I admit, I have a tendency to get into certain games. Like, really into them. I’ve got over a thousand hours in Borderlands 2. Ditto Warframe. Hundreds of hours into Skyrim, Ace Combat 7, and most recently Elden Ring. But nothing like the time I’ve sunk into Destiny 2, which now sits at just over 2,850 hours. That’s almost four full months of real time. A third of a year spent on a single game. And I think, finally, I’m tired of it.
That time is by no means the most anyone has played Destiny 2 (that record goes to Policemam, who has spent almost two years playing), but it is far and away more time than I’ve ever spent playing a single game. More time than I think I ever wanted to, really. Certainly more time than I expected when I first started playing with a group of friends in the fall of 2019, just months before a little virus would completely upend both my social life and the entire fucking world.
Destiny 2 was a lot of fun. It remains perhaps the best shooter I’ve ever played. The story was engaging, the mechanics intriguing, and the guns, my god the guns. Endless loot to strive hours upon hours for, punctuated by Exotic rewards that never fail to make you silently whisper “wow” as you completely melt a room full of alien monstrosities.
It was great, and during the pandemic it was perhaps my biggest social engagement. I couldn’t really do anything for a year, so like many, I played Destiny with my friends. And it wasn’t bad, honestly. I’d keep reading horror stories of people going stir crazy cooped up inside for months on end, but I couldn’t relate. I was never more than a few clicks away from fighting against the enemies of humanity all throughout the solar system.
I can't entirely blame the pandemic for spending so much time in Destiny. There are plenty of other games out there, but Destiny 2 of all the live-service games I've ever played is perhaps the most pernicious in its trappings. There's always something to do, whether that be weapons or armor to grind for, titles to unlock, Emblems and Ghost Shells and Sparrows that are only granted after extremely difficult challenges, the list goes on. And every new system I've seen Bungie add over the years just added more and more and more. Despite removing nearly half its destinations over the past year, Destiny 2 remains a truly massive game. Not just for the amount of content it provides, but for the amount of time it demands.
If you want everything, you must give Destiny 2 everything. At first I was happy to devote all my leisure time to Destiny 2, but as time wore on there came a nagging doubt that I was missing something. Actually, many other somethings. I didn’t play Hades, I didn’t play Animal Crossing, I didn't play It Takes Two or Psychonauts 2 or Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2. I skipped Death's Door, Deathloop, Metroid Dead, Hitman 3, Monster Hunter Rise, Yakuza Like A Dragon, The Forgotten City, and Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. I didn't care because I knew that Destiny had already laid claim to my free time.
But then the grip Destiny 2 had on me started to show weakness. I began to see the code in the machine, to paraphrase The Matrix. It began with sunsetting, the controversial practice where Bungie capped the power levels of weapons and armor to force players to grind for new ones. Players revolted after those new guns turned out to be the same as the ones that were just sunsetted, and Bungie reversed that decision after a single season, but the new Origin Traits and Artifice Armor effectively accomplish the same end.
And then there came Seasonal Challenges, a series of new weekly endeavors that provided as much Bright Dust as the previous weekly challenge system, but took even more of your time to accomplish. Then there was Armor Synthesis and its bounties that would take so many Strikes, Nightfalls, Gambit matches, Crucible matches, dungeons or raids to accomplish. And then there came weapon crafting, a system that requires so much time investment that "normal" players shouldn't expect to acquire their god rolls for weeks if not months.
Even if that was all Destiny threw at me, I would probably still be playing it if not for several recent changes. The new subclass reworks are generally good, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided to play the weakest of the three reworked classes; Void Titan during Season of the Risen and Solar Warlock during Season of the Haunted. And then this latest season brought the Duality dungeon. Seemingly designed to test Destiny veterans, it's so jam-packed with high-health enemies and intricate mechanics that it's more like a raid that handicaps fireteams at just three Guardians instead of six. I've beaten it, but it wasn't fun.
What finally broke me out of Destiny's clutches was Elden Ring, a largely solo experience where the main game lasted about 100 hours. I found the experience so enjoyable that I even played a second character through, but now I think I've had my fill of The Lands Between and will move on to something new. That’s the difference between a game like Elden Ring and a game like Destiny. Elden Ring offers everything up front, a journey that you can take at your own pace. Destiny 2 locks its rewards behind arbitrarily long time sinks, demanding so many hours that you simply don’t have any left to play anything else.
Abandoning Destiny 2 isn’t easy. I have a vault with over 400 items that will simply remain unused, a monument to a game that I now have mixed feelings for. They’ll still be there if I ever decide to come back to Destiny 2, but by then there will surely be another sunsetting event that renders my armory sub-par, if not entirely useless.
I don’t begrudge anyone who still enjoys Destiny 2 to keep on playing it, even if it eventually means spending thousands of hours in a single game to the exclusion of all others. But that’s not what I want. Not anymore.
The next time someone suggests trying a new live-service game, I think I’ll pass. There’s just too many games to spend your life in just one.
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