What constitutes a sequel? Is it an evolution of every aspect of the original material that makes it so? Perhaps it’s introducing new ideas and scrapping old ones that didn’t work that qualifies a sequel as more than expansion. Maybe just cranking up the visuals and changing the environments is all it takes. For me, it’s a little of column A, a little of column B, and a little of column C.
So, what is it about Destiny 2 that has given players flashbacks to quotes like “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain”? As it turns out, it’s actually pretty simple to pin down, but sort of difficult to express. The gist is that many players feel that Destiny 2 looks more like an expansion to the original game, as opposed to a fully fledged sequel. As a result, they’ve taken to calling it “Destiny 1.5.”
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that 1.5ers have a point; that Destiny 2 really is just a glorified expansion to Destiny 1. How can we determine whether or not that’s accurate?
We could size it up against open-world action adventure titles, like The Witcher 3. That game had two major expansions of its own. Such comparisons can be useful, but ultimately, they fail to take into account the type of game Destiny is.
First and foremost, Destiny is a first-person shooter. As a genre, FPS games are capable of fitting into all sorts of boxes; be them vast sprawling open worlds like Fallout or Far Cry, or smaller, more narrative-driven set-ups like Halo or Doom. Usually, though, FPS games are most at home when shuffling the player down narrow corridors for the majority of the campaign. To its credit, Destiny pulls together elements from all of those experiences really well.
The way I see it, the whole Destiny 1.5 discussion really boils down to visuals and gameplay, both of which remain largely unchanged in the sequel. 1.5ers see its menus, its combat, and its graphics and conclude that there’s nothing really new there. Here’s the thing; they’re not wrong. Whether you played 1,500 hours of Destiny or 15, all of those things will look very similar or even identical to the original game.
There’s also the issue of the familiar environments and enemies that we’ll encounter in the sequel. We’re still fighting the Cabal, the Vex, the Fallen, and the Hive. We’re even doing it in some of the same locations too. It’s understandable how, on the surface, Destiny 2 could look like a glorified expansion.
To my surprise, I find myself in agreement with 1.5ers about that part. From what Bungie has shown of the game so far, they banked largely on the stuff Destiny already did so well. Combat, animations, visuals, and instilling the overall idea that you’re the badass is what made the first game so enjoyable. It makes sense then that Bungie would want to highlight those components.
In terms of what makes a sequel, what it comes down to for me is less about how much content is added, or changing what already worked. Rather, focusing on the quality of content was, is, and should continue to be of primary concern. If that’s the qualifier, then Destiny 2 looks to have hit the mark.
At the reveal event for the game, Bungie was eager to stress the importance of the story and characters in the sequel. The whole premise is sort of a tongue-in-cheek reaction to criticisms of Destiny during its first year. The game even begins by literally blowing the whole thing up, forcing players to start from scratch. (That’s another topic unto itself.)
Whether you side with 1.5ers or not, you’d probably agree that there were plenty of areas in the original Destiny that were in dire need of attention. For one thing, the semi-vast open environments of the first game were filled with precious little to actually do.
When Destiny was originally announced, I was riding the hype train hard. I imagined that worlds would be filled with so many things to do. I pictured localized hub areas filled with players and interesting NPCs with their own stories and questlines.
I had envisioned procedurally generated dungeons to explore for special resources or loot. To me, patrols and public events seemed like an awesome idea that would allow for some fun shenanigans with strangers. Early on, I had really high hopes for space combat too.
I even thought up a bunch of cool things for Sparrows. I saw racing arenas filled with crowds of cheering spectators. There’d be variations of the vehicle as well. Sparrows could be customized with different frames and parts for utility, speed, or combat, which would be reflected in the aesthetics of the bike.
With the exception of Sparrow racing, most of that stuff never came to fruition in the first game. The good news is; some of it has found its way into Destiny 2.
So, where does all of that leave us in terms of the “Destiny 1.5” debate? We know from reviews and player feedback that story is the biggest thing the original game lacked. Bungie was praised for refocusing on that key area with the Taken King expansion, and it seems like they’ve emphasized it even more with Destiny 2.
Probably, the most efficient way to settle things is to look at the way certain fundamental components of the game have changed or evolved, as well as how they haven’t.
From a top-down view, much of Destiny 2 echoes the original, but when you really dive down, it seems like just about every aspect of the game has improved to some extent. Take weapons for an example. Gunplay appears nearly identical in both games, but guns have been reclassified to allow for more options in combat.
To drive the point home, I’ll mention a few other noteworthy improvements. An actual in-game map has been added. End-game content like raids has been made more accessible thanks to clans and “Guided Games.” Bungie even eliminated the need to jump to orbit, which carves away at the downtime between sessions.
Perhaps the most shared sentiment among 1.5ers is that “all of this stuff should have been in the original game.” There is merit in that idea, true, but Bungie can only move past their mistakes. They can’t retroactively correct them.
At the end of the day, there’s more than enough going on with Destiny 2 to qualify it as a legitimate sequel. If all it takes to justify a game as a sequel is simply more content or a shift in focus, then Bungie has its bases covered with Destiny 2.
All in all, I enjoyed Destiny immensely. It was repetitious, for sure, but the gameplay was solid, and over time the game evolved through its expansions. Destiny 2 looks to take that framework and improve upon it ways both big and small. Whether that proves enough for players who checked out early in Destiny remains to be seen.
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