I’ve played a lot of Destiny 2. A cursory glance at my time wasted on Destiny 2 profile shows I’ve sank at least 600 hours into the game. I think it’s probably higher, but a good portion of my playtime through Activision’s launcher seems to have disappeared.
Destiny 2, despite many of its major problems, remains a core part of my gaming routine. Of course, it goes through quieter periods, but I will usually try to fit in a few sessions a week. Ensuring I at least do a few weekly pinnacles and keep on top of the seasonal activities.
In recent years we’ve seen an influx of developers trying to capitalise on the popularity of Destiny 2, splicing action-heavy gameplay with MMO hooks. You can’t blame them – Bungie have crafted a brilliantly replayable game that keeps fans coming back for more, snapping up expansive, and spending on the occasional microtransaction.
The biggest problem that imitators seem to struggle with is “game feel”. Outriders, Anthem, and even Marvel’s Avengers follow that same Destiny blueprint, yet have all failed in creating entertaining gameplay systems to keep their players invested. Before we go into looking at what makes Destiny 2 so great, let’s break down what these games get so wrong.
Outriders, which was released earlier this year, is a third-person cover-based shooter that features four playable character classes with an array of weapons and abilities at their disposal. Each one of the four classes is geared towards a distinct style of gameplay, mixing close, medium and short range abilities with offence and defence.
For those who haven’t played it, Outriders is best compared to Gears of War, although the cover-based system soon becomes redundant once you’re powered up enough. When you’re in full-swing, Outriders actually feels reasonably similar to Mass Effect. The focus is on using your powers to take down enemies, with guns merely serving as an additional form of layering on damage.
Outriders was also compared to Destiny 2 on launch. Not so much for following the live-service model, but more for creating a gameplay loop that focused on rewarding players with loot. Outriders also features extensive endgame content, designed to keep players engaged for months after finishing it. The problem is, Outriders is fun, but it’s not engaging enough to keep players gripped indefinitely. The game is still reeling from launch issues (including inventory wipes) and tried too hard to brand itself something other than a live service game. Outriders can be played solo, but is inarguably better when running missions with friends. Thing is, its crossplay multiplayer is hampered by long queue waiting time and poor network stability.
The same goes for similar games like Anthem. An EA/BioWare joint that unashamedly tried to ape the Destiny 2 format, without considering what makes the former so playable. Anthem created a large open world, with numerous playable classes and an expansive story. Where it fell short was creating a combat system that could be repeatedly played.
Enemies were dumb bullet sponges that rarely made for compelling opponents. Guns felt flat and while the powers were interesting, they never did enough to make up for the limited range of weapons. Anthem was also a looter-shooter that failed to provide enough interesting loot – a pretty big sin. The biggest variation between guns was often its damage output or reload speed. This fundamental lack of exciting loot made grinding end-game content invariably boring. At least flying around in its Iron Man-esque suits was kind of fun.
The lack of interesting rewards was emphasised when players realised that the starting assault rifle was one of the most powerful weapons in the entire game. This discovery completely undermined the grind loop and rendered endgame weapons useless. BioWare fixed this, but for me, the damage was already done. Players soon peeled away from Anthem, as did BioWare and EA. After spending months in limbo, an overhaul for the game was officially axed earlier this year. A shame, yet it was impossible to see Anthem rising from the ashes.
The worst offender by far in the attempts to mimic Destiny 2, has to be Marvel’s Avengers. Featuring aggressive microtransactions, a forgettable story, and derivative combat, Marvel’s Avengers is the perfect example of why you need engaging gameplay if you want to build something that lasts for years.
Marvel’s Avengers’ player count dwindled in the months following release. At launch, nearly 30,000 people played Marvel’s Avengers but that number has fallen dramatically. Before releasing the game, Square Enix hyped up the game’s longevity, claiming it would be active for years to come. Without engaging gameplay mechanics, live services will fail. Loot, story, collectibles and rewards mean absolutely nothing if the moment-to-moment gameplay falls flat. Even after its Hawkeye episode, and the upcoming Black Panther expansion, Marvel’s Avengers will simply be a bigger game, not better.
This is where Destiny 2 succeeds better than any loot shooter. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who’s spent hundreds of hours with the game, I know full well it has its problems. Bungie’s current content drip model, while reasonably priced, lacks the content to keep players consistently engaged. However, Destiny 2 has something those other games do not: exceptionally good gameplay.
Game feel is inexplicably difficult to describe in words, but Destiny 2 is one of the best-feeling FPS games on the market. This is largely because Bungie has a well-documented history in creating game-changing FPS experiences, having brought Halo to the world. In Destiny, the studio further flexes its chops. Honing in on what made Halo feel so great and perfecting that down to a tee.
Where Outriders, Anthem and Marvel’s Avengers failed in providing enough weapon variation, Destiny 2 flourished. Not only are there numerous weapon types, but each weapon within those classes feels unique. Destiny 2’s vast loot pool does of course present its own problems. Primarily, every major addition to the game seems to break something – I’m looking at you Telesto. However, Destiny 2’s weapons are just immensely fun to use.
There are too many guns to list, but here are just a few of my personal favourites:
Trinity Ghoul – A bow which lets you zap multiple enemies at once with electric
The Huckleberry – An SMG that refills the clip and speeds up every time you get a kill
Izanagi’s Burden – Combine four bullets to make this sniper rifle even more lethal
Ace of Spades – Kills grant a damage buff on reload with this hand cannon
These weapons are by no means meta, but they represent how different the guns can be in Destiny 2. Even with legendary weapons that don’t have those unique perks, there are still several normal perks that can radically change how each gun feels. It’s really easy to find a gun and loadout that works for you in Destiny 2, because there’s so much to choose from and all of it feels fantastic to wield.
Many of Destiny 2’s other gameplay elements are in no way better or worse than the other aforementioned titles, but it absolutely gets its gameplay right. The bottom line is, if you want to create a live service game or a consistently engaged community, you’d better make sure the gameplay itself is fun.