I had never played Destiny 2 before last week. To be honest, I didn’t even know that much about it beyond the basics. Sure, I knew it was a looter-shooter from Bungie, it was sort-of-but-not-really-an-MMO, and controversy was swirling around it from [insert name of about eight different things because every AAA game is like that these days]. I didn’t have much desire to actually shell out the money to play it because, well, I thought it would be a rather shallow experience. Games that are all about loot and bigger numbers just don’t usually hold my interest for long, which is probably why I’ve never given Warframe or Borderlands a serious look. I generally need something more to hold my interest for a long enough period of time to make a full game purchase worth my while – or even one that’s discounted or free, to make the time investment something I’m willing to commit to.
After about 20 hours in Destiny 2’s free-to-play “New Light” edition, I can see that I was both right and wrong. To sum things up, I like it, and I like it enough to play for several hours per day, but I’m concerned about my long-term commitment to it.
At its core, Destiny 2 is fun – enough so that I look forward to logging in every night. I know, that seems like a no-brainer, but having covered a number of games for this site that were more of the “I’ll play it because I have to in order to cover it” variety, the fact that I like playing D2 even after the initial coverage of the F2P switch is something. For a game I’d never played before and had only existed on the periphery of my vision, in the “maybe I’ll try that someday” zone, I’m surprised by just how much I’m enjoying it.
The reason, I think, is because it closely resembles a couple of other MMO games I’ve enjoyed: Guild Wars 2 and Defiance. Both are open-world extravaganzas with a lot to do, including PvE, PvP, big public events, instances, raids … in fact, there’s so much to do that you can get a little lost with everything the game throws at you. True, you can just wander around the map and kill whatever’s right in front of you, but chances are you want to do the more structured content based around your quests, for the more efficient looting experience.
This is where we get to my first primary beef with the game: Navigation, whether in the world or in the UI, is … well, “challenging” is the word I’d use. In your quest menu, everything is just sort of lumped together, with the only distinction being between the one-time quests and the repeatables, and I’d like to have some grouping that makes it so I’m not wondering what I can do in my current location. “These quests are for Mars, these quests are for strikes,” that sort of thing. Instead, I find myself mousing over and reading all 20 or so quests at once to try and figure out what I want to do next and where I need to go to do them. It’s not just me, either; other players I’ve interacted with also lament the subpar menu system.
“Where I need to go” is another issue. I can see that Bungie wanted a very minimal UI when you’re out in the world – it’s beautiful, after all, and they don’t want a ton of clutter on the screen to distract you from the gorgeous visuals (or the alien that’s trying to eat your face) – but I think that philosophy goes too far. I’m not usually one to harp about quest markers, but having to press Tab every time I want to pull up that tiny white diamond – which I have to hunt for to see half the time anyway – is annoying. Also, without terrain details, the mini-map is useless.
Still, the visceral feeling of “find stuff, shoot stuff, get loot” injects a pleasing shot of dopamine into my brain every time I complete a content chunk, whether it be a quest, strike, public event, or something else. And leveling up my season ranking always feels like an accomplishment, enough so that I’m considering shelling out for the season pass, and maybe someday for the expansions.
That’s a long ways off, though, and I’m still iffy as to whether the game will still seem fun and exciting once the really grind-y parts hit. I also like having some kind of story reason to dive into an expansion, and right now the presentation of the story – especially for someone who never played Destiny or Destiny 2 – is lacking. The solar system is under attack, I got that, and the bad guys are aliens from … somewhere. Or maybe robots? Or robot aliens? And there are a couple of different factions? Whatever, just frag ’em all and let the deity of your choice sort them out. (It’s taken me a week to discover Amanda Holliday off in the far reaches of the Citadel and realize campaigns were a thing, so I guess that might help.)
That’s going to be the true test of Destiny 2, for me at least. Can the entertainment value I receive from all the shooting and looting compensate for the shallow, barely described story and the numbness from doing the same content over and over? I’m only on Mars right now, and I’ve got a long ways to go before I get to that point, and a lot more to do that’s going to be new and exciting, but once that rush wears off, will I want to keep at it?
When I played Guild Wars 2, the answer was “yes,” but that was a game with a richly constructed world full of characters and places I cared about and saw as more than just locations to plunder and pillage. With Defiance, I felt like I got more background from watching the show than from playing the video game, and so I petered out in that after just a few weeks. Maybe I’ll warm up more to the world of Destiny 2 as I progress, or maybe I won’t care and will enjoy the carnage and rewards ad infinitum. Even if I do the campaigns and they supply that story kick, will it be enough when I return to doing a thing on Titan for someone because reasons?
Maybe I’m just overthinking it and not enjoying the moment as much. In that moment, I like Destiny 2 and I’m going to keep playing it until I don’t. Destiny 2: New Light doesn’t do a great job of telling you where to go, but it also doesn’t have to. It’s fun to just wander and stumble upon content and do whatever’s right in front of you. That’s a strength, to be sure, and it’s enough to keep me going for now. If you’re looking for a pretty, but not too mentally taxing, advancement-focused shooter that you can sink a bunch of hours into without any monetary commitment – thus making it easier to walk away from when you get tired of it – I heartily recommend you give Destiny 2 a shot.