Game: Destiny 2
Consoles: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, and PC (In October)
(Discloser: Digital and Physical Review Copies Were Supplied)
When it released back in 2014, the original Destiny attempted to fuse FPS gameplay into an MMO shell. While the action was always fast and ferocious, the title lacked a strong story or a compelling reason to play after the credits. Now three years later, the official sequel has finally arrived and aims to deliver on every promise the first title made. Despite a few odd changes and small bumps in the road, Destiny 2 emerges as one of 2017’s best games and a contender for Game of the Year.
Set an undisclosed amount of time after the original, Destiny 2 opens with the Guardian’s home attacked by a powerful, alien military force known as the Cabal. Spear heading the assault is Ghaul, leader of The Red Legion and the creature responsible for displacing you from your comfortable residence. Going beyond that, Ghaul takes a mysterious being known only as The Traveler, stripping the Guardians of their powers. It’s then up to you to rally your forces back together, reclaim your Light, and stop the Cabal before they unlock the secrets of The Traveler.
It’s clear that developer Bungie is aiming to tell a more personal story with Destiny 2 that tries to make the stakes more tangible. Having all your powers stripped and needing to re-earn them is not a new story by any means, but Destiny 2 succeeds in making this trope feel fresh. Much of this is thanks to the brilliantly paced story that sees our Guardian travel all across the universe to unite the Vanguard leaders. While the plot may be grand in scale, it’s the small character moments that really sell the emotional weight.
Previously, characters like Cayde-6, Ikora Rey, and Commander Zavala were fairly one dimensional, yet Destiny 2’s story truly fleshes their motives and fears out. People you normally looked to for comfort are now buckling under the weight of the world and ultimately, the fear of death. However, it’s newcomers Ghaul and Hawthrone that stand out as the best additions.
It would have been easy for Bungie to make Ghaul just another villain being evil for the sake of it, but Ghaul’s motives feel justified in a way. He feels as if his people were robbed of an opportunity to progress and his jealousy makes him an especially memorable villain. Hawthorne, on the other hand, acts as a window into how normal humans see the Guardians.
Destiny 2 is clearly not shy about poking fun at itself, as it embraces the B-movie aesthetic that oozes out of every pixel. However, the comedy never overstays its welcome and takes a back seat for when things get serious. If you want to further your knowledge of the universe, players are able to read lore cards on specific weapons, partake in character specific side missions, or complete minor quests on the four main planets.
The only real complaint is that the removal of your powers feels too temporary. While there is a nice mission showcasing what happens when Guardians can die, the concept never sticks around long enough to properly explore this idea. It’s a minor hiccup in a relatively fantastic and amusing storyline.
For those simply looking to shoot things, you’ll be happy to know that Destiny 2 delivers some truly refined and polished gameplay. Shooting angry aliens is the core of this title and it’s clear how much time was spent perfecting this aspect. Every weapon has a sense of weight and impact that makes popping heads off or setting foes on fire completely satisfying. There are a lot of guns in Destiny 2, but the rarest are Exotics which offer special properties or designs. This allows for some truly entertaining moments such as blasting a group of foes off a ledge with the Tractor Cannon.
Gone are the major customization trees for weapons and in their place a modding system has been added. While you can still determine the sights and some specific qualities of a weapon, mods allow you to not only increase your damage but alter the elemental properties of the gun.
This goes for armor as well, where mods have a greater impact such as faster charging grenades, improved damage reduction, and faster movement speed. It’s a neat idea that streamlines some of Destiny’s more elaborate features, but it does sacrifice the feeling of a more personal, customizable Guardian.
As for subclass they all play great, but feel slightly underwhelming at times in terms of their capabilities. Instead of simply selecting from a pool of traits, users are now bound to one of two specific skill trees unique to each subclass. Now, this does allow for more balanced PvP (Player vs Player) gameplay at the expense of being able to come up with unique or mechanically interesting builds.
Sadly, Destiny 2 does suffer some issues when it comes to consumables and more cosmetic focused objects. Microtransactions make a return once more and while they are mainly consumable, Bungie has made some alterations for the worst. Color shaders have been switched to be one time consumables, however, many of the best ones can only be earned by paying real world money, getting lucky with a chest, or via special engrams that are earned once you level up beyond the max rank. This can be incredibly frustrating and causes players to simply hold onto their shaders until they finally decide on an armor loadout.
After the credits roll, players can partake in a number of post-game activities such as Strikes, side missions, treasure hunts, Public Events, or the modifier focused Nightfall. Unlike the original title, Destiny 2 offers users a lot of ways to raise the levels of their armor and weapons. This alleviates a lot of the grind that the series is known for and offers much-needed variety to those looking to play once they wrap up the 8 to 10-hour story.
However, the crown jewel of Destiny 2’s post game content has to be the raid that officially released on September 13. Dubbed “Leviathan,” this is the ultimate challenge for players and more than lives up to the insane amount of hype built around it. Each of the four major encounters all feel wholly different from one another that will challenge your team of six in new and unique ways.
Leviathan clearly takes inspiration from some of the first Destiny’s raids, Bungie adds just enough of a twist to make them feel new. The stand out is by far the third major room that serves as one of the coolest and wackiest ideas to ever grace this franchise. Plus, Bungie’s focus on clan support makes it easy to gather a fireteam and play with others, which was a feature noticeably lacking in Destiny.
If you are looking for something more competitive, Bungie’s altered some aspects of their PvP to make it more competitive. By reducing the number of players in a given match from 12 to 8, battles feel far more personal now. Despite having unique abilities, matches are more deliberate and focused, with a clear lean towards focusing on objectives. This was a wise choice and it helps cut down on connection or latency issues since the servers are peer-to-peer.
There is little doubt that Destiny 2 is everything that the first one wanted to be. Driven by a fantastic story that sheds light on faces new and old, there is a lot to do in this game. Whether you are just exploring a planet’s surface, taking part in Strikes, or attempting to conquer the raid, you’ll find hours upon hours of content here. Even with the ability customization issues and microtransactions, it’s never enough to hold this title back. When it comes down to it, Destiny 2 is just a great game that is a blast to play with or without friends. Eyes up Guardian, this is the Destiny game we’ve been waiting for.
- Fun and compelling story
- Strong post-game content
- Moment to moment gameplay is the best it has ever been
- Leviathan raid
- Diverse and unique weapons
- Shaders as microtransactions is annoying
- Subclasses are less customizable