My Hunter Guardian has been frozen in time for nearly two years, but with the arrival of Destiny 2: New Light I’ve finally taken him out of stasis. The game has moved on without us, however, changing over the course of four expansions, leaving me with no clue how to pick up where I left things. It offers up a feast, including three campaigns, for free, but it does an atrocious job introducing new or lapsed players to any of it.
Destiny 2 has always been obtuse, but now it dumps new players in the Tower, after a brief and very basic tutorial, and saddles them with a series of checklists that are largely devoid of context. You’re told to go do some strikes or go to any planet you want and do some activities—it’s like a sample menu—but there are no attempts made to bring you up to speed with the story or even tell you who your allies or enemies are.
Originally the Red War campaign would have provided context, introducing characters and locations before you embark on the side adventures or strikes, but now that’s considered a legacy campaign, along with the DLC that followed, essentially consigned to the past. So instead of immediately being led through the beginning of Destiny 2, you’re just given this big, open solar system to play around in as you work towards your true goal: becoming more powerful.
You can still play all the previous campaigns, but that’s not mentioned in what passes for the new player introduction. They offer little in the way of rewards and don’t seem to be as good a use of your time as doing the open-world events, PvP, strikes or raids, but if you’re remotely interested in just what the heck is going on in this game you’re about to sink a lot of time into, they’re invaluable.
It does feel like showing up to a party late, and there’s no going back. You start at the old level cap, so there’s no early game now, only the relentless power grind. Your quest isn’t to stop some big alien villain, it’s to get to level 800, then 900 and so on. Of course, that grind largely involves playing with countless fun toys while enjoying some of the best shooting you’ll find, but I miss the illusion that there’s more to it.
Despite New Light being framed as this great way to get into Destiny 2, it feels much more tailored for experienced players who want to start a new character. For alts, Destiny 2 is brilliant. There’s almost nothing that’s off-limits, so you can dip into whatever part of the game you want—including Shadowkeep, if you’ve bought it. It’s like Blizzard giving you a free boost to 110 for every single character in World of Warcraft.
Similarly, if the real draw for you is the multiplayer, New Light means you don’t need to do much catching up to play with more experienced mates. The playing field has been levelled, somewhat, with everyone working towards similar objectives. Sure, you won’t be able to make much sense of it, but maybe your friends can give you some commentary.
There are other things you miss out on by getting kicked straight to the end, though. Instead of unlocking new abilities for your Guardian over time, learning how to use them before you get something new to experiment with, you get your whole kit straight away, with no real introduction to how any of your powers work. When Bungie cut out this progression system, it also cut out one of the fundamental ways people learn how to play the game.
After a few days (and long nights), I’ve finally found my footing again and embarked on my personal mission of just finding cool looking outfits for my Hunter, and I confess I’m coming around to Destiny 2’s way of just throwing everything at you and letting you do whatever you want. Sure, I’m ultimately just trying to get more powerful gear, but there are so many ways to do that, and so many things I want. Importantly, I feel like I can start working towards any objective I get in my sights straight away.
I’ve benefited from at least playing at the 2017 launch, however, so I’ve got some context—I’m not sure what I’d make of Destiny if this was my very first experience. If you’re in that boat, you should absolutely check out our Destiny 2 beginner’s guide. In-game, all you get are the occasional brief tips.
It’s worth noting that there’s hardly anything hidden behind paywalls. To get Forsaken, Shadowkeep and the new pass, you’ll need to shell out, but you’re getting two years worth of stuff for free right out the gate. And while it’s common for free-to-play games to throw obstacles in the way of your progression to tempt you to slap down some cash, Destiny 2’s is on the other end of the spectrum. There’s almost too much to do.