Destiny 2 Review
Hey, you ever started a thing you know you won’t finish? Yeah, that’s me with Destiny 2 right now. Destiny and it’s sequel are games made in the style of MMO’s, which is to say that even when the content runs out, that doesn’t mean there’s less game to play. These games have weekly goals with weekly rewards meant to keep you in a loop that brings you back for at least a few hours a week. In my race to try and finish everything in order to beat the game, I caught myself in the loop – again. Every time I wanted to focus on the task at hand, the task being the raid, I found myself embarking on Adventures, looting Lost Sectors for quests, going to the Strike playlist to grind for an hour or two, or even ganging up on people in the Crucible. The opportunities to do things and be rewarded for them have never been greater in Destiny. Even now, I’m just touching on these things so let me ease off for a second.
Whereas the first installment was an unruly mess from Day One, Destiny 2 triumphs by comparison from the second you begin the game. The reason: there’s a lot more game to play. Destiny 2 is almost an apology for what came before. While on it’s surface a great game, the original Destiny was noticeably lacking. There wasn’t much of a story binding the missions together, whatever story was there was nonsensical, calling the characters even 2-dimensional would be giving too much credit, there wasn’t fast travel, a decent economy, side-quests etc. It’s one glimmer of hope was the triumph that was Vault of Glass, the first raid. Raids, for the MMO newcomers, are group activities that stress teamwork and communication rather than brute force to overcome enemies and obstacles. It was everything Destiny could’ve been but also a stark reminder of everything it was not. Despite that, I loved it.
Destiny 2 serves as a reminder of what Destiny could’ve been but is simultaneously a celebration of all it has become! All the little things that were missing like a mini-map and fast travel are present. All the big things, like story and cool characters, are present. There are set pieces, cool new locales and more importantly, EVERYTHING IS IN THE GAME THIS TIME AROUND. Here’s where some of the side content pays off. Adventures are side quests that, maybe don’t do much mechanically different, but offer up morsels of story in much the same way that The Grimiore, an offsite compendium of lore, would in the previous game. So rather than locking cool character moments and interesting backstories in a website or a phone app, it’s all right there in the game now. Lost Sectors, which were dubbed “dungeons” are actually little enemy hideouts that provide a frequently nice backdrop for an alien shooting gallery with some good loot waiting for you at the end.
Speaking of the “L” word, loot has drastically changed. There is now only one version of any piece of gear, so there’s no more BS randomization that can reward you and someone else the same gun with radically different perks. While it removes the uniqueness RNG could bestow, you’re also less likely to completely flip your lid when it inevitably screwed you over. It’s also easier to get gear this time around. Much has been said in the years since Destiny’s debut, namely that the grind that existed upon initial release was monstrous and a machination of Satan himself. Destiny used to be a game that punished relentlessly in spite of your effort and successes, and while it’s been slowly weeded out, it’s finally all but gone. Not only are you typically made aware of what loot is possible to get, but you also know it’s power level beforehand. More so than that, it feels good to have clear goals with clear rewards every week. Multiples avenues of progression exist, whether it be public events or the Crucible or grinding out strikes, so as to appeal to a variety of players. If you play enough of each, you finish a weekly mission that’s bound to drop the good stuff. Specialization is not the name of the game though, so don’t be afraid to dip into something else to get loot.
To round out the new stuff, Bungie took a subclass of each of the characters and completely changed it. Now instead of occasionally sacrificing power for support, all classes are very offensive and effective at murder. As well as your jump and grenade, every class, not subclass, has an ability tied to them. For Warlocks it’s a rift that you can set to heal or buff, Titans can have a shield the size of their body or a smaller one to crouch behind and occasionally peak over while Hunters have a dodge that either replenishes their ammo or grenade depending on their proximity to a foe. The majority of the changes to classes won’t fundamentally change the way players already play, but introduce enough fun wrinkles and opportunity for group play that could one day change the game.
