This is going to be a lengthy read, but it comes from someone with about six thousand hours invested in the Destiny franchise, with a little over two thousand of that in Destiny 2.
Since September 2014, Destiny has been my main game. I’ve been hooked on it since the Alpha in June. While I’ve played and beaten other games since then, they have been few and far between with a lot of games started and never finished. That’s because I’ve been glued to Destiny, only working in other games while still making sure to play Destiny on an almost daily basis for at least a little while.
That’s largely still the case, but I’m playing less now than at any other point in Destiny franchise history.
I bought The Elder Scrolls Online when it was released on PS4. I played very little of it, because Destiny was there. I bought the Morrowind expansion, and never touched it, again because I was too invested in Destiny. I played bits and pieces of ESO, trying out different characters over the years and never leveling past level 15 before getting sucked into something going on in Destiny or Destiny 2.
That’s not because ESO was a bad game or wasn’t fun, on the contrary I always enjoyed playing it and it was always a game I wanted to get invested in because I’ve been a big fan of the Elder Scrolls series since I first played Morrowind on the original Xbox. But I just wanted to play Destiny, and so ESO fell through the cracks. The only games that I’ve been able to enjoy and beat in a fairly quick pace have been Assassin’s Creed games, Diablo, Victor Vran, and of course my favorite RPG Dragon’s Dogma. And there was a month or two back when it released on PS4 that I played a ton of Neverwinter.
I returned to Destiny 2 a little over a week ago after an almost three week break where I played nothing as I just didn’t feel like playing video games. My dad had open heart surgery, had a complication, and is still in the hospital as of this writing recovering. As he started getting better, I turned back to a video game to relax a little and take my mind off of things.
And of course that game was Destiny 2. The Moon bunker had been live for just about two weeks, and the Io bunker was days from opening up. As I began to grind bunker bounties for War-mind bits to fully upgrade the Moon bunker in three days, it finally hit me that this just isn’t fun or rewarding. It’s a chore.
So I looked at the Spring Sale going on the PlayStation Store, and as luck would have it it was that time of the year where ESO content was on sale. I snagged last year’s expansion, Elsweyr, for about $10 and reinstalled the game.
That’s been about a week ago, and for the first time ever in ESO I have completed a main questline (the Elsweyr campaign) and I’m finally making some progress on the main quest from the base game. I’ve finally leveled past 11, having just hit level 21. More importantly, I’m playing it and enjoying it AND not thinking about Destiny while I do it.
Look, I get it. It’s the “cool” thing to hate on Destiny 2 right now. Players are leaving, streamers are quitting. People make a big deal about a guy like Gladd tweeting that he’ll be playing very little of the game until the Fall expansion.
I don’t care about streamers. I don’t watch Gladd, I don’t care what Gladd does or what he plays. Destiny is in the shape it is right now in large part because of streamers, whether they will admit it or not (I know they all like to pretend Bungie doesn’t try to cater to them as much as possible).
I don’t hate Destiny 2 right now. I don’t even dislike it as far as the gameplay goes (which is still best in class). I just need a break from it, and three weeks of playing nothing showed me that as did not following the game on Reddit or watching YouTube videos about it. A break for me has been a very long time coming, because I never really took one in the franchise’s almost six year history.
A break from the game is a good thing. There’s always been a contingent of the community, mostly the streamers and “content creators,” that have pushed for more and more content and has gotten us to the point of the current season pass model we’ve been in of time gated stuff where there is the illusion of always being something going on.
The old content method was best. I differ from the larger Destiny community a lot because I still maintain that Destiny 1 Year 1 was the best Destiny has ever been, with Rise of Iron/Age of Triumph being a close second. Not The Taken King, not Forsaken. I would argue a lot of missteps that we still see began with The Taken King and have continued.
When I originally reviewed Destiny 2 a few weeks after release, I said “Destiny 2 looks fantastic, plays fantastic, and sounds fantastic. But that’s the shell, and overall I’d say the game is hollow. There’s an emptiness to it that D1 never had.”
I still feel that way about it. It’s better now than it was then, without a doubt. But ever since it has either been two steps forward, one step back or one step forward, a half step back.
