“Destiny 2” isn’t just a game you play in a passive, traditional sense. It is designed in such a way that it quickly becomes an obsession—“one more mission,” “one more strike,” “one more trip to the Crucible.” And it’s become a phenomenon, the kind of gaming success that redefines an industry. When “Destiny” was first released in 2015, I had my doubts that this co-op-heavy experience would be the game-changer much of the industry was hoping it would be. And early growing pains held the franchise back in some regards, but “Destiny” developed into something special—a place where gamers could congregate and share a common, exciting experience. As Bungie and the team behind the game fine-tuned its online experience and released DLC that expanded upon its universe, “Destiny” became an essential game. If you want to talk about cinematic gaming in the ‘10s, it’s a title you need to play. And then expectations for its sequel started to grow.
By now, thousands of people have already plugged days of their lives into the world of “Destiny 2,” a game that builds on the first title like a major Hollywood blockbuster. In many ways, it’s not unlike “The Dark Knight” to “Batman Begins,” a title that doesn’t repeat what came before as much as develop its universe in new and exciting ways. Most importantly, “Destiny 2” solves the biggest problem of the first game—storytelling. The campaign here is much more exciting than the first game, which felt, especially in the early days like a sandbox with no toys, but you don't have to be locked into it when you play. From the beginning of “Destiny 2,” you are being bombarded with choices. There are the standard RPG choices like class, weapons, armor, etc., but Bungie also endeavors to offer gamers a variety of game types to cater to their entertainment value, including solo play, co-op, competitive multiplayer, strikes, and more. And they have a lot of “events” within the universe of their game. You’ll be wandering a hostile planet and see a beacon for an event like stopping an enemy shipment or holding a base against enemies, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely if you participate. It is a game designed to open up to your style of play instead of funneling you down a specific path.
What the “Destiny” allure is really all about is its addictive reward system. From the very beginning, it is a game built around loot; collecting new weapons, helmets, cloaks, etc. And the only way to get bigger/faster/stronger items in your inventory is to progress through the game via missions, events, strikes, etc. It’s a remarkably addictive gaming structure in that you keep getting new toys and then you want to take them into the field, which gives you new toys, and so on and so on. “Destiny 2” is a game deeply customizable in terms of how you can mod and even shade your weapons, allowing an experience that feels both communal and individual. That’s really this masterful game’s master stroke—it encourages teamwork while also maintaining your singular voice.
You can play “Destiny 2” for hours and hours by yourself. However, you’re encouraged to team up with friends, playing missions cooperatively and going on strikes as a combat unit. The gameplay and storytelling are simple enough—it could be encapsulated in “shoot the bad guys and proceed” although the game avoids feeling repetitive through its weapons—that gamers can finetune the experience in a way that makes it their own. And “Destiny 2” promises, like the first game, to be a consistently evolving and improving gaming experience. That is one of this franchise’s most remarkable elements—even after I finished the story missions, I jumped right back into this universe. Not many games feel like they’re starting after the story mission credits roll, but “Destiny 2” is not like many games. A Hunter’s job is never done.
I had a chance to speak to David Dague, Community Manager at Bungie, about “Destiny 2.”
How much pressure do you feel to top the original when you're developing a game like "Destiny 2"?
While we know that the players of “Destiny” are always expecting bigger and better things from us, the pressure you’re describing is self-imposed more than anything. At Bungie, we’re always looking to outdo our most recent accomplishment, just like the players of our games. The original launch of “Destiny” was an introduction to a new world and new type of game for us. “Destiny 2” has been a great chance for us to reinvent and refine the action that brings people together in that space.
Film blockbusters often feel a pressure to be bigger/faster/more in their sequel. Did you feel that too in terms of scope and how do you avoid falling into the trap of "quantity over quality" that often kills sequels?
Everything we do at Bungie serves the player experience. Our work on “Destiny” revolves around some very specific goals and philosophies. We want to make a game that casts you in the role of a powerful hero. We want to send you to fantastic worlds that capture your imagination and invite you to explore. We want to cultivate amazing action that brings you into contact with other players who just end up becoming your teammates or, on a long enough timeline, your friends. Every creative decision we make serves those ideals.
How important is ongoing support? Raids, updates, downloadable content, etc. It seems to me that this is one of the essential elements of the "Destiny" world—an ever-changing landscape, a game that never feels "done."
We definitely strive to make the world of “Destiny” feel alive. Once you’ve experienced the story of the Red War in “Destiny 2,” the Tower becomes home to a ritual endgame that compels players to master their discipline as warriors. We bring players together to rally to their favorite faction or battle for honor and glory in their preferred competitive event. From time to time, we expand the boundaries of that experience with new destinations to visit where we can tell new stories, introduce you to new characters, and give you new ways to make your Guardian more powerful.
What mistakes did you make in the first game that you corrected here?
Launching a brand-new game and studying the millions of players who pour their hearts into it has been an amazing learning experience for us. I think the most important evolution that you would find in “Destiny” is that we do a much better job of honoring the different ways people like to play. The stories we’re telling are deeper and more driven by vivid characters. The act of exploring the worlds we’ve created is deeper and more rewarding. The toughest challenges in the game are more accessible by more players. Just about every path you travel as a character in our game leads you to your maximum potential as a hero.
How is this different from the downloadable content released for the first game? You surely want to make this feel familiar to fans of the first game but also more than just an add-on to it—how do you balance those two things?
We definitely saw “Destiny 2” as a fresh start for every player. This is a brand-new story, driven by new structures to lead players to their next milestone of action or evolution. New players take their steps into the wild frontier with every other Guardian who flees a City under attack. For legacy players in our community, we’ve raised the stakes with a bold tale of loss and recovery.
What inspired you from other mediums? Sci-fi literature or film? And what inspired you from other games and franchises?
There are so many artistic disciplines that come together in our creative process—everything from illustration to music composition. The culture of “Destiny” is a rich tapestry of cultural influences that lead to themes like bravery and sacrifice and heroism. We’re blending science fiction and fantasy. We’re combining first-person action with meaningful character customization. All of these elements converge to create an adventure that becomes what players make of it.
Why are people so devoted to “Destiny”?
Our best assumption is that people love “Destiny” because of the relationships that they find there. When a game becomes a place where you can find your friends, the experience transcends software, or even art. Even if a person is not a social gamer, there is a relationship to be had with one’s character, as they learn new ways to fight and add new things to their arsenal to make themselves more unique. “Destiny” can be different every time you play, which is why we see players returning to that space again and again.