Destiny 2's Season of the Splicer is in full swing at this point, and I've been waxing lyrical about the game to my friends for years.
With a dearth of new releases, they finally jumped in over the last week or two (I felt like a proud Dad). The trouble is that Destiny doesn't make itself particularly welcoming.
Destiny 2 Has An Onboarding Problem
Sure, the game is free-to-play, meaning you can try out its mix of shooting and RPG elements at no charge, but after the great vaulting of '20, it's not entirely clear what to do next.
This time last year, for example, a player could hop into the Red War Campaign, giving them a feel for the game's systems, characters, destinations and content types.
Now? Io and Titan are no more, and many of the game's best characters are reduced to 'talking heads', yammering repetitive lines through in-game dialogue.
The Red War Campaign formed a solid nucleus to build the rest of the game around, rather than sending newcomers to the Cosmodrome to farm bounties with Shaw Han - possibly the game's dullest character (sorry, Shaw).
Thankfully, my buddies are enjoying it so far - to the point where they're keen to plonk down some cash for an expansion... or two... or three! The trouble is, with so much content being vaulted, it's hard to ascertain exactly what's included in each now.
Take Forsaken for example. You can play the campaign, which is the best of the lot, and try and earn some of the game's exotic weapons. But those are actually acquirable from the kiosk in the Tower now, and more general additions like Gambit and bow weapons are free to everyone.
Arguably players are better off starting with Beyond Light, since that adds weapons that haven't been sunset as yet, plus the all-important Stasis subclass. But then there are versions with season passes, and more besides.
My buddies are likely to level up quickly and be ready for things like Override, but without that season pass, they aren't able to play it regularly - just the introductory mission, I think? Do they need Beyond Light to unlock Stasis? Presumably, but I've been playing Destiny since 2014, covering it online since 2018, and couldn't tell you the answers to so many questions.
I'd love for Bungie to take a step back and say "Ok, we're unvaulting some free stuff for newcomers", but I can't see it happening.
I don't doubt it's a tough line to walk for Bungie, but it feels like the beginning of a new console generation is a great time for players to hop in - but mixing paid expansions with season passes and constantly shifting content vault requirements feels untenable for the growth of the franchise.
The reason Destiny resonates with so many is that it has a little bit of everything. A complex story (buried in lore entries, granted), a sci-fi universe of baddies and gods to slay, and, of course, space wizards - but it feels harder than ever to share that with newcomers.