Is Destiny 2 Worth Playing In 2024?

As The Final Shape promises to bring the Destiny 2 era to a close, we look at the many reasons why the game (probably) isn't worth playing in 2024.

Destiny 2
Photo: Bungie

I remember the early days of Destiny. The glimpses of footage, the beta test, and Peter Dinklage telling us that, by God, that wizard came from the moon. They were good days, and I was committed to all of it in my usually solo way. In 2017, Destiny 2 (from here I’m going to refer to the sequel as Destiny proper) promised to continue the story left hanging after the Taken King’s rise and the Vex’s attempt to master reality via time manipulation. The sequel-slash-continuation opened with a violent surge of Cabal into the Last City, leaving Guardians depowered, afraid, and scattered in the dangerous wilds. 

It was a strong start, requiring more skill to survive the amplified risks ahead of us as players. New strikes and raids promised even tighter challenges, and the story continued to evolve. Forsaken – the first big expansion and the introduction to Destiny’s new seasonal updates – brought with it a shattering moment for many players, as Cayde-6 (Nathan Fillion) was killed. 

Not long after completing this arc and a few of the seasonal updates, I fell out of the game. But with the finale of Destiny’s first grand story of Light versus Darkness on the horizon in The Final Shape, it was time to see if we can return to the glory days of new guns and white-knuckle fights. Is the world of Destiny as fine as ever? Is there room for new players to find their place?

The answer is as complicated as explaining paracausality to your cat. But since paracausality is kind of a big thing in Destiny, and because the idea of The Final Shape is pretty cool, we have to try. Hold still, you little furry bastard. I have a PowerPoint presentation for you.

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Hang On, Little Light

Destiny allows Bungie to go full-bore into its specialty: weaving an insanely complicated mythos around science fiction concepts so esoteric as to be mystical. Just attempting to summarize the setting can leave dozens of rabbit holes to fall into, but here goes. The Traveler, an eldritch force of Light wrapped in a white spherical shell, flits from galaxy to galaxy, uplifting alien societies while fleeing the Darkness. When it arrives in our solar system, humanity is on the cusp of a golden era. Darkness forces us into the Collapse, an apocalyptic age where the Light of the Traveler emerges to grant our futuristic society the power it needs to survive.

In this new era, humanity itself isn’t unchanged. Alongside struggling humans, the Awoken are space elves: once-desperate colonists caught between inexplicable forces and changed into something ancient and other. Exos are cybernetic recreations, alive in their own way, capable of evolving from the human they once were. You pick from one of these three, then take a role as a sturdy Titan, a physics-defying Warlock, or a speedy Hunter as your Ghost awakens you into your new life as a Guardian for the Traveler. On the horizon, Darkness — or rather, the Witness, something worse — is coming for us.

There is a lot of nuance missing here (Eliksni, the Ahamkara, Sword Logic, and so much more), and a plot summary? Oh boy. Let’s unpack that problem.

I Don’t Have Time to Explain Why I Don’t Have Time to Explain

The first Destiny was, complicated story aside, a relatively straightforward experience. Participate in Strikes, Nightfall variants, Raids, PvP, and more, as you collect Exotic arms and armor and try to stop all threats to the Traveler. When Destiny 2 launched, the goals were loftier. It was a story intended to evolve over time, showing off big changes in its environments as each new major story beat unfolded.

The problem is that, unlike traditional MMOs like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, Destiny began to “vault” huge swaths of previous stories (ostensibly for tech reasons) leaving only the newest stuff for players to experience. That original introduction to the new game, with its terrifying onslaught of Cabal and the desperation of being without Light? Yeah, you can’t play through that anymore. Or Cayde-6’s fall at the hands of an Awoken Prince. Forget about those neat stories featuring the Warmind Rasputin, or Osiris. The currently available story content begins around Shadowkeep, which was released in late 2019.

A new player misses a shit-ton of the story in favor of the New Light experience, which is an exercise in aggravation and overwhelming input. It is an experience that is reviled by the game’s popular subreddit, and I’m not exactly enthused with it, either. It leaves you with a game that can no longer decide if you, the player, are incarnating one of the most plot-important Guardians in the story, or just some random jamoke with a gun and a dream. It attempts to thread both by giving your jamoke a reason to excel. However, it’s frankly exhausting to try and catch up to today’s Guardians. That exhaustion might be the first reason you start examining that Eververse shop in the game. May the Traveler help you, because in addition to the rough new player experience, the premium options to ‘help’ your experience are confusing at best and almost predatory at worst.

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At launch, Destiny was a buy-in game, with paid expansions. Now it’s free-to-play, with annual paid expansions and retro ‘content’ packs, which are not the same as seasons. A Year expansion may ultimately contain several Seasons, requiring accompanying Season passes, which are either packed with your Digital Deluxe DLC purchase per Year or bought separately within the game with Silver. Got that? No? Too bad, this page is all the explanation Bungie gives.

What’s Silver, you politely ask? It’s the way Destiny takes your real-life money and turns it into in-game currency, often via the “Buy More Get More” card. 1000 Silver costs a tenner, and they throw in an extra 100! Give them your twenty bucks of pizza money, and get 2300 Silver! Wahoo, I love the games naked capitalism plays!

