The fact of the matter is: Destiny 2 is pretty lacking, both for your average FPS player and the series’ fans.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or – gasp – don’t care about it, then you probably didn’t know that Destiny 2 has an end-game problem. Released to positive reviews in September with many, including myself, praising the inclusion of new open world activities, Destiny 2 is a game that’s seemingly at odds with everything the series has offered till date.
But first, it’s important to explain what Destiny 2’s end-game is. In a loot based title like Borderlands 2, the end-game is what you do after beating the final boss and any corresponding DLC. You can choose to fight tougher bosses, offered up in various raid encounters, to earn better loot. New Game Plus, referred to as True Vault Hunter mode, brings all the enemies in the game up to your level, confers different benefits and the loot received goes higher up in numbers. Then you progress to Ultimate Vault Hunter mode where Slag is your friend and the process begins again. The true goal of Borderlands 2 is to just keep finding better guns and becoming more obscenely powerful even as enemies become much tankier.
"There’s a definite emphasis on quests after the main story is complete – your mileage of how interesting the characters in World Quests are will vary."
Now take a game like Diablo 3. The end-game in Diablo 3 after the Reaper of Souls expansion is to see how high you can push in Greater Rifts. If you’re after the game’s Gear Sets, then you can easily keep progressing up to GR60 which is the equivalent of the Torment XIII difficulty. You could also run normal Rifts numerous times at said difficulty, donate Blood Shards to Kadala, run Bounties, take a chance on Kanai’s Cube, participate in Set Dungeons and Challenge Rifts and whatnot. Diablo 3’s true end-game involves creating builds for your class and min-maxing said build to push higher and higher Greater Rifts.
There will always be that perfect roll to chase after or that white whale of sorts (like Primal Ancients or items like The Witching Hour). This same style of end-game is inherent in Warframe as well, though it’s more about mod farming, Forma-ing Warframes to allow for more space with higher ranked mods, Prime weapons and parts and, well, looking good (read: FashionFrame).
Finally, let’s look at any open world game like Skyrim, Ghost Recon Wildlands, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Horizon: Zero Dawn and what have you. Those titles are backed by a story, whether it’s in the side quests or main quests. They have varying degrees of emergent gameplay and activities in the open world to pursue. When you finish the story in those games though, all that’s left to do is explore the world and find any neat quests to pursue.
If said quests have been complete, you try to clear out as many markers or activity icons on the map as possible, clearing the game’s checklist of content as you see fit. Sure, there’s plenty of emphasis on getting better gear or weapons and levelling up your character but for the most part, it’s about exploring the world, engaging in some fun mechanics, maybe finding some new weapons and lore, or just interacting with interesting characters.
"Keep in mind that Destiny 2 isn’t exactly a looter nor is it a pure open world game."
It’s important to point out that open world games don’t usually have an “end-game” in the looter-sense. Completing a few extra challenges and missions hardly qualifies as such for loot-based titles. An end-game in the looter sense refers to a continuous feedback look where the player completes missions, gains loot, becomes more powerful and can then tackle other challenges.
Much of the satisfaction from that loop comes from developing different builds and play-styles so that there’s more variety to the really satisfying part which is the gameplay. Someone who has fun running a Shadow Impale build in Diablo 3 may get bored and thus shift over to a Lightning Archon build which is a completely different play-style and offers up some interesting benefits. If nothing else, you can keep levelling for Paragon Points and Augmenting Gems.
But keep in mind that Destiny 2 isn’t exactly a looter nor is it a pure open world game.
So let’s review Destiny 2’s end-game. There’s a definite emphasis on quests after the main story is complete – your mileage of how interesting the characters are in World Quests will vary. You can still complete Adventures, take on little tasks with Patrols and explore Lost Sectors. Despite some great environment and art design, many of the mechanics remain uniform throughout the experience. You’ll be going somewhere to shoot something, scan something or do a bit of platforming. This kind of open world freedom varies from world to world because some places, like the European Dead Zone and Nessus, are much bigger than others like Io and Titan. Each world does have its share of Public Events, which can be morphed into Heroic Events, world bosses and Cayde-6 stashes to find.
In terms of end-game loot, there’s Trials of the Nine and the Leviathan Raid. The upcoming Iron Banner and recent Faction Rally could also fit into this along with vendors who you can increase reputation with (by finding materials and Tokens in the open world). The co-op Strikes occupy this weird spot of being interesting to explore every now and then but not really beneficial in terms of loot. Even from a characterization and mechanics standpoint, they don’t offer all that much that’s interesting or new from the main game.
"At least with the original Destiny, Bungie eventually gave you plenty of things to do and lots of things to work your way up to."
If we look at it from a Borderlands 2 point of view, there is no continuously scaling level of power and threats from enemies which feeds the desire to find better guns. There are no random rolls on guns so you’re not chasing after different variations that can offer different benefits. The “Meditations” from Ikora could be the closest thing to New Game Plus but their rewards are vastly under-powered in the long run. Being unable to replay story missions, Adventures, World Quests and what have you normally is also a major deterrent.
