Two types of posts appear on the Destiny 2 subreddit at least once a week. The first is somebody asking for the crippling Fighting Lion nerfs to be reverted (a fair request, to be honest, and one which will now apparently be honored). The second, more important one is always titled something like 'I'm a new player and I'm totally lost,' and these types of posts are only becoming more frequent and more desperate. The latest post in this rapidly expanding genre reads, "Destiny 2 is very unfriendly to newcomers," and that's an understatement.
Every MMO struggles with onboarding in some way. These games are hobbies all their own, and the sheer scale of them can be hard to take in. It's not always clear what your goals are or how to work toward them, and it can be easy to overlook key features or quests. But Destiny 2 is uniquely impenetrable to new players for several systemic reasons, and these are only going to get worse in the months ahead.
The gaping maw of the Destiny Content Vault
The first barrier for new Destiny 2 players couldn't be more obvious: huge chunks of old content are removed each year via the Destiny Content Vault (DCV). When this content bank was released, nearly all of Year One was swept into it, including raids, planets, campaigns, and more. When The Witch Queen expansion arrives in February, half of Year Two's Forsaken expansion – the whole campaign and the Tangled Shore destination – will be cut as well, along with most of the Year Four seasonal stuff.
Bungie's invited all players to play through the Forsaken campaign for free before it's vaulted, and it's assembling a revised Forsaken Pack to give players a cheaper way to catch up on the expansion's Exotics and endgame in the future. Forsaken's Dreaming City, at least, will remain, including its raid and dungeon. Some Strikes from Year Two, plus Year Four's Battlegrounds mode, will also be preserved, which is good news for the anemic Vanguard playlist. This is an improvement over the DCV's launch, which gave players a stick to bite down on and nothing else, but it won't do that much for the folks most affected by the removal of this content, and that's new players.
I don't believe for a second that anyone likes the Destiny Content Vault. Nobody, including Bungie, wants to see chunks of Destiny 2 cut out like old carpet. But Bungie isn't stupid or evil or lazy – these are changes made out of necessity. I don't doubt that the studio looked at the game's state and technical demands, weighed and tested its options, and determined that cycling out content is the best, if not only way to keep this ship above water. No, other MMOs don't do this, but other MMOs aren't Destiny 2. If there was a better solution, a way for Bungie to snap its fingers and maintain the entire game without drastically hindering new content, I reckon somebody would've spotted it.
The Destiny Content Vault isn't a great solution; it's the best solution we've got right now. And as harm reduction goes, it could be worse. See, the DCV puts players into two camps. The first camp is filled with people like me, who live exclusively in the newest content. What do I care if the Forsaken campaign is cut? I already played through it on all my characters several years ago. And I only ever visit the Tangled Shore to get Glimmer from Spider, so with that feature moving to the Tower Cryptarch, I don't care if it's cut either. Hell, I'd probably trade the whole destination just for the convenience of only visiting the Tower to stock up. I don't miss any of the stuff that's already been vaulted and I won't lose sleep over anything in Forsaken. And I'd wager it's not just me that feels this way, but rather it's in the minds of most veteran players. Does this "don't care, got mine" attitude make us the baby boomers of Destiny? Probably, but with the caveat that there ain't shit we can do to fix this stuff.
Veteran players might be sad to see this stuff go, but they won't be lost without it. New players, however, very likely will. Just look at the narrative. The past year saw the best stories Destiny 2's ever delivered, and a lot of them hinged on an understanding of Forsaken. The ongoing Season of the Lost is a grand drama starring Mara Sov, Petra Venj, The Crow (formerly Mara Sov's brother, Uldren Sov), and the next big baddie Savathun (who you can learn much more about in our chat with Bungie). If you haven't played Forsaken, or more pertinently can't play it because it's gone, stuff like this just won't work. No matter how Bungie writes around it, that's inevitably going to cheapen the impact of The Witch Queen and Year Five seasonal content for new players, which really sucks because new expansions are not only consistently amazing, they're also historically the best way to get into Destiny 2.
And that's just Forsaken. What happened in the Red War? Where did these pyramid ships come from? Who is Calus? There isn't a great way to answer these and many other questions in-game. Bungie added a timeline that helps put everything in perspective, but it's more of a pamphlet than a guide. It's a step in the right direction, but it's not the caliber of resource new players need to come to grips with Destiny 2's many moving parts.
I'm 1200 Power and what is this?
It's not just the Destiny Content Vault, either. Destiny 2 is a fairly poor teacher all around. If you aren't already into Destiny 2, it can feel like homework to get into it. Forget bookmarking the wiki; you've got to phone a friend or consult YouTube guides every few minutes to get anywhere. Just as the Destiny Content Vault obscures the plot for newcomers, the new-player experience doesn't adequately prepare people for the intricacies of Destiny 2. Leveling your Power, leveling your artifact, modding your armor, unlocking Exotics, collecting daily and weekly engram rewards, what content you should buy and what it gets you – the list goes on.
It's easy for longtime players to forget that Destiny 2 is a lot. Search "new player" on the Destiny subreddit and you'll find a bottomless feed of fledgling Guardians struggling to find direction. "The mod system is completely unapproachable for new players," writes ProbabyTitanMain. "The new player experience in D2 is terrible right now," reads a post from FuriasRevenge with over 4,000 upvotes. "We played through the intro mission, but quickly ran out of things to do," laments Thesaurususaurus. "Please help me find my way," says Jordanperkinsperkins. "Destiny 2 story jarring for a new player," adds Intelligent_Camera_9. "New player wondering best way to get all the DLC," says GreenMachine889.
Most of these posts are from the past few weeks, and there are countless more just like them. The Destiny Content Vault solved a lot of Destiny 2's content rot by outright amputating the rotting pieces, but it also raised the already intimidating hurdles that new players face. I get that the DCV is important for the growth of the game, but so are new players. Again, I know that Bungie knows this, but it feels like Destiny 2 is currently leaning too hard to one side there.
Destiny 2 is one of my favorite and most-played games. I want to recommend it to everyone, but it's becoming harder and harder to. The game is brilliant – utterly peerless and better than ever – but it requires breaking through more and more barriers, and not everyone has the time or stamina for that. I would love to see Destiny 2 add clearer sign posting, tutorials, summaries – anything, really, to shorten and improve the onboarding process so that more people can get to the brilliant game that so many veteran players know and love, and which Bungie has gone to such great lengths to sustain.