Developer Bungie has a lot to prove this year with their newly launched flagship title Destiny 2. The original game had some of the strongest shooting mechanics I’ve ever played in the first person shooter genre, but some strange design decisions prevented Destiny from reaching the stars. Destiny 2 sets out to right a lot of the wrongs established in the original game while also delivering a universe that sits in the science fiction pantheon alongside the likes of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. The game may not have fully reached that plateau yet, but Destiny 2 is sure as hell a significantly better title than its predecessor.
Unlike the original, Destiny 2 actually has a competent narrative that doesn’t require the player to scan through the official website to get the gist of its story. Destiny 2 begins with the guardian’s home planet attacked by Ghaul, a ruthless Cabal leader who wants to siphon the power of the light to become a god. The Tower is ravaged by Cabal forces and the guardians, stripped of their powers, flee across the universe to escape and regroup. As the player, you control a chosen guardian who regains the power of the light and leads a group of refugees to take back The Traveler (a planet that provides power to the guardians) from Ghaul and his Red Legion army.
Upon first booting up Destiny 2, players can import their character from the first game over if they choose. Along with your character, a lot of stats from the original game are displayed in a montage of memories showcasing your accomplishments. The game actually remembers what you accomplished and with whom you tackled those challenges with. I thought this was a really endearing way to open the game, giving the player some good vibes before thrusting you into the conflict.
Personally, the story in Destiny 2 still didn’t do much for me, but I appreciate that it actually has a linear story with a clear goal this time. The new cast of characters are very charming, with many returning characters joining the fight as well. Each character is more fleshed out and given time to display their personalities to the player, which is something the original game desperately lacked. A few characters, like Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 and Joy Osmanski’s Failsafe, provide a lot of comic relief to the game that gives us a break from the serious tone the game often adopts. The story can be completed in about 10 hours, depending on how many people join you in the fight. Overall, it’s a fun journey that still feels a little too generic to aim for that high mark in Science fiction that Bungie desperately wants to reach.
The gameplay is pretty much identical from the original Destiny, down to the enemy types and classes. While this isn’t a bad thing at all, I would have liked at least one more character class and a new enemy faction. Visually, the planets feel fresh and the enemies had a boost in the art department, but I still can’t shake the feeling of everything feeling a bit too similar. Thankfully, the new character sub-classes help make all three classes feel a bit different while introducing some new powers and abilities along the way. Despite the familiar look and feel, Desiny 2 stays consistently fun.
Before Bungie launched Destiny as a franchise, I was hoping that it would be the first person shooter version of Diablo that I’ve always wanted (even though Borderlands sort of accomplishes this). Unfortunately, Destiny was a mess of a game that included poor loot and leveling systems and an exhausting amount of grinding required to earn anything exciting to the player. I’m happy to announce that Destiny 2 absolutely fixes all of these issues, making it a significantly better experience.
No longer will players pick up engrams (the game’s version of loot) that assign gear that isn’t representative of the rarity it’s displayed as. Each and every legendary or exotic engram collected will actually give you legendary and exotic items. In the original game, picking up a legendary engram gives you the CHANCE to get a legendary item, not actually guaranteeing one. Bungie’s stinginess to give the player useful, progressive items in the original game was absolutely frustrating. Thankfully, this isn’t the case in Destiny 2.
Destiny 2 includes a standard experience-based leveling system with a level cap of 20, which is easily reached by the end of the campaign. The light system, which ranks your character’s power level, makes a return but with a different twist. Players now have a power rating, which increases as you equip more powerful gear. It’s essentially an aggregate number that tells the player how powerful they are. Missions and quests will give a recommended power rating to the player to help determine if their character can handle the challenge.
In the original game, the light level was frustrating since high level gear was extremely hard to come by. In the sequel, a stream of constant loot assigned to each player based on their stats fixes that problem all together. Instead of chasing higher levels in the end-game content, players will be chasing better gear that raises their power level, thus allowing them to tackle tougher challenges. Overall everything works very well here and makes progression feel much more satisfying than the original game’s solution.
