Well, gang, the first major AAA title of the fall season is finally here, and it’s none other than Destiny 2.
The first game launched to a tremendous level of hype, part of which likely helped undermine it. Sure, the game stabilized over time thanks to downloadable content and numerous patches but overall I don’t think it was quite what everyone had in mind when it was first announced.
After spending a week with the game, pushing through its campaign and reaching its “end game” content, I do have some thoughts. Did Bungie finally capitalize and crafted the game fans expected all those years ago?
I can honestly say that…yeah, they mostly did.
First and foremost, Destiny 2 features, without a doubt, the campaign that the majority of players were expecting with the first game. FINALLY, finally, we have gorgeously animated cutscenes featuring heavy story moments and placing a spotlight on many interesting NPC characters. After kicking players in the gut through the Homecoming mission, I can happily confirm that Bungie does not let up throughout the entirety of the campaign. THIS is what I wanted from Destiny, being able to learn about NPCs and the universe without having to go read a silly virtual card online.
The story is well told, introducing a fearsome and defined enemy in Dominous Ghaul. No spoilers, but the aftermath of that Homecoming mission is downright excellent, letting players experience what it’s like to not be a constantly reviving super soldier. The story basically shows the heroes taking a massive blow, picking themselves up, and fighting back. Plus, that ending is super interesting.
If there’s one tiny criticism I could throw out is that the game feels like it rushes you through each of the new worlds. Obviously, you’ll be spending more time on them after the fact with all of the new side content, but it felt like each planet got two story missions and then quickly shuffled you off to the next spot until you reached the final few story missions.
Also, if you were hoping for a quasi-origin story of the Traveler or looking for answers to a few questions Destiny 1 never divulged like the Exo Stranger, you won’t find them here. This is a game that moves on and doesn’t delve too much into the past. With plenty of content planned through expansions covering things like Osiris and Rasputin, who knows, we may get answers over time.
The writing is handled well, with Cayde-6 getting the best lines of the cast. I was also particularly impressed with the range of emotions that the main cast goes through. You can feel how lost and panicked normally stoic characters like Zavala and Ikora become after the Tower is lost and their light is taken away. It’s fascinating to see them in this different light (no pun intended) and their character arcs are handled well.
In addition to the main cast of Cayde, Ikora, and Zavala, fans are introduced to new characters like Failsafe, Devrim Kay, Sloane, Asher Mir and the poncho wearing, bird handler Suraya Hawthorne.
Even though the “big 3” get plenty of time to shine, I’m glad Bungie didn’t skimp on these newcomers. Failsafe is easily one of my favorite new characters, as an AI with dueling personalities. Seriously, she’s basically a cross between the passive-aggressive GLaDOS and any number of zany characters from the Borderlands games. Also, I’m a big fan of Hawthorne, who essentially leads the refugees in the European Dead Zone and at The Farm. She gets a much bigger role as the game progresses, and I’m glad for it because I find her super interesting.
Gameplay wise, it retains the rock solid shooter mechanics from Destiny. The upgrade system for subclasses is MUCH better this time around, dumping the individual XP bars for each perk and instead gives you 1 upgrade point when your main XP bar fills. This helps make the game feel more organic and less of a grind, especially when you get access to all three of your subclasses.
The visuals are also outstanding and you can tell that shedding the dead weight of the Xbox 360 and PS4 has done wonders. Sure, it’s going to look better on the PC, but the XB1 and PS4 versions also look really pretty in their own right. Bungie has some ridiculous artists on their team, especially when creating those unbelievable sky boxes.
Special attention needs to be made to the game’s score because it is absolutely outstanding on every level. Destiny 1 had some choice themes as well, but everything about this score blows it out of the water by a long shot. If you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan:
While the game is far and away better than its predecessor by correcting a lot of mistakes and problems, it strangely retains a few of the first game’s issues. The biggest thing is that it doesn’t have a lot of endgame content for high-level players right now. Trying to reach the upper echelon of power (light) levels slows way down after you hit 260, and brings back those grindy elements to get better gear. Obviously, this is an area of the game that will improve over time once the raid arrives and other content like Iron Banner, Trials of the Nine, and Faction Wars, but it’s a little disappointing that there wasn’t more available right out of the gate.
I will also admit that I kind of miss the strike scoring system from Destiny 1. While these six strikes are really well made and fun, there are no scoring modifiers this time around. I’m sure they’ll be patched in eventually, but it’s kind of weird to remove something that people really enjoyed.
Not only that, new features like Guided Games isn’t ready to go out of the gate. For those who don’t know, Guided Games is Bungie’s answer to matchmaking, pairing solo players who want to tackle content like the Nightfall or Raid which other groups.
There are also a few other weird design decisions like the inability to select a specific Crucible mode you want to play. Players can either select Quickplay or Competitive, which then selects a random mode from a pool of options. So if you wanted to play Supremacy, you’d have to get lucky or keep playing until the game selects that type. The other thing I’m not a huge fan of is not being able to see which modes are tied to Quickplay or Competitive. I honestly don’t really understand why this was deemed a good idea.
Much has been said about the new shader and mod systems, which essentially lets players apply them to individual pieces of gear rather than universally affect the character. It’s proven to be fairly decisive as using a mod or shader on a piece of gear essentially uses the item up for good. Players can earn more, but once they’re used, they’re gone. I personally don’t mind it, but It is worth mentioning because it’s a fairly big change to a system that was much easier to utilize the first time around.
Overall though, I’m beyond happy with how Destiny 2 turned out. Yes, it’s not a perfect experience, but for the most part, it takes the things people enjoyed about the first game and improves upon them tenfold. The story is finally there, the gameplay is still rock solid, and it feels so much more like a complete game. With Activision and Bungie confirming that post launch content will be coming a lot sooner, the few gripes I have will likely be alleviated.
I’m happy to report that Destiny 2 is indeed the definitive experience people had been hoping for.