Although released in 2014, Destiny remains a highly polarizing title within the gaming community. Some poured hundreds of hours into the FPS-RPG-MMO hybrid while eating up every ounce of $20 to $40 DLC installments in the hopes of discovering the next piece of must-have loot. Others grew tired of the game within 10 hours, finding the missions repetitive, the DLC overpriced while entirely underwhelming, and the promise of new loot not enough to hold their interest.
While the game undoubtedly had great combat mechanics, there was very little in the way of story with all the lore and context of the game buried in Grimoire Cards that could only be accessed out-of-game. Bungie had a lot to improve with Destiny 2, and they deliver, not necessarily in grand fashion, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Destiny 2 immediately builds off the events of its predecessor, summarizing your previous Guardian’s adventures with beautifully drawn inkblots before the opening cinematic begins. It is reminiscent of the Mass Effect games in the way that you feel like you are continuing your adventure from the previous game. From there, you’re quickly reintroduced to the Vanguard of Guardians just before Ghaul and his Red Legion start shellacking the Last City, officially kicking off sequel.
The conclusion to your first fight with Ghaul, or Ralphie's encounter with Santa Clause from A Christmas Story?
You assume control of your Guardian as he or she returns from some offworld mission to the siege of the Last City. This approximately 20-minute opening sequence is essentially Destiny 1.5-you already have incredible armor, weapons, abilities, and the same supers as you would had you reached the top levels in the first game.
The spectacle of seeing the Red Legion sack the city in real time is awesome as Red Legion capital ships lay waste to the Last City, and taking a stand with three other Guardians to help the Titan Vanguard Zavala keep the invaders at bay was a blast- the five of us decimated wave after wave of troops trying to sack the city with hand cannons, supers, assault rifles, and grenades. It’s an explosive start that immediately lets the player know exactly who he or she is fighting, why, and the ramifications of the war.
This is a refreshing change from the original Destiny where you spent so much time asking why you’re doing things while slowly realizing you are just mindlessly grinding for slightly varying rewards. Throughout the 15 hour campaign each mission, task, and character has context and purpose without having to study an hour’s worth of Destiny literature on Grimoire Cards.
Don’t get me wrong, the story is in no way profound or fresh. It’s your typical “assemble your team and get the bad guy” story found in many action movies/games, but it’s executed fluidly and explosively with solid characters and hectic combat sequences.
Nathan Fillion is perfect as Cayde-6
Most notably, Hunter Vanguard Cayde-6 is teeming with hilarious quips, and the clueless, decaying AI Failsafe makes the middle act of the main campaign the highlight of the story. Also, Ghaul is a formidable villain who shows surprising depth in his pursuit to access the Traveler’s powers in that he doesn't want to merely take the Light, he wants to be deemed worthy of it.
The final three missions of the main story are fantastic, with massive set pieces rounding out the campaign- from grounding one of Ghaul’s command ships with a Halo-esque tank to battling the last of the Red Legion forces basically on the surface of the sun. Bungie’s roots from the Halo franchise shine through on these missions, as they’re chaotic, action-packed sequences with an exciting mix of vehicular and ground combat.
Assaulting the city with fellow player-controlled guardians was an awesome, world-building payoff that reminded you what the whole fight was for in the first place. It offers the first glimpse of the Last City in the franchise’s history with ruins of markets and shops adding an eery feeling of what was lost in the initial attack.
Don't worry everyone, Cayde got the chickens out safe!
Throughout the experience the soundtrack is incredible with obvious influences from Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and traditional JRPGs (especially in social spaces). The combat music is something straight out of a 90’s direct-to-VHS sci-fi movie, which is awesome if that’s what Bungie was after but is laughably bad if they thought it made the scenes more dramatic.
The voice acting is stellar all around, even in the side characters and merchants. The vanguards are given a life of their own by Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Lance Reddick (The Wire and Toys Are Me), and Gina Torres (Suits). Hardcore gamers will recognize plenty of familiar voices, including Claudia Black of Uncharted fame. I am also 99% sure I heard Dan Soder’s voice in a random background NPC on the Tower.
