How can Destiny 2 be a scam!?

After reading Isey’s post, I was talking on Twitter about how this passage (which I had to trim down for Twitter) resonated with me:

I know people are enjoying it and I admit that I am too – but the nagging thought that we have all been part of a big scam, a rouse, is hard to ignore when you look at how little content was actually provided with how little change.

My buddy Scopique asked how it could be a scam if I’m enjoying the game, which was a fair point and led to a mini-discussion that I thought I’d summarize and maybe elaborate on a little here.

For me, the shooting mechanics of Destiny 2 are fun. Going from level 1 to level 20 and then gearing up to 260 or so is also pretty fun. And if I were in a more positive head space I could probably say that was enough to justify the purchase, but in a lot of ways I feel like I could have deleted my Destiny 1 characters and re-leveled them and had just as much fun.

And I’m with Isey that this doesn’t feel like a whole new game. There’s some quality of life changes, sure. And there are new areas to explore but for me most of them don’t really feel all that new. Most of your fights will end up being in some kind of natural arena or room that would not feel at all out of place in Destiny 1. The enemies aren’t new. There’s no new class to play.

But what feels the most scam-ish to me is this semi-hard block they’ve put on progression. As readers of this blog know I struggled all weekend trying to make progress. I know it is possible because plenty of people have done it, but for me I was really stuck at a certain power level. Three days of playing netted me a power increase of 1.

Then the weekly reset happened last night. With it came the weekly Flashpoint (a Milestone that asks you to do Public Quests in a certain zone). I did that, it took no more than an hour (4 Heroic Public Quests were enough) and my reward was gear (1 exotic and a high-power legendary) that pushed me from 267 to 272 — 5 points in an hour as opposed to 1 point in 3 days.

On the one hand I was really happy to get my power level moving, but on the other, it just feels wrong. The “right” way for me to play Destiny 2 appears to be to log in for an hour on Tuesday after the reset, do the Flashpoint and then set the game aside for a week. It’s a system the encourages you not to play, which feels odd. (Granted there are other Flashpoints if you’re a PvPer or are confident enough to do the weekly Nightfall Strike).

It feels to me like a system put in to slow people down in order to give Bungie time to slap together more content to keep us occupied. There just doesn’t seem to be enough to do once you churn through the campaign (which I’ve done twice now in the 2 weeks since launch and I’m not a hardcore player). The game feels unfinished when you get to higher power levels.

OK complete honesty: there’s a ton of stuff I haven’t done. Adventures, they’re called, and they are basically side quests. Why haven’t I done these? Because there just doesn’t seem to be a point. The narrative isn’t compelling enough to warrant doing them, and the rewards you get are capped so that they aren’t going to improve your character once you’ve hit 265 or thereabouts. You can earn experience but after level 20 that just gets you Bright Engrams that you turn in for trinkets from the cash shop. Once you’ve had a faster Sparrow and a fancy ship drop (which for me happened very early on) Bright Engrams are pointless (you can get Shaders which are important for some people).

Of course there is a random chance of an Exotic Engram dropping while you are out and about, but those feel infrequent enough that it’s like buying loot boxes in some other game. I guess I just want some reliable way to slowly progress (hoping RNGesus craps out an exotic doesn’t count for me). If I feel like I’ve made some kind of improvement in my character I’m happy. But when I play and play and just feel like a cartoon character churning my legs and not moving, it’s disappointing. Maybe the problem is that getting to 265 is too easy? It’s like Bungie wanted to rush us to an end game that never got made. (I’m not ignoring the raid, but to do the raid you really want to be 280, so how do you get from 265-280… and that’s setting aside the fact that the raid isn’t for everyone.)

