Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2

Iron Banter: This Week In Destiny 2

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Destiny 2 was pretty great in 2021; let’s take a look at what excelled about it. Also, Xur is trapping Guardians in a black hole!

Phil Hornshaw

Just about every week brings something new to Destiny 2, whether it’s story beats, new activities, or interesting new combinations of elements that let players devastate each other in the Crucible. Iron Banter is our weekly look at what’s going on in the world of Destiny and a rundown of what’s drawing our attention across the solar system.

One of my favorite things about Destiny 2 is when unforeseen weirdness coalesces in just the right way to create a moment–something you had to be there to experience. Lately, we’ve had one of those, as the nuances of how Dares of Eternity works has thrown new players into an unwinnable activity where they get repeatedly stomped, much to the chagrin of Xur and disapproval of the Starhorse.

It’s an unlucky confluence of how Dares works. Your first time in the game after the launch of Dares of Eternity, you’re automatically thrown into a match. The mode has a slightly higher Power requirement than 1100, the current starting Power level, which is just enough to make enemies unmanageable for green Guardians. Dares also includes Champions, which you can’t defeat without mods unlocked through the seasonal artifact. Thus, Xur goes from being an amiable-if-bewildered Steve Harvey type, to a demonic Richard Dawson, and Dares stops being a Destiny version of Press Your Luck and becomes something more like The Running Man.

As Destiny community manager dmg04 noted on Twitter, however, all hope has not been lost. Veteran Guardians have been delving into the game show hell that’s trapping New Lights by equipping low-Power gear and rescuing the players being tormented there. And that’s the best solution to the problem that currently exists, with Bungie encouraging players to go help until a fix can be instituted sometime in the future. There’s even going to be an emblem honoring the heroism of those community members helping out the blueberries (as well as commemorating the blueberries whose first steps in Destiny were a crucible [ahem] of demented, impossible equine whims).

These little in-game moments don’t happen super often but, for me, when they do, they make the game feel special. Sure, it was super annoying to play the Crucible during the time of Lord of Wolves, when the Exotic shotgun-meets-pulse rifle was ludicrously powerful, and it was extremely tough to compete with anything else. But it was also kind of hilarious, if I’m being honest, and it’s fascinating to see these instances when just about everyone in the Destiny community seizes on a particular idea or a specific opportunity. Sometimes Bungie creates these moments with elements like the Corridors of Time. And sometimes, they happen by accident. Either way, they help make the game feel like something more than just a game.

At this point, it sounds like there are so many Destiny 2 players dropping their Power levels down to help stranded New Lights that there aren’t really that many stranded New Lights left. The way the Destiny community comes together on things like this is pretty cool, and something I love about playing this game over a long period is being able to reminisce about moments like this. Remember when Xur tried to trap all the new players in a black hole? That sure was funny.

Apropos of nothing: Go buy the “Too Cool Dance” emote in the Eververse store. It’s evil Peter Parker’s hilarious dance from Spider-Man 3, and it’s essentially free this week–it’s available for Bright Dust and costs the same amount that Bungie gives for the week as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration. Treat yourself.

Destiny 2’s Best Year

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With the close of 2021, GameSpot spent a whole lot of time looking at the past 12 months to assess the games we’d played, calling out the best of the year and highlighting our favorites. And now that that’s out of the way, I’ve been doing the same thing with Destiny over the last few days. I’ve been saying for a while that each year since the release of Forsaken, the game has seen significant improvement, and I think 2021 was Bungie’s best to date.

I tried to quantify some of those thoughts in another piece, where I zeroed in on one aspect that I think is indicative of the changes Destiny 2 has gone through this year that have seriously improved it: Crow. In a big way, Crow functions as a thematic protagonist for the story seasons following Beyond Light. He provides an outsider perspective on Destiny at large, and his backstory as Uldren Sov provides a thematic underpinning to everything that has happened. Crow is both a former enemy and someone who doesn’t see enemies in every alien–unlike those of us who have been playing the game for years. His perspective has freshened up a lot of storylines and shaken up a lot of characters.

