It goes without saying that fans of the original Destiny have high expectations for the freshly released sequel – myself included. Having spent over 750 hours with the original game over the course of three years I can empathize with other players who have loved it and those who hated it. Destiny did a lot right: phenomenal shooting mechanics, stable multiplayer, and a mostly balanced grind to name a few. Yet there was an equal amount of things that needed to be further refined. It seemed to me that this contributed heavily to the need for Destiny 2 to be a full sequel in place of just another series of expansions. Bungie took this opportunity to make a lot of the improvements the series desperately needed, building them on the back of Destiny‘s strengths.
One of the first, and most praiseworthy updates is the more hands-on story. Destiny 2‘s main campaign tells the story of your fight against Ghaul, leader of a Cabal faction called the Red Legion. Ghaul aims to conquer the Traveler, and ancient entity who arrived on Earth and ushered in a golden age of science and technology. The traveler also fabricated the Ghosts who were created to work together with Guardians to repeal the darkness. Guardians are agents of the light, which is created and emanated from the Traveler to combat the darkness. Ghosts, imbued with the power of light, are capable of bringing their Guardians back from the dead (which is quite helpful when you are fighting other Guardians in PvP matches instead of saving the universe *cough cough*). There is actually quite a bit of lore that is fascinating to learn, but to put it in layman’s terms, Guardians are sent on high-profile / low-survivability missions either solo or in small fireteams to repel enemies and the darkness with their Ghosts who can bring them back from the dead. Got it? Ghaul arrives and quickly lays waste to the city the Guardians inhabit and imprisons the Traveler. In doing so, all of the Guardians have lost their connection to the light and are vulnerable to the cold shackles of mortality. This assault scatters the Vanguard (the highest ranking of the Guardians) and a large portion of your story is aimed at reuniting them to build up for an assault on the Red Legion.
This first part of the story starts out really strong. Having an enemy take away your home, your loot, and your light makes it personal. The moments after your light is drained are especially memorable. You must find your ghost, escape the city, and make your way to somewhere that you can hold out and meet with allies. This is all done while traversing through areas where you are vulnerable to enemy ambush. For me, these parts reinforced my need to regain my strength and go back to take out Ghaul and his Red Legion. Unfortunately, this strong narrative doesn’t last long. You find a way to get your light back very quickly in the game, and after that the stakes feel almost non-existent because you are back to being immortal. I understand the need to get you light back for the sake of gameplay (since the game isn’t nearly as fun without your super ability, grenades, and class perks), but it takes all of the tension built up by the earlier narrative and completely voids it. Why would I fear the Red Legion when I can just revive in the event that they get the better of me? The story build high stakes but discards them through their own narrative choices, which is a bummer because story starts out very tenacious.
After you beat the main campaign, the real game begins. As fans returning to Destiny 2 know, this is where you have to put your nose to the grindstone. Once you reach this point, the game becomes a grind to get to higher light levels. You will be doing various activities to get your light level to the point where you can take part in the Nightfall. These are levels that change weekly and have various modifiers on the level that make them significantly more difficult. After this, undoubtedly, your eyes will be on the Leviathan Raid. The raid is absolutely gorgeous visually and is a ton of fun to play. The enemies are not incredibly difficult, but there are a lot of them, rewarding fireteams that go into them with a full roster of six Guardians. As of yet, I haven’t fully beaten the raid, so I can’t speak to in-depth about it. So expect impressions to come in the near future!
Grinding in the end-game though, is something I am very familiar with. Bungie has made some very significant changes to leveling up your light level post-campaign. One of the better changes is that the light level of dropped engrams is now determined by the highest level gear you have in your entire inventory. Guardians no longer have to equip gear to receive better drops, avoiding the need to wear cosmetically outlandish armor (like the Kellslayer’s Helm) to try and get something better. Gaining reputation with the various characters throughout the solar system is a great way to get better gear until you hit the 265 light level wall. Through doing activities ranging from crucible matches to strike, or even patrols and public events, you will accumulate tokens that can be given to their corresponding character in exchange for reputation. Once you level your reputation up you will be given a Reputation Bundle. These can be fill with anything ranging from armor to shaders. After you land at 265, your best way to pick up better gear is through completing milestones objectives, and doing activities like the Nightfall. Once you reach this point it is much slower to level up, but it can be done if you’re willing to commit the time to doing it. Grinding in the original Destiny eventually got to a point where it felt tedious and time-consuming, in Destiny 2 it’s still time-consuming, but it is much more enjoyable to spend time accumulating better equipment.