So circling back to the “scam” argument, I just don’t feel like Bungie has given us enough to warrant a $60 price tag. What is there is fun for a while, but the game feels unfinished to me. The end game is just way too thin. In fairness, playing a game for 2 weeks means I probably have gotten my value out of it, but I just feel like I’ve hit a dead end before my character is ‘finished.’ Give me some way (other than “wait for the reset on Tuesday) to reliably claw my way forward and I’d be much happier, I think.

A weekend wasted in Destiny 2

After my last post about being ‘stuck’ in Destiny 2 I watched this video:

Towards the end the author talks about how to get unstuck:

1) Create a new character of the same class
2) Level it to 200 before doing the campaign
3) Swap all your best gear from your old character to the new one
3) Do the campaign and special missions and get gear scaled to be better than the gear you’re wearing, i.e. get better gear

I decided to try it but I took the guy too literally. I did enough of the campaign to unlock EDZ then I spent 20 levels running around that zone, grinding out Lost Sectors (tip: Lost Sectors aren’t random and by the time I was done I had the location of the mobs in the Lost Sectors near the church memorized) and doing whatever public events spawned, or jumping into that battle between NPCs that happens in one corner. The dude in the video says it’ll take about 4 hours but I suspect he did it when EDZ was the Flashpoint zone. This week Nessus is the Flashpoint Zone, and Xur is on Nessus, so EDZ was pretty dead and I think that impacted how often Public Quests spawned. (Heroic Public Quests can get you a TON of exp and will level you quickly.) It took me until Sunday afternoon to get to 20.

When I finally made it and swapped my gear over I started the campaign and you get no rewards from the first few missions. I did EDZ, Titan and Nessus before I ran out of weekend and no rewards. I now wish I’d played through at least that much of the campaign before grinding. Then I could planet hop and find populated zones and stave off boredom.

The end result was that after playing all day Saturday and Sunday I now have 2 level 20 Titans stuck at 267 power. Well technically my old Titan is down to 265 or so since I swapped the best gear to the new dude. But an entire weekend spent spinning my wheels. Ugh.

[Update: Monday night I finished the campaign on my 2nd character. There is ONE reward, at the very end of the campaign, that scales to your character. The information in the video above is completely wrong. There is no reason to grind your way to level 20 before starting the campaign. Just make sure you are there and wearing all your best gear before you do the last mission. So far, spending 3 days on character 2 has netted me ONE piece of improved gear. We’ll see if there’s anything in the milestones that scale.]

And as I went to bed last night I was just really depressed. What a waste of a weekend. Why am I doing this? Why do I even need more power on my Destiny 2 character? To do the Raid? I’m NEVER going to do the raid. Jumping into a high-stress game event with a bunch of strangers, wearing a mic so they can shout at me about how much I suck is the exact OPPOSITE of fun.

I’m just desperately trying to find a reason to stretch out my time in Destiny 2. I got this far so I may as well finish the campaign on character 2 just to see if I get ‘unstuck’ but basically now I feel like I’m just wasting my time. I need either a new game to play, or maybe even better, a new hobby. I think I’m relying on gaming too much to eat up my leisure time. See also my post about getting the Platinum Trophy in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. I keep devoting huge chunks of time to doing things in games that wind up feeling unsatisfying and I’m not really having fun doing them. I know Bungie will increase the Power Cap and add more content eventually. I should just set the game aside until that happens.

Destiny 2: How Xur made me cry

One of the things I wished for from Destiny 2 was more things for solo players to do. My wish was granted, I just need to be better about making wishes. I should have wished for more things to do AND a good reason to do them.

You see, I’m kind of stuck in Destiny 2. I’m at power level 265 and I can’t seem to get any higher. Drops (aside from those rare exotic drops) seem to cap out at 260 for rare (blue) and 265 for legendary (purple). Rewards from NPCs also seem to cap at those levels.

The accepted way to push past 265 is by doing the weekly Milestones, but I’ve done those for the week. Or at least I’ve done the ones I’m comfortable doing. I have PvP ones I could do but PvP in Destiny makes me angry. Like, it enrages me and I carry that anger out of the game and have it with me for the rest of the day a lot of the time. Basically if my only option is PvP I’m better off not playing.

