As an online multiplayer game, Destiny 2 ebbs and flows. It’s seen lows and highs, as Bungie iterates on its shared-world shooter. Reflecting on its history can be fun, and at times, painful to remember. The past year of Destiny 2 has been more than just Forsaken, and a lot of that history isn’t great. So at the end of what might be Destiny’s best and worst year ever, we’re going to take a moment to look back.
Curse of Osiris, the almost-dying breath
Curse of Osiris was a wasteland for Destiny 2, and easily the worst expansion in the series’ history. But before we get into exactly why Curse of Osiris failed this year, we need to go back a bit to around October 2017.
Destiny 2 launched on Sept. 6, 2017, giving players plenty of time to play through all the content the game had to offer before December, when Curse of Osiris came out. But shortly after release, and by the time the game hit Windows PC on Oct. 24, players began to discover that it was far more shallow than previously known.
As new Destiny players put it down to move on to other big games, the game’s community was left wanting more — something they’d all come to expect over the years playing the original Destiny. But months in, players weren’t discovering any secret exotics or quests, and the grind for gear was meaningless without randomly rolled perks.
The fear of a Destiny without replayability was already starting to spread when Curse of Osiris started being teased in November. Bungie revealed a new planet with the biggest public event ever, along with what seemed to be a replayable area called the Infinite Forest. Players started pinning their hope for a endgame content on Curse of Osiris before it was even released, which made the disappointment with the expansion hit even harder.
When Curse of Osiris arrived, it didn’t take long to feel like Destiny 2 was in serious trouble. The new planet and biggest public event ever was one and the same. Yes, the public event was huge, but it took up the entire map of Mercury, leaving players with nothing to do in the new space. And the Infinite Forest wasn’t really “infinite” after all; it was only playable in certain missions and strikes as a glorified loading zone.
The content was thin and simply not very fun from day one. But somehow, things got worse for Destiny 2 when not one, but two scandals hit the game. The first came a week before Osiris, when players started figuring out that Bungie was throttling how players earned experience points.
The experience in the endgame of Destiny 2 is directly tied to cosmetic rewards that are purchasable for real money. The community didn’t react kindly when it seemed like Bungie was duping them to boost real-money sales. The amount of experience that players gained was significantly less than the number shown, slowing down the process of earning the items in-game.
The second scandal happened only hours after Curse of Osiris was released. Players without Curse of Osiris were immediately locked out of some content that had previously been a part of their Destiny 2 purchase. Prestige versions of the raid and Nightfall were boosted up for Curse of Osiris players’ enjoyment, but left the non-expansion players in the dust. Worse, some of these experiences were tied to achievements and trophies on consoles, hindering the 100-percent completion opportunity for those that didn’t buy.
All of this resulted in two weeks of some of the harshest backlash we’ve seen for a game of this size. The community was angry, and once the Curse of Osiris content had been consumed, many stepped away from the game.
Destiny 2 became a ghost town. During the few weeks that we logged in, matchmaking times had gone up and the worlds felt empty without as many friends to help. Our own friends and fireteam members moved onto other games for months — something that hasn’t happened since. It seemed like the first several nails had been hammered into Destiny’s coffin, and that getting the player base interested again would take some serious work.
Warmind, the first signs of life
And that’s where Warmind comes in. In our initial review of Warmind, we called it a Band-Aid, and you can feel our skepticism that anything would truly change with the update. The campaign was pretty rough, and the early days seemed a lot like Curse of Osiris — shallow content without a long tail. But Warmind ended up being much more than that.
From May to September, Warmind brought new content to grind all the time. From the start, there were multiple exotic quests to keep players busy, and every week included a heaping of Escalation Protocol grinding in order to work toward the special legendary weapon drops from each boss.
Toward the end of the expansion’s life, players were able to tackle “The Whisper” mission, which rewarded players with one of the most powerful guns Destiny has ever seen. It brought so much life back into the series that it was exciting to log in again, to do things like chase down a mystery that players had been researching for weeks.
