REVIEW: Destiny 2 is what Destiny 1 should’ve been.

Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
RATED T FOR TEEN
Formats: PlayStation 4 (REVIEWED), Xbox One, PC
Released: September 06, 2017
Copy purchased via PlayStation Network.
GAME CONTAINS MICROTRANSACTIONS 

Destiny 1 was, is, and shall always be a beautiful mess in the eyes of many gamers. After three years of DLC expansions and many quality of life updates, Bungie’s role playing first-person shooter never quite lived up to the promises made back when they announced their ten year journey with Activision. With Destiny 2, Bungie went with the tabula rasa approach by resetting every player’s progress from Destiny 1, bumping out the wrinkles in Destiny’s core mechanics, and finally letting PC owners take a crack at that loot and shoot gameplay. But is the game worth your time?

The Hope 

Right when you boot up Destiny 2, the massive production values are shown for full effect. The game runs at a steady 30 frames per second on consoles but the 1080p resolution provides some of the best visuals ever put into a first person shooter. Breathtaking skyboxes, lush landscapes, and dozens of pre-rendered cutscenes create this sense of scale not found in the original Destiny. If you have a PS4 Pro or a capable PC, you can even output the game to run at a 4K resolution. The orchestral score is outstanding ranging with impressive orchestras, booming synth tracks, and poignant melodies evocative of Final Fantasy to round out an already epic presentation.

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Whether you’re a veteran player importing a character from Destiny 1 or a total newbie, you’ll find that Destiny 2’s story is clear and focused. Destiny 2 kicks off with the Last City on Earth under siege by the Red Legion army led by Dominus Ghaul. Ghaul succeeds in stripping the Guardians of the Traveler’s Light, their loot, and home. With everything lost, it’s up to you to regain your power, seek out new allies, and travel the galaxy to reunite humanity’s Vanguard before Ghaul can blow up the Sun and steal the Traveler’s Light.

While not the most original story in gaming history, the execution of Destiny 2’s campaign is far more laser focused than what was available on Destiny 1’s launch. Character interactions, world exploration, and even the flavor text on the loot you earn serve as the main source of narrative and lore. The eight hour campaign does a great job at providing urgency and  Each of the new characters are amazing in their own right while the returning characters from Destiny aren’t given a ton of development but each of the new planets you explore ties in to how they’re coping loss of their power. Just like in The Taken King expansion, Nathan Fillion steals every scene he’s in as the charismatic Cayde-6 while Nolan North’s Ghost provides witty retorts and dry exposition for the player. It’s a shame that the playable Guardian is once again mute but this is a case where your actions speak louder than spoken words as everything you do has an impact on Destiny 2’s world.

The Union 

The Titan, Warlock, and Hunter classes all return from Destiny 1 but with some new tricks. The new class specific abilities like the Titans’s particle barrier best exemplify each class’ specific roles but knowing when to use them adds a bit of strategy to each battle. Each class comes with the three subclasses found in Destiny: The Taken King with the initial subclass replacing a previous one from Destiny 1. Each class plays well but I expected more variety from this sequel.

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All enemies with segmented health bars will drop Power Weapon ammo once they’re dead. This subtile change is a huge game changer.

The core gunplay still feels as good as it did in Destiny 1. What’s changed in Destiny 2 is that your three gun load out only consists of a normal primary, elementary primary, and power weapons. With the exception of sidearms, every secondary weapon from Destiny 1 are now designated as power weapons so only picking just one of them to bring with you can be difficult. Adding to this are the new Submachine Gun, Linear Fusion Rifle, Grenade Launcher weapon archetypes which are fun to use and fit within the established set of weapons.

The Great Unknown 

Exploring each of the four playable worlds in Destiny 2 is far less tedious than it was in the original Destiny. No longer do you have to go to orbit to reach any location when you can just access the planetary directory at anytime and fast travel to anywhere. Clear indications on the map of when and where things like Public Events are makes it easier to know where to go and what to do. Speaking of the planets, they’re all well designed and visually distinct with one another. Compounding this are the planet specific vendors with their own personalities, story arcs, and unique rewards for redeeming tokens earned through completing various activities.

