With the ups and downs of long-running live-service games like Destiny 2, you can hardly be blamed if you’re one of the many people wondering if now’s a good time to jump in. My passionate love-hate relationship with this iconic Bungie shooter is well-documented, but the question of whether I’d recommend it to others has varied wildly over the years as the game has redefined itself time and time again. Whether you’re someone who’s never played before or a former player considering jumping back in, here are our thoughts on whether or not it’s worth playing Destiny 2 in 2023.
The New Player Experience
Though many Destiny players have been blasting Hive in the face since 2014, if you’re considering jumping into the fray in 2023, you’ll want to consider how good the game is at onboarding new players, and unfortunately it’s pretty terrible.
Why? Well, firstly, Destiny 2 is a complicated game with dozens of currencies, hundreds of weapons and pieces of armor (including many that can no longer be earned), a massive laundry list of things to chase, and the “new light” onboarding questline does a poor (not to mention incomplete) job at bringing players up to speed. I recently completed the New Light experience and while it’s added cutscenes and context that do a much better job of introducing players to the ongoing story, it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to giving players additional reasons to play, and because seasonal content overlaps with main expansions, there’s a lot of added confusion surrounding what’s essential to play and what’s the flavor of the week content that’ll disappear after a time.
In December I interviewed two new Destiny 2 players, one of whom was just casually dipping in their toes and the other who was going full goblin mode to dive as deep as they possibly could into high-level play and endgame activities – neither of these people had a good go of it.
The Casual Player
The casual player found the entire experience obtuse as imaginable, and was overwhelmed by the unfathomable number of currencies to manage and activities to tackle. And since he didn’t have a group of friends to show them the ropes, he was left twisting in the wind with no good options to figure out basic things, like the ins-and-outs of weapon crafting or which things he should be spending his time on. Hilariously, he was also hit with a new cutscene each time they logged in, introducing them to various storylines he had no context for, before throwing him into a seasonal activity or introductory story mission. In one case, he was even thrown into the first level for a campaign he didn’t own, and then was told he needed to pay more money to access the rest of the expansion (which Bungie’s done lately as a method of marketing their premium content to free players). Granted, this all happened just before Bungie introduced Guardian Rank, which does a slightly better job of pointing players towards a list of activities they should take on, but even that system does nothing to explain to players why they’re doing each activity or help them understand the increasingly convoluted landscape of perks, currencies, weapons, armor, and activities.
The Harcore Player
The hardcore player, on the other hand, had the advantage of knowing veteran players to explain everything to him, and so was able to eventually come to grips with all the stuff a solo player has little hope of figuring out. Unfortunately though, just because you understand how it works, doesn’t mean you’ll be in for a good time actually achieving it, and he quickly realized that catching up to his friends would be an extremely grindy, time-consuming process. Not only is Destiny 2 filled with loot that takes a very long time to procure, but they often involve spending lots of currencies that a new player has a difficult time procuring. Meanwhile, veteran players might have these resources in abundance, and even though Bungie has recently announced they’ll be removing one of these hurdles by doing away with Legendary Shards, there’s still a ton of catching up one has to do before they can reasonably play alongside their more tenured Guardians. It took many months of regular play, including weekend binges and all-nighters, before the player I spoke with was able to reach some level of parity with his peers.
There’s no two ways about it: Destiny 2 does a poor job of introducing new players, and even though that’s not the full picture of merits and demerits to playing, it’s easily the biggest barrier of entry.
One of the best things about Destiny 2 is its incredibly strong PvE content and top-tier gunplay that’s second only to the most formidable shooters out there. Coming off the heels of a very well-received expansion in The Witch Queen, there’s a lot to love about the game’s over-the-top combat where you’ll be shooting aliens in the face one moment and running around with a giant flaming hammer the next.
The endgame activities that make themselves available once your Guardian has been properly leveled are especially worth playing. Raids and Dungeons have always been and continue to be the best way to spend one’s time in Destiny 2, even if raid content increasingly relies on re-releasing raids from the previous game.
