Destiny 2, Six Months Later

Destiny 2 launched exactly six months ago today, though at times it feels more like six years. A bunch has changed since September, and the game has gone through some dramatic highs and lows. (Mostly lows.)

Destiny 2's long, slow crawl toward its possible (hopeful?) redemption is underway. Let's step back and go over the events of the last six months.

  • Destiny 2 came out on September 6, 2017. Activision notoriously refuses to release actual hard sales numbers for Destiny games, though the company did say in December that D2 generated the second-highest North American revenue of any game in 2017.

    It sounds like it sold well, though Activision's CEO acknowledged in February that the game's players have some issues with it. It also was solidly reviewed, and the base game is sitting in the 80s on all three platforms on Metacritic.

    The December Curse of Osiris expansion, however, is down in the 50s on console, with a 63 on PC. As flawed as Metacritic is, those two number-ranges do accurately summarize the game's downward trajectory from September through December.

  • One of the game's early controversies involved the revamped shader system, which turned out to be annoying for a different reason than players feared: we have way too many shaders and they're a pain to manage and/or dismantle. There was also a set of Hunter gauntlets that featured a hate symbol, which Bungie quickly removed from the game.
  • The Leviathan raid launched on September 13, and The Legend Himself clan beat it in just six hours. The raid itself, which took place within a palace on top of a world-eating Leviathan creature, featured the exiled Cabal emperor Calus, and was largely set up by an optional adventure on Nessus.

    The raid has since been revamped slightly to give better and more consistent rewards, and in December received one new "raid lair" in the Curse of Osiris expansion, called Eater of Worlds, which functions as a separate mini-raid. (It's pretty great.)

  • For a few weeks after the game came out, the MIDA Multi-Tool scout rifle dominated the game's meta to the point of ridiculousness. Eventually people stopped using it as much, and a more sturdy and varied meta emerged.

    Favoured weapons include hand cannons like Better Devils and Midnight Coup, submachine gun Antiope-D, auto-rifles like Uriel's Gift or Positive Outlook, burst-fire sidearms like Last Hope, rocket launchers like Sins of the Past and Curtain Call, and a handful of exotics like Sunshot, Merciless, The Colony, and Sweet Business. (There are other good weapons, too; I'm just not gonna list them all.)

    Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of guns in Destiny are so clearly inferior to the small pool of top weapons that there is no real reason to keep any of them around. The end result is that although there are dozens of different weapons in the game, it only feels like there are around 20.

  • By the end of September, it was clear that something was off about Destiny 2, as more and more players ran out of things to do and the game's shortcomings came into sharper focus. The core of the problem was related to Destiny 2's struggle to balance between more casual and more hardcore players, and it became clear that Bungie hadn't really designed it to satisfy people who wanted to put in dozens of hours per week like they had with Destiny 1. More (much more) on Bungie's attempts at course-correction a bit further down.
  • Since Destiny 2 launched, players have encountered a number of widely reported glitches, including a raid exploit in October that necessitated the delay of prestige difficulty and a Monty Python-inspired emote a week later that let players glitch through walls.

    The emote glitch led to a two-week cancellation of the Trials of the Nine weekend event, since some players were using it to hide in impossible-to-reach places. There was also the "coil glitch," which let you use the Wardcliff Coil rocket launcher to magically refill your power ammo.

    The first two issues were subsequently patched, but coil glitching is still a thing. A minor controversy ensued after Clan Redeem got a world's first on the Prestige Leviathan raid while taking advantage of the coil glitch.

  • The week-long Faction Rally event had players pick one of three factions and go farm coins from a variety of activities.

    If your faction gets the most coins, they win. Dead Orbit won the first faction rally, and New Monarchy won the next three in a row, so the count as of March 2018 is: Dead Orbit: 1, New Monarchy: 3, Future War Cult: 0. Future War Cult's lack of a win indicates that people care more about cool armour and shaders than they do about good guns, which, fair enough.