Instead of grinding through the same handful of story missions over and over, players can now partake in Adventures. These 10 minute quests are fun in their own right and offer some hints to future expansions. Lost Sectors are fun little dungeons with loot to plunder but they’re hidden within each world. They’re fun at first but quickly become superfluous once weekly milestones become available. The revamped Public Events are a really fun way to earn better gear and triggering the secret Heroic Public Events raises the stakes by changing each encounter to be more difficult yet more rewarding.

While it’s possible to complete the campaign alone, Destiny 2 really shines when you’re playing with friends. The dynamism between each player in any given Fireteam remains as thrilling as ever but the addition of built-in Clan features like earning weekly rewards for clans and being able to play Guided Games gives the game a sense of camaraderie the original Destiny was always lacking. 

The Ruin 

Once you’ve finished the story and reached the experience level cap of 20, that’s where the game truly opens up and the real grind begins. Instead of “Light Levels”, gaining better gear increases your Guardian’s Power. Getting past the initial 260 Power level cap requires the completion of weekly milestones.

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Infusion is back in Destiny 2, but you can only infuse stronger items into weaker items of the same type. This makes the grind to the top harder, yet reasonable.

The weekly Nightfall Strikes are harder than they’ve ever been thanks to a ticking clock putting emphasis on momentum and team based mechanics. You’ll need to have a team of three players to perform the Nightfall but the new Guided Games feature aims to help solo players group up with clan guides. Right now, the divide between solo players and clan guides is a wide gulf as there are too many solo players looking to do the Nightfall. It certainly doesn’t help that certain mechanics are still broken weeks after launch rendering certain Nightfall Strikes and most Prestige Nightfall Strikes nearly impossible to complete. 

 

The Crucible, Destiny’s multiplayer mode, is back in Destiny 2 with some divisive revisions. Instead of 6v6, 3v3, or 1v1 matchups, all of Destiny 2’s multiplayer modes only support 4v4. It’s disappointing to be sure, but the design choices from the size of each new area to the new modes make a strong case of this change. Gunfights between teams are much more prominent and supers/power weapons are easier to counter thanks to in-game updates giving details over who’s got what type of advantage. Currently, there’s only 8 maps and Control, Clash, and Supremacy are the only game types making the transition from Destiny 1. Survival and Countdown, Destiny 2’s two new mode modes are designed to be very competitive with teams working to eliminate their opposition within a set number of rounds. These competitive modes are featured in Trials of the Nine which is much more accessible than Destiny 1’s Trials of Osiris and has been a much more enjoyable experience.

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The reward for going flawless in Trials of the Nine is…weird.

The Leviathan Raid is the biggest raid in the history of Destiny but also it’s most disappointing. A lot of effort went into the design and sheer scale of the Leviathan ship but with only a handful of encounters (with one being a hub area your raid team must visit FOUR TIMES), all of the exotic loot chests hidden in the Underbelly, and one true boss encounter, this raid deviates too far from the established raid formula.

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By far, the absolute worst part of Destiny 2’s endgame content are the microtransactions. Every time you level up beyond Level 20, you earn a Bright Engram that must be redeemed at the Eververse Trading Company. This hub for the all Destiny 2’s microtransactions contains many items of gated off cosmetic content including Ghost shells, Sparrows, emotes, and shaders. That last one in particular is the worst offender as Bungie has retooled shaders to be used as one time consumable for individual pieces of equipment. This whole act of going to the Eververse every time you level up is predatory as every visit made me feel like I was one step closer to purchasing more Bright Engrams. Thankfully, the rate you earn Bright Engrams is reasonable and they don’t sell any power advantages.

All Ends Are Beginnings 

Destiny 2 establishes a new foundation for the series with loads of new things to do and cool loot to earn. Best of all, the new Clan features allow for so players a chance at completing the more difficult aspects of Destiny 2’s endgame. It’s a shame to see microtransactions fully integrated into Destiny 2’s endgame but they don’t ruin what is a constantly rewarding experience. Time will tell if Bungie can sustain the game beyond this initial launch month but for now, Destiny 2’s gameplay is addictive, challenging, and sublime. There’s nothing else quite like it.

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