I Haven’t Played ‘Destiny 2’ For A Month, And I Still Think It’s An Awesome Game

Credit: Bungie

The start of the Leviathan Raid in Destiny 2.

It is maybe the most bizarre permutation of the crisis of Destiny 2 that you might call me a casual player. I played the game for about a month straight, hit the level cap in days, beat my head against the Raid at zero hour and collected most of the exotics available in the game. I have played an amount of this game that would make most normal people blush, but I haven’t really touched it for something like a month. I’ve done everything I wanted to do, seen most of what the game has to offer, and am now contentedly waiting for its first expansion, Curse of Osiris, due out next week. It didn’t take over my life like it has in the past, but I’m alright with that.

This, I believe, labels me a casual player. This feels wrong.

People have been grumbling about Destiny 2’s economy since about a week in: the first game was stingy with its upgrades, but the second game has been downright liberal. Even more casual players are able to hit the hard cap of 305 power in a few weeks of completing timed quests, and hardcore players were able to do so almost instantly. Without a sufficient number of distant goalposts to chase, people looking to fill a Destiny-shaped hole in their lives found themselves adrift, and the developer has been working hard to shore things, making sure that the most committed players have the opportunity to remain just that. This is all well and good, and there’s nothing wrong with working on making the game more enjoyable for a broader range of players. But something feels wrong about the framing: is this game, which comes with some of the best gunplay on the market and dozens of hours of satisfying exploration, in some sort of crisis?

Credit: Bungie

The Curse of Osiris.

I get the feeling that there are more players like me than we can see on forums and Reddit. People perfectly happy with a game like Destiny 2, perfectly happy to plunk along through some satisfying upgrades and gameplay, and then perfectly happy to set it down and wait for the next major content drop. People who don’t think that lying about XP systems is in any way good, but people who don’t mind so much as it doesn’t really seem to impact gameplay. This would be an excellent way to experience Destiny 2 for years on end, not to mention a less-stressful way for player and developer alike. I haven’t even touched Cats and Dogs in The Sims 4, after all, and man would I like to.

But that’s not the conversation we’re having here in 2017, when every game you play wants to be the only game you play. It means that you can pay $60 for a game, spend 50 hours having a blast with the available content and then still end up raging because the in-game economy doesn’t encourage you to play it every single day for an indefinite period of time. In many ways, it’s an impossible goal, and it’s no coincidence that an increasing focus on this style of development has led to a now-predictable routing of fan revolts in what feels like every game except Overwatch. People have been promised the world, and it hurts when reality falls short.

This, more than anything, is the problem that I have with the micro-transaction driven games-as-service era. It means that games are inevitably judged primarily on their ability to hook you into daily play and drive a level of commitment that makes paying for cosmetics seem reasonable. That means that high-level players — those more likely to spend on micro-transactions cosmetic or otherwise — inevitably drive the conversation like we’re seeing with Destiny 2. In an ideal world, a developer like Bungie can cater both to the daily hardcore player and those that just want to play a game for a while and then let it sit, but the balance is difficult and we’ve got to slide one way or another. When micro-transactions are on the table, that hardcore player will always take priority.

I’ve definitely still got my problems with Destiny 2: I don’t like either the weapon balancing or the new loadout system, I couldn’t stand the Raid and I’m not a fan of 4 v 4 as the only option for PvP. Iron Banner was sort of a mess, and the XP grind duplicity was deceptive and wrong. But it’s a game that I like, and it’s a game that I will gladly continue to play as more content gets released. That’s more or less how I played the original Destiny — I got brutally addicted for a while, beat my head against Hard Mode Oryx for like a week, and then realized that I could never keep up with the tip-top tier of players and consigned myself to a less frequent but more enjoyable style of play. With Destiny 2, I was glad that I could keep my player kitted out for high-end challenges without the brutality that was Hard Mode Oryx. And I hope that the game doesn’t return to that hardcore-focused balance as a result of these outrages.

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