When the campaign and Strikes end, what’s left?
Thus far I’ve experienced the surface level of Destiny 2 – the first 30 hours’ worth – and I’ve mostly been impressed by what I’ve seen. It offers a lot for both new players and hardcore Destiny fans like myself. Heading beyond that, I’ve reached the point where I’ve begun a second character to take a closer look at the systems that will keep hardcore players invested for years to come. Players like myself who’ve reached the endgame have discovered that there is a dramatic drop-off in activities and avenues to advance. This has resulted in repeatedly running Public Events, and beginning second characters. After attempting the latter I’ve discovered a few grievances, but let’s begin with a positive.
The final, major piece of content I had to knock out on my Light level climb was The Nightfall, a nail-biting, more skill-based version of a Strike mission with increased difficulty that enhances enemies and adds a timer and cycling elemental burns that could be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on who is pointing their weapon at you. The 240 Light level version allows you to swap weapons, but according to the in-game descriptions the level 300 version will lock you into the gear you select at the beginning. As you enter the Nightfall for the first time, you’re going to need to sit down with your Fireteam and plan out your weapon loadouts before heading into battle, because distributing elemental attacks is important. Once in, you’re met with cycling burn types that give your weapons a huge boost of power and a countdown clock that will end your session if it reaches zero. The result is a scenario that demands meticulously planned strategy amongst team members and an exhilarating end battle with enticing endgame-level rewards.
I loved that we had to call out the elemental type that was currently active and help the person who’d been appropriately equipped to jump into the fray as the other two of us supported from behind. As enemies died, seconds were added to the clock, but we fell short of one quest, clocking in at the three-minute-remaining mark on our third runthrough. Instead of feeling defeated because we failed to hit the five-minute mark, I was left excited to go back again with my second character and give it another shot, using what I’d learned from the failure. This is where the teamwork and gameplay mechanics of Destiny 2 shine, and forcing you to pick your gear carefully adds a layer of strategy I’m really loving.
For hardcore players of Destiny 2, leveling is paramount.
But with the Nightfall behind me, I’ve hit a rough patch. For hardcore players of Destiny 2, leveling is paramount. It’s how you get ready for the Raid, Trials, and even the Nightfall. Any endgame content – the good stuff – requires this grind. It’s when you begin this portion of your journey that the cracks start to show. Similar to the first Destiny, the sequel may have some growing to do before it really hits its stride. Now, much what I’m about to lay on you is going to sound very negative if you read it in isolation, so I’ll ask that as you read it you remember that it’s coming after a very long, largely positive few days where I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Destiny 2. I still think it’s a great game, but some of the shine has begun to wear off.
I had completed everything Destiny 2 has to offer that would help with getting me up to the Light level cap of 350 at about the 30-hour mark. Mostly this consisted of completing the currently available Exotic Quests and farming Public Events over, and over, and over again. Then, after about 15 hours into character two (who I was speedrunning to the finish line) I had completed every quest but one and managed to climb the Light ranks to 275. I also realized that instead of playing the campaign, by far the fastest way to hit character level 20 was to simply do Public Events on the EDZ. Leaning the entire investment game into one event type is a strange decision by Bungie – Public Events are also the core of the new Flashpoint system, which has you repeat Public Events until your progress has been filled for the week. When I hit the end, I felt stranded below where I needed to be to play the Raid when it comes out next week, and was grasping for any little thing I could do to edge me closer. That’s both great for fans that love discovering secrets and grinding, but could also leave new players feeling like they have nowhere to go.
