My favorite memories in Destiny involve playing with close friends. Defeating Riven legitimately in Last Wish wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting if I was with a group of randoms. Farming Master Nightfalls is infinitely more fun while joking around with close-knit Guardians. Going Flawless in the Trials of Osiris would have been impossible if it wasn’t for my clan helping me become a better player. Destiny is at its best when you’re bonding with friends while farming for a shiny gun.
That’s why it’s such a shame that Destiny 2’s current New Light experience does everything in its power to push fledgling players away. New Guardians are dropped into the vast world of Destiny with virtually no guidance, no incentive to explore the breadth of content this game offers. And for those who somehow learn the ropes, they’ll see just how much of Destiny 2 is locked behind a paywall and how content has been locked away into the Destiny Content Vault.
I think the best way of showcasing my point is to simply tell you what new Guardians go through in today’s version of Destiny. They are brought to a character screen, create a class that sounds cool to them, then are immediately sent into a Dares of Eternity game. Before you even know how to throw a grenade, Destiny throws you into a wacky game show with a celestial horse and some hooded NPC that keeps breaking the fourth wall. This is clearly a bug, but it sucks that a New Light’s first impression is a game mode they can’t beat unless veteran Destiny players intentionally drop their Power Level to bail them out.
Once you’ve been rescued by a team of compassionate veterans, you’ll be greeted to the barren wastes of the Cosmodrome to get acquainted with Destiny 2’s gunplay and abilities, completing two story missions in the process. An NPC called Shaw Han then gives you a rundown on how to do bounties—yes, bounties. Just about every aspect of Destiny’s storytelling has been exposition up to this point, so most players aren’t going to be interested in killing 30 Fallen in some Cosmodrome Lost Sector. They might not even know what the hell a Lost Sector is. If someone uninstalled during this point, I wouldn’t blame them at all.
For those who decided to press on, they would eventually make their way to the Tower. Ghost introduces you to every NPC before you’re tasked with completing a Strike. Players are then greeted with a menu featuring a dizzying amount of options, some of which are locked behind an XP requirement or paywall. Assuming you finish the Strike, the game gives no guidance beyond increasing your character level. What’s a Power Level? What’s Crucible? Gambit? How do I get better gear? What makes a good piece of gear? Why are these planets locked? What should I do next?
If you don’t have a friend guiding you at this point, you’re screwed. There’s no way to give yourself a goal without spending hours watching YouTube videos or reading guides. Most players will quit at this point, but those remaining will quickly hit some sort of paywall. One of my friends had this experience when they saw a video of someone using Dead Man’s Tale, an Exotic Scout Rifle that drops from Season of the Chosen’s Presage mission.
“Dude, this looks sweet. How do I run this Presage mission?” They asked me.
“You can’t unless you own Season of the Chosen,” I told them.
“Alright. How much is it?”
They haven’t played Destiny since.
It wasn’t that they needed to purchase a piece of DLC to earn Dead Man’s Tale that bugged them. It was Bungie’s strategy of bundling older seasons into a Digital Deluxe version of Beyond Light that made my friend immediately disinterested. They felt forced to pay for content they had no interest in to access a weapon that looked cool to them. That price tag surely didn’t help either.
What’s truly baffling is how these seasons could have been purchased individually, but only when first active. If you wanted to buy Season of the Chosen when it was active, it was only $10. Now? You need to spend $70 if you don’t own Beyond Light, and $30 if you do. When Bungie announced that seasons would be sold à la carte, the community was excited. Getting your friends into Destiny was going to be so much easier since you didn't need to buy three expansions and a year of seasons to let them play with you. Unfortunately, that couldn't have been further from the truth.
The reality is that Destiny 2’s free-to-play experience is a demo, not a free game. You get to experience a short quest in the Cosmodrome, play Destiny 2’s ritual activities that are in dire need of better reward incentives, and try out the Prophecy dungeon. That’s it. The worst part is this wasn’t always the case. When Shadowkeep first came out, free-to-play Guardians had access to three raids and single-player narrative campaigns atop of what’s currently available. Shadowkeep’s version of New Light was a small slice of the core Destiny 2 experience. Beyond Light’s version is a platform to sell DLC and nothing else.
The clearest example of this is the Forsaken Pack, a $20 DLC that sells the raid, dungeon, and weapons tied to the Forsaken expansion. Bungie released the campaign for free, but they are still charging money for the DLC’s post-story content. And you know what the worst part is? That free campaign won’t exist once The Witch Queen launches. It doesn’t matter if you bought Forsaken or not; that DLC’s campaign will be inaccessible for the foreseeable future. Bungie could have released the entire expansion for free to beef up the free-to-play experience, but they chose not to. They locked the best parts of Forsaken behind a paywall instead.
Destiny needs to overhaul its New Light offerings to be more generous and better guide Guardians through this confusing video game. More importantly, Bungie needs to overhaul its DLC model to be clearer and more consumer-friendly. Seasons are too cheap for what they offer, but you can’t recoup costs by selling $20 expansion packs, Eververse skins priced higher than entire seasons, and $100 Digital Deluxe versions that let people bypass your overly convoluted DLC model.
I want to get all of my friends into Destiny. It’s an exceptional shooter when it's firing on all cylinders. But as long as the true Destiny experience is locked behind such a horrible new player experience and multiple paywalls, I’ll be farming for that sweet new gun on my lonesome.
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