Destiny 2 has been available to players for over a week now, and in that time, several of its special modes have been released to give a more well-rounded look at the game. With the main campaign, first raid, and hours of the various Crucible modes under my Hunter’s belt, it’s time to address if Destiny 2 is the revolutionary step forward for players that has been promised. As I discussed in my in-progress review of the sequel, my exposure to the series going into Bungie and Activision’s preview event was low. However, I’ve since dedicated many hours to becoming another well-versed Guardian along with the rest of the community, giving this recent in-depth playthrough of Destiny 2 more weight.
Right off the bat, the best feature Bungie corrected was the means of travel. For an epic adventure that pushes players to explore new areas, the first Destiny made that a daunting chore by forcing a launch into orbit just to move from one part of a planet to the next, as well as requiring them to return to the Tower often. This time around, zipping around a planet is seamless and provides much more support to truly explore every corner for loot, side missions, public events, and the many on-going challenges scattered across the worlds. The fast travel markers unlocked through the story mode makes it simple to open up the map, see a public event about to happen, and teleport near it to join other players. This more efficient system also translates well when moving from one planet to the next, as moving from, for example, Io to Titan, still allows a player to pick which fast travel zone to enter when landing on a planet.
The excitement and ease of exploration is a great feeling that Destiny 2captures well, with the welcomed larger planets and patrol zones, but it does come with some odd downsides. For one, the sparrow Guardians were given early on in Destiny’s campaign are now locked behind reaching level 20, the game’s current cap. While I can see where the developers were coming from with probably wanting us to be on foot for a majority of exploring, it does feel like a step back to keep a handy vehicle behind an accomplishment that takes longer to achieve than the run of the game’s story. As well, the later game Patrol missions bring out the more monotonous task of grinding for unusable items dropped by enemies instead of trying to push more exploration of areas like the new Lost Sectors.
Lost Sectors are another new area to explore, which are placed throughout each planet marked by a three-tiered symbol. While it’s enticing to head into the often dungeon-like settings, these sectors become less interesting as you find more. Typically, a high-valued target will be waiting in front of a locked loot chest, requiring the player to gun them down to earn the passcode. The loot options earned can be helpful, but the process of acquiring them isn’t different from Lost Sector to Lost Sector.
Adding to this repetitive feeling are the approaches to every mission. While it’s understandable to expect to shoot 90-percent of the time in a shooter like Destiny 2, the series also touts itself as one that pulls from RPG elements. These are mostly seen through the customization options found in the gear and weaponry using shaders and mods, as well as the ability to use various elemental subclass abilities for the Titan, Warlock, and Hunter. However, in terms of gameplay, only the subclass options offer a variation on overall gameplay, and even with the new feature of receiving three different subclasses throughout the game, it doesn’t feel as immersive as it should. My Hunter started the game off with the new Arcstrider class, giving him an Arc-charged staff that was wielded more like a sword. It was a surprisingly fun departure from the normal gun toting mechanics. I know from my first time with the game that the Warlock’s Dawnblade gives a similar variation on gameplay that feels just as joyfully varied from the run-and-gun style. It’s understandable to not focus a shooter around elements that aren’t typically present in the genre, but Destiny has said from the start that it wants to be more than just a shooter. Sadly, this time around, they still haven’t perfected whatever formula it is they’re trying to create.
Outside of the originality realm, Destiny 2 does succeed at providing an easy entry into the lore, thanks to its more robust story. Fixing the meandering storytelling from the first Destiny, players new and old will now be immediately thrust into what makes Destiny tick when starting the game. New players will experience a helpful and well-animated slideshow to explain who the Guardians are, how they protect the remaining people of Earth, and how the Traveler fits into the entire scheme of things. Returning Destiny players will be greeted with concept art of past missions they completed to remind them of their accomplishments in the first game, as well as the player handles of those that joined them in the various raids and post-game content. It’s a simple but well-executed means of honoring the dedicated fan base and giving new gamers a chance to get caught up on the basics. Thankfully, the clear and concise storytelling is carried well through the main campaign, with special nods to the opening mission, which clearly defines our new villain and the stakes involved in continuing on in the journey.
Arguably the most important element to get right are the fire team quests like raids and Nightfalls. While the first Destiny remedied its mediocre story and repetitive gameplay with DLC, Destiny 2 released one of the most challenging modes quickly, as seen through the first raid, Leviathan. As expected, the entire experience is a lengthy one, providing a need for teammates to interact with one another as often as possible to overcome the droves of enemies and high-valued targets leading them. Missions like these, along with Strikes, do create a strong desire to continually overcome their challenges and earn better loot. In fact, apart from the shader fiasco of turning them into consumable items, there is a nice mix of gear and weapons to score, especially when proving your worth in Raids, Strikes, and Nightfalls. Objectively, the bread and butter of Destiny is still these post-campaign quests.
Apart from the fun variety of weapons overall, there is a sneaky problem with the new categorization of them. Instead of the previous game’s Primary, Special, and Heavy categories for weapons, Destiny 2 calls them Kinetic, Energy, and Power, respectively. Similarly to Destiny, the Power weapons include the more hard-hitting choices like Rocket Launchers, but unlike last time, other weapons like Shotguns and Fusion Rifles can only be found in the Power category. The Kinetic and Energy categories house the same types of weapons, with seemingly the only difference between, for example, a Kinetic Scout Rifle and its Energy version, being an elemental perk. With this new system, the Kinetic weapons didn’t seem to pack as much of a punch as their Energy counterparts, making me only want to use a Kinetic weapon to save my Energy weapon’s ammo. The game continually offers new weapons to try out and raise a Guardian’s combat level, but knowing the new Primary weapon category doesn’t offer much other than a placeholder for saving ammo just feels underdeveloped. On top of that, taking out Shotguns as a possibility from Energy, for example, makes the previously higher-ammo weapon get treated as a low-ammo weapon like the Rocket Launcher. It takes awhile in the game before the locked in feeling sets in, but once it does, it just feels like a huge step backwards in a game that wants to improve on everything that came before.
I would compare Bungie and Destiny 2 to the way Apple fans react to their new products. Bungie made its mark with the Halo series, becoming an industry standard for sci-fi shooters, much like Apple’s first iPhone set the stage for touch screen smartphones. Since then, both Bungie and Apple have been successful, putting standard ideas into well-made packages. However, they often tout features that have been around for a while from competitors, making their presence in their respective fields less revolutionary and more of a prettied-up version of repeated concepts. Destiny 2’s launch came with the fanfare and excitement expected around a highly anticipated game, but looking under the surface doesn’t make it feel like the sequel everyone deserved. In turn, Destiny 2 isn’t a failure but more of a nicely updated version of the last game, and fans of Bungie will most likely love every minute of it. But it’s hard to know how the game will fair against other popular shooters of today, where players are now used to more in-depth customization and varied gameplay options. I enjoyed my time as a Guardian, but it’s difficult to see a reason to return to something that’s all about epic exploration and sci-fi operatics that isn’t pushing its own genre forward in some way.
Destiny 2 is a more polished version of what Bungie created in the first game through simple tweaks and reworks, with the key word being simple. It plays well, invites new players in seamlessly, and honors the fans that have kept the series afloat. However, despite its efforts to be a triumphant propelling of the shooter/RPG genre into a new frontier, the sequel feels more like an update on mechanics that should have been there from the start.
T - Teen
|Destiny 2 is available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Primary version played was for PS4. Product was provided by Activision for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|