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Shoot, It's Destiny

As is often the case with this fellow burnout gamer, I generally agreed with what Yahtzee had to say about Destiny 2 during his Zero Punctuation review... that it is, in a word, derivative.  It does not see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, but rather it is afraid of touching the ground so it created a huge Frankenstein monster out of the assorted parts of all the giants that seemed to be successful before it.

I can look at just about any part of the game and see the usual tropes, all overwhelmingly things you have probably seen somewhere before:
  • Regenerating health bar with shattering shields on low health, complete with bloody screen so real.  In fact, Bungie might have pioneered regenerating health bars in their Halo series.  Beats having to dole out health packs in your level design, amirite?  At least the lore explains where the damage goes, and that's more than most developers bother to do.
  • The core of the gameplay is overwhelmingly standard first person shooter.  Point, shoot, and reload.  Aim for the head, it does the most damage.  The enemies will commonly drop ammo or loot on death because of course they do.  No wheels being reinvented here.
  • The activities are generic MMO tropes: raiding in the end game, quests when you are not raiding, public events to participate in out in the zones.  Yes, fellow virtual world connoisseurs, it's just yet another theme park.  There is also easy access to instanced PvP made up of 4 on 4 matches.  I suppose one innovative point here is just how accessible and well-divided these activities are, the players are basically allowed to click and choose what they want to do right away.
  • The vehicles you can get in have the properties of your average dirigible: after taking enough damage they catch fire and explode.
  • The enemies are mostly Halo-esque in design, each a slight variation on the usual Sci-fi aggressor tropes: Inter-dimensional alien invadersHostile alien scavengersCreepy alien infestationsAlien robotsAlien space marines.  "Lads" is an apt enough umbrella term.
  • Just like in your average massively multiplayer world, you will end up fighting the same foes over and over again, bigger and tougher in higher level zones, rarely with a new type of enemy to face among them.  Given the time investment, it's inevitable they will become old hat.
  • The progression mechanic is quite light and streamlined.  Get experience to gain levels.  Level cap is (currently) level 20.  Each level just gives you a skill point.  There's a surprisingly small selection of skills to invest those skill points in.  Your character's skill point investment will probably be maxed out within the first 20-40 hours of play.
  • Longer-term progression is found in the loot.  You can find and equip armor and weapons with bigger numbers, the occasional passive bonus, color-coded by rarity, and even slot in "mods" - basically the standard set by Diablo.  Loot is not as varied as Borderlands, but at least you can equip armor pieces in Destiny 2.
  • No surprise, then, that the endgame is as World of Warcraft defined it: performing certain activities for a chance to slightly tweak your gear and increase your "gear score."  Destiny 2 doesn't even wait for the endgame for this, it starts giving you a gear score right away, and rates most activities in terms of "recommended gear score."
See what I mean?  There's very little to the individual parts of  Destiny 2 which is particularly new.

If there is novelty to be found here, it is mostly in how well it is done.  Bungie, being a defining house of first person shooter development, have delivered in Destiny 2 a game that pushes your hardware in all the right ways, delivering drop-dead gorgeous scenes with smooth, solid gunplay.  Perhaps the opposite side of the coin from "derivative" is "refined."
But it's mostly just as Yahtzee said, "go to place and shoot the lads."  Playing Destiny 2, I shoot lads.  I shoot them and shoot them and shoot them.  I get a new piece of equipment, compare the numbers on my character sheet, maybe equip the new item, and then continue to shoot lads.  Maybe this mission has a tank in it: I get in the tank and shoot lads.  Maybe I gained a level from shooting lads: I invest a point in my character somewhere and shoot lads.  Destiny 2 is a class act of shooting lads.

In fact, I found picking a class to play to be kind of pointless.  They all do essentially the same thing:
  • Titan - Wear Storm Trooper armor, are a little more resilient, punch lads in the face, boost jump, but mostly shoot lads.
  • Hunter - Oddly into leather and capes for a futuristic game, move a little faster, stab lads in the face, double jump, but mostly shoot lads.
  • Warlock - Wear Jedi robes, recover health a little faster, magic palm strike lads in the face, glide jump, but mostly shoot lads.
Maybe it gets more distinct at later levels but, judging by my early experiments in the game, class is mostly just a choice of thematic flavor.  The abilities and unique armor are all about letting you look the look.  They don't make you more offensively or defensively better off than the other class, nor do they grant you better overall utility.  Rather, which class you choose just have a different theme to the way they do the same thing as any other class.
This feeling is strongly reinforced because, about 80% of the time, you'll just be shooting lads.  Turns out everybody uses pretty much the same guns.  Regardless of what class you play, you have three gun slots, along with the same choice of what you want to put in them:
  • Kinetic is your basic bread and butter damage, and is basically any typical kind of gun you can imagine: pistols, rifles, submachine guns, ect.
  • Energy is the same kind of gun, but these ones are elementally charged, so more effective against shields, less effective against everything else. 
  • Power is the hard hitters, everything from high-powered sniper rifles to rocket launchers to... well, oddly enough, you can choose to equip a sword here.  Power ammo is much harder to accumulate than the other two kinds.
So gameplay is very similar between the different classes: you'll have the same guns on your screen and be aiming for the head of the enemy.  Beyond cosmetics, the class difference can be found in how you jump, what grenades you're throwing, what class-specific armor buffs you have, what the secondary effect of punching things is, your super move, what staple class ability you can trigger, and maybe a few other minor differences.  Most of this stuff is gated to only be used sporadically, so that means you're usually just aiming and shooting a gun, just like everybody else.

The more I talk about Destiny 2, or see somebody else play it, the less I want to play it... but then I play it, and it's actually a lot of good fun.

Yes, it's all about shooting lads.  Yes, it lacks more advanced mechanics.  But I guess more advanced mechanics would just get in the way of better quality shooting lads.  There are subtle nuances of how Bungie carried off shooting lads in Destiny 2 which effectively make it remarkably fun to play...
...until it isn't anymore.  A fair number of players seem to find that Destiny 2 fizzles out after enough play.  It seems the endgame is currently rather lacking.  Could it be that shooting lads has a finite enjoyment threshold?  Such a thought is blasphemy in the halls of Bungie, and I suppose the long term success of the first Destiny game suggests these people are leaving for other reasons.

I have learned Destiny 2 can be more fun than my repeated clone game burnout suggests.  However, I remain skeptical as to whether I made the right choice in the long run.  Perhaps future patches and expansions will introduce what the game needs but, for now, the destiny of Destiny 2 feels uncertain.
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