Over the past two days, I’ve played around 10 hours of Destiny 2. I have no idea what is happening.
I’m a Destiny newcomer. While it is technically true that I played exactly one hour of the first Destiny back in 2014, I barely remember it. When I began playing Destiny 2 with friends a couple weeks ago, I only knew the game’s broadest strokes: giant space egg, Nathan Fillion robot (RIP), loot cave (RIP), overwhelming amounts of content (RIP), grinding, and self-loathing. I tried to run through some early campaigns before they got vaulted, but I ended up having time to make it just a few hours into the first, The Red War, before Beyond Light launched—only to find out that Beyond Light is full of callbacks to Destiny 1, so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway.
Despite all that, I’m hooked. Bad guys fall down, numbers go up, and my brain releases the good chemicals. This I can get on board with, especially given that nobody makes it feel better when bad guys fall down than Bungie. Here is what I, with my fresh, naïve eyes, have observed in my travels so far.
Beyond Light began with my character rescuing Variks, a chittering bug man with whom I apparently share a rich history, from certain doom at the many, many hands of other chittering bug men. I read a catch-up post by Kotaku’s own Ethan Gach and was able to glean that Variks is on, like, his 17th betrayal of an entire race for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. He’s also the reason Nathan Fillion is dead? I like him, though, because he is a bug man. Variks, in turn, hates the Darkness, which I thought was one of the more underrated games of the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, but there’s no accounting for taste, I guess.
I’ve also met the Exo Stranger, who encouraged me to embrace the Darkness in order to ward off the threat posed by... the Darkness? Then she told me to go away. She seems cool, in the same way as the well-dressed person who always goes to the same bar as you, and about whom you constantly wonder “What’s their deal” but you never actually find out what their deal is. Now I’m hunting a big baddy named Eramis, who Variks introduced by repeatedly mentioning another name that also starts with E, which is the sort of detail you only put in your game already full of confusing proper nouns if you want to drive somebody like me to murder.
All of this, I recognize, is very significant to people who are not me. That’s cool! I like to watch other people enjoy things. However, I also feel like Rock Paper Shotgun’s Alice O’Connor nailed what I’m feeling when she wrote, “I feel like I’ve turned up to someone else’s school reunion. Everyone’s stoked to crack open a couple engrams with the lads in the Loot Cave and reminisce, while I’m stuck in an awkward conversation with some big fella who chatters and clicks like a happy budgie.”
I like it when numbers go up. We all do. Arguably, it is the only thing that unites us as a species. So when I heard yesterday that there was a zone on Earth (Destiny Earth, not real Earth) that dropped such tremendous quantities of rare loot that I could hit Beyond Light’s soft power cap in an hour, I had to go check it out. In doing so, I ended up experiencing what is apparently a frequent Destiny disappointment: arriving just a little too late to take advantage of the latest loot exploit.
I ran through Widow’s Walk and immediately understood why players had been farming it: It was a fucking breeze. You hop in, shoot a small handful of dudes, take out an easy boss, and open a chest. You can repeat it over and over, with almost no downtime between runs. The gear I received, however, was nothing special—an improvement, sure, but not the kind of leap that would take my hammer-tossing Titan into full-on Thor territory. When I checked the comments on the YouTube video that first popularized this spot, people were in mourning. A message from Bungie was the nail in the coffin:
“Due to an issue with the legendary engram drop rate in the Widow’s Walk EDZ Lost Sector, we have lowered the rate to its intended frequency,” the developer posted on Twitter yesterday afternoon.
I was heartbroken. Had I shown up just a few hours earlier, I could have gone from zero—a brand new player—to near max-level just like that. Would it have felt good in the long run? Probably not. But it would have been a heck of a dopamine rush, and that’s kind of what games like this are all about.
Ultimately, I stuck around that area and farmed new gear for, like, four hours. Honestly? It wasn’t that bad. Other players were doing group activities that I could join, and it was fun sinking into an almost unconscious rhythm of shooting and looting, knowing exactly where to turn and fire moments before enemies spawned. I also managed to boost my power level from 1098 to 1160, which means that a boss who’s been giving me trouble should be cake now. Speaking of...
Phylaks, the Beyond Light campaign’s first proper boss, is trash! Sorry, Phylaks fans—if you exist. It’s just the truth.
I have not faced many Destiny bosses, so maybe this is how they all are, but here’s a list of things I hate in a boss fight:
- Rando enemies incessantly swarming me such that they land a bunch of cheap shots and hinder my movement.
- Some invincible asshole taking potshots at me all the while.
- Sudden, unpredictable twists that might insta-kill you if you don’t know about them in advance.
The Phylaks fight has all of these things! Being whaled on by bug morons while Phylaks snipes you from afar is not fun. Thankfully, her aim is terrible, but it’s still a distinctly frustrating core loop. The first time I fought her, I defeated her first phase with only a sliver of health left, and then the ground beneath my feet disappeared (something that happens at the end of each phase, but how was I to know?) and I fell into electrocuted fog or some shit and immediately died. That is the definition of a cheap death. The fight has no checkpoints, so I had to start all over again—even though I had done everything needed to succeed up to that point.
Listen, I’m all for some difficulty. On my fourth attempt with a power level that was slightly beneath what the game recommended, I nearly beat Phylaks’ final stage. But the basic rhythm of the fight is so irritating that when I died that time, I rage-quit and decided to go grind for better gear so as to increase my own margin for error. Tonight, I’m going bug hunting.
Look at this scrub in his noob armor:
He is trying, and he should be commended for that. But also, feel free to bully him. You have my full permission.
I didn’t expect to find myself writing this, given that when I was playing the Red War campaign, I wasn’t really a fan of the Whedon-style quip humor that Fillion’s character, Cayde-6, brought to the table. It felt like quirk for quirk’s sake, the sort of thing that Avengers movies and their monolithic cultural impact, among other things, have soured me on.
But Cayde-6 brought an undeniable charisma to the Red War’s missions that just isn’t present in what I’ve played of Beyond Light so far. Maybe that will change. Kotaku’s Ash Parrish keeps excitedly yelling in Slack about somebody named Shaw Han (her exact words were “YOU STUPID HIMBO SONOFABITCH HOW DARE YOU”), so I’m hopeful. But in the meantime, it would be neat to interact with some characters who can make me interested on their own merits, rather than nostalgic appeal that I have no connection to.