In the months following its September launch, Destiny 2 developer Bungie has been in a tight spot trying to keep its community happy. Despite a solid start that showed stronger storytelling, quest variety, and sense of progression compared to the original, the sequel eventually fell into the same pitfall that its predecessor did: there's just not much to do in Destiny 2 if you're in it for the long-haul.
During the developer's recent livestream showcasing many of the points of interest in the upcoming Warmind expansion, they were frank about their attempts to address the problems regarding challenges, content diversity, and the steep grind the Destiny 2 community has been unhappy with--me included. While I really enjoyed Destiny 2 in its early months--even clearing the game's story and reaching Raid status with three characters--my enthusiasm for the game quickly dropped after Curse of Osiris.
As the May 8 release date for Warmind draws closer, it's worth considering whether Bungie's recent seasonal updates and the upcoming expansion can fix the game's issues relating to its grind and the resulting fatigue.
To start, let's take a look at the current state of Destiny 2. Since the release of December's Curse of Osiris DLC, which included forge weapons, new story missions, and a new Raid Lair (an additional area to explore in the Leviathan Raid), Bungie has introduced seasonal updates, offering scheduled tweaks to improve the core game. During the ongoing Season 2, quality-of-life updates such as new Crucible and Nightfall rewards, weapon and class rebalancing, Masterwork weapons, tweaks to Exotic drop rates, and changes to the sandbox exploration were introduced. Destiny 2 is all the better for these additions. However, the game still needs to make larger attempts to figure out how to combat the slump that makes it hard for players who may have fallen out with the game to want to come back.
One of the biggest problems with the original Destiny was that it was easy to exhaust much of the game's content given its relatively brisk campaign and focus on repeating missions and events. This was a symptom of the original game's growing identity, which it slowly developed over the course of its first year--resulting in the fantastic, game-changing expansion The Taken King. Destiny 2 has a greater sense of itself and is smart about how it manages to make things interesting during the early months, but it quickly falls victim to the recurring issue of player engagement, along with a series of poor matchmaking, quest design, and shallow endgame content.
One issue that's arguably worse in the sequel is that it's difficult to measure progress gained after reaching a certain point after the campaign's completion. While reaching Raid status was the benchmark, the pursuit of that often forces players to go through a series of hurdles to make it. Players will eventually find themselves having to repeat the same content with continually diminishing returns--made worse by some odd drop-rates and occurrences of repeat loot that Bungie have attempted to address with recent patches. While this is inevitable for many online games focusing on the grind, other titles have made that pursuit of fresh loot engaging in the long-term, but Destiny 2's approach to the endgame cycle makes for a largely futile and exhausting experience. When your efforts to progress seems to conflict with the game's grind--which is supposed to fun and challenging, but comes off as taxing--then it creates a sense of angst among the community, making them feel like their time isn't being well-spent.
The Warmind expansion shows more of an earnest attempt on the developers' part to address these concerns. Focusing on a return trip to Mars, players will explore a new region called Hellas Basin and take on new missions and world events. In addition to new story characters to interact with, new bosses to fight, and new Exotics to find, the expansion also features a different approach to world quests. With Escalation Protocol, you'll be able to tackle a horde-mode style mission in the sandbox, taking on waves of Hive in order to reach the boss of the world event. Unlike other world events tied to specific schedules, Escalation Protocol is activated at any time after finishing the main story. Moreover, you can join other players who are engaged in their own events--even if you haven't reached the DLC campaign's conclusion.
While this side mission is a smaller remedy to Destiny 2's issues--and it's similar in design to The Taken King's Court of Oryx event--it still represents one of the more reassuring aspects of Warmind. As one of the key ways to acquire higher-end gear outside of the new Raid Lair, Escalation Protocol can be done at your leisure--which cuts back on general fatigue and frustration, making it feel like you have more control over what kind of rewards the game can offer you. This is a stark contrast to how gaining higher-end gear worked in Curse of Osiris, which placed its Lost Prophecies behind arbitrary gating. By leaning into systems that focused on grinding and sticking players in situations where they had to wait for stuff to happen, it personally made me less inclined to want to finish playing through more of the campaign's endgame content.
This also goes into the heart of the issue with Destiny 2, in that it has trouble respecting the average player's time. With Raids being commitments of several hours, PvP rewards being mostly middling and too dependant on whether you have a good team, and Nightfall and Heroic quests requiring players to repeat the same tired quests over and over, the game struggles with allowing meaningful gains to be made in short bursts. When the systems designed to keep players playing are too tiring to enjoy in the long-term, then it calls into question the structure that houses all the content you want to explore.
Warmind doesn't sound like a major revision, unfortunately. Having said that, what I find interesting about the expansion is that it feels awfully nostalgic of Destiny 1. With the return to Mars, the Rasputin AI finally being given some more attention, and Exotics like the Suros Regime making a comeback, the expansion seems to know how to perk up some returning players. But in truth, making Destiny 2 more enjoyable and less of a slog isn't just about adding in more weapons and armor, new areas to explore, and new story quests. It's about offering those great heroic moments and making them feel like they matter long after your quest's completion--as opposed to being just another moment in a long series of moments during a grind for better gear.
Destiny 2's new expansion seems like a step in the right direction. Not big steps, but movement towards progress all the same. With Season 3 starting on the same day as the DLC's launch, Bungie will be adding in more quality-of-life changes including additional vault space, private matches, an emote wheel, and Exotic Masterwork weapons. Destiny 2 is still a solid first-person shooter with some of the best-controlling action and gameplay in the genre, and while it feels like we're about due for this game to have its own Taken King-style expansion that fleshes out its core in the right ways, Warmind does show a greater awareness of what Destiny 2's issues are--and how it best tries to improve itself.