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Destiny 2 Closes Out Year One with Best Content Yet

Destiny 2 has had itself an eventful first year since its launch and on the eve of the second year DLC I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the highs and the lows of the game so far. To be fair, this is little more than an opinion piece, but it seems to align with the community as I've been following along as a fan of the franchise.

To be even more fair, I really just want to talk about how great a job the team has been doing the last few months with the content ramp up on to year 2, but to give full context I decided to talk about the full year of content that's been offered for the game to give the full picture and hopefully explain why this is the perfect time to get back into the game.

I should also address that this article comes in a LOT later than I had initially intended due to the fact the last couple of weeks have been rather eventual. Each time new content is being added, I would start writing and then realize something else was just around the corner that I also wanted to talk about (most recently Gambit) so this is coming in hot before our review of the new DLC, and I still wanted to talk about how this game has got its hooks back into me.

So, if you've been one of the people that dipped after launch or hasn't bothered to try the game as of yet. So, let's take this chronologically:

Launch

Destiny 2 Pre-Order Screen

As someone that dumped a couple of hundred hours into the original title the announcement of the sequel was something that immediately grabbed my attention and imagination. Leading up to the launch I was incredibly excited, the story and gameplay of the first game was a wild ride. Sure there were low points like spending days grinding the loot cave, but for the most part, the gameplay was something I hadn't gotten to spend too much time before.

Raid gameplay specifically was something that was captivating, and at launch, there were a ton of people playing and I got devoted into running the raid on the weekly as soon as it released. When the game moved on to PC I switched over from console and found a solid group of friends who ran it regularly.

For me, this was a golden era for the game. The launch hype on PC was top level. There was plenty of interest, plenty of players, and I was having an absolute blast.

We would introduce new friends to the mechanics and guide them through, there were regular runs and we were constantly improving on our strategies and completion time... eventually though there wasn't enough remaining interest to keep it up and the group fell apart. Then it was just soloing the weekly content as much as I could to keep my character up to snuff and ready for the eventual launch of the first DLC.

 

Trials of Osiris

Curse of Osiris

To say I was excited for the launch of the first DLC is a bit of an understatement. I love Destiny, have since the initial Beta for the first game, but that being said, there's definitely been some lulls. Just before the launch of Osiris, there was nothing much going on in the game. I had my endgame gear, I'd done the raid a ton and there was nothing new.

I had the day off for launch so I was ready to go all in on all of the new content. Unfortunately, there wasn't much there for me.

Osiris is, by far, my least favorite DLC to date. But, on launch day I was excited. I got my Selfie Emote and I spent the day wandering around on Mercury taking selfies of all the new locations as I made my way through the relatively short story of the add-on content.

Mercury Selfie

The excitement for the DLC was short lived though as the story took not more than 2 hours to complete. There was a couple of new strikes, but all basically felt the same with various bosses at the end. We were restricted from using our sparrows, which felt like a cheat to make the smallest locale to date feel larger by forcing us to walk everywhere. Worse than that, there was only one public event instantly making any Flashpoint (which requires completing multiple PEs on a planet in a week) the slowest and worst experience.

To this day any time a Flashpoint week lands on Mercury I lose almost all interest in running it. Which is definitely not what you want in a DLC pack, nor of something that is supposed to be the main focus of the end-game grind. Flashpoints, if you're not familiar, are one of the best ways to level up once you're grinding for endgame material as they consistently drop higher level gear for you to boost your character up.

So consider this the low point of the franchise, because I do. I hate Mercury. Anything it did well, like the gun missions where you take on tasks to "build" new weapons was completely wiped out by how annoying it is to simply get around on the face of the planet or that angry feeling that surges every time a flashpoint weekly makes us sit around waiting for the one and only PE to spawn. -- Though to be fair, some of that has been addressed in subsequent patches now that there are mini-events popping up around that can earn you completion as well as in 2.0 they allow Lost Sectors (mini dungeons hidden around the maps in the game) to count as well.

 

The Warmind

Destiny 2 Warmind

The second DLC release for the game, I wasn't as excited. I didn't have the day off, I wasn't gearing up for a launch party or spending a bunch of time grinding out the new year and the new content. I basically just went through it as I had time... but the devs absolutely stepped their game up on the second DLC.

The storyline, for one, was far more interesting this time around. It started developing into larger concepts for the games and the missions were varied and interesting. It might have been relatively short once again, but it was definitely a lot more interesting. Plus the gear was starting to get good again.

That being said, it was still very much an encapsulated experience. Once the story was run, there wasn't much call to go back to Mars. I wasn't spending time re-playing the story, I didn't have a Raid group anymore and there wasn't a whole lot of endgame at the time. That was until I bumped into an addition they had made that significantly changed the game for me, based, primarily and admittedly around the concept of loot.

 

Escalation Protocol

Escalation Protocol Gameplay

Even though this is a part of the Mars/Warmind DLC I'm giving it its own header. Because this was the tipping point for me in the longevity of the game and a turning point for the development team. Of course, I'm not the only one that thought so either.

You see what the community had been clamoring for since the launch and even though the original game was more of that end-game grind gear. We're willing to work hard and push through increasingly hard challenges if there's a reward to match the effort. Escalation Protocol was the first time we'd seen that in a long while.

