I was never sucked into a game the way I was into Destiny. Three years of jumping, shooting, grinding, looting, screaming at the TV, yelling at my fireteam, and celebrating with my Destiny family. It’s been a minute since I’ve loaded my guns and crit-killed a boss; Destiny 2 beckons.
Destiny 2 throws you straight into an explosive story that weaves its threads around a Cabal emperor, Ghaul, whom we were introduced to in the launch trailer. Without spoiling any of the story, guardians, once imbued with the power of the light, are overtaken by Ghaul and his Red Legion, and it is up to you to save the day. The story is orchestrated by a powerful set of cutscenes, solid voice acting, and an uplifting soundtrack that perfectly compliments the events.
One thing that Destiny 2 certainly does better than its predecessor is the campaign. It now tells an actual coherent story that is not dependant on lore to get a grasp of. Where the first one was just a mesh of random missions intended to be enjoyed nonlinearly, to the game’s ultimate disservice, this time around missions are connected by a series of engaging non-sequiturs and cutscenes.
Much like the MMO structure it sets out to mimic, the real game starts after the story is completed and you’ve hit level 20. Adventure activities scattered around the planets act like mini-campaign chapters with various objectives to fulfill. Think of them as Bungie’s response to the redundant patrol missions that though make a comeback, still offer a lackluster, tacked-on experience.
I’m not sure if we should celebrate the inclusion of an interactive map for each area with fast-travel functionalities, or berate Bungie for originally releasing Destiny without a map. I would really love to be at the meeting where they decided to forego the presence of a map so that I could laugh heartedly at all those in attendance. As with all AAA games these days, it’s on the modders and competent fanbase to introduce ideas gamers actually want. Someone actually traced and designed the maps of the first Destiny for Bungie. I digress.
Strikes are back. They are now longer, diverse, and more challenging, but some of them are more of a grind than an actual pleasure to play. I’m looking at you, “The Arms Dealer” strike. Nightfall strikes also return, but rather than proving to be a test for skilled guardians and fireteams, they are an exercise in sprinting and memory. Threatened by a countdown timer that you can refill in 30-second increments by, get this, jumping through rings, if time runs out on you, it’s back to the beginning. Newsflash: this mechanic should be eradicated and forgotten about. That’s another meeting I would have loved to be in attendance at so that I may practice my laughing howls. Remember how we used to hate the bullet-sponge spammer Valus Ta’aurc when he was our nightfall adversary in the first game? I’ll gladly take three of him rather than the mess being paraded as a nightfall strike in Destiny 2.
Also, the point of a sequel–though I’m willing to argue this game being more of an expansion and a reboot–is to bring back fan favorites, you know, like vanguard strikes with multiple difficulty settings. Currently, strikes are stamped with a 140 power recommendation. You hit power 200 within hours of playing the game, and by the time you are closer to 300 power, the strikes may as well be walks in the park.
I’d invest time talking about the presentation and graphics but save for the conception of new planets, most all assets were carried over from the first game, and thus the experience is one large deja vue.
Let’s talk classes. Unless Bungie thinks their fanbase is comprised of knuckledraggers, most the content was also carried over from the first game and is a lazy exercise in been-there-done-that. Arcstrider? Oh, you mean Bladedancer with a spear. Dawnblade? Oh, you mean a super that functions like an exotic sword in Destiny. Sentinel? Oh, you mean Defender with an added shield perk. Making matters worse, you no longer are able to micro-manage your subclass; the experience has been diluted to one of two sets of perks that you may choose. This is a misstep that Bungie is expected to tend to in upcoming patches that will also address their ridiculous consumable shaders. Really, Mr. Cage? Your team greenlit that idea as well? Now I know what that slow clap emote was designed for.
On a positive note, Destiny 2 is still lots of fun to play especially with a fireteam of friends. The experience is still second-to-none, and before you know it, it’s 4 AM and you are about to launch another strike. The reward system has been given a much-needed overhaul with every activity, no matter how insignificant, acting as an additional step towards a guaranteed legendary engram. Nothing you will do in Destiny 2 will feel like wasted time, and everything was built to instill you with a sense of accomplishment. Yes, you will still grind, but unlike the first time around, you will enjoy the process this time around.
Clans have also been finally integrated into the game, rewarding benefits to all members: the more active your clan, the better the bonuses. These bonuses are PvE centric and will just offer you more glimmer per event at the 1st tier, and a higher chance of valuable rewards from public events, for example, at higher tiers.
The voice acting is solid, with Nathan Fillion reprising the role of Cayde 6 being a notable mention. cheesy punchlines and camp writing notwithstanding, Destiny 2 follows suit with the original’s attention to sound design and delivers an apex orchestra of guns, explosions, and satisfyingly-sounding enemy deaths. Looking for the cherry on the cake? A gorgeous soundtrack that carries through the whole game and its activities. Martin O’Donnell is missed, but he lay out enough of a groundwork for Michael Salvatori to pick up where things were left off.
The crucible PvP matches make an expected return, with matches being limited to 4v4 instead of the original’s 6v6. Bungie explains that it is to create a more concise experience given the memory they are working with. We’re not really buying it, but if PvP is your calling, you won’t be disappointed with what is on offer.
Ask any Destiny player about their favorite feature in the game and more times than not their answer would be the raid. Well, Leviathan is no Vault of Glass, and truth be told, no raid will ever be.
Weapons are now customizable even more than before, and I am not talking about changing perks like before. Other than being able to apply a shader to change the appearance of the weapon, you can apply perks that will help a lot in your tactics, for example changing the element of your energy weapon, or adding a perk that will make you faster, or make your ability recharge faster. This helps a lot in having different sets of weapons to match any circumstance you might get across.
Having said all that, Destiny 2 is awesome, yet it is not perfect, which I wish it was. Enemy AI is inconsistent, you can breeze through enemies without them shooting a single bullet at you, or to say the least, shooting at you but they never hit you, or they can be brutal enough to wipe you out in a matter of seconds, which is pretty annoying. Other than that, the emphasis on micro transactions is more than ever. Now shaders are consumables, not collectibles as before, if you need more , you either loot them or you can buy them from your favorite Tess Everes. Knowing that a lot of players care for cosmetics, they won’t mind paying real money to get them.
I have invested around 100 hours so far ,trying to get that exotic, beating this boss, harvesting public events, and it never gets dull at any time. Yet that doesn’t mean that Destiny 2 is perfect, I actually find it more of a Destiny 1.5, it grants you an awesome campaign, yet the end game activities are pretty much of the same . But the chaos has just started, and I am sure that Bungie will keep on adding challenges with time as they did in the first Destiny. Nevertheless, Destiny 2 is a powerful game that slowly drugs you in to the never ending struggle of shutting it down, to the long hours of sleepless nights shooting and looting, to the long and tough fights along your fire team, and I am willing to do that over and over.
Destiny 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One and on PC and it was made available for us to review via a review code from Activision.