For my money, Destiny 2 was a fantastic game. It reinforced my love of the franchise as the weird, experimental AAA tentpole that Bungie poured everything into, now with refined edges and a clearer vision of its universe. Gone was the intense grind for exotics, the random loot drops, and instead came an experience that wanted to reward you early and reward you often.
I voted for the title in our Game of the Year last year having played the game for 100 hours, getting three classes up to the max light level and dedicating portions of my evenings watching lore videos about what was going on in the broader story of the game. At times, I’d spend 30 minutes doing nothing but just hanging around in the Tower because it was a space I just enjoyed existing in. I was about as into Destiny 2 as one person could be.
Now, here is where I admit that I’ve not played the game since December. I’ve not touched either DLC, and even though I’m aware of the big changes put in by the live team, my hunger to return to the title just hasn’t been there for a while.
This is in line with the narrative a lot of players have been painting for a while. The title has been on the chopping block for many in the gaming community, as trouble with microtransactions and transparency had Bungie and its playerbase at odds with each other. Coming near enough to the disastrous launch of Star Wars Battlefront II, it really felt like there was a wider revolt in the gaming audience and Destiny 2 was certainly in the splash zone. Because of that, there is this prevalent perception that the game is in trouble, bad or in some cases, dead. Even a cursory look at various popular gaming YouTube channels, you can find titles like ‘The Fall of Destiny‘ and ‘Destiny 2 is Doomed’. They do very well too.
As someone who played Destiny 2 that intensely and then proceeded to not touch the game for five months, this is the kind of rhetoric I should be espousing, right? Destiny 2 is a failure, it’s doomed, it’s unsalvageable.
Yet, I still hold firm Destiny 2 is truly excellent and that the game is in a perfectly healthy spot.
First of all, this is nothing new. At least speaking for myself, Destiny has always been cyclical, ever since the moment the franchise hit in September 2014. Like an old flame, my relationship with the series has always been one of short, intense bursts. Consume everything the game has, play it all day and all night, and then go cold turkey for months at a time. I know, anecdotally, that extends to my friends too.
For all of its faults, I also played the first Destiny voraciously when it came out, then dropped out for the DLCs and came back around summer of 2015. Then The Taken King came out and it was a revelation that changed the game… and I stopped playing the game after a while and then came back in the summer of 2016. Then Rise of Iron came… etc. etc. It’s a pattern of play — one I know many indulge in with the franchise. “People still play that game?” was the dismissive comment that followed Destiny 1 throughout its life because when it hit, there was a consensus that there was no content there, no one liked it, that it was a failure. Yet, every time it held a major stream, it would get hundreds of thousands of views (beating some E3 conferences), and the game would always do excellently at the launch of its next expansion.
My point is that we’ve been here before. The fates of Destiny and Destiny 2 have been so similar it is somewhat shocking. Bungie would release something, people would rave about it until the game saw a serious backlash, and then this narrative that the game has failed and no one is playing it would set in. A notion that no one cared. Yet, every time the community would come back to do it all over again. There is no reason to think Destiny 2 will be any different.
I butt heads with the consensus of doom around the game because games, even games as service, don’t have to consume your attention and life at all times. Our relationships with these games should be fluid, with natural down and up times. It’s healthy as a consumer of video games to explore new avenues, broaden our horizons, see new experiences, and then, like the prodigal son, come home when the time is right.
At times it can feel the internet is looking at games as all-or-nothing successes. This kind of attitude that you should be able to play games forever, for hundreds of hours to justify a £60 purchase (perpetuated by the recent controversy around Green Man Gaming displaying some quantified ‘value per hour’ statistic) is just hyperbole. Even potentially damaging. That extends beyond Destiny 2 too. It’s okay for the community to not be playing a game for a bit. Let’s not run around beating the drum about good games having no audience, being in trouble, and failing. It’s just an unpleasant, and at times, ill-informed. You don’t owe a game all your time, and a game doesn’t necessarily owe you a never-ending experience.
Speaking from my heart, I love Destiny 2. I love the world, I love the lore, I love the gameplay loops, I love the gun designs, I love the feel, I love the truly unique Raid experience. But for right now, I’m okay with just thinking about that rather than experiencing it. That is healthy, and my purchase feels more than justified with the 100 hours I spent adoring the game. Even if that was it for me and Destiny 2, that’s an experience I valued immensely. But I know that my time isn’t over with it. I know sometime, and likely sometime soon, the Traveller will come calling to me once again, and I will answer it.
If you go on the game’s subreddit and listen to the ramblings of various influencers, you might begin to worry about the game — but let’s not kid ourselves. Destiny 2 is doing fine, and there will be droves of people lining up to hop straight back in for the game’s rumoured Comet expansion this September.