    Bungie has indicated that Faction Rallies and Rally rewards will be getting some tweaks and improvements in the months to come, but for now the system has remained mostly unchanged since launch.

  • In October, Bungie's official "OK, We Want To Fix Destiny 2" campaign got underway. It started with a vague but promising blog post from live team game director Chris Barrett, who outlined a bunch of goals for improving endgame pursuits.
  • The competitive Crucible changed significantly from the first game: Team size had been reduced from six to four, abilities and super meters recharged much more slowly, the new weapon loadouts meant fewer active one-hit-kill weapons like shotguns and sniper rifles at any given moment, and weapons generally did less damage, rewarding teams for playing conservatively and sticking together. We spoke with a number of top Destiny 2 players about the state of PvP in October, and there was a consensus among them that the PvP had problems.

    The way the game had been rebalanced encouraged conservative, boring play and made solo "hero moments" much rarer. In the months since our article, PvP players have only grown more dissatisfied. That's a major problem for the game, given that spicy PvP was a big part of what gave the first Destiny such longevity.

  • In October, the first Iron Banner PvP event debuted. Like many things in Destiny 2, it was a recurring Destiny 1 event that had been significantly revamped.

    The changes, including a removal of Iron Banner rank and a token-based reward system, left the Iron Banner feeling lacklustre, with little to differentiate an IB match from a regular Crucible match.

    That's changing later this month, as a planned March 27 patch will return to 6v6 Control matches. It will be interesting to see how well 6v6 matches work on Destiny 2's maps, which were presumably designed for teams of four.

  • On October 24, Destiny 2 launched on PC. It was an exceptionally slick PC port, but it arrived well after fans had begun to turn on the game.

    The PC version had a mostly smooth launch, as PC launches go, though there were some early complaints about waves of bans being issued to PC players. The first Destiny was only on consoles, and the PC version opened the series up to a whole new crowd.

  • November's rigged XP debacle was the closest thing Destiny 2 had to an outright scandal, and was a tipping point for communications between Bungie and fans.

    A growing number of Destiny 2 players had started attempting to document how the game dished out XP, and eventually found discrepancies that indicated that the game was invisibly throttling XP gains while telling players everything was working as usual. Bungie copped to it in late November, writing, "after reviewing our data, we agree that the system is not performing the way we'd like it to."

  • The XP revelations gummed up Bungie's marketing plan for the December Curse of Osiris expansion. Bungie cancelled its second promo livestream for the expansion (probably for the best, given how disappointing the first one was) and instead went to work writing a lengthy, detailed blog post laying out in much greater detail the changes Christopher Barrett had hinted at back in October.

    "We know it's frustrating when there isn't enough of a dialogue with the development team," wrote Barrett and game director Luke Smith. "You have our commitment that we're going to do a better job going forward." The post introduced news of Masterwork weapons, some new armour ornaments, and Xur's "Fated Engram," as well as offering some more detail on a bunch of changes planned for further down the road.

  • The XP stuff also fuelled fan anger over the Eververse microtransaction store, which had been a point of ire for many Destiny 2 players since the game launched. (Unsurprising, given how in-game purchases tend to sow player distrust.)

    The December "Dawning" seasonal event brought problems with the Eververse to a new level, as players determined that it would require a ridiculous amount of Eververse engrams to get all the Dawning gear before time ran out.

    Bungie subsequently corrected course during the February Crimson Days event and made event engrams only earnable through in-game activities, after promising in January that it was overhauling microtransactions.

  • The December expansion itself was mostly disappointing. The story campaign had some neat narrative moments but was tedious, and the Vex's simulated "infinite forest" was a repetitive drag.

    Bright spots included the new "Raid Lair" mini-raid that was added to the Leviathan, as well as the bugged, hilariously overpowered laser rifle Prometheus Lens. Bungie wisely leaned into the Prometheus bug, having Xur sell it the first weekend after adding it to the game, which briefly turned the Crucible into a ridiculous, very funny laser-fest.

