Should we really be worried about characters carrying over to Destiny 2?

A few days ago, I happened upon this video from Game Informer which annoyed me considerably.

The video opens with one of these gentlemen saying, “Kotaku posted a story with a bunch of rumours about Destiny 2. Kotaku has a pretty good track record for Destiny rumours so I think it’s worth looking at. And in that, Jason Schrier over there says, ‘Hey, there’s sources that say it’s coming to PC and that your Guardian will not carry over.'”

Problem is that’s not what Schrier said.

Fortunately, a couple of minutes into the video, another gentleman advises caution in paying attention to the rumours because they are, at this point, just rumours. I’m in complete agreement with him because, basically, again, Schrier did not say that characters won’t carry over.

Here’s what he said, quoted verbatim from the source:

Over the past few months, I’ve heard that Bungie’s leadership wants Destiny 2 to feel like a proper sequel, even if that means leaving old planets, characters, and activities behind. In conversations with me, people connected to Bungie have made comparisons to Blizzard’s Diablo 2, which iterated on the first game in some incredible ways but didn’t carry over characters or content from Diablo. I don’t know exactly how much will change in Destiny 2, but all signs point to the developers starting from scratch. “D2 is a completely different game,” said one person familiar with development. “The Taken King was a reboot for Destiny 1 to fix small things. This is the overhaul to fix big things.”

What’s highlighted in bold and underlined, is my doing. I’ll tackle those points individually.

Even if

This one is probably the most important of the lot. It represents a willingness to discard all that came before with the goal of creating something better. While it doesn’t mean they’re actually going to do it, they are certainly considering it. And, personally, I like that it’s something they’re thinking about. To explain this, I need to explain how I’m interpreting it and doing so requires telling you what a former boss – and a good friend – once said to me.

I worked for a while as a copywriter for a very talented creative director who has started – and still runs, at the time of this writing – his own small agency. The man earned more rewards in his twenty-odd years in the industry than many get over a lifetime. He knew his stuff. When he was trying to drill the basics of the craft into my abnormally thick skull, he said this:

Most copywriters go through fifty bad ideas and stop when they hit the first good one. The problem is that the fifty-second is usually better.

That, more than any advice I’ve ever been given about writing in general, stuck with me. And I believe it applies to a great many other things as well.

There’s little doubt that Destiny is a magnificent idea that’s been marred by poor execution. It’s not a lousy game – it has some of the most fantastic gunplay that I’ve ever experienced in an FPS and I wouldn’t have sunk 478 hours into the game (according to at the time of this writing; 291 hours on my Titan; 182 on my Warlock; 4 on my Hunter) if it was rubbish. Neither, for that matter, would the tens of thousands of people who form the community that I’ve grown to love in the very short year that I’ve been a part of it.

But Destiny could be so. much. more.

I’m certain the Year 1 players remember – vividly – all that E3 2013 promised for Destiny. Very little of what was in those videos made it into the actual game. Kotaku’s Jason Schrier, not long ago, told the world why.

And Bungie knows that fans were disappointed. The Taken King is proof of that. So is Rise of Iron – although I didn’t like the campaign – as is clearly evidenced by the exotic quests. The Gjallarhorn reminded us that we’re legends. The Khvostov took us back to where it all began. The Outbreak Prime felt like Bungie’s way of saying, “Sleeper Simulant quest not stimulating enough? Here ya go, bitches.”

Bungie’s listening. But with the development tools that Schrier suggested they have in this article, I imagine their options are fairly limited at this point. An overhaul may be necessary from an entirely practical standpoint – because Bungie wants to put out more content faster, and the tools at their disposal make that effort prohibitive. They’ve already made strides towards doing more by abandoning last-gen consoles and the difference shows in the scale of the environments that are in Rise of Iron. But leaving last-gen behind clearly wasn’t enough.

I imagine that the shift to new tools for the creation of Destiny 2 offers possibilities for character classes/subclasses that may not have been possible in vanilla. So the idea of ‘characters not carrying over’ may simply be that we won’t see our Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks as we now know and understand them.

But before I get into that, let’s talk about Diablo 2, for a moment.

Comparisons to Blizzard’s Diablo 2

Yep, Diablo 2 didn’t carry characters over. Because the protagonist of the first game was the antagonist of the second. By the end of the original Diablo there was a reason within the lore of the game to have different player characters in Diablo 2. And this wasn’t a loophole that Blizzard exploited either; your character becoming the villain was the actual ending of the first game.

Plus, all of the Diablo games move forward in time. My Druid in Diablo 2 was probably on the wrong side of geriatric by the time the Diablo 3 campaign begins.

