Top Players Weigh In On The Good And Bad Of Destiny 2 PvP
Destiny PvP has always been where I look to more deeply understand the mechanics underpinning the game. When I look at Destiny 2’s overhauled PvP, I see a game that’s more grounded and balanced than its predecessor, but also one that’s arguably less exciting on a moment-to-moment basis.
About a year ago, I reached out to four well-known Destiny players to get their thoughts for an article I was writing about the state of the first game’s competitive Crucible. I hit up Stefan “Datto” Jonke, a YouTuber who focuses mostly on PvE but knows his way around a Crucible map; Ari “TripleWreck” Smith, a streamer who focuses mostly on PvP; SirDimetrious, a skilled competitive player who puts out regular videos reviewing specific guns, gear, and subclasses; and Christian “Mr. Fruit” Miller, who jovially makes videos about his favorite gear but isn’t afraid to try out a terrible gun just to see if he can make it work for him.
It’s been a year, and a lot has changed. Destiny 2 has been out for a month, and the Crucible has undergone a substantial overhaul. I decided to email the same four players a year later and ask their thoughts on the new game: what do they think of the biggest changes Bungie has made? Which guns were best and which needed help? And where did they see things going from here?
Their responses largely lined up with my own feelings, that the sequel is struggling to find a balance between hardcore players (which each of these four guys undoubtedly is) and more casual folks who just want to relax and have fun. With their intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the Crucible, they were also able to illuminate some of the specific highs and lows of competing in Destiny 2.
Destiny 2 PvP differs from its predecessor in several significant ways. All matches now take place between teams of four, smaller than the first game’s default team size of six. It takes more bullets to take down an opponent, which means that teams are more likely to stick together and “teamshot” players on the other team. Guns no longer drop with random perks, removing the notion of a dominant “god roll” gun; if someone kills you with a particular weapon, you know exactly which perks they had access to. And Bungie has overhauled the way players equip weapons, moving one-hit-killers like sniper rifles and shotguns out of regular rotation and into the limited-ammo “power weapon” slot, which greatly reduces the number of snazzy one-hit-kill options available to a player at any given moment.
“I have mixed feelings after putting a lot of time into the full game,” said TripleWreck. “There are many things I like: the emphasis on greater balance, primary weapon usage, and the Countdown mode are fantastic. Conversely, there are some design decisions which range from annoying to genuinely perplexing.” (More on those perplexing decisions in a bit.)
“I’m definitely a proponent of the shift to primary [weapon] usage,” said Mr. Fruit. “Having double primaries now and putting all the one-shot weapons into the power weapon slot helps the game flow better.” He added that that might be because he’s a longtime fan of Bungie’s previous series Halo, which works similarly.
Everyone agreed that the shift to 4v4 changes the game significantly, and largely for the better. “It changes the game in a pretty large way,” said Datto. “With Destiny 1, 6v6 allowed for more free roaming around the map, you could just kinda go off on your own and do almost whatever you wanted. With 4v4, people are much more inclined to stick together because it’s more intimate. It’s a lot more focused, like 3v3 was, where teamshots are more important and 1v1s aren’t as frequent.”
“I don’t think we would’ve seen a huge shift had Destiny 1 Crucible remained the same and [only] moved to 4v4,” said Mr. Fruit, but said that the combination of smaller team sizes with the reduced emphasis on grenades, power weapons, and super abilities has made for a more noticeably more grounded game. “When they choose to go 4v4 along with the new loadout changes and ability cooldowns, it slows it down to a more tactical team-based game, which I find to have equal amounts of pros and cons.”
“4v4 seems to work best for competitive team play, but slows down the game for anybody who is trying have a casual experience,” said SirDimetrious. TripleWreck concurred, saying that while he enjoys 4v4 in general, he hopes Bungie expands to other match sizes as things progress. “I do favor doing one thing well before moving on to alternatives,” he added.
Less Room For Heroes
The de-emphasis on powerful weapons and abilities means that it’s harder to pull off moments of glory, those times when you’re outnumbered four to one and somehow pull a victory out of thin air. TripleWreck said that in Destiny 2, “staying in a group gives the greatest potential for victory,” which can lead to “one-dimensional gameplay, overemphasizing a singular strategy and undermining an individual’s ability to impact a match.”
“There are generally two types of shooters,” he said. “Low TTK (time-to-kill) and high TTK. An example of a low TTK game would be Call of Duty, with shorter gunfights that favor faster reflexes compared to a high TTK game, such as Halo, which offers more room for counterplay.
“Neither is ‘better’ than the other, but I would argue that there are points where both extremes are detrimental to the experience. If it takes one shot to kill an enemy, the game is simply about who sees whom first. If it takes 100 shots to kill an enemy, team-shotting becomes almost a necessity due to prolonged gunfights. I think most would agree that both of those exaggerated examples are not ideal. I feel Destiny 2 has strayed too close to the latter, to the point where 1v1s are rare and your ability to make plays is almost solely restricted to supers and power weapons. If Destiny 1 and Destiny 2 are the spectrum, I’d like to see something more in the middle.”
“The opportunities for players to demonstrate their prowess are unfortunately few and far between.” – TripleWreck
“Destiny 2 has a higher skill-floor than Destiny 1,” he continued. “However, its skill-ceiling is also lower. As a result, the skill-gap winds up getting compressed and the opportunities for players to demonstrate their prowess are unfortunately few and far between.” It isn’t necessary for a game to do this, he said, pointing to games like Overwatch, Counter-Strike, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as high skill-ceiling games that were still fun for a large number of players. “I just don’t see much of that in Destiny 2 currently. Say what you will about Destiny 1‘s balance, but over the course of its lifespan, there were many players who were able to separate themselves because the game allowed them to.”
Brand New Meta, Same Old MIDA
Every competitive game has a “meta,” which refers to the guns, classes, and abilities that gain popularity as players figure out what’s most effective. In the first Destiny, there were several metas—the early reign of the Suros Regime, the storied age of Thorn and The Last Word, and the late-game dominance of Hawksaw and Grasp of Malok.
“The current meta seems to be a combination of scout rifles, three-round burst sidearms, auto rifles, submachine guns and a select group of handcannons,” said SirDimetrious. “It’s much harder to definitively outline a meta in Destiny 2 because of how well balanced the weapons and abilities are.”
TripleWreck described a similar meta, saying that in his opinion both Hand Cannons and Pulse Rifles need a buff. “I strongly feel that hand cannons should be one of the standout skill-gap weapons,” he said, “where good players can separate themselves by achieving faster kill-times as a reward for perfect accuracy.” He said he loves auto rifles being as competitive as they are, but that he sees hand cannons losing out them too often. “Ever since I saw hand cannons in an early Destiny 1 trailer I fell in love,” he said, “so I am very frustrated so far with their crippled state.”
Datto concurred that at the moment, you can get away with using almost any weapon due to the new game’s solid overall balance. “That’s one thing I like about Destiny 2 PvP,” he said. “Your combat effectiveness is less reliant on what gun you have equipped and more about putting yourself in positions to be successful with those guns. It’s about knowing maps, knowing positioning and knowing where to place yourself to be effective.”
Throughout the first month of Destiny 2, one gun reigned above them all: The MIDA Multi-Tool scout rifle. The gun was used by at least one player on 98% of teams in the first weekend of Trials of the Nine, and has remained popular in the weeks since then. I asked all four players what they thought of the MIDA’s overwhelming popularity, and whether it needed to be nerfed.