Unfortunately, the most recent expansion, Lightfall, is extremely underwhelming, and that just might leave a bad enough taste in your mouth to make it a bit harder to recommend. There’s still plenty of fantastic activities and storylines to play, but it can definitely be a bit disheartening to know that going into the long-awaited finale the story and writing is perhaps at an all-time low.
Destiny 2 PvP and Environment Screenshots
As someone who played Destiny 2 primarily for its competitive content for many years, it pains me to say that the current PvP landscape is in the worst state it’s ever been. With few game modes, cheaters on PC, a sandbox that is unwelcome to new players without the best gear, and laughably few new maps added to the playlist in recent years, it’s very difficult to find reasons to grind out any of Destiny 2’s PvP playlists or partake in what used to be a weekly ritual for me: Trials of Osiris, which has been reconfigured again and again in recent years into the now-tortured shadow of what it used to be.
There’s really not much more to say here, mostly because Bungie seems to pay so little attention to this pillar of the game these days, and that breaks this sweaty tryhard’s heart.
One of the biggest knocks against Destiny 2 at the moment is its absolutely unacceptable monetization model – or more accurately: its seven monetization models.
Quite simply, Destiny 2 blends a hodgepodge of monetization models that’s not only confusing, but quite literally never stops asking you for money, creating an incredibly incomplete experience for those who don’t shell out for the goods. Destiny 2 charges for mainline expansions like Lightfall, for seasonal content every three months, for Season Pass XP if you want to skip the grind, for cosmetics if you want your character or gear to look cool, for transmog if you want that cool gear to be available on your best armor, for three-player Dungeon activities that it sells piecemeal, and for “event cards” that are essential for those who want to participate in seasonal limited-time events like the upcoming Festival of the Lost. Even crazier, some of that content you can buy occasionally goes away, like that time Bungie decided to remove years of paid campaigns from the game, then continued to sell that content to players in the months before they took it away.
Most live-service games, like Warframe or Genshin Impact, offset their microtransaction model by making the base game free, but while Destiny 2 has flirted with the idea in the past, they currently have one of the most ruthless walled gardens in gaming, that acts like a premium game on one-hand (charging full price for expansions), then is brimming with microtransactions every time you so much as wipe your nose after you’ve paid your way. In fact, their model is so hard to understand, we created an entire guide for free-to-play players. Frankly, it’s appallingly scummy and desperately needs changing.
Though the most recent expansion, Lightfall, was a spectacular disappointment, the horizon at least appears to be bright, with the long-awaited The Final Shape expansion on the horizon with a revised seasonal model to follow. This upcoming expansion aims to conclude the “Light and Darkness Saga” that Bungie kicked off in 2014, and will bring back Nathan Fillion’s beloved character Cayde-6. The jury’s still out if this finale will fulfill Destiny 2’s potential in the same way The Witch Queen expansion did, or if it’ll fall short like Lightfall, but the narrative team at least looks to be taking some big swings either way, which should be fun to play through.
The team also recently announced that, following the next expansion, they’ll be doing away with the current seasonal model to do less frequent but beefier “Episodes” that provide more than the often content-lite seasons do. Importantly, they also have not announced a new major expansion following The Final Shape, signaling to me that they intend to revise their annual release model as well, which some blame for the seemingly rushed release of Lightfall. This gives me a lot of hope that future Destiny 2 releases will be less frequent, but of higher quality, and that they’ll perhaps even have time between major expansions to take a look at things like Crucible or Gambit, which have been languishing of late.
With over 5,000 hours logged in Destiny 2, it’s difficult for me to say that Destiny 2 is not worth playing in 2023. With an extremely poor new player experience, an incredibly complex and unapproachable meta, a poor recent story expansion, a dire PvP situation, and microtransactions that would make Unity’s recently retired CEO blush, it’s pretty hard to recommend that anyone play Bungie’s online shooter at this time. Still, as is usually the case with Destiny 2, there’s lots of hope for the future (paging Paul McCartney), with a promising finale just around the corner and a revised release model that’s likely to improve the quality of major expansions.