Review: Destiny 2

The original Destiny was a massive disappointment for many people but yet it managed to keep me extremely engaged for nearly 3 years. Therefore, it was only natural I would play the sequel and, let me tell you, Bungie did not disappoint! I am blown away with the amount of content that is in the game. I’m won’t claim that Destiny 2 has the same amount of content as a massive RPG like The Witcher 3 or Skyrim, but the game is chocked full of fun experiences. My first night playing the game, my two friends and I worked to complete the campaign missions and found ourselves easily (and happily) distracted by public events, lost sectors, adventures and high value targets. There is more to do in Destiny 2 than vanilla Destiny ever offered, and it’s great to see.

The mission design is varied, meaning there are missions that feel extremely epic and part of a massive war and others that feel less grandiose but still important to the overarching goal. This is in no way a bad thing as it broke up the game play and made me as a player more excited and engaged. From facing off against the Red Legion, to landing in the European Dead Zone to tackle the fallen,  then to Titan to face off once again with the Hive, or Nessus and IO to bath in Vex milk, the game kept me engaged.

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Speaking of the Fallen and Hive, this is the first we have seen of them as they did not appear in the beta. Both races have received an upgrade in terms of visuals as well as some of their abilities. I loved the new look to both of the races, especially the new and improved look of the Hive Knights. I continually wanted to engage with them as I found myself loving the art direction the team went with for Destiny 2. The improvements demonstrated here illustrate the hard work Bungie has put into the game.

Before release, many complained that Destiny 2 felt like large DLC for Destiny 1 as there was enough different with it. After my time with Destiny 2, I can say this is a ridiculous notion. Sure, there are similar aspects as with any sequel but there are so many new additions that it feels like a new game. The gear and leveling system are mostly unchanged from what Destiny had to offer after its three year life cycle but the new abilities, weapons, worlds and story set it apart as a sequel and NOT a large DLC.

A couple issues I have are the character customization which is largely unchanged and the emote assigning as well. Vanilla Destiny had poor and limited character customization and Destiny 2 didn’t improve in this area. The options are extremely limited still and not indicative of what an RPG creator should be. This is a huge let down to RPG fans who were looking forward to creating a cool character, especially since you see them so often in social spaces and cut scenes. Further unchanged is the emote assignment. You can still only assign an emote to the left d-pad. All other emotes are locked still meaning that we are forced to keep point, wave and sit which are all boring emotes. Why Bungie didn’t add mapping to all the d-pad for emotes eludes me still. I sincerely hope this is a quality of life change they will add in the near future as it is greatly needed to add some more fun and customization into the franchise.

Despite these negatives, the story is fantastic! It isn’t too long and it isn’t too short. It took me about 9 hours to complete the campaign and that was with very little crucible or side questing. I mostly mainlined the story with a little time spent doing lost sectors, public events, etc. While some may scoff at a 9 hour campaign, this is pretty standard for a first person shooter these days, if not slightly longer than the norm. The campaign was cinematic, epic, well paced and felt like a Bungie campaign. After great campaigns in the Halo franchise, it is understandable how let down fans were with Destiny 1 and why they clamored so vehemently for something better in Destiny 2. I won’t claim that Destiny 2 has the best first person campaign I have ever played but it was solid and high in production value. As a long time Destiny player I was extremely invested in the story. I wanted to send Ghaul packing and I felt legitimately mad at him for what he did. This is why I loved the story so much. It made me feel. This was especially true of a sequence that came right after the first mission where the music and atmosphere nearly made me cry and then at the climax when we are taking the fight to the enemy in a truly epic manner that I think everyone will agree is what Destiny should have been originally.

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Ghaul deserves to die for what he did to the last city

Further, Bungie introduced PvE activities called adventures in addition to the story and the 5 strikes in the game (6 if you are on PlayStation). Adventures are fully voice acted story missions that the character can find in the different worlds. I haven’t counted how many total adventures there are but it is not a small number to smirk at with well over 10 when combined with all four destinations. Adventures don’t have cut scenes like the highly cinematic campaign but they offer story content and insight into the lore that helps players engage with the world. The Taken King expansion did something similar with how many side quests it offered but adventures are a step even further in the direction of story and lore. I’ve put a good 20 hours into the game already and still have many adventures left to complete as well as countless lost sectors to discover.