We all want the game to be the best it can be, but that’s not going to be the same for everyone. The streamers certainly have their ideas, and a lot of what Bungie does appears to be aimed towards the streamers. We saw it with the Corridor’s of Time puzzle, the return of Trials of Osiris even though that’s been botched, and they just outright stated that a design goal for the upcoming Grandmaster Nighftall Ordeal’s is that they “should be watchable.”
I don’t have faith in Bungie to make the game what it could be or should be, or at least my version of what that should be. I was always scratching my head when the community would throw Activision under the bus like they were the ones responsible for every bad thing in the franchise. It has always been Bungie.
Activision didn’t make Bungie delay the game, and cobble together a workable version from scraps in one year. Bungie did that, twice. Activision didn’t make Bungie use a terrible engine that has caused a bunch of issues. Bungie did that, twice. Activision didn’t create Eververse, Bungie did because they “couldn’t create content fast enough.”
Activision didn’t take everything good away from the first game and produce a watered down super casual sequel. That was all Bungie. Keep in mind, the Bungie guys felt good about Destiny 2 vanilla leading up to it. The god awful Crucible in D2Y1 was great to Bungie, the most fun Crucible had ever been in the franchise they said.
As we’ve seen from an independent Bungie, Eververse is a million times worse now than it ever was when they were being published by Activision. Some of the best content in Destiny 2 was because of Activision studios in High Moon and Vicarious Vision.
Bungie, sans Activision help, has given us a fairly mediocre Shadowkeep and a dreadfully boring and ultimately frustrating season pass system that is somehow getting worse with each season.
Again, I have no faith in Bungie to make the game be what it could be. The track record isn’t there. We get a lot of talk when things are looking bad. Luke Smith loves to sound like he’s right there with the community when he makes his developer updates. It’s just talk that largely sounds good to a portion of the audience, but mostly doesn’t come to fruition.
I don’t think Bungie, as a collective, cares. There are those in the studio that do play the game and want it to be better, but as a whole it’s just not there.
Destiny 2 is a free-to-play game now, technically. Not necessarily a good experience, certainly not a complete one, but free-to-play nonetheless.
There are two other free-to-play games that come to mind that are extremely successful and have large communities that are for the most part relatively happy. Path of Exile and Warframe.
Path of Exile launched in 2013. Path of Exile 2, which still includes the first game’s content, launches this year. The free-to-play game is completely free to play. You don’t have to buy expansions or updates, and the only thing that you “need” to buy to make the game less of a hassle is some stash tabs for more storage. It’s developed by Grinding Gear Games, which employs less than 200 people.
Grinding Gear Games makes Path of Exile content, that’s what they do.
Warframe also launched in 2013. It has undergone a number of drastic changes, always improving. Free expansions and frequent updates. It too is completely free-to-play. It’s developed by Digital Extremes, which employs around 300 people.
Digital Extremes makes Warframe content, that’s what they do (though they have collaborated with a couple of other studios on a couple of games and did try to their hand at developing another game which they essentially canceled to focus on Warframe).
These studios keep their completely free-to-play game updated with frequent patches (at least more frequent than Destiny) and free expansions and new content. Combined, they employ less than Bungie, which is around 600.
The difference is, those studios know their game and know their audience and that’s what they do. Bungie is completely out of touch with their audience, have always carried a “we know best” mentality, and more importantly aren’t focused on Destiny 2.
Are they making Destiny 3? Most assuredly. But they’re also working on a different IP, and one of the guys working on that was the guy most in tune with the Destiny audience, Christopher Barrett. They’re probably also working on other stuff as well.
Bungie doesn’t want to devote all their resources and time into building one Destiny game that continues to grow and grow (like say World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online, Path of Exile or Warframe), instead they want to continue to reinvent the Destiny wheel while also becoming a “multi-game” developer and publisher. At least that game won’t be Destiny 2, will hopefully be the next one which should just be called Destiny.
The amount of people working on Destiny 2 seasonal content is probably very small. It’s why it’s all half-assed, boring, and extremely repetitive. But there’s always plenty of new stuff to buy at absurd prices in the Eververse store, although yes I will concede that there is absolutely nothing in Eververse that anyone needs and that it is all cosmetic crap that doesn’t matter and won’t carry over to the next game anyway.