    The gun was subsequently nerfed, but its legacy - and players' hunger for weirder, wilder Crucible modes - lives on.

  • Curse of Osiris included one more major screw-up: the expansion locked players who hadn't bought the season pass out of some high-level content they'd been able to access the week prior.

    Bungie quickly admitted that "we've made some mistakes" and backtracked, reverting to old power requirements. The rest of December was easily Destiny 2's lowest point so far. It had begun to feel like every week might end with another sheepish apology from Bungie, and another vow to do better.

    A tide of resentment swept through the hardcore fanbase; "Goodbye, Destiny" videos became a common sight on YouTube; high-profile streamers began to move to other games like Fortnite and PUBG as the game's Twitch viewership plummeted. The tides had turned against Destiny 2, and it became clear that the series would need months or even years to recover its standing among fans.

  • 2018 started out unevenly: there was another micro-controversy breaking out surrounding Faction Rally rewards, along with another, even more detailed post from Bungie about improvements coming to the game, including a promised de-emphasis on microtransaction items.

    So much of what was happening felt like a repeat of Destiny 1's rocky first year, and the sequel was repeating its predecessor's mistakes almost to the letter.

  • Ikora Rey's notification was bugged and had been blinking for me for months. It was driving me batty. Bungie finally patched it on January 30, and I felt such relief, I cannot even tell you. I know this isn't really as substantial as the other entries in this post, but man, it was so annoying.

  • On a more positive note, the improvements Bungie had promised in late 2017 (slowly) began to appear in the game. Masterwork weapons had been introduced in December but by January, enough players had masterwork guns that their orb-generation ability began to noticeably increase the amount of supers each player got during strikes.

    The game has also gotten an overhauled Nightfall strike system, a bunch of armour ornaments that can be unlocked by completing in-game challenges, some new emblem variants, and public tower chat for PC players. Nothing groundbreaking, but improvements are improvements.

  • The game's weapon balance has remained more or less stagnant since September, which has frustrated PvP-focused players who had hoped for more frequent balance updates.

    There was one significant(ish) balance patch in December, but it mostly made nips and tucks, rather than upending the careful (but, some players would argue, boring) balance Bungie had struck at launch.

    That looks like it will change in the near future, with a significant rebalancing update due on March 27, which Bungie says will buff a bunch of weapon archetypes, speed up player movement, hasten ability recharges, and reduce power ammo respawn timers, among other things. (Those balance changes will also affect PvE play.) The 1.1.4 update, as it's called, will also introduce the aforementioned 6v6 Iron Banner, as well as reintroducing Destiny 1's Mayhem and Rumble game-types.

  • Destiny 2 also wasn't hiding any noteworthy secrets like the classic D1 mystery hunts - Sleeper Simulant, Black Spindle, Outbreak Prime - that we recently revisited on a special episode of Kotaku Splitscreen that you should definitely go listen to if you're reading this.

    When asked in January if Destiny 2 would be getting more hidden quests like those ones in the future, Barrett responded on Twitter with a single word: "Yup."

  • Bungie created and then updated a clear timeline to help players keep track of what changes would be coming and when. The roadmap has already shifted once; here is the most current version, which was posted on February 21, 2018:

And that's where things are at. Season pass owners will get one more Curse of Osiris-size expansion sometime in the next few months, followed by another more substantial paid expansion in early fall, similar to how the first game got House of Wolves in June of 2015, followed closely by that September's The Taken King.

Destiny 2 has had a rough half-year, but the steady drip of changes and improvements indicates an upward trajectory. It feels as though the game won't hit a comfortable new path until the big fall expansion at the earliest, assuming that is indeed the Taken King-style overhaul most of us assume it will be.

In the interim, the next big change to look forward to will be the weapon balance update at the end of March, which coincides with the return of Rumble and 6v6 Iron Banner.