There’s also the Nightfall strike and I might be able to do that in another week. It’s a Strike with a time limit. Having a time limit makes me sloppy, and this week the strike is the Inverted Spire which has lots of laser beams to try to pass through and I just know I’d screw that up. Maybe next week.

So I was looking forward to Xur to come and sell me gear to get past 265, but ultimately I screwed that up. Everyone said the gun he was selling was great so I bought it without even looking at it…and it was a gun I was already using! LOL That one is definitely on me. I bought the exotic arms he was selling because I was wearing pretty low arms (260) but when I tried to infuse the 270 exotic arms into my 260 legendary arms, I was told the power level was too low. I don’t understand that one at all. I couldn’t use the new exotic arms because I was wearing an exotic helm that I really dug.

In desperation I decided to infuse my exotic 270 helm into a 265 legendary helm. That worked but it only pushed the legendary to 266, a net loss of 4 power. And the legendary helm sucks aesthetically. But now I’m wearing the exotic arms (270) and the legendary helm (266) but it wasn’t enough to push my overall power level past 265.

So my Xur experience was, spend all my shards, wind up with a duplicate rifle (my fault), a much uglier helm and no additional power to speak of. I haz a sad.

Circling back to my wish, though. There’s a TON of stuff to do on the maps as a solo player, and that’s good. There’s just not very much reason to do any of it, aside from the minute-to-minute fun of shooting something in the face/juicebox. I’ll get rewards that I’ll just deconstruct into glimmer (and I’m capped on glimmer) or shards. I guess I could stand to build up my shard reserves, not that I have much to do with them right now.

What I miss is the reputation grind, of all things. In D1 every time you turned something in to an NPC your reputation went up. At certain milestones you’d get a goody but you’d also gradually unlock the ability to buy better gear. In D2 you still turn in things to get that goody but when you do, the meter just resets. And the goody you get is junk if you’re at 265 already.

Basically there’s nothing for me to do in Destiny 2 this weekend. I just need to sit tight and wait for the reset on Tuesday and then do the milestones I can do, which takes a few hours. Or I guess I could start a new character but the campaign sucked so much I don’t really want to run through it again.

Maybe I’m done with Destiny 2 until Bungie adds more stuff to do, which I know they will eventually. I mean if I’d played a single player game for 10 days I’d feel satisfied, so it’s not like I feel the game owes me anything else. I’m just a little disappointed, I guess. All those Adventures and Hidden Sectors are out there ready to reward me with the equivalent of vendor trash. What a shame!

Destiny 2 is slowly growing on me.

A couple of days ago I wrote a ‘damning with faint praise’ kind of post about Destiny 2, saying it was fine. At the time I was level 11 or 12 and working through the campaign.

I still haven’t finished the campaign but I’m pretty close to the end, and I have hit level 20. Along the way I have unlocked a lot of content-systems. For the most part I still feel like the campaign itself is “fine” but all the other stuff is pretty good and for me at least, more fun than the mostly predictable campaign missions.

Content-type spoilers incoming. I won’t spoil the story but I’m going to talk about systems that are missing early on and get added later.

So the open world areas of Destiny 2 feel kind of more constricting than those in Destiny 1. I’ve yet to find huge open areas like the Cosmodrome or Mars in Destiny 2. Titan in particular is narrow and confusing and I die more there to “mishap” (falling off the edge of things) than to enemies. I kind of miss the big areas of D1.

But in pretty much every other way, the open areas in D2 are better than D1 once you progress far enough to unlock stuff. There are the Adventures which are kind of side-missions. Early on there are only a couple of these per zone but more get added later. There are the Lost Sectors which are basically semi-hidden mini-dungeons that you can do. There are scattered loot chests laying around, and “high value targets” which also drop a chest of loot if you (and whomever else is in the area) take them down. Public events return but you can see in advance where they’re going to happen and so head there to be ready for them (and there is Fast Travel to get you near very quickly). I wish there were more of these in terms of variety (frequency is fine but doing the same few events over and over gets old) but I’m betting we’ll see more added over time.

