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Playing Destiny 2 on my vacation made me rethink Stadia

Destiny 2 on the go is not to be underestimated

The concept art of Bungie’s Destiny Image: Bungie
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

With Destiny 2’s Season of the Undying winding down — and Bungie soon to replace it with Season of Dawn — I knew I had some work to do over the Thanksgiving break. I had a limited amount of time to accomplish my Destiny goals.

Unfortunately, I had some family traveling to do over the long holiday. My Destiny plans looked grim. But I found an unlikely Destiny ally in my travels: Google Stadia.

Thanksgiving in Sin City

Hesitant to buy my own Stadia (especially given the worrying reviews), I used a friend’s Buddy Code the Wednesday before my big trip. This would let me test the technology without having to risk the expense. Without any hope that it would work the way I needed it to, I threw my MacBook, my Xbox One Elite controller, and a USB adapter into my backpack.

My first stop was at my parent’s house. On a whim, I sat on their old couch, hooked everything up, and connected to my father’s less-than-reliable internet.

I loaded into Destiny 2 and was amazed. The game’s cross-save worked flawlessly. I loaded my Guardian into the world, and entered what would become a three-hour grind fest in the Vex Offensive activity.

Despite the connection, my gameplay experience was mostly smooth. Occasionally I’d hit a lag spike that would last for a few seconds, but I was always able to recover. By the end of my play session, I’d made considerable progress toward my goal — the Undying in-game title. I logged off, impressed by the technology.

Not every experience hit that same high. My first foray into using Google Stadia in the airport didn’t go well. I was able to start a Vex Offensive run in LAX, but got booted out due to a poor connection a few minutes in.

My hotel in Las Vegas was both Stadia’s saving grace and my biggest frustration. My connection to the hotel’s network constantly wobbled from good to OK, meaning every second of gameplay lagged. Occasionally, I’d lose complete control of my character.

Despite that disruption, I was able to make progress toward the Undying title in the odd hours of my trip. Normally, I’d spend this vacation time playing something on my Switch or phone, wishing I was near my powerful gaming machines for grinding purposes. Stadia let me make serious progress.

Perfect for Destiny, not for anything else

Google Stadia controller being held Photo: Chris Plante/Polygon

With my connection issues — even the minor ones — I’d never commit to a Destiny raid on Stadia, or play ranked multiplayer. Anything that takes significant skill or reflexes into account is impossible if my connection is mildly unstable. But for mindless grinding? I can’t think of a better platform.

Unfortunately Stadia has a host of other problems with its infrastructure. It really only works with Destiny 2 because of the perfect storm of Destiny’s transition addition of cross-save and free offering as a part of Stadia Pro. Having to buy your games over again makes using the service for anything else a tough sell.

Destiny 2, despite being a two-year-old game, may be the best use case for Stadia right now — especially if you’re a longtime player like me who loves the grind and has made serious progress on other platforms. With the right game, and the right features, Stadia sings (mostly on-key). The thought of finally finishing Assassin’s Creed Odyssey via Stadia sounds great, but not when I consider having to start all over again — not to mention the cost of a second copy.

Despite the choppy service and the poor infrastructure, Google Stadia sold me over my Thanksgiving weekend. Being able to progress in my grindy space nonsense game anywhere is just too useful to pass up.

But I have no illusions as to what Stadia is for me. For now, it’s just a Destiny machine; a way for me to play Public Events in bed or on a family vacation. Even when Google Stadia doesn’t work perfectly, the kind of freedom it allows can make a big impact. It’s easy to look at my time vacation and see an exciting future for game streaming — even if that future may not be with Stadia.

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