After all the hype, it’s fair to say Destiny was a middling-to-major disappointment when it first launched on consoles in September 2014. Bungie’s commitment to regularly and significantly improving it since that date has cemented its extraordinary financial success, but there’s only so much they can do. The sequel, however, is an opportunity for a drastic overhaul. It’s a chance to deliver, in full, what was promised first time round. And now we know it’s coming to PC, we’ve put together a list of improvements that Destiny 2 needs if it’s going to be that game.
Some of this may be happening, some of it is just wishful thinking for now. Catch up on everything we know about Destiny 2.
This has been one of the most consistent sore spots among Destiny players so far, and it’s something that needs fixing in the sequel. If you’re unfamiliar with Destiny’s current gaping, festering wound, the situation is this: to play its end-game content, including its raids, you need to team up with people on your friends list. In this way, Destiny is like your mother: you mustn’t play with strangers.
Bungie’s reasoning is that memories are more meaningful if made with friends, but in practice this has just kept many players from experiencing Destiny’s best content. Raids need a team of six, so if you don’t have five friends on PSN or Xbox Live, tough. Have five friends but one of them is busy or in another time zone? Sorry. Raids are the most impressive elements of Destiny, and they’re locked behind a completely unnecessary wall.
Third-party looking-for-group websites provided a clumsy solution, which Bungie eventually copied with their own ‘Recruitment’ site. Hopefully this slight concession is a sign that a proper remedy is on the way, and it would be simple to implement: either multiplayer-like matchmaking (which Destiny currently uses for its lower-stakes strikes), or a seamless, in-game LFG system that allows players to find others who are interested in the same activity. It could be as simple as hanging out by raid entrances in the open world, as we already see in other MMOs.
Playing with strangers is also easier on PC thanks to typed chat (which, naturally, we're expecting). This means we can all coordinate in raids - a luxury console gamers don’t have - so if we're unable to group with non-friends in at least our version of Destiny 2, something will have gone seriously wrong.
A living, social world
Destiny’s shared world is beautiful, but its beauty is only skin-deep. There’s nothing to interact with, apart from mineral nodes and loot chests, and there’s no-one to talk to: the only lifeforms are hostile aliens, swarming over the ruins of humanity’s achievements. It’s all a bit bleak.
You’ll occasionally run across other players, but Destiny’s social features are disappointingly shallow. You have dozens of gestures now (an improvement on the paltry four available at launch), but there’s no way to communicate on a deeper level, unless you want to go through the faff of forming a party to use voice chat.
Destiny’s world is atmospheric, but ultimately hollow. Destiny 2 needs more life.
Rather than only having a couple of partitioned social hubs, the whole of Destiny 2’s universe needs places of congregation. We want towns filled with vendors and mission opportunities, small outposts with NPCs to chat with, and we want them to be spread seamlessly across otherwise hostile planets, not hidden behind loading screens.
Let's see the good guys and bad guys clash, with friendly NPCs out in the wild, and enemies coming to our doorstep. We'd love some new public events in which the Cabal attack a town, so we can fight them off. And as well as text channels, let's have automatic local voice chat, like in Arma or Squad, so we can speak to nearby players.
Fortunately, credible leaks suggest Bungie is heading in this direction. Kotaku say the plan is “for Destiny 2’s planet areas to feel more populated, with towns outposts and quests”, while industry tipster Shinobi says the “goal is to have players conducting things and making activity decisions while still in control of their character, instead of having to exit out into an activity hub. Think of how in WoW, you hit a button and queue into activities you want to do all while still playing your character.” Much of the battle with the Cabal will take place on or around Saturn, which, as a playspace, “is set to be bigger than all of the playspaces currently implemented in the game combined… both bigger and denser with activities.”
Bungie always resisted the label of ‘MMO’ for Destiny, preferring the term ‘social shooter’. But, whether they want to admit it or not, there’s a lot they could learn from games like WoW, Guild Wars 2 and the like, if they want to keep the sequel from feeling as isolating as the first.
More from the characters
You wouldn’t know it from the sequel’s teaser and reveal trailers, but everyone in Destiny at launch took themselves way too seriously. That even extended to Cayde-6, whose voice actor, Nathan Fillion, is now clearly having a ball in the role of comic relief.
As in so many areas, the turnaround began with Destiny's The Taken King expansion, in which Eris Morn’s comically portentous contributions were another highlight. Lance Reddick still brings the gravitas as Commander Zavala, but now he has a couple of foils. Bungie have shown a clear commitment to distinguishing Destiny’s cast, and suddenly, they’ve become people we want to hang out with.
So let's have some more interesting ways to do so. Despite his expanded role, Cayde-6 is still hunched over the Vanguard table in the Tower, having never moved since launch, nor offered anything to the player beyond quests and a shop. The same is true of all Destiny’s supposedly ‘interactive’ NPCs.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see them in the field? What if Cayde were to lead the player on a scouting mission across the craters of Titan, telling war stories as you compete to snipe the most Cabal? Our Vanguard mentors could introduce us to strikes via cutscenes, as in Guild Wars 2. We’re often told that Ikora Rey was one of the best gladiators the Crucible - Destiny’s PvP mode - had ever seen. Perhaps we could see her in action, in some kind of special event?
At the very least, it’d be nice to see them move around whatever social hub(s) will replace the Tower as if they’re, y’know, real people. Cayde seems to enjoy a drink - let’s see him get hammered and tear up a dance floor.
Destiny actually has amazing lore. The Vex turn entire planets into computers and have weaponised ontology, such that they’re able to define what does and doesn’t exist. The Hive are basically a giant death-centric pyramid scheme, who see killing one another as an act of affection. There are pages of meditation on the nature of The Darkness, a seemingly hostile cosmic force, which reflect deep divisions in Destiny’s society concerning the nature and proper treatment of evil.