Once people started getting the Ikelos Shotgun, a full-auto shotgun that can buff itself by starting the fight with a melee strike and people were posting videos of the absolutely staggering damage the thing could output, the race was on.

Unfortunately, in the early days of EP this was nigh impossible. You see a fire-team only holds three players, and while Bungie to this day says that it was intended to be run with a three-man strike team... it is impossible even with the best gear in the game to run that with a three stack, unless you're a professional gamer group with some damned good strategy that I never worked out.

So, the community rallied. In one of my favorite moments of gamers figuring out how to get around mechanics and working outside of the system, people started rallying and taxing people on to Mars to find each other. Once you had three friends in the same instance of Mars, you could have 2 more each join on you and now you're looking at a 9 person raid on the run on EP. This significantly changed the game. Now not only was the 7 level challenge doable, but you could cheese it. People were working out how to loop the final level and grind out rewards, but even then with a 5% drop rate, it took me a solid 22 runs to get my first shotgun.

Ikelos SG

But that's what a game like this needs. Something to strive towards. Once you have all the rewards, the game drops off. Spending time doing a nigh-impossible task 20 times over to get a single game is where the franchise shines. Because that gun is worth it. It is partially bragging rights, and partially so powerful that it was worth working towards.

At the time it was the highest DPS in the game and the few people who had managed to grind it out were standing at the top of the raids and endgame runs. It did so much additional damage that it was changing the game entirely. Multiphase bosses at the end of the strikes were going down in single phases and the game was struggling to keep up with how quick bosses were dying. New glitches found. New combinations found. Everyone diving in to find out how to use this thing to its max potential.

There's still a ton of videos online talking about the maximum amount of buffs you can have in the game and how damage scaling works because of this gun. And when the community rallied around that and started to sing the praises of Bungie, they answered that call with easily one of my favorite one-off quests of the franchise history:

 

Whisper of Worm

Whisper of the Worm

In one of the coolest moments of the game, or any game really, a new strike was added to the game without any form of announcement. The community found it by chance, started by killing a particular named enemy during a public event that had a chance to spawn on one of the previously explored planets, Io.

Better than that, it was easily the best strike in the game. Unlike the other strikes to date that basically just meant walking to the end and fighting a boss, this one included a series of challenges and puzzles including a jumping puzzle the likes of which we hadn't seen since the Vault of Glass in the original game.

Plus there was a series of hidden challenges, like a light-shooting puzzle, combined with the last fight in the strike being one of the toughest challenges to date. But if you could get through all of that, you then earned the new top DPS in the game which was a call-back weapon from the original game: Black Spindle.

Again, the damage of the gun changed the game. Strikes were getting easier and bosses were dropping faster than ever. But better than that was the fact that everyone was loving the content. It was the first time since the original game I was seeing people offer to run other players through the strike just for the love of the new content.

Personally, I've run the strike with friends and randoms alike, far more times than I needed to for the rewards just because it is fun content.

 

Solstice of Heroes

Solstice Armor Sets

Catch Up mechanics are nothing new to the MMO scene, but this has been one of my favorites. It was based around the lore of the game where a festival celebrating the heroes of the past are honored that was missed out due to the invasion of Gaul during the main story of the game. It meant re-edits of some of the game's story missions, a series of new challenges, and an opportunity to gain endgame gear at a level that was only previously accessible via prestige runs of the raids.

It was not only a mechanic introduced to get players up to the current max-light level (405) but it was a recap of everything year one had to offer. The challenges ran you through everything the game had to offer and it got you an evolving armor set that echoed the gear grind at the beginning of the game.

Solstice Rewards

For my money, this was some of the most fun I had since the launch. It might end up being completely useless after the launch of the Forsaken DLC, but the armor, the bragging rights, the triumphs (essentially achievements for completing events through the event). It also meant new rewards like a ship if you completed the event on all three character classes. I ran the content multiple times through, not just for my own completion, but for friends and clan mates as well. The redux story missions were a lot of fun, and it was an excuse to run through the content again and get familiar with the concepts of the game leading up to the launch of the new content. But Bungie still wasn't done as this weekend they let us have a sneak-peek at one of the new game modes being introduced into Forsaken tomorrow and probably one of the coolest concepts of the game so far: Gambit.

 

Gambit

Gambit Gameplay

During the announcement for Year 2 and the first DLC of the second year, Bungie announced a new game mode Gambit which is a blend of both PVE and PVP. It's one of the most interesting components of the new DLC and a flagship moment for the franchise.

Gambit represents the real change to the game, and not just that but gaming in general. It's a game mode like any other I've seen before. Sure there are parts we've seen before, but the way it all comes together is completely unique. It was something exciting and new and we got a preview of it this past weekend.

The best part is that it was worth the hype. I spent all of Saturday running Gambit. Not for reward, but for love of the game. It's as much fun as I was hoping for and a welcomed addition of the game that I'm looking forward to getting more time with after the launch of the DLC tomorrow.

Destiny 2 Forsaken

All in all, it's been a hell of a year for Destiny. Sure there have been some low points, but it feels like the devs have found the formula for the content now. They've been listening to the community and defining the second year content around the response (both positive and negative) of the people who have been actively playing it. I'm looking forward to what comes next, starting with exacting revenge on behalf of one of the all-time great characters in video game history: Cayde-6.