Bungie has pulled off a rare feat in gaming: It has successfully turned its biggest franchise into appointment gaming. Hardcore Destiny 2 fans know when things are going to happen in the game, and they show up to enjoy the spoils.
It’s always fun to see what Xur is selling on Friday morning. It’s a bummer that this week is such a snooze in that department. There’s still the weekend to look forward to, however, which means staying up late at least one night to run the weekly Nightfall strike to round out my milestone rewards. Maybe I’ll take a crack at running the raid again before things reset on Tuesday.
How did this happen?
Destiny 2’s progression is all about gear and power levels, which means that Bungie can keep a tight rein on how players progress by doling out gear with high enough power levels at regular times throughout the week. It’s a system designed to allow you to be a competitive player who takes part in the big events without having to give up your life for the grind.
Overall, this is a pretty welcome improvement over the original for many people. Some may have liked the rewards for spending a ridiculous amount of time in the game, but Destiny 2 is built to allow you to play for a reasonable amount of time each week while still progressing into the game’s endgame activities and at least some of the best gear.
That strategy makes it easier for Bungie to give meaning to certain days. You can play in the Crucible, or earn some experience every Tuesday when your milestones reset, and get some powerful items that are sure to raise your power level a few points. Your character will progress, even if you don’t want to tackle hardcore goals like the raid.
You’ll gain a good amount of legendary shards if you play Destiny 2 with any regularity, which means that Friday is your chance to grab a few exotic items from Xur no matter what. That not only makes Friday another important day for the game, but on a more practical note it also means Destiny 2 is all but guaranteed a weekly story on the front page of every online publication that talks about games.
And Destiny 2 has been built to support all kinds of other events and planned activities. The new Iron Banner event began on Oct. 10, and the Prestige raid difficulty is going live on Oct. 18. The first group to complete the raid at that difficulty is being promised ... something.
Jumping online the moment the content is available important if you want to try to win that race; the most serious players will be ready with a plan at 10 a.m. PT. Bungie is finding ways to make these dates, and even these times, important for the players.
So what’s the downside?
This level of meaning placed on certain days due to the tight control of the progression system comes at a cost. You’ll often find yourself out of luck if you’ve finished your milestones and want to grind a bit for a few more power levels.
I was getting ready for a raid attempt and tried to gain a few levels the night before and found that there was no way of doing so. Outside of lucking into a drop here and there, there was no guarantee that would happen after hours of play. I was going to be stuck at that power level until I had finished the raid, or until everything reset the following Tuesday.
Players are already complaining that there’s no enough stuff to do in general if you’ve reached the maximum power level and have finished the raid, and those weekly milestones don’t mean much if you have no more power levels left to hit. This system means that you know when to play if you want to level up, but also that there’s little reason left to play if you’ve already finished your weekly milestones.
Balancing the game to have mainstream appeal and to avoid bouncing more casual players out of the endgame, while also giving the most dedicated players something to do on a daily basis, is a hard problem.
Destiny 2 launched as the beginning of a conversation, and the game’s upcoming expansion is going to be Bungie’s turn to talk after setting the tone with the release of the game and then listening to the response of the players. But we know the rhythm of the game right now, and Bungie wants you to be playing on a schedule. It’s fun to wake up and now you have something to do in the game that’s going to be beneficial, but it does come at the cost of a more robust endgame.
And when more content is announced? I’m sure fans are going to be ready to mark their calendars.