Are you still playing Destiny 2? Have you taken a break, or maybe uninstalled the game and traded in your copy in disgust? Did you switch to Monster Hunter: World and never look back?

I played for a few hours over the weekend, which was my first extended foray into Destiny 2 in more than a month. I had fun and appreciated the small improvements Bungie has made so far, though the game still feels a few substantial spritzes shy of fully freshened up.


    I actually bought a copy for PC back when that came out, but the constant stream of bullshit with the console release and then the game in general, combined with the fact that people seemed to abandon it within a week or two meant I never actually bothered to fire it up once it came out, I just played other games instead.

    Now it's 6 months later and I have zero incentive or interest to even try it.

    Moral of the story: don't preorder digital PC releases. :(

      You could totally hit up Blizzard and ask for a refund, just give them the reason why you didn't play and why you deserve the refund. They are generally pretty good about it. I pre-pucharsed Starcraft 2 expac realized I wouldn"t play it sent them an email and I got a refund within 5 days.

        Bought it via a key reseller (Green Man Gaming) rather than Blizzard directly so no refunds.

          Yeah that kinda sucks. I don't get how third parties can sell game keys cheaper then the main publishers sell them for, goes to show it pays to shop around.

            Swings and roundabouts. I buy from GMG sometimes because I live in Seattle right now, which means when I buy from Steam I pay 10% sales tax. The way WA sales tax works is that you only pay it on items purchased from companies inside the state, but the downside is that everyone (Valve, Amazon, Microsoft, Nintendo...) are in Seattle. GMG are in the UK so obviously don't pay WA state taxes. :)

            GMG also has discounts sometimes which makes it an even better deal. The downside is this situation - there's no real way to return it once you get the key.

              Yeah very true. Kinda like my mate, he purchased all the WOW expacs and the current Legion for 60 bucks or so. Which is about an $80 saving across the board. But like you stated unless your 100% in on the product you kind of get boned.

      It's actually not bad as a single player game. I was enjoying the campaign after getting past earth.

      Dropped it like a hot potato after that though and went back to The Division / Warframe

    I'm a casual player, and mostly play a few hours a week with my partner. I haven't really even noticed the "controversies" around the game, and probably wouldn't even be aware of them at all except for Kotaku articles.

    It's a fun game, I enjoy playing it and I'm looking forward to what Bungie release for it in the future.

      Also, re: Monster Hunter World - I tried it at PAX last year and really didn't like it, so apparently I have opposite tastes in games to lots of other people :)

        As a PC player I haven't been able to play it yet, I'm cautiously hopeful but from what I've seen the combat looks pretty mediocre, and the rest of the game not much better. Not sure I understand the hype for MHW, but I'll probably give it a shot and hope it's better in hand.

          Have you played the other MH games before? If not its hard to explain the joy it brings, even with "mediocre" combat. I myself am loving every bit of MH. It is a welcome change from the DS to see it in HD glory on my television.

            Nah I haven't played the others, not played too many games on portable devices except Pokémon as I never really had the need for portable gaming and I'm not gonna play those (portable) games over something on PC or full fledged console while at home.

            Is the story good in MHW?

              Well I can say that the story is far easier to follow then its predecessors, and I am enjoying the story so far, it kind of lays out the framework of the game, story wise and mechanically pretty smoothly over a few missions. The tempo of the story also flows at a nice pace,(you can grind away or shoot through story without too much hassle). Then when it comes to the bigger monster hunts when you put the time and effort in, really makes it fell like you earned the right to slay/trap said monster. But like I always say that is only my opinion and you might not get the same enjoyment out of the game as I do, but that said it really is worth a look.

    Wasn't Destiny as a franchise supposed to be a 10-year deal?

    I feel like it's going to be a case of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" etc. I can't see people buying into Destiny 3 as readily.

      3 (or possibly 4 - i can't remember) games are part of the 10 year deal with Activision.

