When Destiny first launched in 2014, Bungie’s first game since the popular Halo series released to a bevvy of mixed reactions. Fans of Bungie’s established franchise enjoyed the same level of detail put into Destiny’s environments, weapon handling, and fantastic music as seen in their popular Halo series. However, those expecting the next big MMO in a universe with a rich story and lore, a deep and engaging narrative on the same levels as other epic RPGs like Mass Effect, and gameplay that combined the excellent shooting gameplay with RPG elements from other MMOs such as massive raids, or a deep levelling system with plenty of customization options found themselves rather disappointed.
The story campaign was rather short and lacklustre, each mission was structurally the same and grew repetitive rather quickly, and there was a significant grind needed for those who wanted to experience the end game content. Ultimately, the original Destiny failed to live up to the impossible levels of hype built around it as the next big juggernaut in the gaming industry, Bungie had dug themselves a hole that was seemingly impossible to get out of.
After three years and a couple of expansions, each of which incrementally improved on the original game, Bungie decided to hit the soft reset button by removing everyone’s progression in the original Destiny and placed everyone at the same starting point in the hopes of making things right this time in their aptly named sequel Destiny 2. The structure remains largely the same, however, with story missions, public events, PvP, and the endgame content that can be completed all in the pursuit of finding better loot. With that in mind, newcomers and fans of the series alike will find themselves asking: Does Destiny 2 do enough to warrant the number 2 in its title, or is it closer to being Destiny 1.5 rather than a proper sequel?
Destiny 2: Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Release Date: 6 September 2017
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Purchased by Reviewer]
When you first log into the game, you’ll first see a long cutscene that sets up the tone for the rest of Destiny 2. After realizing that every satellite has been taken down, the Vanguard and citizens of the City find themselves attacked by a large invading army known as the Red Legion. Led by their imposing leader Dominus Ghaul, the Red Legion quickly takes over the City and utilizes a large cage in order to trap the Traveller and harvest the Light with the goal of harvesting its power and using it for their own purposes.
Right from the beginning, you find yourself in the middle of a grand firefight at the tower. Tasked with helping to defend the tower against the invading Red Legion while also protecting the citizens who are still alive, the campaign throws you right into the action immediately. It all culminates in an encounter with Ghaul where you lose your light and are thrown off of his ship. From there, your Guardian seeks refuge with other humans, discovers a way to obtain the Light again and eventually travels to different planets and moons in other to locate and reunite the Vanguards in order to execute a plan to defeat Ghaul.
To say the campaign in Destiny 2 is an improvement to the original Destiny isn’t much of a compliment, as the story in the original was a letdown, to say the least, and one of the reasons why its critics were so dismissive of the first game. While Destiny 2 does improve on the campaign by giving us a named villain rather than just the “Darkness” from the original game, and a clearly defined goal (preventing him from using his superweapon known as the Almighty to destroy the sun and saving the universe), Ghaul ended up being nothing more than a typical clichéd villain, complete with the “we’re not so different, you and I” line from your average action film. Outside of a brief bit of exposition about his backstory, there isn’t much information about him, and due to the mask he wears, he often comes across expressionless rather than fearful or menacing during cutscenes. Furthermore, the narrative loses some of its emotional impact rather quickly.
From the offset, the Light is taken from your Guardian and all hope seems lost as you and your ghost realize that your Guardian can no longer resurrect when killed, making death seem more perilous than ever before. That feeling doesn’t last long though, as the first mission you do right after is one which gives your Guardian his or her Light back, thus giving them a chance of being resurrected by their ghost immediately again. Getting your Light back so quickly cheapens the experience of losing it slightly, and makes the initial scene feel a bit pointless. There would have been a much higher emotional payoff if you had received your Light closer to the end of the campaign instead of right at the beginning.
The rest of the campaign plays out pretty much like missions in the first Destiny: Explore a new area, kill a bunch of bad guys, and travel to a new planet to do the same. Occasionally you’ll have a mission that involves getting in a vehicle and mowing down enemies, which is a welcome change of pace but it would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the mission structures. It would have been especially helpful to have a few that borrow mechanics from the end game in order to prepare players and give them a taste of what’s to come in the raid.
