Accessibility comes at a price.
Destiny 2 has been available on PS4 and Xbox One for over a month now, with plenty of Guardians (myself included) already logging in hundreds of hours. It’s not surprising that so many players have dove in. Destiny 1 was a popular game despite all its flaws, especially its issues around launch, and the sequel rightfully addresses most of the concerns players had about the first game. Destiny 2 is a good game. However, as time goes on, there is one issue bubbling up that the community seems to be split on, and it centers around Bungie’s chosen audience.
A lot of what makes Destiny 2 a better game than its predecessor has to do with how accessible it is. There’s no major confusion on how to level up (though there are some who are still confused about Mods), rewards are relatively easy to obtain, and events have focused mainly on just playing rather than your Power level or anything of that nature. In fact, a lot of the best weapons in the game don’t even require you doing much to obtain them.
Trials of the Nine weapons can be earned by your clan without you ever stepping foot in the activity. While I did play Trials of the Nine (I needed that Platinum Trophy) and earned my very own Prosecutor and The End, I also got three of them because I happen to have a lot of Trials fans in my clan. Ask pretty much any regular PvP player for their favorite auto rifles and Prosecutor will more than likely be in their top five, maybe even their favorite. The same goes for raid weapons. Plenty of players are running around with an It Stares Back or Sins of the Past, having never even stepped foot in the Leviathan.
There’s an ease of access to everything in the base game that is welcoming and has, for the most part, kept players coming back to collect even more of that glorious loot. It was fine in the beginning because having a vanilla game that rewards and holds attention was exactly what the fans wanted. Destiny 1 was notoriously bad with its RNG, showering some players with legendaries and exotics while leaving others to stare at their lackluster vault offerings in the Tower. But one thing that was expected was for the events and end game activities to start putting walls up. No, we’re not saying everyone expected a quick stop to progress. That would suck. But, the hand holding was expected to lighten up, especially when it came to things like the raid, Trials, and Iron Banner.
Destiny 2’s first Iron Banner has just ended, and players are split on how it was handled. Several changes to the core of the activity were introduced, bringing the event more in line with everything else currently available in Destiny 2:
- Power level was irrelevant, Iron Banner focused on your skill instead.
- There were no bounties or ranks, you just earned Tokens for Engrams.
- Four-player teams remain, as promised by Bungie.
The big deals to the more serious players are the lack of importance of Power Level and how rewards are doled out. So far, in Destiny 2’s first few weeks, there hasn’t been much of a need to have invested time in the game before an event (outside of the raid of course). As long as you at least beat the story, you could jump into most activities, and that’s far from a difficult task. That’s all well and good, but when most people think end game, they think of something that you may be able to unlock, but have to work hard to participate in, stacking up experience, and collecting only the very best weapons available. Yes, Iron Banner is a strictly PvP activity, which makes creating its end game a bit more challenging, but utilizing power levels was one way of making it feel like an event that respected player efforts.
Unfortunately, some may look at Power Levels as a way to exclude players from certain, really fun activities. Making them important in something like Iron Banner or Trials of the Nine would mean new players, or those who have yet to devote enough time to Destiny 2, wouldn’t be able to hang with the best Guardians that planet Earth has to offer. This brings Bungie to a crossroads, one that they’re going to need to directly address soon.
Making a competitive game accessible is no easy task, so we definitely applaud Bungie for what they’ve managed to do thus far. But it’s come at a cost of the more “hardcore” group of players who pretty much played Destiny exclusively for competitive matches, Trials, and the Iron Banner. That challenge that’s created by pouring in countless hours, infusing weapons, hunting down the best armor, and making the perfect skill loadout is gone. The need to put time into the game and the reward you get for it are both basically non-existent, at least as far as some of the end game content goes, which can come across to feeling like Destiny 2 isn’t respecting a player’s effort.
This goes into the current reward system as well. Rewards drop at a pretty consistent rate in each of the activities. Well… Tokens drop at a pretty consistent rate. While you get plenty of drops from Strikes and Public events, end game content has been lacking, and when things are given out, it can be quite frustrating. With the strong shift to NPC vendors, end game and event activities are tied to specific Tokens you collect from playing. The token system works well, letting everyone slowly earn some favor with each vendor and providing an opportunity to get some of the best gear in the game. But it’s almost fully replaced rewards you get from just playing. This became a major point of contention during last week’s Iron Banner. In the past, good play was rewarded with drops at the end of each match (sometimes players who did horribly got something too). Since it was every match, the randomness wasn’t that difficult to deal with, because it was constant. Plus you got guaranteed rewards for reaching certain ranks which were earned by completing bounties and putting in the work.
Not having that puts everyone on the same level, much to the chagrin of players who don’t just show up for events. While Destiny 2 is definitely a much better game than its predecessor, the new direction of accessibility has hurt the experience for some. It’s impossible to make a game for everyone, though that’s not going to stop developers from trying, and in the case of Destiny 2, going for something more people can easily get into came at the cost of the more hardcore experience. I want to be clear that when I say hardcore in this sense, I’m referring to players that are looking for a challenge in the game and are willing to put in the effort to reap the rewards. The plight of those Guardians is real, and it’s certainly something Bungie should keep in mind.
Now Bungie has proven over the past three-plus years to be a studio that definitely learns. They intended for Destiny to be a living, evolving experience and have kept true to that since the first game’s launch. There’s no doubt that the team is hearing these complaints, and, since they’ve stated that they want to make this a worthwhile experience for newcomers and veterans alike, we know that they’ll come up with something to make everyone happy. The question is: when? We’ve gotten a taste of each of the returning live events, and while the rewards were sweet, that challenge and variety that returning players expect is still missing.
If Bungie is seeking to have the longevity of Destiny 1 in Destiny 2, they need to do more than just court their casual audience (although that is important). It’s not wise to leave out those that helped establish the player base, because those are the ones who will stick around when things are slow and even as other games come out (and there are a lot of games coming out). There needs to be more for the hardcore players alongside everything else. Something that says hey, we see that you took the time to reach 305 and have curated an insane armory so we’re going to give you the opportunity to show that off to other players in a meaningful way outside of the raid. Hopefully, something comes along soon, maybe even as part of the Curse of Osiris DLC.
We do get that this may mean not everything will be available to everyone, but that’s not new to games. There are plenty of rewards out there, including some of the best gear that Destiny 2 has to offer. There’s nothing wrong with having a bit extra for those who put in that extra effort. I know that it’s going to be Bungie crossing the line that they themselves drew in the sand, but when you reach a crossroads like this one, choices have to be made. Fingers crossed that the choice made means Iron Banner, and every other event, has something special for those who work for it.