I thought Forsaken was great. I enjoyed the Black Armory expansion, Joker’s Wild, and the Opulence… all of which had a lot of involvement from the aforementioned Activision studios.
Independent Bungie has thus far done very little with Destiny 2. Shadowkeep/Season of the Undying was meh. Season of Dawn was decent as a loot farm only. Season of the Worthy has thus far, and will continue to be, a complete dud. Boring doesn’t begin to describe it.
Trials wasn’t brought back for the community at large. The loot and reward structure of that is apparent. It’s return clearly aimed at streamers carrying folks to the Lighthouse, and the Twitch bounty for watching games and earning in-game Trials tokens is proof of that. Grandmaster Nightfalls aren’t going to be for the community at large, but rather the streamers.
Yet Trials streamers complain, largely because most of the community doesn’t care to play Trials just a few weeks after its return, and the PvE streamers are leaving the game despite a lot of the stuff that has been done in the game being squarely aimed towards them or influenced by their feedback at “community” summits. That’s not say Bungie has actually listened to these folks and give them exactly what they’ve asked for, but they’ve certainly been inspired by it to run in their own Bungie direction of what they think those players asked for.
The average Destiny player, I believe, does want the game to be a hobby. It’s not a story based game that you play and put down. It’s supposed to be a game that you come back to time and time again and can invest hundreds or thousands of hours into. Bungie has described Destiny as an MMORPG, and I think that is what a lot of folks want it to be more akin to.
The game was in a good spot, for the most part, pre-Shadowkeep. But ever since then it has grown to become a boring shell of a game with one of the worst implementations of a battle pass I’ve ever seen (something that doesn’t work in a game like Destiny anyway). The artifact is and will likely continue to be thoroughly disappointing and not at all what folks envisioned when it was first mentioned.
I love Destiny. I write this piece not to bash the game, and though I have little faith in their direction not to even bash Bungie. I write it because I love the game and want it to be better, and because I hate what it has become.
It’s become a repetitive slog that feels like a chore where bounties are the most efficient way to grind XP for power levels that don’t matter much anyway. The champion system has made most loot pointless, especially for solo players looking to do legendary lost sectors or Nightfall’s.
I may be in the minority, I don’t know nor care, but I despise what has happened to Nightfall’s. In Year 1 of Destiny 1, the Nightfall was one of my favorite activities to do, and for most of the majority of vanilla Destiny, it’s something I did as either a two man team or a lot of the times solo.
It was a fun, challenging activity (though yes, sometimes cheesy) and it was sometimes rewarding and sometimes not so much. I did it three times a week, once on each character. Do it once, switch characters, do it again, switch characters, and do it one more time. Usually done on Tuesday as early as I could do it; got the sweet blue flame over the head for the week with the XP boosts. And XP mattered because you had to level up your weapons and armor, which was infinitely more enjoyable than what XP is used for today.
I do very few Nightfall’s now in Destiny 2. I just don’t care one bit about them. I certainly don’t do them weekly. That’s partly because the Destiny 2 strikes just aren’t as good or fun as the Destiny 1 strikes, for the most part. But it’s mainly because I don’t want to grind high level Nightfall’s repeatedly for a chance at an exotic armor piece that I already have or upgrade materials.
The bounty grind for XP is the most boring thing in the game, but second on that list would be doing the same strike over and over and over again hoping for a few measly upgrade materials. That’s especially true for me when you factor in that in order to get those rewards, you have to kill the Champions that spawn. In order to do that, you either need a coordinated team, or you have to use a subpar loadout like two primaries and sword. The only Champion that isn’t a complete pain in the butt is the Unstoppable champions, at least not when you can put Unstoppable on a hand cannon.
For me, the Nightfall should be a high level activity that offers rewards once a week per character. There should be only one difficulty for it, and that’s max power for the player (or maybe slightly higher) so that it is an end-game activity. Modifiers should make it difficult, but there should also be modifiers that benefit the player. There can even be modifiers that do both at the same time, like the Burns in Destiny 1. And they should be soloable more so than they are now.
More stuff in the game needs to be soloable. The dungeon’s are proof of that. There needs to be a lot more soloable, including difficult, end-game solo only content.