I won’t rehash too much of what I already said about Crow. Some discussions I’ve had since publishing that article have pointed out, I think rightly, that despite the fact that I called him Destiny’s protagonist in that piece, he’s not everyone’s main character. I meant that more as a way to explain his function in the story–Crow is providing a through-line to seasons that would normally be somewhat segregated from one another. Destiny has a pretty diverse cast of characters at this point, and to the people who relate to those characters, Crow can feel like the sort of default male video game protagonist-type character. So when I say he’s the “main character” of Destiny right now, I mostly mean that his perspective is being used to challenge the game’s norms, thanks to his backstory, and not that he’s “better” or “more important” than the characters we already have years-long relationships with.

In fact, I’d say that while Crow’s moments were great in 2021, the best story told this year was that of Mithrax, Saint-14, Osiris, and Lakshmi-2 in the Season of the Splicer. The political machinery of the Tower, the re-evaluation of Saint’s relationship to the Eliksni, the tension between Saint and Osiris, the struggle of Mithrax to protect his people as a group of vulnerable refugees among ostensible enemies–it was all excellent, and added a huge degree of depth to traditional Destiny ideas. Crow was barely a part of that, and it’s true that you can think of each season as having its own protagonist. What I think Crow is indicative of is Bungie’s attempts to make each of those episodes part of a larger whole, not just happening near each other. And that has improved the game significantly in my mind.

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The entire seasonal approach, I think, has been greatly enhanced in 2021, such that it stands apart from other Destiny years. Even though we haven’t had an expansion for a bit since The Witch Queen was delayed, 2021 still did a great job of providing content at what felt like a solid, but not irritating, cadence. I know some players will take issue with that viewpoint, but I’d hazard that the vast majority of Destiny players–even die-hards–benefit from small bursts of weekly content or seasonal content, rather than bigger drops, on the whole. I’ve said before that I loved turning in each week for a TV show-like burst of Destiny 2, where I wasn’t required to sink hours into the game at any given time. There’s enough to engage without being buried. As an adult with other obligations, I found that flow to be excellent.

I liked each of the seasons this year and thought all of them had something good to offer. The seasonal activities feel like improvements and refinements over past years, and a lot of the frustrations that grew out of things like forge ignitions or warsat launches have been ironed out. It’s all just generally more fun and less annoying. The Shattered Realm and Expunge missions deserve special shoutouts, I think, as well–mixing six-player activities with these slightly slower, more thoughtful levels mixes up the weekly routine in a way that keeps things repeatable, while feeling a lot less repetitious. It’s a great approach.

Finally, I want to mention my favorite thing this year: Presage. A phenomenal story mission with tons of secrets, I played Presage over and over and over again to uncover everything it had to offer. It’s a particularly excellent mission because it taps into different aspects of the Destiny story and world, pulling on different emotions. I’d love to see more horror-leaning missions in Destiny 2 and I think Presage is an excellent proof-of-concept in that regard. We saw this year just how well Destiny 2 can juggle different genres of experience within its framework–I’d say that Dares and Grasp of Avarice are the best comedy Bungie has brought to the game, for instance, and that’s another high-water mark of “not the usual Destiny” to go with Presage. The variety is exciting, and I hope Destiny 2 takes more steps in different, creative directions.

Destiny 2 is in a great place as we head toward The Witch Queen. The game continues to improve with each passing year. From what I’ve heard from Bungie about its approach to the new expansion’s campaign, for instance, I’m pretty excited about what the future holds. The game has hit a particularly excellent stride, and it seems very likely that it’ll gain more momentum with the launch of The Witch Queen and beyond.

As always, feel free to drop your own feelings in the comments if you want to argue with my rosy take on Destiny 2, or if you’d like to call out anything you liked about the game in particular this year (like transmog–man, so much fashion). If there’s something you’d like to see in future instances of this column, you can drop those in the comments as well.

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