Look, you’re all familiar with me at this point. I’m the guy who fell in love with a game despite its flaws and watched as everyone around me, one by one, moved on. I’ve played Destiny for three years, have all of the expansions, even dipped a little bit into my funds to buy Silver (the game’s paid currency, exclusively for cosmetic gear). I’ll be the first to admit it; my review from 2014 is extremely dated currently, so to alleviate that, I’m here to explain the differences from what you experienced in Year One.
I still believe that Destiny, right now, is a great game. It took a while to improve, but once The Taken King landed, it hit the ground running. Would I recommend Vanilla Destiny right now? Absolutely not, because the DLC has vastly improved the amount of content and variety that the original game lacked, and what probably set its fate in stone to the internet. When I saw the teaser for Destiny 2, I felt that same hype I did with Destiny during the beta, but I noticed very particularly that everyone else in my timeline on Twitter was…less than enthusiastic. So it’s time I faced the music and put my opinions on the record; this is what Destiny 2 needs to do to be more successful than its precursor.
Some terms before we begin: “Vanilla Destiny” refers to Destiny before any expansions dropped; this was the experience that most players were met with, and it’s easily the worst its ever been. This is also referred to as “Year One.” “Year Two” refers to Destiny: The Taken King. “Year Three” refers to Destiny: Rise of Iron, and the Age of Triumph update.
Weapons and Armor are synonymous with improving your “Light Level,” a secondary gauge of strength in Destiny as of The Taken King. This gear has five “rarities,” with Legendary and Exotic being the best and rarest gear in the game.
Typically, players going into a raid are learning for the first time. For these instances, they look for a “Sherpa” or a guide, to help them learn the gimmicks and processes.
Grinding and Progression
In Vanilla Destiny, the base level cap was 30. Problem is that experience gained only mattered up to Level 20, and the gear you obtained had a “light level.” The higher the Light, the more that gear increased your level. Seems simple in theory, but in execution, it became the largest wall for players well into Year Two. Why was this a problem? Well, the only true way for players to expand their gear was to have exclusively Legendary and Exotic gear in order to barely achieve Level 26 and access the raid, Vault of Glass. This meant grinding for single-digit improvements for days on end; naturally, this wound up boiling down to “loot caves,” areas where enemies would infinitely respawn and drop tons of gear.
That solved the grinding issue, right? Well, no. Gear didn’t necessarily have a limitation, so you would get a piece of gear with a sporadic Light Level that was usually much worse than what you had. This resulted in grinding taking many hours to gain a single point to your stats.
How was this improved?
Starting with The Taken King, the base level cap and Light Level were separated. Better gear was based on your level first, then your current Light Level, meaning that gear was consistently within your current range. Along with this, The Taken King’s “Patrol,” the Dreadnought, featured an area called the Court of Oryx, which meant that there was now a centralized area to grind for gear along with raids. This worked for a while, before eventually it was a battle for Light Level once again. This of course brought the grind to raids, where Vault of Glass and Crota’s End (Expansion 1’s raid) were now obsolete.
Enter Rise of Iron, which added yet another, more swift way to grind for gear. As well as a new raid on top. This also maxed the Light Level to 400. Playing a Story Mission, a Crucible match (the game’s PvP mode), and a Strike once daily gave you Marks to improve your gear and buy new ones as well. This way of grinding only improved more to what it is now with Age of Triumph. After getting towards the end-game (Light Level 380+), you could play the same three modes for much more Marks than before, as well as rebalanced raids starting at Light Level 390. With the two arena spots, Court of Oryx and Archon’s Forge, as well as Raids throughout the journey to 400, it made grinding much more accessible to whatever you wanted to do.
Hopefully this consistent improvement curve stays in Destiny 2.
That said, even now it’s still difficult to find a party for Raids and other important missions. Why?
Lack of Matchmaking
This is a problem that still plagues Destiny, and definitely needs to change. As of right now, you cannot matchmake for Raids, the Nightfall (a much harder variant of Strikes with the reward of better gear and an experience boost for the rest of the week), and various Strikes or story missions. Using external sites, DestinyLFG.com or reddit/r/fireteams is currently the only way to find a group, and this comes with massive issues up front.
Problem #1 with this form of matchmaking: Favoritism. For all of Year One, and some of Year Two, one singular line cluttered the list of LFG posts. “Must have Gjallarhorn.” Because of this issue, players could literally cherry-pick their party and get only high-level characters with incredibly rare gear. If you were even a week behind the loop, you might not ever find a match. That’s not to say this issue wouldn’t occur if matchmaking was in Destiny 2, but it would have a veil of secrecy.
Problem #2: Liars. This has happened a few times to me. I search the boards for a group and join their party, only for us to suddenly go to a raid I’ve already done for that week when I specifically joined for a different raid. This is more of an issue of people in general, but thankfully, I have a solution to both of these problems.
The Solution: Filtered “LFG” with instant-queue. You know how Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has the Party Finder? Do that. Allow players to set their search filters (Light Level Minimum, the specific Raid, allow/ban “Sherpas,” join in-progress, etc.), and once they’ve matched with a group, put them into that instance. If a player leaves at the start or before a predetermined “cutoff,” allow for someone searching for a game with “similar filters” to join in-progress. If they leave at the end of a raid, before say, the final boss is defeated, allow a player to join-back in the instance of a disconnect, then begin searching for a fill-in player.