One of the things Bungie touted both when Destiny 1 was coming out and also in Destiny 2, was that players would see someone in the Tower or out in the world with a piece of gear, or whatever, and would know what they player had been through to earn it.
That’s never really been the case. There’s very few things in Destiny franchise history that has ever really been “earned,” and most of the stuff that has been hasn’t been all that difficult to acquire. It mostly comes down to RNG in Destiny. If I see someone with Anarchy or One Thousand Voices, I don’t know what they’ve been through to get it. They could’ve been the most valuable player in a hundred clears of a raid before they got it, or they could’ve been a lost player utterly carried through a raid and got it on the first clear.
You can earn titles in Destiny 2, but even then a lot of them are RNG based.
The game needs solo only activities that is difficult and not everyone can immediately complete, but offers up exclusive earned items as a reward. Think of it as a cross between a strike and dungeon, or even something as simple as a Legendary Lost Sector (only with some mechanics somewhere and a little more difficult but without Champions). Different modifier each week, different enemies, different reward each week. Really good weapon, a cool armor ornament set, an emblem, exotic ships or sparrows, or even a cool emote.
A lot of the community doesn’t engage with high level Nightfall’s or raids, and that’s because they don’t have enough people to play with. They don’t want to, nor should they have to, rely on third party services to find a group to play with. Bungie always wants to push “social activity” on the player with forced matchmaking for strikes and low level Nightfall’s, but has routinely shown themselves to be antisocial with how there is no text chat on console and also by not having an in-game way to LFG for the more difficult versions of these activities.
Streamers have an unending supply of people to run content with, but the average player doesn’t. It’s time to give these players achievable, if difficult, activities that are 100% solo based. I know there are streamers and content creators who look down on those who play alone, for whatever reason, but the fact is that is the majority of the playerbase and it’s time those folks get catered too more so than Joe Streamer with hundreds of people wanting to play with him that plays the game 10 hours a day or more.
The content system in Destiny needs to be more akin to what it was in Destiny 1 and early Destiny 2. Content delivered all at once with each piece of DLC, not stretched out over the course of three months to pad a pointless roadmap. There can be exceptions for secrets, like the Black Spindle or Whisper stories. There can be, and should be, time gated stuff that is a secret at first and becomes available to try once a week on a given day or weekend and it should also be difficult. You can always have something going on in the game, without it always being “something new.”
Give the players Double XP weeks, or Double Resources/Currencies, Double Engrams, Double Exotics and whatever else weeks. Simple stuff like that works in other games, it can work in Destiny as well.
If XP is just going to award nothing but the occasional worthless bright engram and a power level every how ever many XP then I’m not going to care about XP. If XP was how we masterworked items, which in my opinion is how it should be, then XP would matter a lot more. And I mean Double XP through playing the game, not doing repeatable bounties.
Destiny can survive content droughts, we saw it throughout D1. I would rather have good content that is worth doing, and then take a month break or whatever to play something else and then come back, than the current seasonal method. Make the content rewarding, and people will play it and will come back.
Destiny 2 has ran off almost everyone I played Destiny 1 with, and the vast majority hasn’t come back and won’t be coming back. Not surprising considering Destiny 1 is still a much better, rewarding game than Destiny 2 is currently.
I want Destiny to be good again. I don’t think it will ever be as it was in Destiny 1 for me though, because I can’t see Bungie ever going back to things that I liked about the first one. That would be a singular Nightfall with once-a-week rewards, the weekly heroic strike, rewarding weekly bounties like we eventually got in D1, factions that are always around and have good rewards, a fun crucible, XP being how guns and armor was leveled up, customizable skill trees, etc.
I was on the fence with purchasing Season of the Worthy, but I went ahead and did it. Roughly a month into it, I do wish I would’ve just saved that $10. There’s no value in the season’s content for me, and as such I’m 99.8% sure I won’t be purchasing the next season unless something drastic changes with how these systems go. And with the next one being the final season before a Fall expansion/update that will bring with it weapon sunsetting, I honestly can’t see the next season being worth it at all.