      I've seen some pretty good commentary and analysis on youtube. eg. Curse or Osiris and Season content being locked behind Eververse would take 18 months (best case) non stop grinding to obtain all those item or anywhere between $150 to $5000 additional RM cost (depending on engram RNG). Just grinding alone, it's impossible to get all the season items within 12 months allotted time lol.

      Another good one was when they dropped the respawn rates of faction rally caches in lost sectors but then added a booster item to the Eververse that you could buy for RM to boost your XP from these caches back to what they were prior to the nerf!!!

      If these aren't a clear indication of the companies motivation than I don't know what is!

      If the base game of D3 is as good as D2 I'd be more than happy to pay the price tag. Seriously the content of base D2 is pretty damn fun and quite a lot of it, i really don't understand these complaints. It's better value than almost any shooting game of the last 5 years.

      Not saying I disagree with all the complaints, but I see that one too much and don't understand what people are smoking

    I played the demo, enjoyed it, but these games that are designed to just keep you playing for eons never appeal to me. Fun but was a pass. I'd much rather a strong SP story and experience.

    I honestly don't know how it sold 1 copy. I loved the first one for a long while but got totally burnt by the end. its probably the greatest love hate relationship i have with any game. Wouldn't touch it again if it was the last game on earth, but i still have great memories from the first game. I then remember the pain again..... cant separate the emotions

      Destiny had some flaws, and Bungie went into Destiny 2 promising to focus on them.

      And they did. They based the entire game around them without fixing any of them, and produced an empty pinata - looked fine on the outside, but when you hit to hard you realised it was hollow and had no lollies inside.

      Last edited 07/03/18 6:59 pm

    I know that I'm in the minority but I really like the game and still play it regularly. I'm a parent so my time is limited, but I still raid most nights of the week (most crews I roll with can get a raid clear in a relatively short space of time).

    The "friend-game" as it has been referred to is actually quite relevant to me. I've made a lot of friends through my clan (they are super active and parent friendly). I regularly come back to it because it's really nice to play a game with other people. I still find the raids to be quite fun even though I've cleared both many times.

    Last edited 07/03/18 1:10 pm

      Not sure if this is allowed but whays the clan name and is there any spots free? I've been looking for an active D2 Parent Friendly (late night) clan. The couple I've join all want to start raiding at 7:30-8 when I'm still getting the kids to bed! :-)

        Check out Dads of Destiny. It is actually made up of 4 clans (we all use the one discord channel to chat with each other). It is still super active. The subclan I'm part of is DoD SouthGuard. Check them out. If there's no room there, there will be room in one of the other clans. We all raid together most nights of the week.

      I just don't find leviathan anywhere near as cool as d1 raids. It's almost purely puzzles besides Castellum and callus throne room. Raids should be about both puzzles and balls to the wall ads coming out your ass, testing your combat mettle!!

    Also shout-outs to Kirk and Jason for their awesome podcast "The Secret Hunters of Destiny"

    Smashed the first game, even with all the hate. Took a break around Wrath of Machine but came back and smashed that too.
    D2 looks prettier... the gun play is tight... It is just sooooooo boring. Maybe to much of D1? Maybe it is to like D1? But it really just feels so bland.
    The raid is a game show as opposed to D1 Vault of Glass, which my friends and I still talk about, glitches and all.
    I also think the DLC you get with the season pass is pathetic (kind of like D1). Actually, I still haven't finished the Osiris content. YAWN.

    And yes, 120+ hours on monster hunter now.

    TL;DR I don't think I will be back for D3 or the DLC unless something changes.

    I've not played since late December, iirc. I'm keeping an eye on the subreddit, waiting for indications that it's worth coming back to, and will hop back in and finish whatever PvE content is added by the second DLC... but it's looking like I'll not be touching the game again until then.

    While I welcome the reprieve to work through some of my backlog, I miss my raid team...

      And apparently obligatory note about having 140+ hours in MHW. Not a fan of the augmentation grind once you hit HR50 (and this is speaking as someone whose first sullied streamstone turned out to be for hammers, the weapon I've been using for about 99% of my hunts), but everything else about the game is brilliant.