That Silver and Bright Dust (a separate currency that comes from using Silver…yes, it’s getting head-whirling, I know) then goes to the Eververse counter, where the bulk of your purchases are cosmetic, from armor palettes to emotes. There are also the gacha-like Bright Engrams, which can give arms or armor probably worse than what you’re wearing, or upgrades to various features of the game that are laid out so piecemeal that I’m getting mad just looking at the “FAQ” I’m using to help summarize this. Basically, either get the annual DLC in its deluxe form or start forking out Silver to have full access to event rewards and certain dungeons. Yet, there are now dungeons that are not Strikes and yes you have to pay for this basic game feature.

Whether We Wanted It Or Not, We’ve Stepped Into A War With the Cabal on Mars

Fortunately, Destiny remains one of the best shooters and looters to actually play. Not only are your controls smooth and intuitive, with plenty of ways to customize your skillset and playstyle, but combat is a dream even when you’re fresh out the gate. It’s fun to drift, bomb, dodge, and fire off your superpowered skills in tight arenas and open areas. So the game has that going for it!

And yet, there’s also the weight of years of constant, sometimes overbearing rebalancing. Destiny is offering everything to you at once, and to experience the game to the fullest, you best go in expecting to at least try your hand at it all. That not only means you need to be comfortable with some occasional PvP to get access to some neat goodies or Exotic (to fulfill bounties or what have you), but it also means lots of PvE group content.

Here lies a double issue. First, balancing the game around multiple modes of combat is a pain in the ass. For years, it usually meant something that was over-performing in PvP got nerfed in some fashion, which also meant its PvE viability took a hit. It’s a design philosophy that doesn’t leave those cool powers of yours unscathed, either. Titans, for example, used to be tanks par excellence, with a shield skill that could save enough bacon to keep a diner going through the morning rush. Now they’re just kinda beefy. The community “lovingly” refers to these various tweaks as proof that we’re not playing the game the way Bungie meant us to play it, so they gotta help us out. No unrestrained power fantasies on their watch.

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The second issue is more subjective. Destiny’s raids are some of the best in gaming, but to experience them — and a number of other challenges, like the Nightfall-remixed Strikes — means you need to be on your toes. Cutting-edge content is, reasonably, something bespoke groups handle. But finding those groups? It involves a hodgepodge of screwy Bungie apps, including an unsatisfying Fireteam Finder that leaves lots of useful information out, Discord, additional third-party services, or actually having a real-life group of friends. 

Also, don’t be female on voice. Destiny is one of the better communities, especially if you’ve managed that miracle of a curated friend group, but even the constant, if anodyne, “Holy shit, a girl!’ remarks leave some wear on the soul. Put it like this: I used to solo Nightfalls way back in the day, instead of dealing with voice chat.

Oh, and to do all of this? You need to gear up. That’s going to take some time, some confusion as you work towards a sturdy build, and a whole lot of strikes where you have a high chance of being grouped with some wad with a Godslayer title (yes, there are titles to earn, which always leads to I’m A Special Baby Syndrome) kibitzing around instead of doing the damn strike.

To have a Guardian leveled up and kitted out well enough to start playing with the big boys is a project, but don’t worry! Reaching the ‘soft cap’ of the current level is fairly easy with some consistent playing, looting, and casually doing Strikes with random groups. Stay casual, and the game is a fun shooter you can play on your schedule.

But if you want to do it all, get ready to push the “hard cap.” That means grinding weekly missions, called Challenges, that grant “Powerful” gear. There are about a half dozen chances at that level of gear ranging from Crucible (PvP) missions, to PVE Moon hunts, to a certain rotating cycle of strikes, and more. Get bad drops, and it may take a few weeks to push your gear limits. It’s cool, it’s not like every Season’s content is on a timer or anything (it’s absolutely on a timer, if I wasn’t clear enough).

To “help” you understand your progress as a seasoned Guardian, there are also unlockable Guardian Ranks that signify how much you’ve done of what there is to do. These reset seasonally and will require high-level group content to master any rank that sounds cooler than Elite. That’s not the same as the Titles you can earn and keep, which require a different set of tasks to individually unlock. For example, that Godslayer that jerked your Strike around? They no-lifed the game until they nailed a time-limited raid gauntlet. So you know they can play. And if you start the game today, you’re never going to earn it. It closed with the release of The Final Shape.

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There seem to be a lot of unnecessary complications in Destiny now, all shoved in under the guise of trying to help you feel like you’re earning something. I’ve earned a headache, at least, and I can’t even take Ibuprofen for it.

I’m Coming Home, Ace

I want to keep loving Destiny, I genuinely do. There are things it still does that no other game has tried, and my nostalgia for its best past eras is almost tangible. Its world-building and intricate lore are like catnip to me. Sheepishly, I confess I wrote one of the earliest popular fanfics: a story about an Exo whose new life as a Guardian left him deeply conflicted, as his few cracking memories left him with little love for the humanity he was now protecting.

But I’m going to be watching The Final Shape from the sidelines, eager to follow the story as if from a safe refuge, and I can’t recommend this current era of the game to new players. There’s just too much to catch up on, and the game simply isn’t built to help you do it in a way that’s fun and fulfilling.

Those of you who haven’t been gone as long, you’ll come back for a story finale probably with enough knowledge — and patience for Bungie’s antics — to enjoy the ride. You, I salute, and I wish you the very best. And after this story wraps up, we’ll see. If the world attempts another fresh reset along the lines of New Light, or they embrace a wholly fresh restart with a Destiny 3 announcement, I’ll probably come back again, still full of hope. Eyes up, Guardians, and shoot straight.