I’m adding at the end of this post a quick summary of the changes I’m proposing, both major and small nitpicks. The rest of this post has the purpose of motivating those suggestions.
Or: **the main game content is way too easy**, fixing it and significantly improve the experience for new players is very simple and doesn’t requite retouching that content.
TL;DR = scroll to the bottom for the solutions I propose
I’ll do my best to explain my reasons, but since most of everyone around here is a veteran, their attention is focused entirely elsewhere, on the new content, and so I doubt this will spark any interest, even if I feel it’s instead crucial to the success of the game. I’ll try anyway. (and I’ve seen it happen many times, see the high demand in World of Warcraft for classic servers after the “live” game has made bad choices after bad choices, only to realize it’s too late to fix)
The two main reasons that make me say D2 has taken a wrong direction are:
– The decision to make the immediate level up to 750 obligatory.
– The decision to have seasonal content temporary, so that it is not playable anymore after the end of its season.
Right now I’ve bought the old annual pass, but haven’t played directly any of its content. But I can still access all of it, if I decide so. If instead I buy the current annual pass and wait a year, then that money would be simply spent on nothing. While this only affects a small groups of players, it still plays a role when it comes to decide whether to purchase a piece of content or not. If I’m not sure I have a big chunk of time to dedicate to the game in the short term, then I’ll have qualms even making an impulsive purchase. In the previous system players were always encouraged to come back after a few months and “catch up” with all the content that piled up while they were away (which also gives a pleasant feeling, knowing there’s so much to do when you return), in the new system that content is gone, and there’s no catch up at all. The more you lose that time and content, the more you feel detached from the game and more and more less likely to return. The result is that players are actually encouraged to leave the game without looking back, because they will feel like they lost that train and the game moved on without them.
But this post will focus on the new player’s experience, and why I think Shadowkeep will destroy it, at a time when it was needed the most to bring fresh blood into the game. My point is that the new release will bring many new players, but they will abandon it because of some bad choices that make the game feel dull and too watered down.
I’ll go to the point: all current story missions (base, Osiris, Warmind and Forsaken) are way, way, WAY too easy. They aren’t unfun because they are badly designed, but because they require no effort and simply end up feeling pointless and boring. Shadowkeep will make this problem even WORSE by forcing a level up to 750. When already most players will tell you that “the main game is not the real game”. And yet that’s the part of the game that most players will see and use that decide whether or not they will stick with this game or abandon it. What you think is unimportant is instead crucial.
The beginning of the game has to be good, because it’s what required to spark the interest and cement the desire to play and be part of the experience.
I’ll tell you that the most fun I’ve had with D2 was this past week, doing for the first time story missions in Osiris, Warmind and Forsaken. What made the experience immensely fun was that I had the possibility to go into those missions underleveled, 3-4 levels below requirement. The first time I started the first mission of Warmind all the enemies were invulnerable. So I went out, came back after gaining a level, and then all those enemies at the beginning of the mission were going down in two hits.
I was still severely underleveled and to complete that first mission I died more than twenty times, since there’s a part at the end that is “no respawn”, and it has waves and waves of enemies. It was HARD, but it was never impossible, and I pretty much felt always in control. I died a lot, but made progress, refined my strategy, got close to succeed many times, and eventually won. When I made it through the feeling was glorious, immensely satisfying, and my hands were even shaking a little bit, as the fight was intense. That’s the kind of stuff that you get only from games like Dark Souls.
Now… none of that is possible anymore. It was already impossible doing the main game missions underleveled, but it was possible for Osiris, Warmind and Forsaken (though you had to go way out of your way to stay under level, and most players wouldn’t normally be able to see this). That’s why this week was incredible for me, and why it’s gone. Starting tomorrow, all that content will be instead significantly over-leveled. New players that now come to the game in the post-Shadowkeep era will see that significant amount of content at its worst. That then will contribute to the feeling of blandness and pointlessness that eventually drives many of them away.
Let’s go to the core of the “looter” game design that Destiny is built on: the loot is only meaningful and fun when it’s matched with challenging content. It’s when you’re squeezing all you have to try to push past a difficulty wall that you feel the real thrill of a new piece of loot. Because that loot gives you that bit of help that you absolutely need to push through. That gives you a necessary nudge.
But if instead there is no wall to climb, and you rush through the content effortlessly, then the loot becomes perfunctory. An end to itself without a function. It will feel like a grindy, repetitive and boring experience.