After hundreds of hours with the original Destiny, and over a hundred poured into Destiny 2, I can safely say that Bungie has mastered the art of making shooter gunplay feel better than any other FPS in the market. Each gun looks and handles distinctly unique to each other, and feel just right as you hit your target. Since that’s what players will be doing with the majority of their time in the game, its welcome news that helps Destiny 2 stand out from other shooters. Likewise, the same constant slow drip of getting better gear for just about anything you do in the beginning of the game is equal parts rewarding and addicting. In the beginning, you’re constantly being rewarded with new and better gear for levelling up your character and progressing through the story.
It doesn’t take long for you to replace any armor piece you get or a weapon that you happen to be carrying, and equipping and using new weapons on a regular basis made the gameplay experience feel constantly fresh. The frequent feeling that it wouldn’t take me long to find better gear made me want to log in regularly to play one or two more missions. Similarly, there’s an incentive to participate in any public events you happen to stumble upon while working on other quests because it’ll likely reward you with better gear or an engram which could lead to better gear (especially if you enter the heroic versions of these events). Unfortunately, that rapid sense of progression stops once you hit level 20 and complete the story. That’s when you get to the real meat and potatoes of the game as you enter the grind towards being able to participate in the end game content.
The end game grind is largely the same as Destiny. Once you get reach level 20, your power level much like your light level in the original Destiny will determine what events you can or can’t participate in the end game. Your power level is essentially the average power level of your weapons and armor. The higher the power level your gear is, the higher your power level is. It’s a fairly simple concept but can be rather annoying and tedious near the end.
While you can get better gear through doing just about anything in the game initially, the game places a soft cap at around 265 power level, meaning that you’ll have to do specific tasks such as the weekly milestone events if you want to raise your power level past 265. Just as in other MMO’s, end game content is typically restricted to those who come in with the right pieces of equipment. As such, power level is an important part of the late game of Destiny 2 because certain activities such as the Nightfall strike and the Leviathan raid are limited to players who reach a minimum power level. However, putting a cap on power level to enter certain events means that only players who invest a significant of time into the grinding part of the game can experience what amounts to arguably the best parts of Destiny 2.
It can be frustrating knowing that you are 10 levels away from being able to participate in the same events your friends are doing and having to rely on the RNG gods to grant you the right gear to be able to join them. This isn’t new for hardcore fans of the first Destiny, who were used to logging on every Tuesday (when all the events reset) in order to do the weekly events and raids for that week in order to reach their max light level, but those who were hoping for a departure (or at least, other options) to this formula will be left rather disappointed. Likewise, all the endgame content requires a fireteam of likeminded and similar power level individuals to go through them. Without any real matchmaking for this content as of now (although there is a pseudo matchmaking system called “Guided Games”), those without dedicated partners or healthy sized clan to group up with will find it difficult to experience a good portion of Destiny 2.
Player vs Player (PvP) makes its return in Destiny 2 through the crucible again, but with some changes. The biggest being that every mode is made solely for teams of four. As such, every game mode and map is built with 4v4 in mind. It’s an interesting change but works for the most part. Matches feel more intense. With smaller and more focused maps it doesn’t take long before you find yourself in a firefight with enemy Guardians and as a result, there is little downtime during matches. However, the shift towards a focused team size means that maps are much smaller and tend to favor narrow hallways rather than large open areas. The teams that are most successful are usually the ones who stick closely together and move as a group so they can outnumber their opponents in any given situation.
The tone seems to be much more competitive in the PvP compared to the original Destiny, even in the non-competitive playlists. There are fewer modes in the crucible in Destiny 2 when compared to the original as well, so the lack of variety may have some players grow tired of the crucible rather quickly, especially if they are constantly matched with opponents who are in the same clan and working together. Lastly, while it’s still early in the game, certain weapons seem to have a fairly distinct advantage over others in PvP. This eliminates some of the balance in the crucible, and as such players feel less inclined to experiment with different weapon sets, instead of picking the best gun in the current meta.
