Upon Destiny’s launch in September 2014, it earned a reputation that would hound it for the rest of its days. The original game was a victim of the intense hype that had built up before its debut, to be sure, but it was rightfully criticized for its weaknesses even as players acknowledged that there was plenty to like. Bungie has since made major improvements to Destiny; the game has come a long way from its lackluster first expansion to now.
One presumes that Bungie’s ambition is part of the reason the studio is ditching Destiny — and all the gear and experience that Guardians have accumulated over the years — for a full sequel. In other words, we hope that Bungie wants to improve on Destiny so much that maintaining compatibility with the original game would put too many constraints on the sequel.
At the same time, Destiny’s reputation has proved to be an albatross around Bungie’s neck that the studio simply hasn’t been able to shake. The reaction to the confirmation of Destiny 2 earlier this week was full of optimism, but there were just as many people who expressed their dissatisfaction with Destiny — almost as if they were using that old “fool me once” adage against Bungie.
With Destiny 2 on the horizon, we decided to lay out what we’d like to see from the game.
1) A PC version
This is perhaps the most obvious request for Destiny 2, especially since people have been clamoring to be able to play Destiny on their computers since before the game came out. As wishy-washy as Bungie and Activision seemed, they never did port the original Destiny to PC. Shooters are perfect for a mouse-and-keyboard control scheme, so it stung that PC owners couldn’t play the game.
Bungie is starting fresh with Destiny 2, and it could get off on the right foot with fans by announcing a PC version to launch alongside the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. Clearly, the demand has always been there, and since the franchise is an always-online experience, piracy wouldn’t be nearly as much of a worry for Bungie as cheating in the Crucible (which is a problem on consoles anyway).
2) A story and characters worth caring about
“I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.”
That line from early in Destiny’s bare-bones campaign was probably intended to be clever, but it ended up becoming an infamous demonstration of the game’s problems. Destiny was supposed to be a heroic tale of humanity’s last stand against an intergalactic evil known as “the Darkness,” but the writing just didn’t carry its weight. Characters used all kinds of sci-fi mumbo-jumbo that the story never cared to explain, creating confusion and preventing any investment in the tale.
The humorless tone of Destiny also rubbed people the wrong way. Destiny’s writers later leaned into characters like Nathan Fillion’s roguish Hunter, Cayde-6, to provide moments of levity. But the original campaign felt like a slog partly because the writing took itself so seriously — players rolled their eyes at the dialogue, but none of the characters ever did.
It’s an encouraging sign that Destiny 2’s first teaser focuses on Cayde-6, with the charming Hunter telling war stories to a sweeper bot. The clip, with a blues song playing in a dimly lit bar as The Last City explodes outside, tells us more about the world of Destiny 2 — and the way of life in it — than the entirety of the original game’s story. It would be great for the sequel to flesh out the lore of the Destiny universe, rather than keeping it confined to Grimoire cards, and give us characters we can care about.
3) Interesting mission design
Most Destiny fans will tell you that they love the mechanics of Destiny — its gunplay, the interactions between the Guardians’ special abilities, riding Sparrows — but that leaves out the serious problems with what the game asked players to do in its campaign.
So many missions in vanilla Destiny offered modest variations on the same basic structure: Go to an object, press the action button, then kill waves of enemies while your Ghost took his sweet time extracting data from the object. Once players got to a high enough Light level to tackle the raid, the Vault of Glass, they realized that it was easily the best thing in the game. (Even now, most Destiny veterans will tell you that none of the three later raids tops the Vault of Glass.)
Again, this is an element of Destiny that Bungie improved upon in expansions like The Taken King. It makes sense that the studio would want the raids to be special, to feel like unique missions requiring a level of teamwork and skill that’s a cut above what the rest of the game asks of players. But Bungie seemed to find a better balance over time — the conclusion of Rise of Iron’s campaign is one of the best missions in all of Destiny.
Give us more of that, and less of the waves-of-enemies stuff. And while you’re at it, this criticism also applies to patrol missions, which quickly became repetitive exercises that players only completed when they had to grind for experience with bounties. What’s more, strikes — which were also designed to be completed multiple times — didn’t change enough on separate playthroughs to avoid feeling monotonous. If Destiny 2 is going to ask people to play the same content over and over again, a modicum of variability would be nice.
4) A simpler, clearer grind
Destiny shares much of its heritage with massively multiplayer online games, a genre that is notorious for asking players to grind in order to level up their characters. The original game’s grind was so punishing and frustrating that people resorted to exploits like finding “loot caves.” Even then, it didn’t help much, since the way vanilla Destiny handled rewards was absurd: An engram of a particular rarity could actually turn into an item below that rarity level!
Destiny’s grind was also confusing, and that’s an area in which the experience actually got worse before it got better. On more than one occasion, Bungie added to the game’s long list of currencies instead of simplifying things — remember the introduction in House of Wolves of Etheric Light, a material that was then rendered obsolete in the game’s subsequent expansion?
Much of the ongoing development of Destiny consisted of Bungie experimenting with tweaks to the progression, and changing course in response to community feedback. The biggest overhaul came in The Taken King, when the studio eliminated one of Destiny’s most frustrating rules: your gear’s power being tied to your level. Bungie has done a much better job lately of offering different paths toward the Light cap, especially with opening the floodgates in Age of Triumph. Destiny 2 doesn’t necessarily have to be “rewarding as fuck,” but clarity in how players upgrade their characters is of paramount importance.
5) More stuff to do
OK, that’s a bit vague. Destiny already offers a wide variety of activities within its various modes, so there’s usually something for folks to try if they don’t enjoy what most people are playing. What we mean is that the sequel must offer more content than the original game did at launch.
Destiny’s lack of content was the game’s single biggest problem for its first few months of existence. It was the root cause of many other issues, including the aforementioned progression complexity. While the plethora of currencies and materials may have seemed arbitrary, it felt like Bungie implemented them with one goal in mind: to gate players’ progress in an effort to paper over Destiny’s main shortcoming. Even across three planets and one moon, with a story campaign and strikes and a raid and competitive multiplayer offerings, there just wasn’t that much to do at launch — and players quickly realized that they’d be repeating activities over and over again.
The bulk of Bungie’s team has reportedly been working on Destiny 2 for a while. Here’s hoping that results in a game that feels more fulfilling from the start.
With contributions from Russ Frushtick, Christopher Grant, Ben Kuchera, Ashley Oh and Jeff Ramos.