As with the first game, Destiny 2‘s greatest strength is how great the gameplay is. Each weapon handles uniquely and shooting them is so satisfying. Landing a critical hit on an enemy treats you to a satisfying pop of the head or explosion, with yellow numbers signifying damage flying out like confetti. The different weapon types are great complements to the different playstyles. I enjoy playing with a mix of assault rifle and hand cannon, the former outputs high damage-per-second for enemies that need it, and the later rewards pinpoint accuracy and is great for close-quarter engagement. Weapon slots in Destiny 2 have been changed and now allow players to equip a kinetic weapon (standard ammunition), a power weapon (infused with arc, void, or solar damage), and a power weapon (rocket launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles, etc.) giving more freedom to build the load-out ideal for how each Guardian plays. It will cause you to be unable to use a shotgun and sniper rifle as much as you might be use to from the first game, but it gives you more control over your primary weapons and ultimately gives the game faster pace. I can see why this change might not resonate with other players returning from the first game, but it’s a welcome improvement for me!
Class abilities and super moves have received some attention as well. Every class is given a new sub-class that they receive after regaining their light. The ability to unlock the other classes comes from random drops gained through world activities such as public events and Guardians must complete a mini-quest to gain the ability to use them. I really enjoyed doing these quests. They start as activities familiar to most Destiny players (such as activities where you kill a certain number of enemies a certain way) and end in a mission where you learn about the history and philosophy of the sub-class. These are a great way to teach the lore of the game without using the Grimore cards, which (thankfully) do not seem to be present. When you unlock the sub-classes, which are familiar classes from the first game, returning players will notice each class has received change to how their super moves function. For example, the Titan’s Striker sub-class originally caused a single area of effect, but now it can do this move multiple times. They also has the option to throw flying knee attacks, so long as the super meter has some charge left. It seems like most of these changes make all of the classes more like the Hunter’s Blade Dancer sub-class from the original Destiny, which I don’t love. In PvE applications it feels balanced and fair, but in PvP instances it is way to powerful. The fact that I can use a Fist of Havoc to knock out a single enemy as a Striker and then run and melee the rest of the team when they aren’t close in proximity to each other gives me too much power in PvP. Whereas, the original iteration of Fist of Havoc could take out four members of the opposing team as well, you had to find the perfect opportunity where four players were close enough to each other that you could hit them all with one move. This felt way more balanced to me. Otherwise, the changes to things like your grenade functions and cooldowns, your lifts (which seem largely the same), and effects on your super allow for a good variety of customization. Let’s also not forget about the new Class Skill that each class has which is activated by holding down the crouch button. Titans can create a barricade, Hunters can perform a dodge, and Warlocks can create a circle of light that gives various buffs to allies. For players with multiple characters that they often hop between, this will give you something more to master. If executed correctly, these abilities can easily salvage a plan gone wrong.
It’s sufficient to say that where Destiny 2 lacks in story, it makes up for tenfold with precisely crafted gameplay.
As for the setting of the game, Destiny 2 sends us further into the solar system to explore Titan (a moon of Saturn), Io (a moon of Jupiter), and Nessus (a minor planetoid orbiting near Uranus), with beautiful renditions of the gas giants in the distance. You’ll spend a brief amount of time on these planets to help out the Vanguard who is there and convince them to regroup in an effort to repel Ghaul. In the story, you don’t spend nearly enough time on each of the worlds, but through various activities after the campaign is over (such as Flashpoints and taking part in Public Events) you’ll become very familiar with each of the new areas. I hope that in future updates to the game we will be able to explore new moons and planets, and perhaps even previously seen locations. Needless to say, Destiny 2 received a huge graphical overhaul. Each of the locations are more densely packed with foliage and structures, sporting a welcome variety of color that was absent in the first game. Where locations other than Earth in Destiny had one color that the entire location’s pallet was based off of, Destiny 2 instead has objects that pop out thanks to the large variety of colors used.
The last thing I want to touch on is the music. The score in Destiny 2 is outstanding. I’d especially like to point out tracks from early in the game that fuse with the section of the story where you have lost your light. These pair so well with the tone of the game at this point in the story and set the scene with as much impact as the fact that you just lost your light. As the story progresses, you can hear an evolution of the music. Tracks start to become more triumphant as you get further in the story. The music that plays when you’re fighting bosses in strikes, and even Ghaul himself, add to the grandeur of the herculean task you’re performing. I wouldn’t say that the original Destiny didn’t have good music, but it did not have enough great tracks. Destiny 2 has a lot of great tracks.
After nearly 40 hours of fighting off the minions of the dark, I still crave playing Destiny 2. Thanks to a mostly successful run with the first game, and a lot of change implemented by vocal players, Bungie has built a solid sequel that I’m confident will keep fans around for the long term. For players who didn’t get a chance to play the first game, or opted to put it down quickly, you will find there is a lot to enjoy about the sequel. Destiny 2 is definitely worth putting some time into.
If you want to hear us talk more about Destiny 2, be sure to come listen to The Gamer Professionals Show. Seriously, we talk about it a lot!