, stronger, or better-looking armor, we're just throwing in the towel after failing to deliver playlist armor in Lightfall?

There is absolutely no denying the optics of this in the context of Destiny 2's Eververse store pumping out plenty of more fashionable armor without issue. Release that slick bull Titan Eververse getup as ritual armor and see how many players adopt it. I recognize that Eververse is its own thing, ornaments are different from playlist drops, The Final Shape has new armor coming in several months, and we still get new sets in seasons and dungeons and raids. I'm not going to pretend that I know how this armor is made, and I'm not saying it would be easy for Bungie to make more playlist armor. I'm saying this is an incredibly flimsy and disappointing argument for a loot-based game to make.

What comes next?  

(Image credit: Bungie)

There's not a doubt in my mind that Bungie will show some cool-ass footage full of cool-ass stuff at the August 22 Final Shape showcase. It will get people hyped right the hell up despite that bitter State of the Game – which did, in fairness, promise some great quality-of-life changes. But after nine years, I would like to see more good news that doesn't come with bad news. 

My personal wishlist for the reveal is short but nebulous. What I want is something to look forward to, not for the year ahead, but for the years that Bungie says are still in store for Destiny 2. Because I am struggling to see a future for the game, or at least my future with it, beyond the Light and Darkness finale coming in the next expansion – the last part of a quadrilogy that wasn't even planned a few years ago. After the narrative letdown of Lightfall, I'm less confident in even that than I was a year ago. 

The fact that I'm already desperately looking this far ahead goes to show how little staying power Lightfall and its seasons have had, and I think that's a big part of why the community is so down right now. Lightfall was not the lowest point in Destiny 2's history, but I reckon it was the biggest fumble of any annual expansion, and the effects of that are still sinking in. A lot of little problems, and some new big ones, have congealed into one disconcerting mass. 

These days, I play Destiny 2 purely for new story missions and weekly raid or dungeon resets. I still encourage people frustrated with any game to take a break, and I've certainly been playing less following my own advice. The smartest thing the Final Fantasy 14 devs ever did was repeatedly encourage people to play other games, rightly acknowledging that even the best MMOs can't be truly bottomless. And I don't expect Destiny 2 to be bottomless. I just want to want to play it more than the bare minimum. That doesn't feel like asking for the moon. 

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