So my current plan is to continue to play Destiny 2 casually on one character only (which has been the case for most of D2, whereas in D1 I played all three characters on a daily basis). A few weekly milestones and some Crucible (which is really the only part of Destiny 2 that I’m enjoying currently, and it’s got major issues itself) is going to be the extent of my Destiny 2 playing until September.
The next season lands in June, and before it releases the Greymoor chapter for Elder Scrolls Online will hit consoles (I play PS4) on June 2nd. So for now until at least September (and maybe longer because of the little faith I have in Bungie fixing Destiny 2 because I think the game has largely grown beyond repaid and will need a clean slate to fix) Elder Scrolls Online will be my main game.
I am finally invested in Elder Scrolls Online the way I’ve wanted to be since 2015. Finally making progress in it, I’m enjoying my Stamina based Necromancer and I am super excited for Greymoor and going to Skyrim. In fact, I’m enjoying the game so much right now where I still have a massive ton of content to plow through, that when Greymoor comes out I will be subscribing to ESO Plus for at least three months.
I’ll also be working in Final Fantasy VII Remake beginning this week, as I’ll be getting that as a birthday present. I’ll be playing a lot of Iron Banner this week, but once I’m done with that I’ll be on Destiny 2 very little with ESO getting the bulk of my playtime and FF7 getting a decent chunk as well.
If you find yourself in a similar boat, that being burned out on Destiny and/or disillusioned with the current state of the game and the season pass (and Bungie in general) then I HIGHLY recommend checking out Elder Scrolls Online come June. If you don’t already have the game, that will be a great time to jump in as you can buy the Greymoor standard edition for $60 and you’ll get the ESO base game, Greymoor and the other three expansions (Morrowind, Summerset, and Elsweyr) included with it. So that’s a great deal, and a ton of content.
Elder Scrolls Online is scratching a major itch for me, as it is both rewarding and it’s nailing the RPG aspect (which is understandable). Right now, Bungie fancies Destiny 2 a MMORPG/Looter Shooter, but I’d say it definitely is an MMO, it’s bare bones as an RPG, and it isn’t doing a very good job of being a looter either. The only thing Destiny excels at right now is that it’s still the best shooter on the market. The moment to moment gunplay is what keeps me playing the game at all. Bungie is fantastic at the shooting gameplay, but they’re struggling mightily in the RPG department and especially the MMO elements which I would love to see become much more prominent. I mean, I can’t even get into an instance on Io with more than two other people to do the Io Seraph Tower event. That’s sad.
It is what it is though. I still love Destiny, I want to main Destiny. But I miss Destiny 1, and have the entire time Destiny 2 has been a thing. It’s still a hollow experience lacking most stuff that had me put 4000 hours into D1 in just about the same amount of time that I’ve only mustered 2000 into D2 (which is still an absurd amount of hours, definitely not casual numbers). But the seasonal grind and bounty simulator, general loot economy, and how absurdly RNG heavy everything is has just burned me out for the first time in franchise history.
I need the break. I welcome the break. I’m finally getting to enjoy The Elder Scrolls Online the way I’ve wanted to for so long, even if I am playing it entirely solo without my Destiny friends. I can finally get excited about builds, something I haven’t been able to do since the last time I got into Diablo 3. I’m loving it; I’m still only level 21 half way through the base game’s quest without touching hardly any of the sidequests in the game, but this past week playing and getting into ESO has been the most fun I’ve had playing a game solo in a longtime (since Assassin’s Creed Odyssey probably).
Destiny 2 isn’t going anywhere. My hunter has been going strong since launch day of D1, he deserves the break even if he’s just transitioning from full-time god slayer to part-time patrol beat cop and guardian slayer. Nothing he earns between now and September is going to matter anyway, so he can take a vacation. Hopefully come this Fall, Bungie will have reinvigorated Destiny 2 and can recapture my enthusiasm for the game. I have my doubts, given the track record, but I am nonetheless rooting for Bungie and hoping to be wrong.
I still love Destiny, hopefully soon I’ll love playing it again. But until then, I’m looking forward to my extended time having fun grinding in Elder Scrolls Online.
Gary is Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Vortainment. He’s usually posting news and reviews, and doing all the back end stuff as well. He likes to play video games, watch movies, wrestling and college football (Roll Tide Roll).