I think I'm falling out of love with Destiny. And I'm not sure I want to.
A little over a year ago, I was writing for a website and produced an article about Destiny, and how much I was going to miss it when Destiny 2 released - you can read that original article here. The tl:dr version can be summed up thus: I loved the original Destiny for the game it had ultimately become and the friendships I had made playing it. I realised that Destiny 2 would never live up to my expectations and was basically cool with that.
I looked forward to Destiny 2 enormously and consumed it ravenously… and now I sit here with my first experiences of both the Curse of Osiris and Warmind expansions behind me. Destiny 2, after a troubled start and more missteps by developer Bungie than I care to think about, is in the best state it’s ever been. There is a very real grind for the maximum light level (which has progressed from 300 to 335 to 385), there is a new public event called Escalation Protocol that my clan is hitting incredibly hard. On top of all of that, Bungie have revealed the September 2018 expansion – Forsaken – in spectacular fashion, and the community is awash with anticipation.
The Destiny hype train has left the station, and this time it feels like pretty much everyone is on it – except that this time, I’ve been left standing on the platform, holding a cold cup of coffee and a rolled up newspaper and wondering whether I’ll be able to catch a taxi to the next station before it stops. Or, indeed, whether or not I can even be bothered to try. Even as I type this, the train's pulling further away and accelerating, and still I stand here looking dumbly after it and pondering - a bit like my Warlock gazing forlornly from Felwinter Peak during the closing days of Rise of Iron...
Let me make this clear right from the start. There is a depressing trend at the moment for people who are not enjoying a game or have issues with elements of a game to not only complain to the developers, but also to pick arguments with or belittle people who don’t share their viewpoint. This is not an attempt to do any such thing. An awful lot of people are having an awful lot of fun with Destiny 2 – far from this being something I have a problem with, it’s something I’m thrilled about. My clan is more active now than it has been in the last few months, and it’s very cool to sit back and watch our forum buzzing as people discuss tactics, weapons, loadouts, and arrange lengthy sessions to clear the new content. The only real “problem” I have is that I can’t share the sentiment, and I’m not sure why. Yes, the use of inverted commas is intentional – it’s really not a problem at all. Simply a state of affairs that I’m finding difficult to understand. In fact, I'm writing this article mainly in an effort to wrap my head around it. Self indulgent? Possibly. Get used to it. My blog, my rules.
Once upon a time (and not that long ago), I would have been in the forefront of the charge at the new material. I took time off work for Rise of Iron, and for Destiny 2’s launch, and for Curse of Osiris. I put together the first fireteam from our clan to head into the Leviathan raid. I think my raid team was the first in our clan to complete Eater of Worlds (no doubt one of them will correct me if I’m wrong!). I’m used to being one of a handful of guys who will pull a group together and dive in. At first, Warmind was no different, if considerably better than its predecessor. I played the campaign and thoroughly enjoyed it. At one point, about halfway through the campaign, I said to one of the guys in my fireteam that it “feels like they’ve saved Destiny 2” and at the time I believed it and was happy about it.
Fast forward two weeks or so (seriously, how long has it been? I've lost track...), and my viewpoint is dramatically different – and the more I think about it, the more I think that it’s directly linked to the amount of content I see in front of me currently, and off on the horizon. It's like I'm exhausted in the foothills and eyeing the mountain ahead of me with more of a sense of ominous dread than excited fascination.
I enjoyed the first Destiny game enormously, but eventually I developed what I think was an unhealthy relationship with it. There was one guy in my clan who refused to move on to Destiny 2 for that reason, and at the time I couldn’t really understand where he was coming from. But standing here now, watching the hype train disappear in the distance and staring down the barrel of what Destiny 2 is about to become, I think I can see his point of view with a clarity that eluded me before. Destiny 2 is about to become a "hobby" again, and I’m honestly not sure that’s something I entirely want.
