I’m Sorta Okay At Destiny 2, And That’s Alright

There’s no better reminder of how “a step above average” you are at a video game than seeing the performance of a high-skill group of players who have practiced their coordination and communication. I used to get this through watching the professional Overwatch league, back in the days when I watched and played that game before I chose to uninstall all my Blizzard games for reasons of moral concern (which has only gotten worse over the years since). Now, I get it by watching my friend and his fellow members of what our (I kept writing “his/my friend’s clan” even though I’m a part of it because I’m still only dipping my toes back into Destiny 2, but I changed it all in editing because I’m trying to push myself to become a more active member of the group) clan calls Team 1 as they prepared for the latest raid and now practice for future guided raids.

Thanks to the inclusion of PVP (player versus player) in the regular rotation of weekly refreshed content, it’s pretty easy to get a glimpse of the average skill of the variuos players in Destiny 2. While you need more than a single match to get a good sense of it, playing a few in the couple of nights after the Tuesday refresh can give you a good idea of how you rate thanks to the fact that the rewards you get for participating in PVP don’t require you to win. Even if you lose, you still get the high power rewards so there’s no reason to avoid PVP even if you’re not super good at it (like me). Most of my skill comes from predicting AI movement patterns, so I’m generally not great against other Humans who don’t really have movement patterns.

As I’ve been working on trying to get in enough hours of PVE (player versus environment) and PVP to shake the rust off of my extended absence from PC shooters in general and this game specifically (I still keep hitting the wrong buttons to activate abilities the first couple times I use them after sitting down to play), I’ve been reminded constantly of just how “alright” I am at this game. My sense of timing and strategic analysis shores up my rather imprecise shooting and unreliable moment-to-moment situational awareness, which averages out to just above average. The good thing is that I can improve my shooting and situational awareness more easily that I can improve my timing and strategic awareness, especially considering part of the problem is that my gear and skills are all off-meta right now, thanks to a change in how those systems work in the years since I last played. Once I address those concerns, my damage output should go up, I should have an easier time avoiding locking onto particularly tough enemies at the expense of exposing myself to mooks, and my overall self-rating should go up.

It’s rather fascinating how large a portion of high-tier play is simply landing precision shots (on the various weak points of enemies) and understanding the damage mechanics well enough to create enough stacking bonuses that otherwise mundane looking weapons can result in some outrageously high numbers. Sometimes, it makes sense. There was a rocket launcher that came out fairly early in the timeline of Destiny 2 that did a HUGE amount of damage because it created a bunch of stacking explosions around the target. Combined with a power that turned every single one of those into a precision hit and a whole team firing at once, difficult boss fights were turned to dust in instants.

The only limit on a person’s power was that the weapon was a rare drop so you had to just play through the game until you got lucky with a treasure chest. Patches have changed how that worked, but the game as a whole is a constant balancing act of making sure the community has enough stuff that makes them feel powerful without making the developers feel like they’ve completely broken the ability for anyone without specific gear to enjoy the game. Entire game modes can be rendered unplayable without specific guns or armor if something the developers create stacks with something else in a way they didn’t anticipate.

These days, most of those massive power spikes are software bugs rather than unintended consequences, but the developing studio admits that they do a week-by-week analysis of the numbers people can put out in various game modes and tweak things towards what they feel like is better balance. Generally speaking, I agree with how they’ve been trying to balance the game. Content should be challenging, but not impossible if you’re not a top-tier player. Anyone should have a fair chance at success in any game mode, so long as they have the required skills. No one should be prevented from participating because they lack a piece of gear that randomly drops.

That said, I’m also pretty much their target for this content. I’m right around average, so it’s rewarding to know they tune the game for players like me, but I can understand why some of the more skilled players might want to tweak things differently so that they get a better chance to shine or the ability to enjoy a special reward for their skill before the community at large figures out an easier way to obtain that same reward.

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