“Don’t overthink it. Go punch some Fallen, see if they drop the key code.” -Amanda Holliday, Destiny 2
With all the new content out of the way, let’s get to what’s returned. Quests are back and not as arduous as they were in The Taken King, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the removal of a quest tracker. It seems like such an odd design choice and there’s a workaround, but it’s not all that intuitive. Public events are now layered encounters that, though not entirely unique, shake things up in the over-world. Now instead of just defending a certain point or killing a certain thing, there are conditions to be met. If they are met in a timely manner, events can become Heroic Events, which up the ante and up the reward. Completing any of these, fighting over-world bosses, looting Lost Sectors, or finding chests reward planet specific tokens that can be redeemed with their respective quest givers which reward…LOOT. Strikes are as good as they’ve ever been. They feel like they’re longer, and lean more into The Taken King ones that were much more story heavy than those in Rise of Iron. Although now, instead of being able to access them via the map, they’re locked behind a playlist so you can’t actually pick an individual one to run. Not that anyone would in the original but the ability to pick and choose your mission and difficulty would go a long way. As for the actual quality of the activity, it’s top notch. They now feel appropriately between raids and story missions with the introduction of multi-tier boss fights, with at least two in particular eschewing a certain Vex time god and his uh “vault”. They’re still strategy-lite, but difficult enough in the early stretches that at the very least, combined brute force will easily trounce “The Cayde Way”.
Yes, I’m using Cayde derogatorily, @ me.
Elsewhere, in Shaxx’s edition of Murder for Dummies, the Crucible hasn’t changed very much. Worth noting, however, is that there is now an eight player count across all modes rather than the standard twelve and optional six, which feels much better to me. A huge problem in the original Crucible was the ability to spam abilities, and with cool downs being longer and less players on the field to spam abilities, that’s definitely been amended. Regardless, it feels much the same but marginally better to shoot your fellow Guardians. This is also due to the fact that gunplay, which was already superb, now feels even better. The guns really have a unique way in which they all sound, look, recoil and if you thought enemy feedback to your shots in the original felt good, try popping a Fallen head in Destiny 2. Good god.
Then there’s the story. I am happy to report it’s serviceable. It’s strength is in the characters and lore implications, rather than it’s narrative and themes. Your foe this time around is Ghaul, the commander of an elite regiment of Cabal known as The Red Legion. He’s taken it upon himself to strip you and all guardians of your light for reasons that are elaborated upon across multiple cutscenes(!) and illustrate that despite what every one thought, Bungie can tell a story. This loss of your abilities forces characters to go to interesting places, literally and metaphorically, and you yourself get to meet a bevy of fresh new faces, minus that of possibly homicidal A.I Failsafe. When all was said and done, I was able to safely say I enjoyed my time with it’s story and look forward to seeing where it goes next.
If this all sounds really good but not it’s like pushing the needle, it’s because it isn’t. Everything added is really good, everything fixed or reworked is especially good but Destiny always had the trappings of a good game, it’s just easier to like this time around. The story is there, the cool abilities are there, the beautiful levels are there, the stellar gunplay is there, the sweet sweet loot is there. In a quest I was mostly through with, Amanda Holliday, the character responsible for caring for Guardian ships, says “Don’t overthink it. Go punch some Fallen, see if they drop the key code.” and it couldn’t be a more perfect analog for Destiny 2. It’s about as familiar a sequel as one can ever see, so don’t hurt yourself thinking about it too much. Yes, at times it’s a little too derivative and downright similar to what came before but those moments are rarely a nuisance and more an annoyance to veteran players. But for the new people, the demographic Bungie is clearly targeting with this game, it’ll all work just as they want. You go places, you shoot things, you get new things to shoot with. It’s beautifully realized poetry. However, it’s just the opening stanza. Just like it’s predecessor, much will be made of how it ultimately finds it’s way to it’s destination, for this is only the beginning. Now that it’s an actual game though and not in need of constant fixes, Destiny 2’s future seems pretty bright.
Author’s Note: You’ll probably notice something is missing here. No, I have not completed the raid, despite the fact that I have seen the majority of it. Since I don’t have to attach a number to this Destiny 2 review and I’m already positive on the game, I figured it was worth noting but was also worth moving past.