Reviewers Note: There are three classes in Destiny 2: Hunter, Warlock and Titan. For the purposes of this review, the entirety of this playthrough was played using solely the Hunter class. Additionally, this review was completed without the Leviathan Raid of Trials of the Nine Multiplayer Mode as they were not available yet and was completed on the Xbox One version of the game.
How do you take an ambitious game that has legions of fans from one of gaming’s most celebrated studios, improve on nearly everything, deliver what you promised several years earlier and still manage to stumble? Enter Destiny 2. Destiny 2 is the long awaited follow up to Bungie’s controversial smash hit Destiny. The premise of the Destiny series is simple enough: You play as a Guardian, one of the defenders of what remains of humanity and have magical space powers from a giant orb in the sky called The Traveler. You fight off multiple alien races who come into opposition with you, and try to find out how to save humanity. Sounds like an awesome premise, right? Well, for players of the first title this is about all we got in that final product. Bungie slightly course corrected with the 2015 expansion The Taken King but still ultimately failed to deliver on its wildly ambitious promise of being a fully living, online shooter.
Destiny 2 wastes no time in rectifying the mistakes of its predecessor – specifically in the narrative department. In its predecessor, much of the story was told through the acquisition of the Grimore cards, which you had to read either on the Destiny app or on Bungie’s website so you would understand what the hell was actually happening. Thankfully, that has been entirely abandoned in this sequel. At the onset of the campaign, the Cabal, a race of war-minded lizard beasts seeking to take control of The Traveler, attack The Last City and seek the light of The Traveler (which gives the Guardians their abilities). Ambushed and defeated, the heroes of the story scatter and you undertake a mission to take back the City and save the galaxy.
The game immediately delivers on a world rich with lore, exciting new NPCs and newfound purpose for many of the characters introduced in the original Destiny. Among the standouts of the campaign are new A.I. Failsafe, vendors and questgivers Devrim Kay and Asher Mir, Warlock Guide Ikora and, of course, the outstanding Cayde-6 voiced by Nathan Fillion. The campaign also delivers engaging cutscenes and exciting new locales throughout the solar system including a new area on Earth, the moon Titan orbiting Jupiter and new planets Nessus and Io. Particular praise needs to be given to the villain of our story though, Dominus Ghaul. Ghaul succeeds in giving a face to the threat you fight throughout the entirety of the story, which Oryx only barely managed to do in The Taken King.
The worlds, from the second you set foot on them, feel alive. Public events, where players exploring a given area can team up on, are found far more frequently in Destiny 2 and can trigger new heroic modifiers. The heroic modifier triggers a harder version of a given event with the potential for more loot. Additionally the map design is far easier to use. No longer do players have to go to orbit in order to see the maps of the planets. The director is accessible at any point in the game for players to get a map of the area or to fast travel to other areas. Also new to Destiny 2 are the ‘Adventures’. Think of Adventures like side quests – you don’t have to do them but they flesh the world out far more than if you didn’t complete them. Strikes, the real meat of the Destiny franchise, are also fleshed out. These strikes, and even public events, contain some basic raid elements in them and require teamwork to overcome. The strikes are locked behind a wall until you reach a certain point in the campaign, and a certain light level, so players aren’t just thrown in with no idea of how to play the game ala Destiny 1.
Also returning from the first game is the fan favorite Crucible PVP gameplay mode. Now split into Quickplay and Competitive, Crucible is still a thrilling and exciting challenge despite many unwelcome changes. The major change is how both playlists rotate game modes. This is problematic as in the first Destiny players could select the mode they wished to play and weren’t forced to play through a mode they don’t care for in contrast to the sequel. For instance: I don’t care for Survival modes and would much rather play Deathmatch or Control but with Destiny 2 I no longer have this option presented to me. This makes me far less inclined to play Crucible as it stands right now seeing as I enjoy being able to select the modes I actively want to play.
Another rather aggravating change comes in the form of Destiny 2’s microtransactions. Microtransactions existed in the first title but mainly for cosmetic items. Now, these transactions give you an engram that is completely randomized. In other words, you cant just buy the emote or ship you want from the vendor, you have to leave it up to chance. Compounding this issue is the new shader system. Shaders are essentially skins for your character and are now applied to individual guns and pieces of armor, as well as being consumable items. So say you want your whole set to match, you have to have multiple pieces of the same shader. Which means spending more dough or grinding it out for that specific shader. This system also discourages the community from customizing their armor as once a shader is applied it cannot be removed and you lose it until you earn more of that shader. Bungie has doubled down on these changes and the community is, rightfully, outraged. Customization has always been a big part of Bungie titles and Destiny 2 discourages this, and it is a glaring issue.
The Nightfall Weekly Strike is also drastically different and, at times, more challenging. Now you have an 11 minute timer and have to undertake various tasks within the strike to extend the time or else you get a game over. This is no doubt going to be far more challenging for players without headsets or a clan to run with, even with the addition of guided games for these exact instances. I’m a seasoned veteran of Destiny and still ran into a fair amount of roadblocks completing the Nightfall.
Even with some unwelcome changes, Destiny 2 is leaps and bounds stronger than it’s predecessor was at launch, or really at any point in its lifespan. The roadmap Bungie has laid out for the game clearly shows a more comprehensive plan and resembles something of what we were promised all the way back in 2013. Bungie has crafted a game that has the best controls and gunplay of any title in their catalog and is easily one of the best handling and looking FPS games ever created. Unfortunately, mind boggling changes to Crucible and microtransactions pull the game down from what it could’ve been. What Bungie has here is a very solid base and a fantastic game in the aspects it does correctly. Now only time will tell what Destiny 2 will ultimately become and be remembered for.
Josh’s Score – 8.5 out of 10