And yet, playing through the game will expose you to none of this. None at all. The plot felt so slim it practically disappeared through the gap between atoms. The Taken King made better use of cutscenes and voiceovers, but it was only a partial fix; even now, Destiny still doesn’t thread its lore through the game in satisfying ways.
The sequel must do better, and Bungie don't need to reinvent the Sparrow to do it; simple remedies are well-established elsewhere in gaming. Let's have more in-engine dialogue with NPCs, with conversation trees linked to our progress through the story. Let's have some more environmental storytelling in this livelier world, and missions with meaningful narrative arcs that develop through scripted set pieces, NPC encounters, or environmental interactions.
At the very least, Bungie should put the grimoire cards that contain Destiny's lore into an in-game library. Confining them to a website or a phone app is probably Bungie's way of making you 'engage' with 'the brand' across other platforms, but we guarantee that putting them in-game would get more players actually reading them, and thus embracing the lore.
We all hoped the first game would be an MMO Halo, akin to how The Old Republic was a real Bioware RPG with thousands of players. Now is the time for Bungie to realise that dream.
A deeper faction system
If we were to tell you Destiny has a faction who espouse Plato’s view that a benevolent (but also a bit horrifying) oligarchy of philosopher-kings should rule society, would you be surprised? It'd be understandable, since this is a PC site and you possibly haven’t played the original, but this is probably news even to console players.
Destiny had three factions with ambassadors in The Tower, each espousing different visions for humanity’s future. The nostalgic neo-Platonists, New Monarchy, want to unify our Last City and are distrustful of the fragmented Consensus, its current ruling body. The nihilistic space-goths, Dead Orbit, reckon we’re better off ditching Earth and finding a new home elsewhere. Of the secretive Future War Cult, little is known, save that they view war with the Darkness as inevitable and believe we should embrace conflict as a constant state of being, not see it as a transitory process.
Now, isn’t that all really interesting? From a role-playing perspective, any character who chooses to join one of these factions is making a statement about their beliefs, but the statement ends there: like every other NPC, faction leaders are just vendors. They never ask the player to do anything much to commit to their philosophy. They play a minimal role in other people’s quest lines, but have none of their own. There’s no initiation ritual, no inner sanctum, no secret handshake. Each faction only has one representative, and they still sometimes greet you like you’re a neophyte even if you’ve got their rank 25 exotic token, for Light’s sake.
The premise of Destiny 2 contains the perfect flashpoint to explore the factions' conflicting views. Does the defeat of the Traveller prove Dead Orbit was right all along to question our blind allegiance to it? Or is the City still worth fighting for, as New Monarchy would argue? The Cabal are clearly the more immediate threat, but once they’ve been straightened out, we’d love to see an ideologically-charged civil war kick off.
If it does, it could affect the game in some really exciting ways - if Bungie are brave enough. What if pledging to a faction was an opt-in to a PvP meta-game, in which players representing rival factions were able to attack each other in the open world? Loot, currency or XP are all obvious rewards for such duels, but the winning faction could be calculated at the end of a season and granted bigger prizes. Perhaps there could be a mechanic for claiming territory on each planet, with captured resource nodes or buildings awarding materiel for the owning faction to continue the fight, such as vehicles, fortifications, or bonus player respawns.
That last paragraph is a bit optimistic, but it seems Bungie will finally explore one of Destiny’s philosophical disputes, because the sequel’s first expansion will focus on Osiris. He’s an exiled Guardian who questioned the Speaker - supposedly the Traveller’s representative - on the nature of the Darkness.
He's mentioned often in the first game, so it’s great that we’ll finally see more of him, but his beef with the Speaker is only one of many. Besides the Tower factions, Eris Morn, the Awoken in the Reef, and especially Lysander's Concordat all demur to some degree with humanity's present leaders, and all have interesting reasons for doing so. Tell us more, Bungie!
Stronger mission design
Being a Bungie game, the shooting in Destiny is top-notch. The moment-to-moment experience of playing it is great, but the larger context of that action - the story missions and dungeon-like strikes - were a real disappointment.
Perhaps limited by the game's static environments, PvE mission design outside of raids is repetitive in the extreme. Almost entirely, the first game relies on wave defence segments linked by corridor shooting segments, and it's all very uninspired. Even the expansions didn't do much to improve this.
We want to see a huge increase in mission variety with stronger objective design. How about some clever platforming, making use of the classes' unique jump abilities? Or an interesting use of pace, mixing up frantic firefights with quieter moments that allow us to learn more of the universe’s lore? And there really, really need to be some grander scale, jaw-dropping set piece missions. Bungie are the creators of Halo, after all. That legacy needs to shine through.
Destiny is set in space, and each and every player gets a spaceship. Nice! There is one big problem, though: spaceships (technically, 'jumpships') are literally just loading screen decals. Almost the only time they can be seen is in the animations between missions. You can buy new ships, but all you’re doing is spending your character’s hard-earned cash on a prettier loading screen.
With the Guardians scattered to the winds after The Tower is captured, Bungie have a huge opportunity to expand the role of jumpships in Destiny 2. They could - and, we say, should - serve as player housing: a personal space for each user that can be jazzed up with trophies from missions, decked out with a cargo bay to stash excess loot in (more Vault space, please), and - importantly - manually flown.
It's a big ask, but let’s have some dogfighting missions, Bungie. The studio last had a crack at space battles in Halo: Reach and, while it wasn’t the game's most memorable mission, it was a solid blueprint for something better. Combined with their vehicle combat experience, Bungie certainly have the skill required to make some great space battle sequences, so let’s see that become a reality.
That’s what we want from Destiny 2, but how about you? Let us know what you’d like to see in the comments.