The sheer amount of in-game content has greatly expanded in Destiny 2 as well. A lot of elements from the previous game make a return, such as the campaign, patrol missions, strikes, Nightfalls and raids. In addition to all of this, adventure missions and other various side missions are included as well, giving players much more to do. Adventure missions are basically story side quests that are much more fleshed out compared to patrol or strike missions. The game actually waits to unlock a lot of this content until the player has progressed through a large chunk of the story, easing them into everything nicely instead of just spewing tons of icons on the maps, making players feel overwhelmed.
Not only has Destiny 2 been given a big bump in quantity, but also a substantial bump in quality as well. Strike missions feel more like mini raids instead of a series of rooms to be cleared out, introducing more moving pieces other than pulling triggers. The cooperative strike missions were my favorite part of the original Destiny, so adding light puzzle solving, platforming segments and navigating dangerous traps make these missions feel much more fleshed out and exciting. Campaign missions feel more grand in scale and sprinkle in small set pieces that breaks the sterile MMO feeling the game sometimes possesses. Even the art direction and level design of the planets feel greatly enhanced and far more enjoyable to navigate.
The real meat and potatoes of Destiny 2 is the end game content. Once the player completes the campaign and reaches the level cap, you can then work on building your character to be a beast of a guardian. Thanks to the enhanced power and loot systems, grinding through the end game content always feels like you’re being rewarded with something useful instead of given random junk that stifles progress. Tackling larger challenges in the form of raids and Nightfall missions are as fun as ever, as long as you can find a solid group of players to join you.
Bungie includes a full suite of fun clan features in Destiny 2 that make forming and scheduling groups even easier than before. Clans can be created and customized online or in-game along with a set recruitment tools used to entice other players to join you. As the members of your clan play through Destiny 2, even if they’re not in your fire team, they’re constantly contributing to the clan by earning XP, weekly rewards and completing milestones.
Clans can even form parties and open themselves up to outside players looking for raid or Nightfall groups, giving those without groups of friends to play with the opportunity to enjoy content they couldn’t before. Everything is simple and easy to use, giving Destiny 2 a greater sense of community, rather than the message board scramble to find other players that the original Destiny fostered. Looking for a clan to join? We even have our very own clan!
The Crucible, the PVP mode from the original game, makes a comeback as well. This time, 8 players are split into teams of 4 instead of the groups of 12 players in teams of 6 found in the original Destiny. As a result, PVP feels a little more smaller in scope, which is a decision I’m not sure I agree with. The competitive modes are still enjoyable but also feel a bit more barren and less chaotic as a result. I feel The Crucible is the only element that hasn’t received a large boost in quality in Destiny 2. If anything, it took a step back. Crucible surely won’t pull me away from Overwatch or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds any time soon.
So I guess the question on everyone’s mind is this: is Destiny 2 a great sequel? Not necessarily. As much as I loved playing Destiny 2 and still do, the game feels a bit too familiar to the original. With no new classes, factions, enemies or gameplay mechanics, Destiny 2 feels more like a reboot of its predecessor than an evolution of it. Regardless, I can’t deny how much fun I have while playing it.
It’s apparent that Bungie took the criticisms from the original game to heart. Destiny 2 is a significantly better game than the original thanks to more quality content, better technical systems and insanely addictive gameplay. While the gameplay is pretty much the same as before with mostly the same enemies, Destiny 2 wraps it all up in a much more enjoyable package that doesn’t quickly overstay its welcome. After finishing the game, I’m still excited to jump back in and grow my character, tackle tougher challenges and have a great time playing with friends. It may not be the science fiction masterpiece that Bungie wants, but Destiny 2 is a game worth every penny of its $60 asking price regardless. You can’t find a better, meatier game to play this Fall.
Destiny 2 was reviewed on a Playstation 4 Pro on a copy purchased by The Gaming Outsider.