Tomorrow, May 18, at 10 a.m. Pacific time, Bungie will give players our first-ever glimpse of gameplay footage from Destiny 2. The game was officially announced in March, but rumors of its development emerged sometime before the release of The Taken King in 2015. Almost three years after its record-setting launch – Activision claimed that it was the most successful new game franchise launch ever – Destiny remains among the most popular games watched on Twitch, and is still one of the most-played titles on PS4 and Xbox One. At last count it had more than 25 million registered players. But it hasn't been an easy road for Bungie. The MMO-inspired shooter's player base has been intensely critical, and chronically frustrated, from day one.
It's not that Destiny is a bad game – it’s incredibly addictive (in spurts) if you have the right squad of buddies; but it is deeply flawed. When you stop and consider the vast untapped potential – of what might have been – you begin to see the problems lurking beneath the surface. In Bungie's 2013 video "Pathways Out of Darkness," the developer made a promise that's haunted Destiny ever since: "the ultimate adventure," they said, "unfolds over the next 10 years." In the same video, however, design lead Jason Jones says the aim was to craft an experience that'll "keep a player going for 50 or 100 hours over some number of months." Naturally, the hype of a post-Halo Bungie title in a shared, evolving online world led players to cling to the more hyperbolic of those promises. Disappointment was inevitable. And yet – according to the game clock – I've spent an incredible 1,839 hours of my life playing Destiny so far. So how to reconcile what many saw as a broken promise with the realities of its enduring popularity?
One of the excuses I like to make for my continued faith in Destiny is the radical improvements Bungie made (particularly on the PvP side of things) when they developed Halo 2. The original Halo was a groundbreaking moment in console-gaming history, but its 2004 sequel shattered the mold of what we all thought the Xbox was capable of, ushering in a golden age of eminently available – and brilliantly playable – online multiplayer. If Destiny's issues can be chalked up to behind-the-scenes turmoil, then I'm willing to give the series another chance on the basis of its many strengths.
In the meantime, as we await tomorrow's unveiling, now’s the perfect time to look at where the wildly ambitious Destiny failed – and what Bungie can do to make the sequel into the kind of game we know they're capable of delivering.