If we look at it from the Diablo 3 or Warframe point of view, there’s no real depth to the builds on offer either. Sure, you could have a Devour Voidwalker that builds up melee damage thanks to some Exotic gloves and who runs around meleeing everything, regaining full health while also recharging grenades quickly. But it feels more like a situational buff rather than a wholly different play-style. From a subclass standpoint, you’re relegated to either one set of perks or the other. You don’t get multiple different runes for skills or the ability to mix and match Supers. You also don’t get augments or Gear Sets that radically change the way a skill functions. In fact, it’s pretty crazy just how barebones the gear is in Destiny 2, especially the raid and Trials gear which require substantially more commitment to obtain.
That’s not all though. There are no “white whales” or supremely OP items in Destiny 2 like Gjallarhorn, Sleeper Simulant or Raze Lighter. Gear and weapons are given out at a rapid pace, which is fine but progression tends to stop pretty quickly as well. Hitting 305 Power level isn’t really an advantage and you don’t even need to hit that to perform well enough in the raid (since that comes down more to coordination and communication).
If there’s nothing really special to get and the potential for defining builds is very, very limited, then not only are you stuck doing the same content with absolutely no variety involved but you’re not even working towards anything. At least the cosmetic end-game in Warframe is only one part of the equation – there are still tons of weapons, Warframes and mods to build and level up. Oh, and it’s also free with substantially meatier content updates than Bungie has delivered in the three years since it launched Destiny.
"Destiny 2 should be doing something to reward players. If nothing else, it should be giving players something unique for their troubles if it doesn’t give them a different way to play the game. Alas, it does none of that."
At least with the original Destiny, Bungie eventually gave you plenty of things to do and lots of things to work your way up to. Even when you hit the max Light level cap, you could still go after Adept weapons in various raids or try to get that perfect Tier 12 set of raid gear or even grind for Ice Breaker which could potentially drop once per week from one character with the Nightfall bounty.
There were Horde modes, Heroic Strikes, modifiers on Strikes, more Crucible modes, Record Books, private matches, Sparrow Racing and raid challenges. Destiny 2 has none of that out of the gate, even as Iron Banner and the Prestige Leviathan raid are incoming. It’s easy to see why current hardcore players are annoyed, even as many of Destiny’s glaring flaws like grinding for materials, levelling up weapons and whatnot were removed.
Of course, there’s the argument that Destiny 2 is more for casual players. So why not just explore the world and it’s Lost Sectors, play the campaign, get all the gear and call it a day? Well, in my opinion at least, Destiny 2 doesn’t have a very good story. The main campaign is passable and it’s doesn’t help that these annoying characters permeate all the World Quests and Adventures. Lost Sectors feel like a missed opportunity because for as good as they look, it’s still just about entering, shooting, killing the boss and getting some boring loot. At least when this was a thing in Fallout 4, I could find some neat lore, ammo or get EXP to level up once the story was complete. Surprise, surprise but Destiny 2 has none of that. It may appeal to the casual open world player but even compared to most open world games, Destiny 2 is fairly barren and unrewarding.
And that’s really the crux of the argument for many Destiny 2 players, whether they’re casual or hardcore. Destiny 2 doesn’t have a point where the game suddenly shifts into gear (unless you really like the pseudo game show that is the raid). There are some neat mechanics in the story missions but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before from the base game. You get to drive a tank for one mission, which is nice but that never happens again in the open world or any Strike. So in lieu of interesting mechanics, compelling sub-plots or great sights (of which there are plenty even if, again, it’s nowhere near the scale of most open world games), Destiny 2 should be doing something to reward players. If nothing else, it should be giving players something unique for their troubles if it doesn’t give them a different way to play the game. Alas, it does none of that.
"Games like Path of Exile, Warframe, The Division, Diablo 3 and whatnot have attracted millions of players, casual and hardcore alike."
When you consider the ups and downs that the first Destiny saw, it was amazing how so many major additions and quality of life changes were straight up left out of Destiny 2. When you compare it to some of the best games in the market, there’s so much else it could have done but doesn’t. Next to an MMO like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2, Destiny 2 simply doesn’t match up and even with its gunplay being fine and all, it’s 2017. There are plenty of games, new and old, that deliver great gunplay.
Destiny 1 had a spark that no other game seemed to have and catered to fans of that phenomenon in the best way possible. Destiny 2 seems more keen on spreading that spark to a wider audience rather than further kindling it for the hardcore. Which is funny because I don’t see a huge number of casual players staying on with this level of writing and story telling. But hey, many people thought that for the first Destiny and look where we are now.
I could write a whole lot more about the lack of progression in PvP, how you never really feel rewarded or like you’re improving in the Crucible unlike other competitive shooters. That’s a whole different story though. The fact remains that Bungie may have ensured Destiny 2 was a success with reviewers, the casual crowd and even Destiny fans at launch but it did this at the cost of keeping them around. Those 30 hours are enough for your average player who will now move on to better things (and honestly, there are plenty of games for your average “casual” that do a whole lot more than Destiny like, oh, Call of Duty) but for the seasoned Destiny 2 player who’s stuck by Bungie for so long, it feels like an abrupt stop.
Frankly, I’m not a fan of blaming the casual player. Games like Path of Exile, Warframe, The Division, Diablo 3 and whatnot have attracted millions of players, casual and hardcore alike. They gave reasons for them – and the hardcore players – to stay and work towards other things. Who knows, maybe the casual player would become the hardcore in the process. However, when it comes to Destiny 2, whether you’re a hardcore player who’s put in 200 hours since launch or a casual who still hasn’t done the raid, the end of Bungie’s yellow brick road leads pretty much nowhere, forget Oz.