When the original Destiny launched, I was lukewarm on the whole experience. I never picked it back up in time for the Taken King DLC, or any of the expansions released after. I felt like the whole loop of Destiny was too grind intensive, and didn’t offer a satisfactory campaign to alleviate its lack of end game content. However, it was obvious that Destiny had more to give, as players seemed to enjoy each new expansion more than the last. With Destiny 2 effectively wiping the slate clean, I figured there was no excuse to omit myself from the community this time around. New characters, new worlds, and an all new campaign await. Bungie is great at making first person shooters, but the promised MMO aspects of Destiny didn’t click for me. Perhaps it’ll be different this time around. Is Destiny 2 a worthy sequel, or a failed attempt altogether?
A Guardian’s End
I’m going to be as vague as possible when talking about actual plot elements of Destiny 2, as I feel the story is worthwhile this time around. In fact, simply playing the remarkable introduction mission gives you more narrative content than the first Destiny altogether. The story isn’t exactly new or unique; it’s rather comfortable and predictable. However, the gorgeous visuals and well produced cut scenes keep things interesting enough. Better yet, Destiny 2 offers a narrative hook that works for both newcomers and veterans alike, ensuring that those who skipped the original game won’t be left confused.
Despite Bungie’s promises, Destiny 2 does not use any of your existing Destiny character data in gameplay. However, choosing an existing character (stored on Bungie’s servers, I assume) at the beginning of the game provides a nice touch. It’s a sequence I won’t spoil, but the thoughtfulness of its inclusion is an over arching theme in Destiny 2. It seems like Bungie truly respects its fan base, and wants to acknowledge the time they have spent playing. To that effect, the aforementioned introduction mission is surprisingly emotional, impressing me far more than the original Destiny ever did.
Red Legion Bleeds
Your main objective in Destiny 2 involves tearing down the Red Legion, a group of conquering Cabal. After attacking and overtaking an important location, the elite group of Guardians (the archetype you play as in the game) finds themselves at a disadvantage. The main story follows your custom character, as he or she fights through a vast array of environments and alien races. The game takes place across a handful of planets, each with its own map to explore. Each planet is (usually) inhabited by a specific alien race. The same enemies from the original Destiny are all here: the Fallen, Taken, Vex, Hive, and Cabal. As you tear through enemy after enemy, they all start to look a bit similar, but that’s not due to a lack of identity.
Instead, Destiny 2‘s campaign exceeds more in set piece moments and character interactions than anything else. You may not be able to quickly identify exactly who (or even why) you’re fighting something, but you can be sure it’ll look (and feel) great. As you embark on approximately 10-12 hour’s worth of story content, you’ll have a great cast of characters chatting along the way. The side characters of Destiny 2 are both memorable and well voiced, creating a tangible team of misplaced misfits that I found absolutely endearing. While the entire cast is great, there’s a few stand out performances. The smooth and low tones of Zavala, voiced by Lance Reddick, are a constant audio treat. His serious demeanor is excellently offset by the signature quick wit and charm of Nathan Fillion (of Firefly and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog fame), who plays the robotic Cayde-6.
Adventures to Take
Like the original Destiny, Destiny 2‘s end game content revolves around improving your armor score, now known as power. What was once a repetitive act of grinding has been made enjoyable, thanks to a plethora of side content. The main story missions are a bit repetitive at times, often boiling down to “go here, shoot these guys”. However, the beautiful environments and excellent world design keeps things entertaining. After the campaign is completed, you’re left with plenty of reasons to revisit worlds and explore the rest of their areas.
Besides the small challenge-based “patrols” from the last game, Destiny 2 also contains “adventures”. These are lengthier side quests with narrative content, often contained to specific areas. These aren’t just challenges laid over the existing terrain; they’re complete missions with loot to collect and motivations to finish. All of this content (and the campaign) can be played either single player or with a three person group, and I fully recommend the latter (if possible).
He Shoots, He Scores
If you had any worries about the functional gameplay of Destiny 2, leave them at the door. Shooting and movement feels great, and there has been a few improvements to the original formula. As you play the game, you earn experience points to dump into your subclass. You can choose between three classes: Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. These classes also have three sub-classes, each which unlock at various parts of the game and have their own abilities. I played as a Warlock, and mostly used the first sub-class. This allowed me to harness the powers of fire, ultimately allowing me to wield a projectile spewing sword. I eventually switched to the dark elemental sub-class, which by comparison, saw me throwing a giant ball of dark energy. There’s enough variety to encourage players to try each class, and as combat roles become more important in end-game content, it’ll be good to know your way around each.
The selection of gun types is still commendable, although it never reaches the likes of games like Borderlands 2. You’ll be able to fiddle with auto rifles, snipers, pistols, SMGs, energy weapons, swords, and more. Additionally, Destiny 2 rewards you for sticking with the most powerful gear at any given time, so you’ll probably be mixing up your gun choice more than you expect. This naturally allows you to get a feel for each gun type, finding a happy medium and an overall preference by the time your choice actually matters. Equipping new items is made easier thanks to the upgrade inventory management and the (almost complete) removal of engrams. Unlike the original Destiny, you’ll no longer need to take new gear to the main hub for analysis. You can easily equip and identify weapons and armor as soon as you pick it up, with the exception being specific exotic and legendary gear.
I’m a stickler for game performance, and large games like this are no exception. After all, is exciting gameplay worthwhile if it runs like a flip book? Luckily, Destiny 2 almost immediately dissolved any worries I might have had. From the beginning, it’s clear that Destiny 2 is not only one of the most visually impressive shooters of this console generation, but also one of the smoothest technical experiences. The game rarely drops frames, which is a technical marvel considering just how insane things can get.
When combat gets intense, boy does it get crazy. As you can see in the screenshot above, particle effects blast off of every ability, be it a grenade or a melee attack. Everything is expertly crafted, and the textures are remarkably clean. Additionally, the lighting effects are so good you may not even notice them, creating a noticeably unique visual style for each planet. Some of the set piece moments and sequences are down right crazy, both in sense of scale and visual activity. Things can be both overwhelming and awe inspiring, all of which is owed to a great sense of artistic direction and design. Destiny 2 has a visual scope and representation of size that’s rarely used (let alone to this kind of success) in first person shooters.
The Bottom Line on Destiny 2
I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface on Destiny 2, and that’s a great thing. After achieving the highest level, completing the main story, and amassing a pretty impressive set of gear, there’s still countless things for me to see and do. I’m not even taking into account the many hours you can spend in the competitive Crucible mode, a more traditional online FPS experience. There’s also special missions called Strikes to carry out, aimed to test the mettle of you and your best teammates. With a larger raid mission planned for release just a week after launch, it’s apparent that Destiny 2 will also see more content quicker than before.
If you enjoyed the first Destiny, buying Destiny 2 isn’t even a decision. There’s a great amount of content to enjoy, both by yourself and with friends. You can play competitively or cooperatively, and the exceptionally large Destiny community ensures you’ll always have someone to play with. The Destiny 2 experience is just beginning, and with plenty of DLC and expansions planned, there’s plenty more to come. There’s no way of knowing if Destiny 2 will have the legs of the original, but if the base game is any indication, we’re in for an experience that’s even better. At the very least, Destiny 2 is a hugely entertaining first person shooter, with plenty of content to keep you interested for hours and hours. It might not present anything incredibly new, but Destiny 2 nearly perfects the existing formula.