Performance Review: Destiny 2 (I Can’t Quit You)

Written by Mike Romo

I’ve been playing a lot of Destiny 2.

There, I said it.

No, wait:

I’ve been playing lots of Destiny 2 and I get why that’s not cool and I admit this means I’m playing a lot of Gambit and I know the game is a grind…

And yet, I keep playing it.

Lots of people throw around the term “guilty pleasure.” I was raised Catholic, so I know from feeling guilt. But I really do feel guilty—dumb and guilty—when I play Destiny.

And yet, I keep booting it up, checking out quests, and blowing up enemies for those sweet, sweet engrams.

Let’s take a step back.

I’ve been playing games with my two buddies, Chris and Tom, for years now, starting with the XBox 360. We realized, pretty quickly, that we preferred co-op “PvE” games like Gears of War, where we work together to pass levels and progress through the story.

Rarely, if ever, did we we play against other people, mainly because we would die all the time. Problem was (is?), there are not a ton of co-op games out there, so when Destiny 2 came out, we went for it.

At that point, I really didn’t understand what a “looter shooter” meant—indeed, I couldn’t really figure out what kind of game Destiny actually was. It had some RPG elements–I had a character with stats and gear and there were quests.

Deathbringer may stick to certain types of skin.

But it wasn’t like World of Warcraft with, like, towns and stuff. I mean, Destiny has people, and merchants, but it wasn’t really a “wander around a planet and find adventures.” It was more like “find quests, do jobs, move the story along and then wait around for the next expansion” kind of game.

What we began to realize was that Destiny is woefully inadequate if one is expecting a game like Halo, Gears of War or even Borderlands. Yes, there is a story, but you get through those levels relatively quickly, and then you are basically just playing the same levels over and over again (“Nightfalls,” aka “Strikes (why two names???)) or play with/against other players in “Gambit” and “Crucible” matches.

So, after a few “Seasons” in Destiny 2 (each of which seemed to cost another $49) we just got tired. It felt like we were doing more of the same and never actually feeling a sense of accomplishment. We were just grinding through levels and (often) skipping through cutscenes.

So why did I go back?

Well, part of it was because I got a PC and wanted to see how the game looked like on that machine compared to the PS4. Now, the PlayStation is no slouch and I don’t have a 4K TV so I don’t know how it really looks like on a PS4 Pro, but on a well-equipped PC, this game is gorgeous.

The load times are fast. And while I play the levels with a solid XBox controller, I can use a mouse and keyboard to navigate the equipment and quest screens and move through non combat areas like the Tower.

Yes, it was the same game, but faster, better looking, and easier to navigate through. Destiny 2 on the PC is familiar, but better. Since I was playing on my own and, frankly, just sitting at a computer, I started actually digging through the game more deeply.

The new UI helped me understand just what these quests were actually for—like, most of the time I was just doing them, I didn’t realize that they were all part of a path to get an Exotic item, for example. And since I could have my laptop open, I could more easily do a quick search to understand the quest mechanics and item locations.

Random Access Memories

I really was finally able to “get” the game. There were stories to experience, but you had to go through a lot of busy work to progress through them.

However, just because I understand the game doesn’t mean it’s not an infuriating grind!! I just finished playing at least 20 Gambit matches to progress through this quest—at least—and my reward? Now I have to play more Gambit but focus on a totally different aspect of the match (killing the other team’s Guardians, both on their field and mine, if you are curious).

Even as I write this, I am wondering to myself, “what’s the point?”

While I admit I’m having fun, I am not sure if I am feeling joy or if I am just getting better at the game and feel like I can really contribute thanks to some legitimately powerful gear I’ve now earned.

Honestly, that sense of “contribution” is something I really do feel—the one consistently cool thing about Destiny is that when it comes to working with others (like in one of the many Public Events that spawn throughout the system), players really do support each other. If you die, most of the time someone will run over and revive you immediately so you can get back to blasting. When you go into a Nightfall on your own, other players you are paired up with will work with you to finish the level—sure, they are required to, I get that, but it’s nice to feel like you are working together.

When I “bank” a crap-ton of motes in a Gambit match, I feel good that I helped the team win. I feel cool when I devastate a boss with a weapon I have learned to get really good at and I have to believe that the other players are happy I was there to help.

That’s not to say that all of the issues everyone seems to have with Destiny aren’t valid. They totally are. I have been playing for years and I don’t really know what the story is. The endgame quests are tedious—having to play several levels over and over again just to progress through a quest is tiring; no wonder the other people I play with just race through the encounters to get to the end boss, there’s no real point in fighting all the rank and file creatures a fifth time. The economy is dumb—no one sells ammo—and I really wish I could just give my friends the awesome weapons I have so I can lure them back into the game

But make no mistake—the moment to moment action is still top notch. The guns feel awesome—like, my ray gun is basically a handheld death ray of death and my boots, which generate healing wells wherever my Dawn Blade ability kills something? That’s just spectacularly rad. (I am going to regret these sentences, I just know it.)

However, is all that “bang bang boom boom” enough? I am not sure—hence the guilty pleasure aspect of all this. I have so many other games that I have paid cash money for, games that are legitimately amazing, and they just sit there, unplayed, while I go back to a game that has basically been the same thing for years. I see those other games on the launchers, 12% complete, one hour played…and sodden with guilt, click on Destiny and dive back in. Hell, I am not even sure if the “pleasure” I am feeling is because I am having fun, or because I just feel some vague sense of accomplishment for completing quests and find cool gear. It’s gotta be both.

When my friends and I can all play together, we are not playing Destiny — we’re getting killed in Ghost Recon Wildlands and wondering when the next Division game is coming out. While I have sent screenshots of my Destiny weapons to my friends, when we talk about the game, I can’t truthfully say, “Oh, it’s gotten really good, it’s different now, you’ll see!” A group grind is still a grind. And even if the next Destiny expansion is super awesome, it’s gonna cost another $50 with the Season Pass (which hasn’t yet really been worth it as far as I can tell).

We’ll see what happens. Destiny 2: Beyond Light is months away. In the meantime, my buddies and I will keep looking for legit co-op adventures while I get through this strange addiction to Umbral Engrams and Exotic quest. Just don’t ask me about the Black Armory—like so much in the game, I never figured that out, and probably never will.

Mike Romo was the last kid on the block to get an Atari 2600, back when all the cool kids got Colecovision for Christmas. Since then, he’s kept up with gaming, at one point subscribing to several to PC Gaming magazines even though he didn’t have a PC or a console…just a Mac. Flash forward to the present day—Mike now works in videogames and actually has a legit gaming PC (his “rig”) and a current gen console…and zero time.

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