Published on October 16th, 2017 | by Joseph Saulnier0
When Destiny hit the shelves in 2014, one year after originally intended, there was a lot of criticism. From a bored sounding Peter Dinklage (which I didn’t mind actually), to unintuitive design and lack of story content, it seemed the franchise Bungie stated would last a decade was doomed to fail. Then, a year later, The Taken King releases and changed everything. TTK brought with it a refined interface, more narrative, and Nathan Drake. Destiny had found its footing. But, does the second entry in the franchise have what it takes to outshine the first?
The first thing that anyone who played the first will realize is that Destiny 2 delivers what many believed the first lacked more than anything: plot. Gone are the grimoire cards, instead you are immediately immersed into the plot. D2 rallies players to defeat Dominus Ghaul, a Cabal Warlord who believes the Traveler’s gift has made Guardians weak. Of course, we’re talking the gift of immortality, except in certain areas. Ghaul removes the Guardians connection to the Light of Traveler with the help of a cage specifically designed to drain it of its power, which he plans on claiming for himself. Ghaul is a beautifully crafted antagonist who immediately earns your disrespect by taking away your power, home, and family of NPCs we met in the first round.
What follows has your Lightless, but not necessarily defenseless, Guardian attempting to escape the Last City, now under Cabal control. Just before getting to the Farm, the new social area of the Destiny universe now that the Tower has been toppled, you stumble through a vision of how you might possibly get your Light back. Without any of your abilities, and your Light, navigating the world is far more perilous, and caused actual tension for me. That’s how quickly this game drew me in.
Destiny 2 tells an engaging science-fantasy tale that takes place across the solar system, from regaining your lost power to gathering scattered forces and retaking the world that was stolen from you. Despite the interesting choice of making it very clear that you are the only Guardian capable of completing the multitude of tasks set before you seeing as you are the only Guardian connected to the Light. But, then the second you get out into the EDZ you immediately other players in the same circumstances. While not a massive sticking point, it did seem a little lazy and I felt they could have brought together a story that meshed with the world a little better.
As you make your way through the campaign, you will find yourself introduced to four new areas. The first is the European Dead Zone (the aforementioned EDZ), which reminded me a lot of I Am Legend. The second is a floating on the seas of Titan, one of Saturn’s Moons. Next, we go to Nessus, which in Destiny’s terms is considered a Centaur. This is a minor planet that been converted into a machine world by the Vex. Lastly, we end up on Io, one of Jupiter’s Moons, which is the last place the Traveler “touched” before what is referred to in-game as The Collapse. Each of these locations has tons of activities to keep you engaged, with many being unlocked as you progress through the campaign.
Public events offer a quick boost of experience, with the chance of getting some good gear out of the deal. Adventures are side-quests that give you loot, and more plot to help flesh out the worlds with some additional background story. Lost Sectors are essentially short dungeons with a loot chest at the end, and each zone also has a hidden “region chest” which gives some good rewards to those who find it. I have not had a lot experience with the patrols in Destiny 2, but it seems very similar to those that we saw in Destiny. Challenges are similar to the bounties of Destiny that consist of three tasks for each zone and are refreshed daily. They provide players with even more opportunity for rewards. Strikes also return and do play a similar role. A new feature added are “meditations”, which allow players to replay through the main story line missions again.
I know this seems like an overwhelming amount of content. And it is. But, if it helps makes the grind feel like less of a… well, grind. No matter which of all the activities you choose to complete, you’ll get minor loot and also reputation tokens that can be traded to your contact in each region for powerful gear (though at a point, the gear your finding is far more powerful than what the offer). This all gives you a sense of progress, even if in a small way.
Like the first game, much of D2 revolves around completing some of the same tasks over and over again in order to gain more powerful gear. All of this is to prepare for the raid, or complete weekly milestones. But, thankfully, the gun-play is still as excellent as ever, but what else would you expect from Bungie. As a result, the grind feels like even less of a chore. Each weapon has its own advantages and disadvantages, and they behave exactly as you would expect in terms of accuracy, range, and recoil.
The weapon system received a decent overhaul between games, and it makes a big difference in how players approach their loadouts. This time around, we have kinetic and energy weapons that include all weapon types in each category, instead of limiting them to the primary and secondary choices. Included are all the usual suspects: scout rifles, auto rifles, submachine-guns, hand cannons and all the rest. Kinetic weapons work much like the primary weapons of old, and they are your main bread and butter as you work through the missions. Energy weapons are great at depleting enemy shields, or those quick kills you need in tight spaces. Power weapons come in place of heavy weapons, with the addition of shotguns, sniper rifles, and even swords.
Destiny 2 offers a more refined experience which makes it easily accessible to players, old and new. This is, in part, due to the improvements made to the Director, Destiny’s map interface that can be opened up at any time. Players no longer need to head to orbit to travel between worlds, fast travel has been added and public events are now marked on the map. Guided Games is a new feature that lets players that would normally not get to experience some of the endgame content to get help from some of the more experienced players. Being a member of a Clan also helps towards your progress. Even if you prefer playing solo (as I do most of the time), you’ll be able to earn some high-level engrams when your clan-mates compete some of the endgame activities. All this points to kudos to Bungie for not really changing the fundamentals of the endgame, but making it more accessible.
Despite the change in the quality of life and the added activities, Destiny 2 just doesn’t feel like a true sequel to me. You’re fighting all the same enemies, just in new environments. There’s no new classes of Guardians and all of the element types are the same. But it’s still fun. And that’s because Bungie, as evidenced by The Taken King, took all of the criticism and suggestions to heart. They listened to their community and did what they could to implement what the fans wanted. So maybe playing it safe in the beginning with some of this was smart, especially with as much other content has been added. But just like the first game, D2 has room to grow.
One of the things the guys at Bungie did absolutely correct is make a game that fits into our lives. Each mission or activity is long enough to whet your appetite, but short enough to be able to pick up and play for a half an hour, sometimes less. It’s a good balance and allows for you to basically choose your session time based on your needs. It executes this perfectly.
I played the game on Xbox One, and found that there are only 13 achievements encompassing the majority of the game’s activities. In order to unlick everything, you will need to advance far enough with all three classes to unlock all three of their subclasses, reach level 20, complete 30 challenges, a Heroic Public Event, a Nightfall strike, a Flashpoint, collect 15 different exotic items, and play enough PvP to complete Shaxx’s Call to Arms. The majority of these will come through normal play, but the more difficult ones come from the Belly of the Beast and The Prestige, which require players to compete in a Leviathan raid on prestige difficulty.
Destiny 2 takes the groundwork laid down by its predecessor and refines many of its rough edges, especially noticeable to those looking for more plot substance. Bungie hasn’t played around with the fundamentals of the game too much, but the accessibility is much higher for all players. The increase in number of activities is a great addition, but the grind does eventually set in. Like I said, it doesn’t feel quite like a proper sequel, but I think Bungie will have plenty to bring as we move forward. If we learned anything from the first entry into the franchise, it’s that it is very possible Destiny 2 may have a different look and feel in two years’ time.
4.5 out of 5