Here we are. Three years later and Destiny 2 is finally in our hands. Bungie has put a lot of work into building Destiny into the goliath it is today. With three raids, a dozen strike missions, a bunch of DLC content, and a ton of loot, Destiny was objectively massive. Destiny 2 has a lot riding on it, with it being the sequel to a game that many thoughts didn’t need a sequel, just a consistent stream of DLC and updates. What exactly did Destiny 2 build on? Is it a vast improvement from the first game? What will returning players find new and exciting? Is it a big enough draw for new players, or even players that abandoned the first game?
REVIEW NOTE: This review of Destiny 2 is based on my experiences with the game on Xbox One.
Destiny 2 seeks to uproot all that Destiny built from the get-go. The game begins with a brilliant cinematic of The Tower falling at the hands of a special Cabal force called “The Red Legion”. This was a very divisive start and I appreciated it a lot. It gave returning players a sense of loss (our loot! No!), and new players a fresh start, not feeling at all left behind from the first three years of this universe. Our Light is taken away and for the first time in centuries, humanity and the Guardians are vulnerable. I was excited to see how this new dynamic would play out through the campaign, but it only lasted a quick 2 or 3 “missions” until you are given your power back. It was a bit underwhelming. Sure, I have a lot of fun with my Super abilities, but the campaign seemed to be afraid of delving deeper into a more groundbreaking territory. There is a line spoken by one of the characters in a side quest that really sums up how I feel about the campaign: “Don’t venture further than you have to, Guardian.” The encounters you’re faced with through the story feel very barren and recycled quite a bit. There are some new pieces, yes, such as the involvement of cinematic cut-scenes that fleshed out some of the returning characters, as well as the new ones a bit. But these weren’t enough to make the story feel authentic. The game often falls into the same traps the first did. Wave combat, mini bullet sponge bosses, or all too convenient plot points. It was nice to have a real villainous face to latch onto, and Dominus Ghaul was really great to look at, but he still felt bland. The final boss fight against him, where he has harnessed the power of the Light, could’ve been a spectacular one, capping the story mode off nicely. But it was short, too easy, and didn’t feel like a nice staple to this story. Throughout the story mode, the general feeling of troughing through it comes up quite often. Though it’s not a bad campaign, I’ve played much worse before. Luckily the voice work from the cast keeps it from feeling too trivial (yes there are some annoying cheesy one-liners here and there). You can play through the campaign and get comfortable with the controls, all the new gameplay dynamics, get a feel for all the different enemy types, and also acquire some pretty nice loot (that may be the most significant draw to finishing the story mode).
Now the “end game” content is clearly the reason why we devoted players sink countless hours into the game. The loot system is very competent now, which should be a no-brainer compared to the trash heap that Destiny was at launch in 2014. By the end of the first game’s tenure, it was a mammoth of content and loot and the loot system was fixed dramatically through that time, and it’s essentially moved right over into Destiny 2. This is the copy & paste stuff I don’t mind at all. The loot system needs to feel competent and rewarding and we need to feel the time invested in the game reflects back with the armor we wear and the weapons we have. Exotics don’t feel all too much locked behind closed doors as they once did. In fact, you’ll snag a couple through the story mode. Destiny 2 gets players off to a fast start with acquiring some great gear early on. Some things are definitely welcome additions, like the in-game maps of the areas you can explore, lost sectors (aka mini-dungeons), and the ability to travel where you want, or from activity to activity, without having to go to orbit every single time. Thank you, Bungie, but these are things that many come to expect from exploration centric RPGs and MMOs. The Leviathan Raid is massive and action-packed. And this is the sort of thing where Destiny 2 shines. Rewarding loot, interesting encounters with changing dynamics that stress teamwork and a game plan, and grand epic scenery and scope. It’s not my favorite Raid that we’ve seen, but it’s still jam-packed with content and rewards. The strikes in Destiny 2 feel and play mostly fresh, with some new gameplay elements added to them (but that might certainly be because I haven’t played them to death yet). But my general complaint about all the “end game” is that there isn’t enough. A handful of strikes, repetitive public events, and a raid isn’t enough for me to feel the game is full. It feels much more populated than the launch of Destiny, but that’s not really saying much. Destiny 2, in terms of content, doesn’t feel like a real step up. We’re given dates for the first two DLCs for year 1 of Destiny 2, but honestly, it irks me to think that Bungie plans on keeping content hidden from us until they decide to sell it to us later. The microtransactions in the game are deplorable. Why do I want to pay for “Silver”? Why wouldn’t you, Bungie, just have all the content you can muster in the game at launch, and have us earn the gear through challenges and more strikes and quests? Don’t lock away stuff from the get-go and make us buy a season pass right from the start. This was one of the biggest complaints we had for the launch of Destiny.