But the Diablo to Diablo 2 transition does not necessarily apply Destiny 2. Destiny was always meant to be a 10-year journey and I think that will remain core to the development process of Destiny 2. I have no proof to back this up, of course, but Bungie’s still giving us content to further our individual legends – we’re all Lords of Iron now, for example. I don’t think they’ll just dump all that down the toilet.

Continuing with Blizzard as the example, the transition from Diablo, to 2, to 3, with expansions and patches included, has dramatically changed characters’ skill and abilities. The Skill Synergies, introduced in a patch for Diablo 2, made previously pointless skills worth investing in because of the passive buffs that were applied to other other abilities in the skill tree.

If Bungie’s holding up Diablo’s evolution over the years as their model of how to build a game that offers an enormously addictive grind, the iteration of skills and the freedom that players have in developing different character builds may be one of their key takeaways.

And that brings me to the scrapping of subclasses that I was talking about earlier.

All signs point to the developers starting from scratch

Like I said earlier, I think it’s excellent that Bungie’s willing to look past the 51st idea. What is important to consider, however, is what ‘starting from scratch’ means.

It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘scrap classes, scrap subclasses, throw all loot out the window’. It seems like a fairly frivolous way to treat such an enormous investment by Bungie and, even if they were willing to do it, they don’t strike me as being a studio full of dicks. I can’t honestly imagine that they would place such little value on the amount of time players have spent in Destiny, because the community really has made the game what it is.

So while ‘starting from scratch’ could be tossing out everything, I don’t think that’s what will actually happen. Another way to look at it is Bungie saying to themselves, “Okay, so in-universe, characters’ understanding of Light evolves. How does that change the way a Titan uses the Light? Or a Warlock? Or a Hunter?”

I think it’s significantly more likely that Bungie might toss out subclasses – or rework them extensively – rather than scrap our characters themselves. Weapons of Light + Tether shouldn’t be the go-to strat for all boss fights in year 10. Warlocks should have a stronger support presence and be allowed to feel significantly more integral to complicated raid fights than they are now. Titans should be given mechanical arms that we can attach to our regular T-Rex arms so that we can punch something more than half an inch away. But I digress.

Subclasses hold back what Bungie can do with Destiny in its present form because every boss fight needs to account for abilities that we already have, making most content play out in fairly predictable ways. By scrapping subclasses, they can give us new, more diverse abilities, and build interesting combat scenarios around them.

Again, looking at a Blizzard game, Diablo 3’s pairing of different left-click and right-click skills with actives mapped to other buttons made for some very interesting gameplay builds. What Destiny 2 needs is that sort of diversity. Skill trees with abilities that can be bound to our current grenade, melee, and super buttons to create combos above and beyond what already exists in the game.

Imagine, for example, a Titan ability that turns Hammer of Sol into an attack similar to the Hunter’s throwing knife, while replacing the existing grenade ability. It pairs with the existing short-range punch melee. Successful hammer impact causes damage + stun. And if followed up with a punch that gets the kill, both abilities are instantly reset. A one-two hammer-smack combo.

Grenades could still be on the ability tree and including them in a build could create different synergy options with other abilities, building on the idea of a Hunter’s wombo combo. It would make gameplay more interesting, experimentation more rewarding, and characters much richer to play with.

And the only way to do that is to leave our subclasses behind

Not characters, but subclasses.

I can’t help but feel like Bungie has been backed into a corner because every encounter needs to account for Weapons of Light + Melting Point + Shadowshot. But if they scrap or rework those abilities, they open the doors to a whole lot of possibilities.

Imagine, now, if during the Aksis fight, Aksis didn’t just teleport. What if he ran up the walls or across the ceiling? And Hunters needed Shadowshot to lock him in place during a damage phase or Warlocks used Landfall to stun and drop him from the walls or the ceiling? We wouldn’t be relying on a raid mechanic like Empowered to do stun Aksis; we’d be using our own abilities to solve a problem creatively.

It would, in essence, result in a gameplay scenario in which cheesing the Templar off the edge is a legitimate part of the game. And I don’t know about you, but that is exactly the kind of Destiny I’d love to play.

So, as I said, I feel like Bungie won’t scrap characters

They don’t need to. They could very easily come up with reasons why being a Voidwalker or Gunslinger or Striker is no longer viable for Guardians. And why becoming more powerful requires unlearning everything we already know.

I like to think that when Bungie said ‘ten year journey’ they meant it. I also like to think they have more respect for us and for the affection we have for the characters we play as, to do something like that.

I could be completely wrong about all of this, of course. In whatever form Destiny 2 is now, it is possible that our characters no longer exist and that there are entirely new classes and everything we did over the last three years is Destiny is now a collection of Grimoire cards for us to find. That is entirely possible.

And if things do turn out like that, goddamn, will I miss my ugly-ass Titan. But I hope, with a fiery, burning passion, that Bungie has too much respect for Destiny and its players to let that happen.

Trevor Coelho

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