Much like the original Destiny, players will want to experience the raid at least once as it introduces new mechanics and gameplay elements that have not been elsewhere in the game. The Leviathan raid is the first raid in Destiny 2. As was the case in previous raids, it requires a group of six guardians to enter and tasks them with clearing various puzzles and encounters where success is rewarded with loot or a key to a chest which will grant loot. Furthermore, each encounter is unique from each other, and players will have to work together and coordinate their efforts in order to complete it. While the location and aesthetics of this raid are quite different from any raid seen previously, the mechanics don’t feel quite as fresh or unique as the previous raids in the first Destiny. Although it doesn’t introduce too many new elements, the challenges presented here offer a great sense of satisfaction and personal accomplishment after learning and progressing through each challenge.
At its best, Destiny 2 is a fun co-op shooter that allows you to hang out with friends and shoot the breeze while working together towards something. That aspect of the original Destiny hasn’t changed, and those who enjoyed the weekly gatherings with friends while doing the raids, strikes, and other activities as an excuse to do something while catching up with friends and family will enjoy this for the same reasons. Despite the campaign’s best effort to paint you as the sole Guardian in the universe with the light inside them, that illusion is immediately shattered the moment you enter a public area filled with other Guardians running around with the same Light within them.
As such, some of the immersion of the campaign is lost as you progress through the story. It’s as if Bungie gave players mixed messaging, but the reality is that Destiny 2 is a game best experienced while playing with others. While it is possible to go through some of the game’s content alone such as the campaign story and some of the open world content, the game is much more enjoyable when experienced with friends, and with the endgame limited to people in groups of three or six, those who are primarily single player gamers will likely find themselves being able to experience only about half of what Destiny 2 has to offer.
Ultimately, Destiny 2 is a more polished and refined experience than its predecessor but doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It follows much of the same beats as the first does, but there have been some minor enhancements that long-time fans of the series and newcomers alike will appreciate. The campaign mission was a much-needed improvement over the first, with a narrative that is easy to follow and makes you care about your guardian and the fate of the Earth. However, at about ten hours it was still a bit on the short end. The main villain lacked any sort of depth to make him feel important or a menacing threat, the story involved a few instances of Deus Ex Machina which made some of your efforts in the campaign feel meaningless, and the final encounter left plenty to be desired.
All of the modes from the first Destiny make a return including patrols, public events, the crucible, strikes, nightfall and a raid. Some of these have seen some changes and improvements as well, but there isn’t anything that feels greatly distinct in Destiny 2. Even new additions such as Adventures (optional side quests) and Lost Sectors (short dungeons containing a loot chest that must be opened with a key from the boss) don’t provide anything entirely unique, so those looking for something completely new in Destiny 2 to experience will be left a bit disappointed. Visually, the game looks much improved over the first game, with each planet having a unique yet gorgeous aesthetic to them, and a stunning soundtrack that makes every big moment feel all the more grander.
Dedicated fans of the original Destiny will likely enjoy all the improvements made in Destiny 2 to supplement their weekly grind towards reaching 300 (and above) power level. But those who were turned off on the original game due to the lack of content, and the need to grind the same events over and over again in order to experience the end game content will most likely feel that Destiny 2 hasn’t changed enough in that regard to warrant a second chance. Despite all the minor improvements at its current stage, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the final year of the original. When compared to its predecessor, Destiny 2 feels leaps and bounds like more of a complete package, however, it doesn’t seem much different from the previous two expansions for Destiny in terms what you’re getting with your $60 purchase.
- Much improved campaign mode compared to the original Destiny
- Phenomenal presentation in the stunning visuals and epic soundtrack
- Solid gunplay makes a return from the first Destiny
- More activities which offer better rewards
- Grinding the same activities weekly is still a major component of the game
- PvP is limited to only 4v4 modes
- Lack of new Guardian class or enemy race
- Less content then compared to the final year of the first Destiny
- Main villain isn’t very interesting