Soapbox: Destiny 2’s high praise is a case of ‘diminished expectations’
One of the most highly-anticipated video game releases of the year has now finally graced home consoles in the form of Destiny 2, and for the most part the game is being applauded for being a vast improvement when compared to the original. Critically and commercially, Bungie’s space opera shooter has audiences astonished, but I can’t help but feel that the majority of this praise has been awarded due to a large case of diminished expectations. That’s to say that to some extent Destiny 2 is being held up so highly due to the incredibly low bar set by the first game, rather than on its own merits.
In the same way that Nintendo’s ink-drenched online shooter Splatoon 2 could be criticised for being a small step as opposed to a gigantic leap forward for the series, Destiny 2 isn’t doing anything particularly new or innovative. Rather it’s merely reaching the same quality levels gamers have come to expect from other AAA shooters with regards to story, online infrastructure, and events. Don’t get me wrong, the core act of shooting has never felt better, but praising a game’s story due to the inclusion of cutscenes is lunacy. Spoiler alert, Halo when it was released in 2001 had cutscenes, Destiny 2 shouldn’t get a free pass.
Admittedly, it’s a tough act to pull off in the first place. A shared-world shooter that serves the MMO fans used to spending hours and hours cycling end game content while also attempting to relay a coherent narrative that works in both a solo and co-op capacity? It’s hard. And that’s not even taking into account the need to satisfy fans of the first game while also welcoming new players who are just jumping on board. In any way you look at it however, Destiny 2’s campaign fumbles in so many areas and even when taking into account these ancillary factors, it shouldn’t be forgiven.
Outside of Destiny 2’s story, this same level of diminished expectations bleeds into what fans are calling “quality of life improvements”. You see, the Vanilla Destiny was a bitch for forcing its players to complete a series of arbitrary steps with most of its goals and objectives, seemingly to merely extend play time. Say you completed a bounty and wanting to turn it in to collect your reward, Originally you’d have to quite out from the game world into what was ostensibly a loading screen. You’d then have to return to the tower, before wandering over to an NPC to redeem it.
Destiny 2 thankfully no longer forces you to go into orbit in order to accomplish this, but removing annoying steps from obtuse game design is hardly a huge change that deserves overwhelming credit. Fans have already lashed back at Bungie’s decision to make shaders a consumable item as opposed to a solid item as in the original game, but such instances are more forgivable as the devs attempt to find ways of incentivising players. After all, if players could fully collect and do everything in under 40 hours, Destiny 2 wouldn’t be a very good world-sharing MMO.
The Destiny franchise has always reminded me somewhat of a confused child, scrabbling around for what it wants to be for ages before finally settling on how it’s like players to engage and interact with its world. Destiny 2 is by no means a bad game, just be no means the amazing intergalactic tour de force we were originally promised back in 2013. I’m more with okay for games to find their feet, but just don’t expect appreciation for the inclusion of a map and cutscenes, when these first-person shooter staples were laid down yonks ago and continue to be perfected today.