Bungie’s sci-fi shooter game Destiny 2 is damn near perfect. It’s got tighter controls, an addictive public event system, and an intimidating antagonist in the form of Red Legion leader Gaul. There’s just one thing: The way players obtain Sparrows has been changed, and that’s a colossal bummer.
In Destiny 2, warriors called “Guardians” possess something called “Light” and use things called “guns” to rid the galaxy of evil. Since space is huge, the originalDestiny gave players a personal hoverbike called Sparrows, which allowed them to rip across planets and finish missions in short order. Now, in Destiny 2, Guardians must earn Sparrows. Which sucks. Being unable to use Sparrows for the first 20-ish hours zaps away the elegant adrenaline rush that gave Destiny an edge over other science-fiction games.
Everything about Sparrows — riding them, racing them, even how they look and control — is just so cool, I feel sorry for first-time Destiny players who have to grind to experience the high-level privilege. It used to be a birthright. Sparrows aren’t gone, Guardians can unlock them by 1) completing the story, or 2) reaching Level 20. And yes, they can be upgraded, so dedicated gamers can ride in style in no time.
But I can’t properly express how disappointed I was when I learned I wouldn’t ride a Sparrow until after I’ve endured the exhaustive grind to Level 20. Aside from the inconvenience of having to walk and, gasp, run, there’s a sense of sci-fi romanticism that’s been lost in Destiny 2.
One of my favorite moments in Star Wars is when Anakin Skywalker rides on Owen’s Swoop bike, hunting for Tusken Raiders in the deserts of Tattooine. In concert with John Williams’s immortal score, the scene paints a chilling, fist-pumping moment that will end with Anakin slaughtering a village — his first step towards the Dark Side. But in that moment on the Swoop bike, Anakin was a man on a mission, and few games, even actual Star Wars games, have recaptured that feeling as Destiny did.
Bikes are a powerful trope in action science-fiction. Inherited from western movies, Cool Bikes show up a lot, such as Kirk in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek, Judge Dredd’s Lawmaster in Dredd, and the bosozoku gangs in Akira. Even superheroes get it, like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight with Batman pursuing the Joker on the Batpod in what is easily the film’s greatest setpiece.
Now that players must grind for Sparrows, we’re missing out on a key Destiny experience. Besides the shooting and loot collecting, which is great, the heart and soul of Destiny is social cohesion. Taking on the galaxy with your friends is essential to this franchise, a concept the live-action trailers have been selling for years. The first trailer even made much ado about Sparrows: set to Led Zepplin’s Viking anthem “Immigrant Song” scoring the promise of conquest, the shots of the Guardians riding Sparrows was just the dopest shit ever.
There are, of course, practical reasons why Bungie made Sparrows an endgame privilege. For one thing, hardly anyone could appreciate the lush scenery Bungie’s talented team of designers created. On Sparrows, you would just zip past them without taking anything in. Also, things do become more valuable when you have to work for them. I’m certainly going to value my Sparrow more when I reach Level 20 or finish the game — whenever that happens.
Destiny 2 is available now.