Destined To Always Return To Destiny

For the third time, I’ve decided to get back into Destiny 2. The first time was following a normal lull in play as I ran out of content to enjoy, hit the point of grinding for small increases, and couldn’t get a group of friends together for the end-game type content (a raid). I stopped playing when I hit that same point again, though this time we did manage to get enough people together to do the first raid before the next one properly came out. The second time, I got back into Destiny 2 with the release of some new content in an attempt to maintain connections after I moved away from my now ex-roommates and we tried to find ways to spend time together during the various peaks of the pandemic. I fell out again because I couldn’t even get a group together without a lot of schedule work to do the small-team weekly activities and I’m not one for playing these types of games by myself. I’d much rather do it with other people. Never once did I stop playing because I wasn’t enjoying the gameplay, the story, or any of the content. I always stopped because I just didn’t have people whose company I enjoyed to continue playing with.

This time, what got me back into Destiny 2 was not the release of new content (though it has coincided with that). It was my friend being a part of a clan of players who formed to help people do the raids that can be painful if you don’t have a lot of time to figure out the puzzles or don’t have the skill required to beat the combat challenges (which also frequently have puzzles mixed in). After some investigation and a frank discussion with my friend about my concerns regarding the differences between what he and I believe is acceptable behavior, I decided to join the group, bought the recent Destiny 2 content, downloaded Destiny 2 again, and have launched myself back into one of two looter-shooter franchises I’ve ever enjoyed and felt myself capable of succeeding against the tougher challenges.

Coming back after so long, it seems clear that the game has stepped up the quality of its story content. I once tried to learn everything I could about the Destiny franchise’s lore in order to participate in the high-level theory crafting my friends engaged in, since they have played the Destiny franchise since the first game released on the PS3 and I only got into it on the PC with the release of Destiny 2. I failed, miserably, because of the sheer volume of content. The story and cutscenes of the game only give you a small piece of the information related specifically to what is happening right now. The rest of it is hidden in side conversations, lore logs, hidden secret collectibles, and strange, twisting mazes with hidden bosses at the end with unclear and often incredibly restrictive victory conditions.

Now, things are much easier to understand (which, admittedly, is a low bar to clear). There are more storybook-style cutscenes that present you with historic information, providing context for what is happening and the history of important characters so that even new players can appreciate some of what is going on. That said, these vignettes are so peppered with proper nouns that a lot of information still gets lost unless you’re familiar with some of the larger villains and central characters of past events in the Destiny games. I am, thanks to a very talkative friend who loves this stuff, watches videos about it on YouTube, and then tells me everything he knows. So it’s easy for me to understand, but I bet it is incredibly opaque to anyone who lacks this level of general familiarity. As someone observed on Twitter, the game seems to have a reason for this built in since your character starts with no memory of their past and is basically tossed head-first into combat against a wide variety of foes without any amount of explanation about what is going on and frequently only gets through it because now they’re semi-immortal (if you’re not familiar with Destiny, the game has a lore-reason built in to explain why your character can come back to life when they die).

Honestly, between that and how they’ve removed content from the game (it is on it 16th season of live updates and fourth or fifth expansion, so the developers have said they removed content because it was too much for the servers), there is are a lot of legitimate criticisms against the game and the studio that made and maintains it. For instance, I can’t play most of the content I paid for during my first two years of play. At present, that content is just gone. The rewards can still be gotten–the various guns, armor pieces, and cosmetic items–but the missions, locations and raids are all gone with only a few exceptions. The developing story of the game hints that access to those things may be returning in some form or another, but it is pretty shitty to no longer be able to access some very fun, memorable content I paid for in years past.

The new stuff is fun, too, and I’m willing to play with my friend and his group while I wait to see what happens, but I genuinely hope they work out a way to bring back the old content (something MMOs have been doing forever) and a way to make it more friendly to new players. The lore is so dense and so referential to past events that I really can’t recommend that you try the game if you’ve never played it before. Even innocuous side activities are chock full of references to named characters and significant events that don’t provide any further context. Sure, there’s a timeline you can read through, but it gets mentioned once and the game’s lore is so dense it would take even the more studious and industrious of readers multiple sessions to dig through all of it, make no mention of how long it would take to properly digest that amount of lore. No other game franchise has left me feeling so mentally full that I needed to go stare at a wall while my brain digested information for a few hours and this is pretty much a weekly occurrence with Destiny 2.

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