I made through all the missions of the base game without even using my class power. Because enemies and bosses would die effortlessly anyway. If I used my power I could have killed those bosses so quickly that I wouldn’t even been able to experience the mechanics of their encounter. When instead I went through Osiris and Warmind while under-leveled, I had to throw EVERYTHING and the kitchen sink to survive and win.
Whenever the class power came up, it felt like a boon. It felt exciting.
So the deal is:
1- The game needs challenging content to motivate the existence and fun of looting mechanics. Otherwise it feels bland and soulless.
2- You cannot only shove challenging content to the end game and raids. As most players have already left bored before reaching that point.
At the same time, you cannot have a new player start, say, from Forsaken 1st mission. That mission is awesome, but a new player needs to be eased slowly in, get comfortable with the mechanics. The main campaign is *good*, but it’s just way, way too easy, all the way through. It’s extremely boring and pointless because of that.
This part is about solutions. As I said, I got the most fun in the game when I finally had the possibility to run story missions while underleveled (and heroic missions and vanguard strikes, still underleveled and solo).
We don’t just need *new* challenging solo content. We need ALL the game content be like that. Throwing that out is an immense mistake, and the forced jump to 750 will destroy that content.
And yet it’s very, very easy to fix this.
So… what we need is essentially a way to manually de-level characters, in order to play those legacy missions as I was doing this week with Osiris, Warmind and Forsaken. Extended to the main game missions too. Nothing in the content needs to be redesigned and touched, we just need a way to manually level down characters. There’s already a system in place that does it, but it only caps your character at the content level, not lower. What we need is a system to push it further down (manually, optionally), so that the content becomes challenging.
There are essentially four variables in play: your character overall level, your active weapon, your active slots, the overall light level for all equipment. Those are the numbers that, at the start of a legacy story mission, should be manually brought down, as desired by the player, and then pushed back to their standard values when the mission is over and the player returns to the main game.
There are also two aspects, in my experience playing under level, that should be addressed and that I’ll add to the list. One is that sometimes some attacks deal way too much damage, and you can occasionally get killed in just one or two hits. This in never fair nor fun, and should be mitigated. The other aspect is that you generally use more ammo to kill enemies when you’re under level, and run out of ammo quite often. The worst aspect to this is that in those “no-respawn” zones it happened quite often that I died and respawned with zero heavy and special ammo, and sometimes low on main ammo too. So I also think that for those hard respawns (those where enemies respawn too), the ammo on your character should be reset to standard values every time. To have every time a fair fighting chance.
Consider that allowing players to de-level their character only fixes one half of the problem. The content would be challenging, but the loot you obtain would still be pointless. So my proposed solutions below will also address this other aspect.
Here’s everything I suggest:
– At the start of a legacy story mission (main game, Osiris, Warmind, Forsaken, plus whatever you want to include) you give the player a menu option where the player can decide the overall character level to start the mission. This allows players to go in a mission under level, and have that content properly challenging, and so FUN to play. All the content, from hour 1.
– Linked to the first point. The de-level choice should not only set the character to that lower level, but all items in the inventory should be also reset to the same light level, for the duration of the mission. Then they would be reset back to their standard values when the player exits the mission. All the new drops acquired during the mission would be slightly above the de-level (following current standard rules), so that they still provide upgrades (at least temporary). Those new drops should also then be bumped up to standard levels, after the mission is over.
– For ease of use and to encourage players new and old to experience the content in this way, you can hide the de-level mechanics behind intuitive difficulty labels. So you get “very easy” and the more you go lower in level the more the label flags an higher difficulty. Something like: very easy (the game right now post-Shadowkeep), easy, normal, hard, very hard. You can make it granular since it just hides character level tiers. So it’s just one number changing and nothing else in the content. Then encourage players to increase the difficulty to have better chances at drops (for example).
– An hard cap to the damage the player receives, so that no matter the condition, a single hit can never do more than 30-40% the total player health pool. (if done through an algorithm based on damage velocity within a small time frame, even better)
– In “no respawn zones” if the player dies and respawns, a standard amount of ammo should be restored, including heavy and special ammo.
The bottom line is: please make Destiny 2 challenging and fun also for ALL story missions, and not only for a remote endgame. Don’t overlook legacy story content just because you want to sell new stuff. The solutions are easy to implement, and can massively impact the success of the game with minimal effort.