It was early 2013 when Bungie unveiled Destiny, their first venture into a "shared world shooter." It wasn't quite like an MMO; nor was it a new Halo-esque adventure. Instead, Bungie set out to accomplish something wholly new. Something that would live on for an alleged 10 years, like an MMO (which was clarified by Activision as meaning many games and expansions, not a single game). Something that would live in the hearts of many forever.
Its launch was bumpy though. Players complained about the lack of story and content, before Bungie buckled down and reevaluated the shared world shooter. The players who stuck it out through the clutter were doubly rewarded: they ended up with a pretty decent game, a game whose endless grind for loot became a focal point for fans. But after expansions slowed to a stop and the Age of Triumph became the game's final update and last real hurrah earlier this year, everyone knew the end was coming. Destiny 2 was coming.
And sure enough, only a few months later, Destiny 2 was coming. Heck, it was announced for release this very year. Some fans were elated. Some less so. Some, honestly, had known the end was coming for a long while.
"I recognize that Bungie and Destiny needs room to grow, but [kind of dissolving the 10-year-plan] does remove some amount of faith," said Jacob West, a student from Atlanta, Georgia who has spent 500 hours playing Destiny. "I was okay with scrapping my rewards and achievements to start fresh, but [after playing the beta] Destiny 2 does not feel like enough of a departure. Perhaps that's what bothers me the most. I'm left feeling like all of my time and money with Destiny went to waste."
West isn't alone in feeling a bit burned with the arrival of Destiny 2 and the basic shuttering of the first game (though Bungie does plan to have the game's servers live on for the time being, until they eventually pull the plug). It's a sequel where players' progress and all the loot they worked hard for won't carry over, even if their characters can technically travel over to the new game. Destiny 2 is a sequel for people who hopefully didn't feel too attached to the original game. People who don't mind losing that progress, or better yet, never had that rooted progress to begin with.
A lot of players consequently are feeling left behind by Bungie and the incoming Destiny 2. Whether it's feeling burned by a scorned long-term plan, the lack of progress carrying over to the sequel, or changing what they loved about the original game in the first place: players have reasons far and wide as to why they're ignoring Destiny 2. And in most cases, it has nothing to do with feeling burnt out on the grind-heavy formula itself.
Destiny 2, through its marketing, its recent open beta, feels like a ploy to win back a lot of the players who bounced off Destiny 1 at the start. Or alternatively, never even gave it an honest shot. For some veterans, like West, it's only been a road of disappointment.
"I was definitely underwhelmed by beta," said West. For West, the chaos of 6v6 in PvP, the fluidity of movement and combat were all things that brought him back to Destiny over his hundreds of hours spent playing it. Yet from what he played of the beta, Destiny 2 seems to be squashing some of the things he loved about the original. "Things such as player movement, a quality of Destiny that people cherished, [has been] reworked to give a feeling of sluggishness." After three years of nerfs in Destiny proper, this final reworking seems to be the last straw for West. Freelance writer Doc Burford even wrote an extensive piece for us lamenting about Destiny 2's changes as seen in the beta, as well as the lack thereof.
When Destiny first released—whether players' first tries of it were in alpha, beta, or through the game itself—everyone's stories of how they came to it were different. It was also a clear sign of the game's marketing problem: no one knew precisely what it really was, until it was too late. Some players imagined it like a bigger and broader Halo. Some imagined it being like a full-blown MMO-FPS hybrid. Others, like IT systems analyst Robert Driscoll who spent 200 hours in the game, imagined it to be like something totally new. A grand scaled RPG, that was shareable with friends.
"When I first heard about Destiny, I was really intrigued because the way they were talking about it had me envisioning something really special," said Driscoll. "I was imagining something like Mass Effect, but playing with friends. [Like] a grand scale RPG, but the party members are your friends."
What brought Driscoll back to Destiny, time and time again as an "in-between game" was the element of companionship. Destiny served as a hub for him to hang out with friends. "I don't regret playing it so much, honestly. But I can't honestly remember a special moment, and I think that is part of my problem with it," said Driscoll. "When I think of my favorite games of all time, I think of very specific scenes. I think Destiny's biggest problem is what they want you to think it is versus what it actually is, where at the end of the day it is just a well playing FPS." Nonetheless, Destiny grabbed hold of Driscoll for 200 hours, which is no small feat.
One of Destiny's biggest controversies upon release were its Grimoire cards—story and lore that were buried away online, unlocked through in-game happenings. Destiny 2 is making an honest effort to shift the story and lore away from prohibitive places outside of the game, but nonetheless, detailed item descriptions in the game were part of the charm of Destiny 1.
Sometimes an item would bear a joke ("Here's my plan to be Kell. Fallen seem to respect violence and big capes. I'm really violent, and I found this cape."), or some tidbit of in-game history ("We tracked the Fallen across the library floor, through drifts of paper and ash. The silence was magnificent."). As Zack Zwiezen, a freelance writer who has played 255 hours of the original game recalled, the items of Destiny told a story on their own.
"Not being able to take any loot from Destiny into Destiny 2 feels really silly," Zwiezen told me. "Bungie talked up the idea that every piece of loot would have a story, and then took all that loot and got rid of it for the sequel. That stings. I am happy that my character will move forward, but without his powers or loot, he's not much of a character."
The lore-riddled gear was part of what endeared Jacob West as well, noting that his goal in playing vastly changed over his long time spent with the game. Where at first, end game weapons and armor were in his line of sight. But as he started getting other gear, and saw the lore hidden in their "flavor text descriptions," his admiration changed: he just wanted more lore. More Grimoire cards. More of that world to wholly absorb through odd means; more of its unexpected space opera.
For Zwiezen, Bungie and Activision's 10 year plan was nothing more than a pipedream. A marketing ploy that he didn't really believe. He foresaw it after seeing the hellish changes the game underwent over just a few years, knowing the game would be a "nightmare" to continue balancing. But for skipping Destiny 2, for Zwiezen and so many others that I spoke to, the honest reason is that Destiny 2 just plainly doesn't feel different enough. It doesn't feel worth scrapping all those hundreds of hours of effort, to rinse and repeat it across a new game all over again.
The most common thread in my conversations weren't just individuals not wanting to leap into Destiny 2, but friend groups, squads, gaming comrades as a whole not feeling like it was worth the leap to a shiny new game—a new game that only feels like a slightly new polished version of the original, just with some new pizazz and no loot or levels carried over thrown into the mix. For a lot of players, put most succinctly, Destiny 2 just isn't in the cards. It's not even the most avid players' destinies anymore.