Finally, the season ended with the Solstice of Heroes, a great seasonal event that felt like the Destiny of yore. The grind was long and intense, but it gave players a reason to keep going every day — with real power that helped your Guardian become more powerful.
Warmind brought the grind and the endgame back to Destiny. It had the hype of Forsaken fueling it for most of its life — the giant expansion was revealed only a few weeks after Warmind launched — but to dismiss the expansion as only a temporary fix would be a mistake.
Warmind is responsible for reminding players that Destiny could be more, and it did that spectacularly. It wasn’t perfect, and the grind could sometimes be more frustrating than fun, but it was a step in the right direction.
Forsaken, the best we’ve seen
Forsaken is the best expansion in Destiny history. Over three months out from the content’s release, it’s managed to trump even Destiny’s The Taken King in our minds. The story was compelling and impactful — with some of the more memorable moments in Destiny’s past, like the loss of Cayde-6 — but the true work of Forsaken is seen in the gameplay and the endgame.
A rash of weapon changes in Forsaken immediately improved Destiny 2. Shotguns, snipers, and fusion rifles were more available more often. It changed everything about the way Guardians were able to interact with the world around them — which is usually with a gun.
Fighting felt interesting, because players had to choose between three very different weapons, not just two primaries and a rocket. It helped bring back the feeling of power that original Destiny Guardians were accustomed to. But with that power came additional difficulty. New spaces like the Dreaming City were hard when players first arrived, with enemies that could kill Guardians easily. This was all thanks to the new grind for Power. Players had to grind to increase their power level and take on challenges.
Return of the power fantasy
Since Destiny, Guardians have always been either gods or woefully under-leveled. But the Dreaming City really showed off that feeling of increasing one’s power. Players moved from weaker than their enemies, to on par, to more powerful not in mere days, but over weeks. It was incremental, which is crucial.
And that’s where Forsaken created not only the same feeling that Destiny did, but also new, better ones. Players were given the choice to invest again. Investing time in the game became rewarding. Players always had new weapons or gear items to locate, and once they’d filled out their collection they could always push for more powerful or better-rolled versions of those same guns.
The expansion wasn’t perfect in that regard, with low chances at new exotics being a particular pain point for players — a fireteam member of ours still doesn’t have One Thousand Voices, the raid exotic, after 30-plus raid clears. But in Forsaken, there were always more places to spend your time and items to grind for, even when the random drops of Destiny weren’t on your side.
In the end, Forsaken not only provided an incredible season worth of interesting content, it also established a new foundation for a game that looked nearly dead eight months prior. It’s one of the most impressive turnarounds with a live game like this that we’ve seen. And with that new foundation of Forsaken in place, the future of the franchise looks bright.
Black Armory, the Annual Pass and hope for the future
It’s only been a few weeks since the release of Black Armory — the first of the game’s Annual Pass offerings — and it’s impossible to judge how the next year of content will be based on Black Armory alone. However, everything of this new expansion seems to play into Forsaken’s strengths, building further into the hobby that players want Destiny to be.
This release is unlike anything we’ve seen in Destiny’s history. It’s certainly not a normal expansion; it’s more akin to a subscription to Destiny. Every week, we’ve seen new content drops and new items to collect. Between the raid and the forge activities, Black Armory is starting out strong, and we hope Bungie will continue on this path.
Even with these past few months of positivity, it’s hard to look back on this year of Destiny 2 and not see a troubled game. But in a way, that’s what makes this such a successful year for Destiny 2 in terms of being a live, ever-changing experience. In eight months, the game went from a dull, empty experience spurned by even the most dedicated players, to the best the franchise has ever been.
Looking at Bungie’s track record, it’s reasonable to think that Destiny will go through hard times again. But the studio showed this year that it can listen, and the Annual Pass shows that it has more of a read on the way the games industry is changing than players may have thought earlier this year.
2018 was a year all about redemption for Bungie and Destiny 2, with low lows and high highs. The fear is that we’ll see this same situation play out next time, whenever Destiny 3 debuts — something players post about nearly every day on the game’s subreddit.
But for now, Destiny is in the best place it’s ever been in, and Bungie had to fight hard to get there.