When Destiny 2's first expansion Curse of Osiris dropped, it seemed to do nothing but make fans mad. For the core players looking for a reason to return to the game, it offered too little content and didn't build enough on what came before it. For the casual players, the new planet it introduced was far too small—you couldn't even summon a vehicle on it. Luckily, Bungie seemed to hear the outcry on the latter.
Last fall, I played Destiny 2 on routine. Every afternoon after work, I'd hop into it with my fireteam. There wasn't much to work towards—Destiny 2's chief problem—but the loop of chatting nonchalantly with friends about our days while shooting good-feeling guns was enough for me. And then they fell off. Then I fell off, only to revisit the game on two separate instances: the Curse of Osiris expansion launch in December, and the Crimson Days event around Valentine's Day. Both experiences left me wanting more.
After a few hours with Destiny 2's new expansion Warmind, I've realized that at last, Destiny 2 might be on the right path to keeping people playing again. Maybe not people like me who don't really care about loot, but for the people who really, really believe in Destiny 2's potential.
A Diary of My Time from May 8, 2018:
11:20am: Warmind's been up for about 20 minutes now, but due to my slow internet, it's only just now able to launch. I hop into the familiar world, am greeted with new start screen music (much more dramatic because "Warmind" is a formidable name I guess), and before I know it I'm watching a shiny cutscene after directing my Guardian to Mars. After these cutscenes (wherein we're introduced to new character Anastasia Bray), I'm reminded of how ugly my Guardian is. Bungie will probably never let us edit characters again considering they have helmets on about 90 percent of the time.
12:30pm: I've been playing Warmind for awhile now, or at least, the introductory missions on Mars. Mars is a weird planet. It has two climates: hot and extremely cold. The red sand blows in the wind and icicles drip from ceilings. The cold isn't hard to find amidst the heat of Mars; in fact, it's often just around the corner. The frozen end of Mars is where the new Frozen Hive enemies lie (though, they do creep in the heat too). Otherwise, the foes you find are the familiar Cabal. While Mars was in the first Destiny as a planet, it's not the same locale for Destiny 2. In Destiny 2 we find ourselves on Hellas Basin, "home to Rasputin and BrayTech Futurescape."
You don't unlock Mars as a patrollable planet until after you complete a few missions. Then it evolves into the same as the other planets: there's Public Events, Adventure side quests, a merchant to cash in tokens to, other players hopping around, enemies crawling out of every crevice, and so on. After the dullness of Curse of Osiris' Mercury—outside of a couple past-Mercury time travel sequences—I was hoping that Mars would reignite the exciting locales from the base game of Destiny 2.
Unfortunately, so far, it hasn't shown a glimpse of anything that feels instantly screenshot worthy. There is no eye-catching equivalent to the bright teal ocean lapping against a giant oil rig-like structure like on Titan. There is no lush foliage like on Nessus. On Mars, the scenery hasn't quite lived up to the other planets in Destiny 2's solar system yet. I haven't found myself pining for a photo mode again yet.
1:30pm: My go-to guns have been pretty much the same since I got them. I usually have one Scout Rifle as my secondary, and then Sweet Business as my primary gun. I switch between shotguns and rocket launchers for my Power weapon, because I'm still annoyed that shotguns were punted off to the Power weapon slot for this sequel. Sweet Business is an Auto Rifle that gets more powerful the longer you shoot for, and it has a weirdly satisfying feedback loop. The controller rumbles as the gun picks up speed, I tilt the reticle when I finish one dude off. Pop, pop, pop. The Sweet Business never gets old. And with the latest update it now has a bigger inventory for ammo, meaning the Sweet Business can stay sweet for even longer.
As a part of the big reworks Destiny 2 is getting for Warmind and Season 3, essentially all the Exotic gear has been buffed in some way. In Bungie's eyes, buffing Exotics will make them more worthwhile to grind for; as a consequence, Exotics also drop less frequently now. I re-equipped some of my other favorite Exotic weapons to see how they felt, and shockingly, the changes felt more substantial than I expected. Even the Sunshot, a Hand Cannon, felt more satisfying to blast away with because of its newly increased explosion radius. In one instance, I blasted away a Frozen Cursed Thrall, whose own explosion coupled with my explosive rounds set off a chain of fatalities. Feels good, man.
2:30pm: At the start of my time launching Warmind, I was at Power Level 310. I worried from the start that I wouldn't be able to hop right into the new campaign. Luckily, I was wrong. After just a few more hours, I'm at Power Level 330. I've gotten around a dozen new goodies for my inventory: legendary weapons, exotic helmets, and even an exotic gun with two goals attached to it: wherein completing them will earn an extra Masterworks perk. (Masterworks, first introduced in January for Legendary items, is new for Exotics in the latest Destiny 2 update.) Think of Masterworks as like a tier in-between vanilla Legendaries and Exotic weapons, or as a step above base Exotics.
There always comes the time, though, where players hit a wall. In Destiny 2, it comes at the hard cap. The soft cap that lies beyond it takes ages to get to, requiring intensely upgraded armor and weapons. In Warmind, the new hard cap is at 380, with a soft cap at 385. I wonder if I'll ever get to either of them. I doubt it.
The new Masterworks system is Bungie's way of tilting its ear towards the community that's been asking for the random perk rolling of the first game to make its grand return. Random perks were a reason for players to keep playing, to chase those impossible dream perks on a gun they loved dearly. Masterworks isn't quite that, due to only having one Masterwork perk slot per weapon and even then having a pretty low choice of even dropping with one attached, but it's relatively close.
3:30pm: I've spent a few hours now bouncing around Mars. I took the time to soak in the scenery, loot some nearby chests and lost sectors, zip around from my Sparrow that spits out rose petals for some reason. Then after completing some Adventures, Public Events, and coming across some mysterious spots that "require" the Warmind Campaign to be completed, I'm stuck with seemingly nothing to really do again.
So I pack up my nonexistent bag and launch my Guardian back into Orbit. I ogle the Milestones of the week, and figure it's time to go back to the EDZ for another mission for Warmind's campaign, because even when Destiny 2 introduces a new planet and storyline, it decides to peddle you back to where you began again. Almost as if it's a reminder of how much of a blast Destiny 2 once was before the lackluster post-game settled in.