Destiny 2 is a game that’s designed to be played socially, and many of the higher-level activities require a large time commitment during which you may not be able to pause or deal with interruptions. Neither of these facts is particularly hidden. There are better options out there if scheduling or solo play are your chief concerns.
But Destiny 2 is also a whole lot of fun. Is it possible to play casually, even if you aren’t rolling in with a crew of friends?
Yes. With caveats
You already know you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by playing Destiny 2 in a more isolated, casual way, and the game isn’t going to let you forget it. Milestones, challenges and especially the single existing raid are set up to reward playing with others. But that’s hard to do if you only have a short chunk of time to play each night.
Which is fine. One of the factors in players being uncomfortable playing Destiny 2 casually is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. The pace at which seemingly every other player is able to conquer challenges and find the best, most powerful gear feels impossible to match. There are guides and walkthroughs for every new bit of the game as soon as it’s released, leading to a sense that you should already be there. Right now. C’mon, we’re all passing you by!
Get rid of that emotion. The reality is that everyone is playing at their own pace, and that’s fine. Take your time to enjoy the campaign, which can be played to completion solo, especially with some levels and gear in the Crucible. There is no actual rush to be finished, outside of the social pressure from the rest of the gaming scene. But who cares about the gaming scene? You should be here to have fun, in the way you want to have fun. This isn’t a job.
So go slow. Avoid FOMO. You’ll be happier, and the game opens itself to slower players in ways that speedrunners may miss completely.
We even struggle to agree internally on how long the campaign takes to play here at Polygon, due to how much optional stuff there is to do. Are you watching the cutscenes and exploring the lore of your weapons? Are you ignoring the Adventures or trying to play them all? Are you just barely hitting the recommended power levels of each section, or are you overshooting them by leveling up and claiming gear in the Crucible? It’s all up to you.
Enjoy Public Events, or don’t. Feel free to linger in each world, hunting to find the loot boxes. This is a game developed by Bungie, published by Activision, and the budget had to have been ... large. It’s worth your time to poke around the corners just to see the sights. You can lose a surprising amount of time just looking at the different skyboxes. Bungie is very good at skyboxes. Take the opportunity to stop and smell the virtual roses.
So that’s the first trick to enjoying the game by yourself, at your own pace: Don’t try to keep up with what you think everyone else is doing. You didn’t buy the game for everyone else; you bought it to enjoy it yourself, in your own way. Get comfortable doing so, and ignore the internally created mental pressure to move quickly through the campaign and early game content.
What about the Crucible?
The Crucible is where player-versus-player online modes live in Destiny 2. This is the place to be if you want to shoot other people with the level advantages sanded down. You are on even footing here, for the most part.
And it works well when you’re playing solo. It’s fun to explore on a casual basis. You’ll quickly figure out what kinds of guns you enjoy, and you’ll get enough of them throughout the campaign that you won’t ever need to grind anything to feel competitive.
You do need to understand the new way to play, however.
Weapons that kill with one shot are so rare you can almost write them off, and even grenades don’t often kill your enemies quickly. What’s important is that your attacks chip away at the enemy’s shields and then health, giving your teammates an opportunity to move in and finish off the kill or at least provide some form of cover fire. Crucible matches are now designed and balanced in such a way that sticking together is usually the winning strategy.
It’s kind of a bummer, honestly. You are absolutely at a disadvantage if you’re not rolling in with other people on voice chat. But that doesn’t mean the Crucible is inaccessible to you; you’ll often be paired with randos who get what’s going on. You just have to realize the strategy — in most cases — will be to stick close to other people. Hang back and follow instead of trying to lead. It will make things a bit easier if you’re worried about contributing. You’ll also likely have issues with the Crucible milestones if you’re playing casually, but that’s not a big deal in the scheme of things.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time in the Crucible, and I play by myself. My FPS skills in general are on the lower end of the spectrum, yet I’m able to do well enough for the Crucible to be worthwhile even when I don’t chat with others. It’s skewed toward teams that play together often, but you won’t automatically be destroyed if you show up by yourself and want to have a good time.
And heck, you can always join a clan so your efforts contribute to a greater cause, and there are more casual players out there than you might have assumed.
Make peace with the fact that you’re going to miss out
To enjoy Destiny 2 casually requires some sort of reckoning with what you want and what you can realistically expect. The “best” gear will likely often, if not always, be out of your reach. Which, again, is fine. You’re getting fewer rolls of the dice, and you’ll have fun playing the hand you’re dealt. This metaphor may have gotten out of my control.
It is going to take you a very long time to feel comfortable attempting raids and Nightfall strikes. And you may never get to the point where you have enough time to devote to those areas of the game, anyway.
Get over it. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, I promise.
This situation may feel cruel, but every game doesn’t owe you a specific way to get to every piece of content. Destiny 2 offers an awful lot for casual or solo players, but the endgame content is designed for people who are playing often, for a long time, with people they know. That’s Bungie’s decision — and you may not like it — but it’s not like that shit was a secret.
You’re going to have a great time anyway. You’ll be fine.
So try to be content with the areas that are available to you, and you may be pleasantly surprised at the loot you find organically, outside the world of organized grinding. You don’t have to read the guides and find the quickest, most efficient way to do things, and in fact, that method of play may not even be the most enjoyable. If you can find the uninterrupted time to try the raid, you can even take part in the new Guided Games feature to give it a shot (as of Sept. 26). Finding fireteams isn’t nearly as tricky as it used to be.
But in general, you can be casual, you can solo and you can take your time throughout the game. The most important thing to remember is to stop the chattering in your head that compares you to other players, and learn how to manage your expectations of what parts of the game may be closed off to you. It can be fun to pick up a guitar and teach yourself how to play for an hour or two a week, but it helps no one to get upset at the fact that you’re unlikely to master complicated solos that way. It’s OK. Fun can be its own reward.
Detach yourself from what many sites and guides tell you is the very best way to play the game, and learn to lean back and enjoy it on your terms. Destiny 2 is a rewarding game, no matter your pace.
So enjoy yourself out there, Guardian.