The legend of Destiny is a tale of extremes. The game navigated the balance between dedicated adoration and overwhelming vitriol with a surprising amount of grace. Like pineapple on pizza or the Dallas Cowboys, it is impossible to pass Destiny by with nonchalance. Whether it buried its hooks deep into your soul or completely missed its mark, the game made a monumental mark on the gaming landscape and altered what we thought was possible from a console shooter. But this leaves its sequel in a precarious position.
Destiny is a product of our new, iterative reality. In our previous understanding of franchises and sequels, Destiny would have been stuck in its confusing, underwhelming launch state until its sequel hit this fall. Luckily for the millions of us who call the game a hobby, gradual iteration transformed a disjointed mess into one of the best shooters on the market. Destiny’s skeletal framework of shooting and movement mechanics was perfect out of the box, but was let down by obtuse systems that disguised goals and fun. This, paired with inherent miscommunication and misunderstanding about the nature of the game itself, led to monumental hype disintegrating over the course of the game’s opening hours. After a disastrous launch, Bungie trudged step-by-step toward a goal of salvaging Destiny’s remarkable vision.
And little by little, that vision was fulfilled. Loot and leveling became accessible, bosses and level design increased in strategic complexity, and importance was layered upon each and every in-game activity. As the game evolved, so did its player base. A community that had survived Destiny’s dark, early days welcomed new players with open arms as they shared in the exhilarating, frenetic battles of the game’s greatest challenges. The Destiny that had burned millions upon release no longer existed, instead being replaced by a juggernaut shooter that was more lifestyle than video game. The problem, however, is that those burned players still bore the sear marks from their previous experience.
The hardcore vs. the jilted lover – a conflict that defined Destiny 2 speculation. Should Bungie have continued with their proven trajectory or performed reconstructive surgery? Unlike expansions, a sequel presents an opportunity to mend deeply rooted flaws, and so the community pondered the extent to which changes could manifest. Were there problems that had become like white noise – so pervasive that they had simply become routine? What design decisions had hindered the growth of the original Destiny? There was no limit to what Bungie could blow to smithereens. But the Destiny 2 that presented itself wasn’t all that different than what had come before. It looked, sounded and – one can assume – felt like Destiny.
A pervasive thought in the week since Bungie’s gameplay reveal is that Destiny 2 seems like Destiny 1.5 – another iteration rather than a megaton bombshell. And from what we saw, I can’t say that I disagree. The action follows a similar cadence, the subclasses seem familiar and the guns looked and sounded like they have in the past. But I personally fail to see the problem. The elements that seem iterative were the best parts of the original game, combining into an intoxicating ballistic cocktail that was amplified by playing with friends. These pillars are the essence of Destiny, and it would not feel the same without them. Thus, they persist.
In fact, Bungie’s Destiny 2 reveal steered directly into the familiar. The euphoria of blasting aliens and guardians utilizing the developer’s sublime shooting mechanics was not lost on a single Destiny player, regardless of when they last touched down in the Tower. So Bungie’s message aimed squarely at that universal thread. The reasons we loved the game are back, and we now get even more tools to play with. I’d personally be disappointed if the game didn’t look familiar, as that would mean the magic of the original would be lost in translation.
Destiny didn’t lose players because it didn’t feel right. It lost players because it wasn’t structured right. The Destiny 2 reveal did a great job of giving both the hardcore and the jilted lovers something to smile about. The parts we love? Strikes, Raids, Guns, Classes – you name it, they’re back. The parts we didn’t? They are being addressed. Barren worlds, lack of story, perpetual crucible imbalance and accessibility inherent problems that look to be solved. A compelling campaign premise, 4v4 matches with tweaked weapon loadouts, rich environments containing more to see and explore and baked-in Clan support all seek to remedy Destiny’s past deficiencies. These are all reasons to be excited for the sequel, but they mean nothing if not for the stellar, familiar anatomy that makes Destiny, well, Destiny.
You are entitled to think that the game seems to hit too close to home. Bungie certainly did little to hide the familiar elements making a return in Destiny 2. When presented with a decision to lean into what made the game work for the hardcore or starting over for those who walked away, Bungie chose to trust itself and continue shaping the marble that it started with in September 2014. It remains to be seen if Destiny 2 will succeed to making up for its predecessor’s shortcomings, but one thing remains certain: it’s familiar elements will be as thrilling as ever.
Brett Williams is an Associate Writer for MONG who can’t wait to pick up a void shield with his Titan in Destiny 2. You can follow his nonexistent ramblings on Twitter.