While, Destiny 2 is a massive improvement from the first game in terms of story, it still falls into some of the same pitfalls of the original. One big area is in regards to lost sectors. They are literally called “lost” sectors yet you can see where they are located on the map. I’m fine with the locations being on the map once we find them but they are there from the start. This takes away any idea that they are “lost” and it was a big miss for Bungie. Personally I have tried to not look on the map for them and it has been fun to find them myself but I have still fallen into the trap and looked on occasion.

While I tried not to look on the map I have used it on a couple occasions due to challenges. There have been challenges that I was given in game such as “loot a lost sector in” blank area. Well, the map tells me exactly where they are and, as an efficient Destiny player, I used my map to help me complete the challenge. Now, this is where another issue comes in. Bungie decided to show us on map where the lost sectors are and made them part of the challenges but they don’t show us where any materials are and also make those challenges. I logged in last night to play some Destiny 2 and decided I would start off by completing the three daily challenges. One was to loot a lost sector, another to kill five Servitors, and the final to harvest 10 planetary materials. I played for 2 hours and found 3 materials before I gave up due to frustration. This type of fetch quest is part of what made Destiny 1 so “grindy” and unappealing. I hate missions like this and will likely refuse to do them in the future. These materials are excruciatingly difficult to find and in no way does this activity bring me entertainment.

The Crucible

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The crucible is where fellow guardians face off against one another. My fireteam had some massive hiccups getting into the pvp mode on day one with my Xbox One freezing anytime we entered matchmaking. We got in on our first match, played some Supremacy and then after that my console froze up the next 4 times we attempted to play some pvp. This was a highly frustrating experience as we really wanted that early game experience in the crucible where the other guardians are also low level and have nothing in terms of good gear. Unfortunately this experience does not last with a game full of such passionate fans. By day two, the crucible was full of players will legendary and high level loot that will easily crush the low level competitors and I feel that I was essentially robbed of that limited crucible experience.

After completing the campaign I decided to jump back into the crucible and I must say it is a blast. As a huge halo fan, I find the changes to multiplayer perfect. I love the longer time to kill, the 4v4, the fact that power ammo is available just enough to make it able to turn the tide but not overpowered, and more. The crucible is not generally where I like to spend my time due to the simple fact that I suck but I still enjoy it. I intend to spend a good amount of time in the crucible between Xbox and PC.

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I was able to play the new modes. Survival pits guardians against each other with a limited number of lives. This encourages teams to stick together and strategize. I played a match where one of our fireteam left meaning it was 4v3. My team ultimately lost but I had a great time using strategy to take down the other team and we did so on more than one occasion.

Countdown is another new mode that I enjoyed. Countdown has one team set a bomb to detonate and the other team is tasked with defusing the bomb. This mode also has revives enabled meaning that players are out of the game when killed until a team mate comes to revive them. This is similar to elimination and skirmish from Destiny 1 but adds in the objective of setting and defusing a bomb. The mode reminded me a bit of neutral bomb and I thought it was a great addition to Destiny.

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Those two modes were in the competitive playlist but there is also a casual list which contains modes like supremacy and control from the original Destiny. I enjoyed both playlists and felt rewarded for playing in both. Look dropped after matches and made me feel like my time was worth it other than just the fun I had playing the match. Interesting how games make it about more than just having fun these days with all the in game rewards they offer. There was a time or two where connections were a bit wonky but overall my experience was positive and improved from the many red bar warriors I encountered in Destiny 1.

Summary

Destiny 2 took what was great about Destiny 1 and improved upon it. The improvements made to story in The Taken King and Rise of Iron were massively improved upon with the story here. The gun play was great as ever, sound design beautiful and impactful to story and context.  Crucible gameplay was fantastic, connections good and maps design on the level I expect from Destiny. The studio is still demonstrating an affinity to grinding tasks (gather materials as a challenge) and they did a horrendous job with character customization in their RPG game but these falls are hardly relevant when stacked by the good. Bungie truly knocked in out of the park with this one despite some of the flaws that will hopefully get addressed in the future. I have every confidence that Bungie will suppport this game as much, if not more, than the original and that fans every where will be pleased with the results.

4 out of 5 Couch Cushions!

4 out of 5 small

For more on Destiny, check out Destiny 2: Live Action Trailer and What’s New in Destiny 2?!

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