Destiny 2 is a game that demands replayability. Whether its jumping into the Strike playlist, running the latest seasonal activity, or grinding out some Gambit challenges, there’s a certain amount of repetition to Destiny’s content. But the fact is, much of that repetition, particularly with older content that hasn’t been updated in years, is getting—for lack of a better word—repetitive. Longtime Destiny fans know the exact optimal paths through every Strike and how to decimate a round of Gambit like it’s nothing. There are some mild changes that can come up through alternating enemy types or sandbox changes, but for the most part, repetition is part of the formula, oft times to the point of drudgery.
Now, repetition doesn’t need to be a bad thing. In fact, there’s a whole genre of games where the loop is the point. Lately I’ve found myself once again enamored with the Roguelike formula in games like Returnal and Hades. These are games built on foundations of repetition and loops and playing the same content over and over again, yet they draw players in for more and more. Why is it that can I stay up far past my bedtime making runs through the Underworld in Hades, but the thought of even doing one Strike in Destiny 2’s Strike playlist just makes me tired? It’s not a big secret that roguelikes are intentionally engaging. It’s careful design that makes repetition feel rewarding and unique.
So what would make Destiny 2’s ritual repeatable content feel more engaging and rewarding? There are some key features of Roguelikes and Roguelites that Bungie could potentially integrate into Destiny 2, some of which they are already starting to do. Much like “RPG elements,” Roguelikes and Roguelites have broken free from the boundaries of being a genre and started offering their unique building blocks to games across a variety of genres. Kinda Funny’s Blessing Jr. did a great episode of The Blessing Show recently on this very topic.
How Destiny 2 Could Benefit From Roguelike Elements
One of the primary features of Roguelikes is random dungeon generation, which probably isn’t entirely feasible for Destiny. However, future content could be designed with alternate paths in mind, which could mix and match throughout the Strike. For example, let’s say you have five “sections” of a Strike, each with an A path and a B path. Which of these is open at any time could result in 25 different permutations of this same Strike. Similarly, alternate enemy spawns could further create a sense of “randomization” that would make two runs through the same Strike feel distinct and unique.
Destiny 2 could also lean more heavily into risk/reward gameplay with modifiers that really make the gameplay feel vastly different. As it stands, existing Strike modifiers are rather tame and don’t do all that much to make one run feel any different from the next (before you start getting into the extreme difficulty modifiers of endgame Nightfall playlists). Playlist modifiers are also fixed, meaning each “run” feels largely the same as the last unless you come back on future days or weeks, and even then, those modifiers, especially in the base Strike playlist, are ignored for the most part.
While a game like Hades is all about player choice, it also encourages use of certain items or weapons with additional rewards for using a randomly selected weapon, for example. Destiny 2 could offer a similar feature that pushes players towards specific weapon types, with modifiers that grant additional rewards for using certain weapons. Granted, it’s a rather broad idea that would need quite a bit of finessing, but it’s something that both Hades and Returnal (and many other Roguelikes) do very well to guide player choice and help make each repetitive action feel unique, new, and rewarding.
In some ways, Destiny is trying to do some of these things with endgame activities like Nightfalls and Grandmasters, and even with the rotational elements of each new Seasonal activity, so there’s definitely a foundation present for the idea. But that also highlights how left behind the base Strike playlist feels, acting more as a relatively dull and unrewarding chore than engaging repeatable content that I actively want to play.
The key thing here, however, is that it’s not strictly repetitive content that makes something feel like a chore. It’s repetition without variation or reward. And what spurred this thought was not that Bungie isn’t doing it, but rather that it’s on the right track. Running Overrides and Expunge missions in Season of the Splicer has been a lot of fun, and the gameplay loop is a satisfying cycle of rewards and variation, culminating in an “epilogue” finale that concludes the narrative and harbors a number of secrets of its own. That’s the core term: “Gameplay Loop.” That loop is what makes a game like Hades so engaging—in both gameplay and narrative—and it’s what’s driving the newer content in Destiny 2. How does one activity feed into another to drive engaging repeated gameplay? The gameplay loop.
Clearly throwing a few hundred words onto a website isn’t the same thing as a development team spending months designing, iterating, and executing on the idea, so I don’t exactly know what this would look like in practice, but with the repeatable nature of much of Destiny 2’s content, I think Bungie could benefit in huge ways by looking at games that are built on the core ideas of loops and replayability. Games like Hades, Returnal, and other Roguelikes and Roguelites could very well hold the key to the future of Destiny.