The light at the end of the tunnel for all of this is being ready for the Raid, the pinnacle PVE challenge, which is supposed to launch near the end of next week. If it’s anything like Destiny’s Raids, we’re in for team-based puzzles and more spectacles for the eye, and in Destiny 2 Bungie’s promised to add more story, which will be a treat after what’s already been delivered. Also on Bungie’s roadmap is Trials of the Nine for PVP, which will offer tempting rewards for those who come out victorious. Faction Wars, a new take on the popular Faction groups in Destiny, are due to be back near the end of the month with what looks like a new spin. Even the weekend vendor Xur is scheduled to arrive for the first time on Friday September 15, offering coveted items for a hefty fee. All of these staggered content releases are a part of Bungie’s plan to keep us enticed to return to the world of Destiny 2, and for people playing at a more casual pace that might just be a good cadence. But separating it all out has limited the launch week options for hardcore players who took time off work to dive in. If you’ve completed everything on your first character and are looking for more, well… it’s not quite there yet.
Guided games, a mode that allows players who don’t have a Fireteam to join experienced teams of two who are looking for a third (rewarding the experienced players for helping the new one), are not active at this time. This was to be a major feature for solo players looking to experience the Nightfall, and sadly the beta for that game type begins a week after launch. If you’re playing solo and looking to run the Raid, a guided version of that isn’t scheduled to go into beta until the end of the month. The fact that they’re non-existent at launch is going to make it difficult for new players to experience what could potentially be some of the best content Destiny 2 has to offer.
There’s a plethora of little things that add up once the momentum of the campaign subsides.
Those are added to a plethora of little things that add up once the momentum of the campaign subsides. It’s things like the way that player sizes jump between three for PVE, four for PVP, and presumably six for the Raid, so anytime you move from one mode to another there’s an odd man out, in fragmented groups who often end up leaving one person to fend for themselves. Bounties still take up both primary and power slots in my inventory – an issue from Destiny that was fixed by The Taken King expansion that’s returned to lock us out of precious inventory space. This problem is exacerbated as Quests like the Enhance storyline will not give their loot drops if your inventory is full, which would cause you to lose an incredibly high Light-level piece of gear. (Bungie is working on a fix for this at this time.) Meditations will disappear and lock you out of the reward if you don’t grab it before joining a friend’s party. Load times for PVP matches can be staggering, and the fact that you don’t get to chose the game mode you’re going to play is a huge pain. Having to wait around until your game has fully loaded to discover if you’re doing your least favorite PVP mode again is not my idea of a good multiplayer experience. It leaves you with the choice of going back to a loading screen (potentially messing things up for everybody else) or playing a mode you don’t enjoy. Neither is a desirable option.
All of this leads me to the worst offenders: the Shader system, and for similar reasons, the mod system. Mods are items that can be added to your current gear to change elemental damage type, or in some cases, increase the Light level of a piece of gear. However, once attached there’s no way to remove them, so you need to be sure that you infuse a higher Light level piece of armor without the mod attached into the lower Light level piece of gear. Do it right and you’ll see it jump an additional five Light levels above what the other gear was labeled at. Sound confusing? That kind of helps make my point. This is communicated incredibly poorly in Destiny 2 and will result in many confused and angry players who drop Light level by mistakenly infusing the wrong things. This happened to me when infusing a piece of gear and I was not happy about it.
The Shader system (cosmetic options for changing the look of your gear) has a similar problem. There’s no reliable way to acquire the Shader you want, and once you’ve equipped a shader you like it’ll be gone forever if you remove it. With the vendor changes, there’s also no reliable way to purchase the shaders you desire. According to Destiny 2 Game Director Luke Smith, this was intentional, and Bungie wanting to give us a reason to run the Raid or event of our choice again is understandable. But not allowing us to swap the Shader out without forcing us to earn it all over again is a bad investment system that punishes experimentation and tweaking your character’s look. Once we’ve earned something we should be allowed to keep it, and losing that option feels like a big step down coming from Destiny. Especially when you consider that Shaders have been added to the Eververse microtransaction section of Destiny 2, it’s not a good look.
These issues aside, I’m still enjoying Destiny 2, but finding the chinks in the armor has left me realizing that it still has a lot of growing pains go get through.
If I had to score it now, I’d give it an 8.2. That’s down from the 8.7 I felt at the end of the campaign yesterday, but still a great score.
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