Destiny 2 so far delivers almost everything I want from a sequel: it has character, charisma, fresh ideas, and the atmosphere. But there are also some slight concerns; namely, the Vex are returning in a strike, the Cabal return in the campaign and there are just a few new factions and weapons on display at the legendary Jet Center in Hawthorne, not far away from Los Angeles. But let’s start from the beginning, let’s start with the original Destiny. It was a good shooter and a fine MMO, but Bungie had huge problems telling their story. The script was clumsy and the characters were mostly forgettable. The Taken King was a step in the right direction; with Destiny 2 Bungie is going all in: This feels like a real fight for survival.
I was blown away by the first mission, which captures the essence of a playable Hollywood movie. But not in a weird way, in a good way. It introduces protagonists, gives us a sense of scale, and there are even some good one-liners in there – Clayde-6 has just been promoted to Head of One-Liners from Bungie. And then there is the big bang: The Red Legion has hacked into the security system of The Last City and a major attack is happening. An attack on the scale of Star Wars, where huge explosions are hammering down defense lines, there are soldiers in disarray – the Guardians as Bungie’s version of the Jedi as the last line of defense. And what I especially like about Destiny 2 is that it doesn’t feel as tedious as the original.
Guardians are Bungie’s Jedi
Don’t get me wrong, Destiny was a good game, it was just not ambitious. Bungie was fine with shoving down enormous amounts of troops into dungeons. It was pretty much an MMO and MMOs tend to be very repetitive. That’s why the first demo gives me hope for a true AAA-styled campaign. During the invasion, enemy forces don’t just pop up or run around a corridor, they are moving in from ships in large energy balls. Often, they just drop down in front of us, so we should rush into cover and prepare our assault. And we don’t do this alone, we are loading our grenade launcher and kinetic rifles alongside characters that we all know as Titan Zavala, commander of The Last City. When the Red Legion hammer down missiles from a hundred ships, we scramble around him, trying to use our own Guardian powers to shield human colleagues around us from the impact. There is also Clayde-6, leader of the hunters as well as Ikora Rey. I do like Clayde, he reminds of Subject 89P13 (alias Rocket Raccoon). They both rock a certain John-McClane attitude when the situation gets rough. We fight alongside him and Ikora – it’s our job to attract focus fire from a legion shuttle so that Ikora can take it down.
The Return of the Cabal and a Die Hard Antagonist
Am I happy that the Cabal return? Hmm, good question. One part of me is thinking that Bungie is just too lazy to introduce a completely new faction. But the other one wants to know what the Cabal empire is all about. You might remember the first Destiny, where we’ve all but wiped out their fleet, but they manage to send a distress call to the empire. The invasion of our base is a heavily delayed response and I want to know why they’ve waited so long. Maybe because their commander, Dominus Ghaul, needed that time to build a machine capable of capturing the traveler. The Red Legion forces don’t only hack into the security systems of The Last City, they also manage to refocus the “magic energy” of The Light on their big leader. That’s very interesting because it means we are losing our Light abilities for a good amount of time. “Ghaul is not just a psychopath ready to destroy the world,” explains Game Director Luke Smith. “Because after all he has been through, he feels that the Traveler owns him The Light. He is a bit like Alan Rickman from Die Hard, minus all the Britishness.” Overall, the whole invasion feels like a smart move because it allows visiting these big guardian heroes at their home planets. When Zavala loses the power of light, he needs to abandon the remnants of The Last City and flee to a city built on bridges with 40-meter-high waves surging under them. You look at it and get a nice Kamino vibe – you know, the planet where they’ve built the clone army in Star Wars.
Dawnblade, Arcstrider, and the Captain America shield: Boys with Toys
Bungie is not a content house, they don’t like new stuff. It still feels weird that I’ve spent so much time in all these DLCs fighting the same foes over and repeatedly. It feels like I’ve already shot an entire generation of Vex, so why do they need to play a role on the new planet of Nessus? Sure, they’ve transformed it, mechanized it, turned giant hills into giant mines and there are even giant robots protecting the space. I’d still prefer to try out all these fancy new toys against a new species – well, maybe next time.
Maybe Bungie needed to hold back new factions for E3, PAX, Gamescom, all these shows. However, there are some cool gadgets: your warlord gets a super powerful dawn blade with multiple heavy attacks. You jump in the air, offload your power and throw a series of three flaming swords towards your foes. It’s great for a medium-range attack on multiple tangos. And then there is the sentinel shield for the Titan that turns you into Captain America. If you can throw it to cut off heads on long distances – think about it like a sniper shield. But you can also use it in close quarter combat for protection and as a bullet sponge. The more projectiles it catches, the higher its energy and the greater its power to throw back even Elite Cabal Commandos. The Hunter’s Arcstrider brings more speed into the game: It’s a magical staff that allows you to awaken the ninja in your personality. It’s all about kicks, stabs and energetic punches to smash through enemy defense lines. Good stuff for sure, but it’s still kind of a pity that so far, no completely new class or faction has been unveiled.
Let’s Go on a Strike Hunt Against Proteon
The first playable strike is a blast because Bungie throws in a bunch of nice surprises and challenges. The Vex have mechanized the entire planet of Nessus, so giant robot machines dominate the mines. This presents a nice challenge because while fighting my way all the way to the top, these huge Transformers-like arms try to smash us while we are getting shot at from all directions. It’s a lot about taking cover at the right moment, popping out, using all abilities to kill as many Vex as possible and get back into cover when the giant titan arm hits again. All of this is still pretty much doable. If you know how to rock a Destiny strike you’ll be able to beat them in Destiny 2 as well. The Proteon Modular Mind, however, is a fun but super tough one to fight. He is not only capable of unleashing a major laser beam ready to soak out our life bar in no time, but the boss fight is also presented on three different levels.
When Proteon almost goes down the first time, he smashes his fist on the platform and you go down one level. Obviously, new waves of his bodyguard elite await here which presents a good challenge in his own way. After that comes the third level on the ground and you are surrounded by some wobbling energy balls. Proteon tries to throw you in there, which sucks a lot of life energy. On top of that, this last platform is much smaller than the first one, so there is not much cover. It’s all about taunting now, we should get Proteon to focus fire on two Guardians while the third tries to heal the others. Captain America’s shield quickly becomes your best buddy in this winner takes all scenario. I do like Destiny 2, because it’s still fun, challenging and I appreciate the cinematic, more ambitious approach to storytelling. But for now, I also cannot deny a certain more of the same taste and I am hungry for new factions, entirely new enemy types and maybe even some completely new game modes. Hey Bungie, you probably still remember your routes in vehicle combat, right?