Now, the menu and character pages were revamped somewhat. Instead of a “Primary, Special, Heavy” loadout, it’s now a “Kinetic, Energy, Power” loadout. This allows for some more varying weapon combos. For instance, I can equip a kinetic Scout Rifle, a solar damage Auto Rifle in the energy weapon spot, and one of the new grenade-launchers in the Heavy spot. It’s an interesting change of pace for the game, but not a needed change. I would’ve much rather Bungie add some of the new weapon types that they did and keep the old loadout system, and maybe focus on adding a bunch more weapons and gameplay dynamics. There are new subclasses for each character type as well, and most of the old subclasses return. I’m still a bit sad that my favorite class for Warlocks, Sunsinger, is gone. I may just go back and play the first game to relive the glory days of my self-revive. But each class now has different subsections that cater to players who are more defensive/support oriented, and others who are more offensive/attack oriented. I’m very excited to find my favorite build for all my characters. As of right now, my favorite Warlock build is Voidwalker with the Attunement of Hunger subset. The leveling system that Destiny introduced in The Taken King expansion essentially returns intact, but a few slight differences. Now, engrams drop with a set power level when they drop, so decrypting them immediately is the best way to go, rather than sitting on them until you get to a higher level and open them up to a higher level. Factions work slightly differently in Destiny 2 as well. Instead of aligning yourself with a faction and leveling up to get gear from them, there are different factions on each explorable planet and completing activities (public events, adventures, lost sectors, etc.) there grant you Tokens, for the faction of that planet, you can turn in for gear. It’s a nice change I think and gives me a reason to go and patrol the planets and complete the challenges on each planet. For some reason, Bungie thought “one-time use” shaders were a good idea, and it costs currency to apply them to your weapons and armor. It wasn’t a good idea.
Perhaps the most significant change to the Destiny layout is the introduction of in-game clans. Players can now form clans and keep track of their clan activity and achievements in-game. This is a much-needed improvement to the playability of the game. Now clan members can share loot when they finish certain activities. Like if your clan mates complete the Nightfall strike without while you were at work, all you have to do is go the Tower and meet with Hawthorne and she’ll give you some loot for your clan completing that activity. It’s a nice addition that promotes more people being a part of groups and playing with more people. However, solo players aren’t left out. With the addition of Guided Games, solo players can find fireteams, in the game, to help them play activities that require more than one player. How it will work with the Leviathan Raid, we will see, but it’s a nice thought nonetheless.
PvP doesn’t get much of a touch up in Destiny 2. The team sizes switch from 6v6 to 4v4. New maps and new game modes don’t really make the game stand out from the previous entry. The PvP is still remarkable well-balanced, and the loot you can acquire from The Crucible can be great. It’s fun to play for a little while, but it is simply not my style of play. Other, PvP oriented players may find a lot to enjoy from The Crucible, but to me all the changes were face-value.
Destiny 2 isn’t an overhaul of the universe, it’s not a giant leap forward for the series; it’s simply just another iteration in the franchise. Returning players will have enough to latch onto to keep them going for hours on end, new players will find something worthwhile here for sure, since the game feels a bit more streamlined to appeal to a wider audience, but perhaps those players who gave up on the first game at any point will feel that Destiny 2 is just more of the same. Some areas of the game shine and are spectacular, and other drags on and feel bland or precarious. Graphically, the game is one of the best looking titles right now, the same was said for the first game, and the sound system and score is impeccable. Bungie knows what they’re doing in these regards, for sure. Whether you’re a returning faithful Destiny player or a newbie, there’s some stuff here for everyone, however, some may feel there’s more than enough, and others feel it’s all the same and not enough.