Players who are very experienced with certain raids can enlist as a “Sherpa” and can be picked earlier in the process if a group doesn’t have one and if they are specifically looking for one.
It goes without saying, Year One Destiny has no story. I’ll give you a brief synopsis: You are revived as a Guardian by a Ghost, and you are tasked with pushing back the Darkness. You do that.
Okay, now onto Year Two. The safety of the Last City and the Tower are threatened by Oryx, the Taken King. The Awoken (basically space-elves, let’s be honest), attempt to fight back in the rings of Saturn, but they are almost entirely eradicated. After finding a stealth drive to implement into Eris Morn’s ship (Eris Morn being the driving force behind Expansion 1: The Dark Below), you barely manage to board Oryx’s ship, the Dreadnought. Problem is that the Cabal got here first, and now there’s a war breaking out in this massive ship.
Did you notice the difference? Year One barely had a story; nothing for you to attach on, and that’s what drove a lot of people away from this IP. And because of this “burn” they got, most of them never returned. It’s important right now that Destiny 2 gets a story that not only feels important to returning players, but keeps new players interested in continuing. A harrowing feat, sure, but not impossible. If the teaser is of any indication, then it’s apparent that they got their humor back. The problem with Year One came from the story taking itself too seriously, where Year Two learned that it’s okay to have a bit of fun. As long as Destiny 2 maintains this approach, then hopefully things will improve greatly.
Also, please don’t put all of the lore and mythos in an external browser. We need it in-game.
What Is And Isn’t An Expansion
Year One was full of problems, let’s be honest. Nothing more apparent than the half-baked expansions. The Dark Below and House of Wolves were world-building, but that’s it. Crota’s End is considered by most to be the easiest raid, and the Prison of Elders was quickly discarded after the rebalance. Not much of an improvement of a story and clearly not very strong for $15 a pop anyways.
Year Two and Three brought The Taken King and Rise of Iron, and these were in fact, expansions. Vastly superior storytelling, much more content under the hood (some of which was actually released over time throughout the next few months), and most importantly, had content for everyone. It’s apparent that Year One taught many lessons, because Age of Triumph, a free update that I can guarantee would have been sold for $10 if it were Year One, has updated content including Raids, which only improves the experience of all five expansions.
If Destiny 2 should learn anything, it’s that people want expansions to expand the game as a whole. You can’t just make an expansion exclusively because of a Raid, or a survival mode, or for story. It has to be meaningful, and keep your players invested and constantly looking for more things to do. Make expansions like The Taken King have a lot of meat and update it over time, and release stuff like House of Wolves as a free update. The Dark Below could have easily been merged with The Taken King to make it all that more investing.
The PvP and PvE “Sandbox”
Over the years, Bungie has undertaken a lot of flak for one thing. Nerfs. It’s apparent that they didn’t entirely separate the PvE and PvP experiences, and now this affects both sides. If you are a Crucible fan, then odds are that you’ve experienced the horrors of Thorn and Icebreaker back in the day. And when those got nerfed, it was awesome, right?
Right, until you tried using those weapons in a Raid. See, the issue of the Destiny sandbox is that there is no apparent divide between PvE and PvP. Whatever happens in either environment, the opposite will also get an effect, usually for the worse. Destiny 2 needs to have two separate sandboxes to work with, which of course seems harder to manage, but in reality it would allow much more freedom in the long run to test nerfs and buffs without adversely affecting one or the other. This is crucial to the Crucible being a fair playing field while allowing Guardians in Strikes, Raids, or Patrols to have that immense power to rely on, without worrying that their favorite weapons are going to become useless.
Currently, Destiny has an issue with scaling difficulty. Regardless on if you are weaker or stronger than the enemy you are fighting, you are always weaker as a result. This should not be so. If I vastly overpower enemies, then I should be able to dispatch them with no issue. Gate the rewards as you would with any other weak enemy, but don’t scale my damage down to pitiful amounts so a Level 4 enemy takes just as many bullets as a Level 40 enemy. If I am in fact weaker, then go for it. Make my damage output lesser, but keep it fair. Make me earn my way to victory, while also allowing me to escape combat if I know I’m not ready yet. It just doesn’t make sense to get two-shot by enemies I vastly overpower. (I’m not going to get one-shot by a Lv. 2 Squirrel at Lv. 99, you get me?)
I’ve said this before, but I’m a huge fan of Destiny. But I’m the only one among my circle of friends and especially among this site. I’m not asking for a lot, honestly. These are all mechanics that an MMO does to make the core experience for its community easier and more enjoyable. If Destiny is an MMO, (and in its own crazy way, it is) it needs to treat itself like one, and constantly improve the experience for everyone while avoiding separation of community with tons of paid content. Take some notes, Bungie, because even if I’m already on this crazy train, many others are waiting in line to join in. Don’t mess this up, because I have friends who want this game to be good, and I want them to see what I’ve seen for the past three years.