Destiny 2 is the best it’s ever been, but Bungie has forgotten new players ahead of Witch Queen
Destiny 2 has been around since 2017, but it’s just hitting its stride ahead of the upcoming Witch Queen expansion. For all of the positivity though, there’s plenty Bungie can do to make the experience more accommodating for new and returning players.
Back in 2017, Destiny 2 launched, and signs were good. The game launched to a positive reception, offered a much more cohesive campaign than its predecessor, and while many PvP issues lingered for some time, it was seen as a marked improvement for the franchise.
That game, which had been in development for years and worked on by thousands of people, is no longer available. Some destinations survived, but the “Red War” campaign is stricken from Destiny 2’s record thanks to an aggressive vaulting process. Next up, is the game’s best campaign – Forsaken.
For Destiny 2 players, all of this is nothing new; Bungie giveth and Bungie taketh away. But for new players looking to gain a foothold in this ever-expanding universe of expansions, season passes, and cycled-out content. Something has to give if Bungie is going to grow the player base.
Building in quicksand
Bungie has, in many ways correctly, honed in on what the developer refers to as “hobbyists”. These are the players that enjoy Destiny 2 solo or with friends, and log in weekly to see their power level climb with repeated ritual activities.
The trouble is that every tweak to the game’s underlying inventory system (which still feels confusing at the best of times) and every new piece of content feels like it pushes an older one into obscurity – either through removing reasons to play it with diminished rewards or by stripping away the content itself.
Players jumping in for free now are able to play through a truncated tutorial, complete some bounties, and then get into the three pillars of Destiny 2; Strikes, Gambit, and The Crucible.
These activities are the bread and butter of the game’s weekly players, sure, but it’s all so messy for new players. Take “The Arms Dealer” Strike, as an example. It takes place on the EDZ in the middle of the Red War campaign, and it features Cayde-6 prominently – a character recast and killed off in Forsaken.
The price of progress
That’s not even mentioning that a lot of this content has been paid for by longtime players. Forsaken launched as a $60 expansion, while many forked over money for Shadowkeep and Beyond Light, too. The impermanence of it all, and the worrying lack of preservation for work that many developers undertook, is still a tough sell.
Sure, Destiny 2 takes up a lot of storage on a console or PC, but surely making these pieces of content additional installs (like Vanguard handles its Campaign, Multiplayer, and Zombies) could work?
The shame of all of this is that put simply, Destiny 2 has blossomed into one of the best shooters around right now. Its seasonal narratives have gone to interesting places, with seeds sown years ago that are looking likely to pay off with The Witch Queen. It’s a sci-fi TV show wrapped in a AAA video game, but it’s tough to appreciate that when you have to buy at least two expansions to feel like you have a chance of catching up.
I recently deleted a character to start over (shock, horror!), and with all of the DLC purchased on my account I moved through each of the campaigns in turn. As strong as Forsaken is, Shadowkeep is short and lacks a significant narrative payoff, while Beyond Light feels similar. Both expansions were backed up by ever-stronger seasonal content that’s simply not there anymore.
Of course, Forsaken isn’t gone yet. At the time of writing, Destiny 2’s best expansion is free for all players, and if you missed it then it’s well worth a look. It sets in motion many of the plot threads that have circled back around, three years later, and it’s a decent introduction to some of Destiny 2’s longest-serving characters.
I have everything crossed that Bungie finds a way to reconcile Destiny 2’s growth with its ambitions as a studio. The Witch Queen is a perfect time to bring new players in, with so many people asking me if Destiny 2 is worth playing right now. There arguably hasn’t been this much buzz around an expansion since Forsaken, and while it may be tricky to work out what’s included (yes, you’ll have to pay extra for dungeons) and what the season passes are for, I think many people would be more willing to jump on board if they weren’t starting from zero.