Rifling for Meaning
“Scout Rifle Final Blows 7%? Huh, I’ve already made a start, this can’t be too bad.”
I was wrong. So wrong.
Two weeks before the launch of Destiny 2 Shadowkeep, I got my first ever gaming PC. For over a decade and a half I’ve been an ardent, proud console scrub, but it was finally time to dive in. First, I’d need games. Epic was offering the Batman Arkham series for free, but I’d already played those and the fabled Steam Sales I’d heard so much about were nowhere to be seen, so for about two weeks my new PC sat there as I pottered around in Link’s Awakening and Ni No Kuni on Switch.
“Destiny on Steam?” I thought, “I put two thousand hours into D1, but fell off D2 hard after Curse of Osiris… maybe”, “Cross save for my console character? It’d be nice to have a live service game to jump in and out of while playing other stuff”, but what tipped me over the edge, “Wait, it’s free? Why not!”
This was my first mistake. By the end of the first week, I’d bought Shadowkeep and Forsaken, to the shame of my savings. Since then I’ve played [REDACTED] hours and may have a bit of a problem. At first, I was enjoying it, it was like catching up with an old friend, one that used to be kind of rude and didn’t respect your time, but now it felt like they’d changed.
Or so I thought.
One of the many things that I missed during my blissful stint of looter shooter sobriety was how Bungie has gone about addressing the grind of Destiny. No longer did you acquire the best raid gear and exotics only to do the same few activities over and over until a new exotic quest was added or DLC landed. Bungie have completely restructured the game. It is now relatively easy for everyone to get to the hard power cap, but if you want to keep going you can. Character builds unlock as you acquire rare mods for your equipment, guns now have randomly rolled perks and you can (slowly) increase your power level forever through XP. They’ve created tiers of completion where, theoretically, players of all skill levels and time commitments can be satisfied. Paired with deep ongoing lore, constant new challenges and more updates, anyone can put as much time in as they want, as often as they want, and feel like they’re progressing. I believed this for so long.
One of the biggest additions is that of Pinnacle and Ritual Weapons. Every season (Destiny has seasonal battlepasses now, like every other game) these guns with fixed and sometimes unique perks can be obtained fully upgraded by completing a respective quest.
These are the best guns in the game. As soon as they’re discovered to be the new hotness everyone wants to grind them out ASAP.
Usually this is slightly time-consuming but fun, the gun-type is in a good place if it’s that good and most of the quests require you use the same type of gun as what the reward will be. Reasonable. I had three of these weapons within about three weeks of jumping back in, all had been in the back of my mind but I only went out of my way for one of them.
Scrolling through my quests I found I’d already completed one of three steps to get one of this season’s guns, Randy’s Throwing Knife. Already I'd accumulated enough Glory in competitive PvP getting that overpowered sub-machine gun and was 30% of the way to getting enough medals in PvP while I had 7% of the most interesting step complete.
“Get Scout Rifle Final Blows”.
It started innocently, I completed my weekly quest but still had to play PvP matches, so I decided to use two Scouts at once. The Jade Rabbit, a niche hard-hitting exotic that you can upgrade if you kill enough with it in PvP, and the Scorpion, an automatic fast-firing arc Scout with alright perks. I lost control of the situation fast.
On the first Friday night, after the quest caught me in its grasp, I’d finally grinded enough power that I felt I could finally attempt the new raid… I didn't. Instead, I spent all night grinding PvP, several hours using a gun-type I’d barely used since the first Destiny. It was bad. I consider myself a strong PvP player in Destiny despite playing on a controller. I have so many hours in this series that positioning and strategy are second nature. But this was a mess. I was stuck in a SMG/Pulse Rifle mindset from the bit of PVP I’d done since getting back into the game. One kill, one death. One kill, two deaths. My brain needed to be rewired to use this weaker weapon class. Safe to say I was no longer in the top one or two spots at the end of games.
“What about the 7% you already had?”
Good question. Honestly, I have no idea. I used another exotic Scout for, maybe, my first five matches back, the MIDA-Multitool, because it was one of the few exotics I had on my D2 character and I didn’t know the new meta. But 7%? No clue. Besides, I couldn’t use that now, The Jade Rabbit had a progress bar that was also filling up for PvP kills.
This was the turning point, the day before reset, the last time it didn't need to be completed. When it crawled over 50% there was no turning back.
The next week was Iron Banner. A limited-time mode where some of the best equipment can be acquired. People flock to it. Not just PvP players, everyone.. Anyone that hadn’t ground out that SMG turned to a different one, The Riskrunner. Fun fact about The Riskrunner, it gets stronger when whoever has it equipped takes arc damage. I main Stormcaller Warlock and my main weapon was now the very arc-based Scorpion…
I played IB for hours, more than I had any Trials of the Nine or Osiris run and more than any sick day at home during the first game’s life.
I was not to be broken.
For every death I hunted two, NO THREE players that had come aboard with the launch of this hellish game on Steam.
Like Eris Morn herself the me that once was died in that pit of Lockout Control, something new, not of the Light, not of the Dark was formed.
I started to chart my progress once I had already completed all my week long Iron Banner bounties within the first day.
Every game made me stronger.
Soon things were changing. That percentage was no longer so small and it didn’t grow in 1 or 2 percent each match but sometimes 3. Time became a blur, one long match. Maps blended into one as I sought sightlines on these maps designed for close range encounters. Before I knew how many days it had been.
I was close. I might be done. I might win.
It was past midnight, I had things I needed to do with my life but that would not stop me. I was going to complete this trial of torment.
One more game, it would soon be over.
So, I crushed those who stood in my way
I must have completed it. I’ll be told to return to Shaxx and he will shower me in glory and reward.
I did it see, finally done.
I turned off the computer and went to bed.
The next morning I woke up. Empty, like the void of the lore had infected me.
The next week I played no PvP. I did my weeklies and went through the routine, something had changed. I thought the game was different now. The week after was the Halloween event. It is a great event full of things to do, but I haven’t been doing them. Shooting doesn’t feel the same. Pulse rifles feel wrong in my hand. The game feels different. I was convinced I was being forged in fire but was being burnt to ash.
I’m guessing it was right around here I broke:
I checked the actual numbers for the quest. 420 Scout Rifle kills, that felt puny. The medal step?
“Get 140,000 Medals or Kills in PVP”.
I felt like I had finally looked up that old friend’s Facebook to find out they hadn’t changed or done charity work. They were still the same snarky ass I’d gotten fed up with years ago. I think me and Destiny shouldn’t go for brunch together for a while.
I might hit season rank 100 first, I’m almost there anyway.