In terms of gameplay, the changes to Destiny 2 may be subtle but they make a world of difference in inventory management and how to progress through each stage. Weapons are no longer classified by “primary,” “special,” and “heavy.” Instead, they’re classified by ammo types; “kinetic,” “energy,” and “power.” This allows you to equip two of one kind of weapon—two assault rifles, two pulse rifles, or, if you hate yourself, two sidearms at once-- or any combo of the three.
I'll be honest, normally I have a rare hand cannon equipped, but since I knew this screenshot was going online I wanted all legendary weapons to be equipped, hence the SMG (which I have yet to actually use)
What I found most useful was being able to equip a hand cannon or scout rifle for tougher enemies in one slot then have an SMG or assault rifle in the other slot for closer encounters that required concentrated fire. This small change in weapon classifications makes Bungie’s signature gunplay mechanics shine even more in the distinct differences of how each weapon plays.
This switch up in weapon types is especially noticeable in the Crucible when going head to head against other Guardians. Once you find a combo of weapons that you groove with you’ll blast your way to the top of the leaderboard every match. My current favorite combo is a heavy-hitting assault rifle for the medium-range attacks with an SMG or faster-firing assault rifle; I’ve got a shotgun at the ready when I am lucky enough to stumble upon power ammo.
Here's a prime example of me stumbling into a triple kill thanks to some power ammo
Moving the Crucible to 4v4 matches on more intimate maps is another welcome change. The matches were frenetic and fast paced with significant weight attached to squad gameplay. When I go lone-wolf I tend to play awful, but when I stick with my squad we mowed down helpless noobs with extreme prejudice (and lots of me yelling, “Suck it, nerd!” into my headset).
This is one of the few times that going solo actually worked out for me in the Crucible- a full squad wipe.
Much like the campaign, Strikes have more life to them thanks to the more developed characters and worlds that exist within them. However, the matchmaking system still tends to give you the same Strike multiple times in a row, which can be frustrating. Other than that, Strikes haven’t changed much, which is fine. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
The complaints I do have are minor. Armor shaders were fun in the original game, allowing a Guardian to change the aesthetic of their armor as often as they wanted in one click of a button. Now, armor shaders have limited uses and can be applied to individual pieces of armor. I understand that this allows players to customize their Guardians even more, but keeping track of which shaders are on which pieces of armor and how many uses of that shader you have left gets tedious fast. Plus, it’s extremely frustrating to get a rad neon shader applied to your chest armor only to unlock much better chest armor minutes later and have to lose that shader.
On top of the shader headaches, I find the initial Guardian creation to be lackluster. With games like Fallout and Mass Effect that let you tweak the exact dimensions of your nose and the width between your eyes, it is frustrating to be presented so few options in making my Guardian. I don’t see any options for facial hair (I can’t grow a beard in real life so virtual beards are where I live out my dreams of being a real man), and the color selections are downright awkward—why would anybody have neon green lips?
As with Destiny, I am sad not to have any control of my starship—I still think dogfighting missions would round out the experience perfectly. Remember how awesome the space flight mission in Halo: Reach was? Give me that. Oh and I hate having to install a day one patch. I waited in line for an hour only to get home and wait another hour to download a six-gigabyte patch.
Destiny 2 has impressively gorgeous skylines and environments throughout the universe.
Overall, Destiny 2 met all my expectations, even slightly surpassing them. After completing the end game I still devote hours to the game without feeling bored, thanks to the new “Adventures” that serve as sidequests, public events that actually reward players with rare loot, and addictive Crucible matches.
Bungie has already pumped out schedules of upcoming events and content for the coming weeks, and I for one can’t wait to keep fighting the good fight and protecting Earth’s Last City. Let’s just hope Guardians don’t get nickel and dimed for DLC like they did with the original game.
Score: 8.8/10- If you’re a fan of the sci-fi driven narrative of the Halo series, the competitive multiplayer of Call of Duty, and the exploration focused open worlds of Mass Effect, you’ll love the second installment of Bungie’s new franchise.
No Bungie, thank you for making Destiny 2 a complete experience unlike the first effort in this budding franchise