Patrols are missing in Destiny 2 until you get pretty far into the campaign. Then you get a mission like you had on the Dreadnaught in The Taken King to re-establish the patrol network. Once you do that patrols are back.

Bounties seem to be gone for good, but Challenges have been added. Challenges are pretty similar to bounties except you don’t have to go to an NPC to get them. When you land in an open world zone you’ll get 3 Challenges to work on. Stuff like “Kill X of enemy species Y” or “Find a lost sector in area X” So they feel a lot like bounties. You get a little reward for each one and a bigger reward (that you have to return to the Farm for) if you do all three.

Anyway, the point is that I still feel like the campaign is pretty “meh” but just running around doing stuff to earn loot feels a lot more diverse than it did in Destiny 1.

I’m SLOWLY coming around on the gun system. I’ve just kind of accepted that I’ll probably never use a sniper rifle or shotgun in D2. Kind of a bummer but oh well.

I STILL haven’t done a strike, though I have them unlocked. And after you get to a certain point in the campaign you have a lot more reasons to head back to the Farm so it no longer feels as deserted as it did on that first day.

If you hated Destiny 1 this isn’t going to sway you and I’m still not totally blown away but I’m liking it more than I was a few days ago.

Destiny 2 is fine

TLDR review of Destiny 2: If you loved Destiny 1 right up until the very end, you’ll probably love Destiny 2 as well. If, like me, you eventually grew bored of Destiny, there’s not much here to erase that stale feeling. It all feels very familiar.

I got to level 11 and visited all 4 of the new environments, so clearly this isn’t a thorough review: keep that in mind.

You start at power level 100 but get cut back to 10 which is why my level 1 guys are the most powerful here

Basically Destiny 2 is Destiny 1 with new maps/story. They gave us 4 new locations to play in but took away the old 4. The same enemies return though here and there you’ll encounter a new type within a species, but it’s nothing earth shattering. For instance the Vex have a new unit called Fanatic who explode when shot. They’re basically Corrupted Thralls for the Vex.

The story starts out really strong and impactful but that quickly fizzles into a series of “Go here and flip that switch…oh wait, now there’s another switch.. oops and one more.” quests. Lots of pseudo-platforming. Environments that feel very familiar. Encounters that do too. So when you’re facing the Hive at some point there WILL be a wave of thrall screaming and running at you.

The big game play change is in the guns. Now your primary and secondary slots hold the same styles of guns, except primary is for purely ballistic weapons and secondary is for guns with elemental effects. So depending on drops (at the start before you really have much choice) you might be rolling with a ballistic auto-rifle as a primary and an auto-rifle with fire damage as a secondary. It’s kind of dull, IMO. Elemental effects do seem enhanced. If you match the element of your round with the element of an enemy’s shields you’ll tear those shields down really quickly.

But that means sniper rifles, grenade launches, shotguns and swords all go in the “special” slot and have very limited ammo. As someone who enjoys using a sniper rifle while heading to an objective and switching to a shotgun when I get there, this sucks. Switching loses the ammo in the gun and there’s not much to begin with.

On the other hand I feel like they improved beta issues with grenades being under-powered and special ability cool-downs being too long.

And the open world areas do have a lot more to do in them and I found them more interesting and fun than the Story Missions. This is fine since in the long run you’ll probably spend more time in the open world than re-running story missions.

I haven’t done any strikes yet; I’m sure they’re still fun but for the most part I play Destiny solo.

I’m the one guy who misses having to take Engrams back to the Cryptarch. I never had a reason to visit “the Farm” (the new social area) in my time playing and when I was there, only a handful of players were hanging around. There’s no reason to go there now.