I understand that that puts me in a minority - so allow me to offer some additional context. The first game was a bit of fun that for me became an all-consuming thing. To put into perspective, before Destiny came out, I was the kind of gamer who played pretty much everything. I’d regularly get through 20 to 30 games in a year. I wasn’t a completionist for the most part; I’d play until the campaign was over and then (if I was having enough fun) for maybe a little longer. I’d have a final session, mopping up any achievements that I was close to, and then move on. I’d do so with pleasure – generally happy to have wrapped up a positive experience, and eager to see what experiences the next game would bring. In 2015/16 (just after the Destiny expansion The Taken King dropped) I played almost nothing but Destiny. Other games – often extremely good ones – came and went for me in the blink of an eye. I was having a lot of fun doing what I was doing. I’ve said before that Destiny is the first game that really introduced me to the whole “online social club” side of gaming, leading me to actively seek out other people to play it with, some of whom I now consider my good friends. But in retrospect, the problem I had with Destiny – the same problem I see now lying in wait for me just around the corner, carrying a broken bottle and a bad mood and wearing a Destiny 2 t-shirt - is not the cost of playing.
It’s the opportunity cost.
I’m going to assume at this point that you aren’t an economist (if, by chance, you are and I’m now talking down to you, I apologise. Also, if I get any of this wrong, feel free to correct me; I’m always happy to learn from someone who knows more about a subject than I do!) and take a moment to explain what that means.
Opportunity cost is defined as “the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”
It’s not about the amount of money spent paying for Destiny (if you break it down to £/hour, the game was a bargain!), or even the time I poured into it (which was, frankly and with retrospect, bordering on the obscene). It’s about all the things I didn’t do while I played Destiny instead. Those include (but aren’t limited to) books I didn’t read, a book I didn’t write and possibly another that I didn't even start. Starting up this website. Movies I didn’t watch. And, critically for this article, games I didn’t play. Or games I didn’t play enough of. I’m not going to bore you with all the games that fall into that category – rest assured I regret some considerably more than others, and there are some that I still plan to head back and play or finish off. Or at least I was… and then Bungie released a vidoc and announced their future plans for the second year of Destiny 2 and beyond.
You can summarise their plans pretty simply: BIGGER, FASTER, MORE.
The community at large has treated these plans in one of two ways – either cautious optimism or unabashed excitement. Lots of people, it seems, can’t wait to lose themselves in the new PvE area, and the new raid. And the new PvP game mode. And play with all the new exotic weapons and armour sets, and the bigger vault, and the new supers, and the bow, and the new enemy class, and the new darker grittier story, and the lore tabs, and the collections, and the weapon slot changes, and the weapon randomisation. Fair enough. If more Destiny 2 is what you want, and even more specifically, more Destiny 2 that looks a little bit more like Destiny 1 than it has so far, then all good. You’ll likely be very happy with what’s been announced.
Of course, there’s a subset of the community complaining – all the usual absurdities are being voiced by a vocal minority, from the classic “it should be free” (no, it REALLY shouldn’t) to “it’s all reskins” (news flash; reskins are cost effective and Bungie are a business, not a charity, dumbass) right the way up to “I’ve been let down by Bungie and this game’s dead” (seriously, feel free to just fuck off…). However, if my Twitter feed’s anything to go by, no-one has the same concern that I have – and that’s that I love Destiny and I want to enjoy it, but that this new stuff is just too much.
One of the things I actually quite liked about Destiny 2 was that I felt like I could do it all, and keep up with everyone else while playing other things. This year, I’ve already finished more games than I did in the whole of 2017 (I’ll be honest, I stopped keeping tracks but I feel like I’ve played more games this year, for sure) and a big part of being able to do that was caused by my feeling as though Destiny 2 was a game I could pick up and do milestones in and then put down and play other things. Destiny 1, once it had dug its claws into me, was nowhere near as generous. I was still always raid-ready, and still generally max light, and still generally had everything I needed. Now, with a step to appease the hardcore, I feel like I have a choice: play Destiny 2 exclusively for months on end in order to keep up with the people I normally play with… or back away from it and let it slide so I can carry on playing other things.
I’m sure there will be some people reading this thinking something along the lines of “If this is even a decision for you, then you’re not who the changes are aimed at.” That’s a perfectly fair point, and I don’t necessarily disagree. I think I’m just trying to work out what my future relationship with a game I love is going to be. I feel like Bungie have just given me an ultimatum: I can play Destiny 2, or I can play everything else.
I suppose I'm just beginning to realise that actually, I'm not as hardcore a Destiny player as I thought I was. It's come to me as a bit of a shock. I’m just not sure if I still love Destiny 2 enough to stick with it at the massive increase in opportunity cost that’s just around the corner. No doubt I'll have more to say on this in the coming days and weeks.