Eyes up, Guardian. Again.
I've been playing Destiny with my son. With the long, lazy days of the summer holidays now coming to an end and The Taken King expansion surrounding us, I thought it might be nice to record what the experience of playing through one of my all-time favourite games with one of my all-time favourite people at my side every step of the way has been like.
If you're a regular visitor here, you'll know all about my ups-and-downs with Destiny 2. I'm currently levelling up a Titan with a plan to maybe pick up Shadowkeep and (try to!) roll with a single character. The original game swallowed me whole through most of 2016 and early 2017, and I played the second one until I stopped having fun - which took a long old time. My relationship with Destiny was generally a much happier one. I found my clan, did all the raids, got all the loot, and had a blast. In the last six months or so, I've probably clocked up more time in D1 than I have in D2 - diving in for a low-pressure patrol or strike here and there. My son has wanted to play it for as long as we can remember. We rolled him a Warlock a couple of years back, but in retrospect he was too young to really grasp what was going on; it didn't take long for frustration to kick in. Through our games on Fortnite together lately though, we got to talking about other games that we could play - and he mentioned Destiny. I weighed it up and agreed to take him through it. He's rolled another Warlock... and we're off.
It's interesting watching a new player come to grips with the processes and systems that I became so familiar with. I've had to explain how bounties work, and how strikes work. How bounties stack. Arc, solar, and void damage types. DPS. Patrol routes. Different weapon types, and when to use them. Basic matters that I learned so long ago that I'd kind of forgotten what it was like not to know. Destiny is his first real character building game experience, in which he's building a persistent character that's becoming more and more powerful within the world it occupies. It's opening his eyes to a much more involved style of gaming. For me, it's a total nostalgia trip.
Playing back through Destiny (we've done the vanilla campaign, The Dark Below, House of Wolves, and just reached the Dreadnaught patrol section of The Taken King), I'm finding myself enjoying it in a very different way to the way in which I used to. Destiny was always about the loot chase; the next Nightfall, the next raid, the next Iron Banner. Even when I hit 400 light the grind continued for raid gear ornaments and exotic "adept" versions of certain weapons. I never really stopped to slow down and appreciate it while it was my go-to "live" game. Strikes were run at a breakneck pace. Raids were the same - my team's fastest Wrath of the Machine run clocking in at a little under 25 minutes, still slow by some standards.
Playing it now, I'm like a tour guide - and it's a lot of fun to be a tour guide in Destiny's open spaces. I'm pointing out what happened in the different locations, identifying areas where we'll be going on strikes in the future and showing him the bits of the raids that sit outside of the sealed off areas they exist in. Standing in the Cosmodrome on his first patrol and pointing out the tops of the colony ships and being able to say "we'll be going up to the top of one of those when Cayde-6 sends us after his stealth drive", and listening to the "wow" or "no way" that come back. All these places that I know like the back of my hand having run through a thousand times or more offer reason after reason to stop, stand, enjoy the view and explain how the world came to be this way. I'm noticing things I never noticed before by doing so.
Gameplay-wise, the route through the campaigns, strikes and bounties is so streamlined now in compared to what I remember - which was endlessly digging through the Director trying to work out where the hell I needed to go next. I've been able to let him loose alone a couple of times, and using the Progress tab he's always been able to figure out where he needs to go, what he needs to do, and what's the most effective thing to be using. Playing it in the chilled-out way I am is letting me mess about with weapons and loadouts, using equipment I retired to the Vault a long time before I quit playing the game. I have nothing really left to get, nothing really to chase - so for me it's a low-stakes game of whack-a-mole using whatever weapons I want. The meta is out of the window. I've been using Fabian Strategy and Zombie Apocalypse and loving them both. I'm wearing whatever armour sets I like, stats be damned. And that freedom is one of the best things.
The most surprising thing of all though might be the sheer number of new players wandering around The Tower. They're everywhere. I flew in wearing my ornamented Wrath of the Machine raid set (all glowy and red) and found myself inundated by new players crowding around me, followed quickly by messages asking where I got it from or if I'd help with whatever that player needed. If I'd been alone, I'd probably have taken some of them up on their offers. It just wasn't what I expected, I guess. The "hardcore" of Destiny players have moved on to D2 (or other games entirely) assuming we'd left behind an empty Tower and depleted patrol spaces - and that assumption is totally flawed. There's been an influx of new Guardians, right behind us. They're in strikes, and they're in the Tower - and if sherpa'ing raids is your thing, I'm sure it'd take only a couple of invites thrown around to get a team.
The experience I'm having has two outcomes, I think. Firstly, I'm going to try to make a point of returning to older games with my kids as they grow up. I'm pretty sure part of the reason my son's enjoying this so much is because of the amount of fun I'm having hearing him enjoy it - and that's a pretty positive feedback loop to be involved in. The fact that I'm getting to enjoy a game I love in a wholly new way is an added bonus. If your kids are old enough, and even vaguely interested, try doing the same. Secondly, I'm going to try to continue to play Destiny 2 in this same way. I'm going to go slowly. There's enough content there to last a long time, if I can resist the urge to burn through it at the expense of everything else - so that's what I'm going to try to do. I guess we'll know how that went by the end of the year; my hopes aren't high that I'll manage that one as I know myself pretty well these days. But I can try. And maybe if I manage it, I'll enjoy these worlds even more as a result.