    What? Sorry? I'm busy playing Tom Clancy's The Division and I think I'm going to be playing a lot more, thanks to the mouth long rotation of the four Global Events in celebration of the two year anniversary.

    In my opinion I really just wish Activision/Bungie would acknowledge their next big blockbuster franchise after Halo hasn't quite panned out.
    And they go back to the drawing board on a new story driven ip.

      But his has worked out. They've probably made more from this than from halo. It's been a massive seller for both titles.

    Have 200 hours in Destiny 2. Not too bad. I think I have had my money's worth. I'll pop back on when the DLC drops or the next IB. The last thing I did was complete the campaign on my two alts. With the loot drops, it does seem you can do keep advancing with only a few hours play a week. The opposite of D1.

    Kotaku AU PS4 clan is pretty quiet for the last few months. Usually only a handful of regular players. I've dropped off since Monster Hunter World came out and between that and some weekend Rainbow Six Siege, that is enough to keep me away from D2 for now.

    Stopped playing it after about a month - did the campaign and the optional side quests then got bored with it - i only did one character, and never even bothered with the raid. Hell i didn't even do the nightfalls because of the stupid time limit fun killer.

    Compared to hundreds and hundreds of hours in destiny 1, finishing everything including the expansions on 3 characters.

    It's just more of the same - the differences didn't warrant a whole new game, and they clearly didn't learn anything from their past mistakes in d1. Can't believe they have the balls to have expansions not included in the season pass again.

    I still play D2 for a couple of hours every other night. Easy to jump in and play to relax and the recent Nightfall strike scoring is esp great with friends / clan mates.

    I have to agree that getting the exotic loot in D2 has been way too easy / casual, so there's no more 'wow' moments when you get an exotic (because of tokens) and most don't feel exotic to use in general. And they really need those secret exotic quests in the game ASAP.

    They got rid of random rolls, which I was never a fan of, but they never replaced it with a better system for grinding. Hopefully the Mods 2.0 will be good and will have some RPG crafting elements (which I thought the whole Infinite Forge weapons could have done).

    Snipers and Fusion rifles needs a serious buff since they are no use compared to rockets and shotties. I was going to suggest putting them back in the secondary/energy slot, but that would unbalance TF out of PvP.

    Finally, exotic swords please.

    Most disappointing game of 2017. One day there will be a good Destiny game, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Still waiting for Activision board come swooping in fire everyone resposible for this mess, restructures Bungie into a game engine development team and hands the whole IP contentband community to Blizzard.

      Yeh for the third one I can't see how it couldn't be a better game if the Bungie team joined forces with Blizzard and created a super powerful entity, much like Voltron, and called themselves BLINGIE ( defender of the eververse) .
      They could have a fat guy dev called chunk and a little nerd designer called pidgie, a euro heart throb called sven who I dunno...animates two more guys I forget the names of, and they could totally save the video game universe, uniting casual and hardcore guardians alike. It could be beautiful a lone snowflake floating thru the vacuum of space, reflecting sunlight and happiness to everybody.
      Except the evil denizens of Planet Reddit, because fuck those guys.

    Greatest waste of potential gaming has ever seen. Was good fun for a week, then there was nothing to do or work towards. Everyone looked the same and used the same weapons with the same skill tree. Boring!

    Destiny 2 hasn't caused an issue for a couple of weeks. Quick! Make an article rehashing it all to try and milk more views.

    "I know this isn't really as substantial as the other entries in this post, but man, it was so annoying."

    When everything is naff, the small things seem far more annoying.

    Havent touched it in 6 months. The game does not interest me at all anymore and it seems bungie does not want to admit they screwed up. RIP Bungie.

    There are other more fun games to play and better ways to spend my time.

    Destiny2 stopped respecting it's players long ago.

    My clan is dead, can't be bothered by bungies latest fail anymore.

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