For me, the minute-to-minute experience of fighting the same Fallen, Hive, Vex, Cabal and Taken enemies that I fought for years in Destiny 1 just doesn’t feel that exciting. I wish they’d given us a new race to fight. Maybe they did and I just haven’t gotten to it, but I don’t think so. I don’t have buyer’s remorse or anything, but I put Destiny 2 down because I’d had enough of it for now. It was fine. Nothing all that special for me.

OK, maybe I was wrong about Destiny 2

[UPDATE] Playstation Blog just published a good Destiny 2 post. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned:

Class Abilities: A new, third rechargeable icon next to your melee and grenade. Warlocks can hold circle to create a small rift on the ground that either heals or empowers allies. Hunters get a dodge ability (a la Shadestep, but on a cooldown) that will refill your melee charge if used near enemies. Titans can create a small barrier in front of them to protect themselves and teammates. As this barrier takes damage, it displays a cool shattering effect so you can tell at a glance how close it is to breaking.

[Original Post Follows]

I have been pretty strongly anti-Destiny 2 for the past few months, but after today’s reveal event I’m having second thoughts. I may have been — likely was — wrong about the direction Bungie is taking the new game.

First let me set the stage. I LOVED Destiny when it came out. I loved it when everyone was hating on it for not having a story and all that. And when The Taken King came out, I was pretty happy..for a while. But then it seemed to me like Bungie was really emphasizing the PvP (Crucible) content and the end-game Raids, and they were kind of leaving solo players behind. I assumed, now that everything is esports and games-as-a-service, that the company would really lean-into those two pillars in Destiny 2, and any single player content would be more or less an afterthought.

But assuming we take everything we learned from the stream today at face value, I was wrong. First we learned that there are Bungie team members who prefer playing solo. Yay! And they talked about how exploring the worlds being a much bigger part of Destiny 2. There will be more to do on planets than the campaign quests and patrols, though the details of what these additional features entail are a little vague. But adding “Adventures” sounds like a good thing. Announcing ahead of time world events so you have time to get to them? Also a good thing. Hidden areas that sounded a bit like The Elder Scrolls Online’s delves (areas that contain a loot chest with a boss to hold the key) — that sounds good too.

Of course Destiny 2 will still have Crucible PvP, 6-man Raids and 3-man Strikes, so we’re not losing anything. The additional solo content is additive. Everyone should be happy and I’m back on board.

I’m less sure about Guided Gaming which is a fancy name for their matchmaking. Destiny 2 will have proper clan support. The idea behind Guided Gaming (maybe Guided Games? Forgive me if I have the name wrong) is that if you’re solo you can rent yourself out to a clan that has a slot to fill. I guess the idea is that instead of 6 random people joining together to do a raid, it’ll be 5 people from a clan and 1 random person. Or maybe 4 people from a clan and 2 randoms. The argument being, I guess, that if at least 4 or 5 of the players know each other there’ll be less chaos and more group cohesion (when compared to a group of complete strangers).

I understand the logic, but wow, do I ever find that even more intimidating than joining a random group. At least when you join a random group everyone is a peer. But if I join a group consisting of 5 people who know each other and game together regularly, I don’t see any way I’m not going to feel like the 6th wheel.

It’s an academic point for me because I’m too old and sucky at shooters to ever inflict myself on a group, but it’ll be interesting to see how this all works out. I guess I have to applaud Bungie for trying something new. They freely admit that they’re trying to do something about the frequently toxic environments brought about by matchmaking. The one silver lining for me is that as the solo player, you don’t just get tossed in with a clan group. Instead you choose them, and you can browse the clans that are looking for an extra player. You see the clan name, emblem and a brief description. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a clan with the description of “People too old to be any good at shooters looking for same” clan. Then I will have found my home. 🙂

Here’s the stream, in case you missed it: