Destiny 2 Review in Progress: Brilliant Spark
Ben Sheene / Sep 8th, 2017 No Comments
Before Destiny 2 launched this week, I was unsure of where I ultimately stood on the game. Was it deserving of a numbered entry or was it more of a 1.5 type of expansion akin to The Taken King? I attended a preview event for Destiny 2 where I had extensive time with a nearly complete build and got to explore several of its nooks and crannies. However, the final act of the story was kept under wraps and there was little time for the gear grind. All the parts were there, yet the grand scale of a sequel was just out of reach.
Still, a funny thing happened. An uncomfortable few weeks passed where the Destiny itch got under my skin. After nearly a year of sporadic playing, I was craving strike runs and directionless patrols, and nothing that already existed could satisfy that urge, not even three years’ worth of Destiny content. Now with the launch fully underway, I can comfortably admit that Destiny 2 is every bit deserving of that number.
With a game of this scope, it’s important to touch on some of the important details as the endgame further shapes and directs the complete picture. And, of course, no journey in Destiny is complete without tackling the raid. Despite finishing the story and putting dozens of hours into its many gameplay loops, there are still a few pieces of content that need to be experienced before Destiny 2 can be graced with a score.
Perhaps vanilla Destiny’s most fatal flaw was its patchwork story that gave players a captivating universe teeming with lore, only to muddy it with questionable writing and lackluster execution.
Our Earth was granted the Light of The Traveler, which brought prosperity and progress. Then it was all wiped away by an omnipotent threat referred to as The Darkness. Peter Dinklage shows up as a robot called Ghost and revives players in the form of space magic-wielding Guardians who use the Light to fight back the forces of The Darkness.
There were robots, dimension-hopping worm gods, and robots that traveled through time and couldn’t explain things. The beautiful chaos of Destiny’s story became the thing of memes. With each expansion, Bungie became more proficient at integrating story and gameplay in a way that felt less confusing and more exciting.
From the introductory mission to the roll of credits, Destiny 2’s core story is a step up in every way imaginable. “Homecoming” ramps up the stakes immediately by offering cinematic moments and actual NPC interaction.
Nearly every mission in the the first three years of Destiny has players listening to the chatter of their Ghost and another character. Rarely does another character appear in front of your Guardian to speak a word, let alone lend a hand. This time around,Cayde-6, Zavala nd Ikora are more than just vendors standing at a table voiced by recognizable actors.
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Destiny is at its best when it throws named villains at Guardians, and this is true in the sequel. Similar to Oryx and Crota, Dominus Ghaul is a palpable threat. He leads the Cabal army directly into the safest place on Earth and strips players of their loot and Guardians of their Light.
He is the kind of enemy that an action game needs. Ghaul’s motivations to rob The Traveler of its Light drive the plot in a meaningful way. His presence always lingers and, unlike The Darkness, isn’t something purely conceptual.
The world-hopping backbone of the story is a great way to introduce players to the multiple patrol zones they will be swarming for months to come. But I find myself entranced by the way Bungie tries to connect Destiny and its universe to players. Not every mission focuses on getting into kill-boxes and shooting down enemies while a timer runs out. There’s vehicle combat, parts where you are robbed of any powers, actual mechanics and enjoyable dialogue.
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Special recognition must be given to the musical score of the game and how it is incorporated into the flowing pace of missions. Parts of the music will tug at your heartstrings while others pump you up for battle.
Nostalgia also plays a heavy part in the unfolding drama. I applaud Bungie for the way it embraces players who have been around since day one but don’t feel as if they have made any aspect of the story too esoteric for newcomers. Regardless of your progress in the series, Destiny 2 has setpieces that I would have never expected to see in the game. The final act is gripping, beautiful and makes it impossible to not want to immediately dive back in.
My only real criticism is the broad strokes Bungie tends to paint in. There are story beats that have been used before, while some plot threads and moments end a bit too quickly. As a person who is a fan of beefy narratives, I get the impression that the story team at Bungie always wants to give more exposition than the gameplay loop often allows. It may be a way to split the difference between people who just want the gameplay and those who dig up every inch of the European Dead Zone for lore.
Light ‘Em Up
Destiny remains one of the most mechanically strong shooters I’ve ever had my hands on. Naturally, this tradition continues in Destiny 2. The interplay between switching from a hand cannon to an auto-rifle or tossing a grenade into a pack of enemies and finishing them off with a super is divine. Jumping can be a bit clumsy in specific platforming scenarios but smooths out after practice.
One major change to the shooting mechanics is that heavy weapons have now been replaced by power weapons. Fusion rifles, snipers and shotguns are no longer special weapons and consume the same ammo as rocket launchers and other heavy damage dealers. I don’t hate this new implementation as it gives two slots for traditional primaries, allowing for more experimentation. That being said, I have barely touched a single shotgun or sniper rifle in Destiny 2 because I feel like rockets and swords have the same effect with a more exciting payoff.
These changes come off as more catered to PvP Crucible play rather than PvE. I think a lot of players will be happy that weapons now have a set roll and not just random properties, as it balances out luck a bit when playing against other humans.
Crucible is as intense as ever but the elimination-based modes can feel a bit miserable if you aren’t playing with friends and you get steamrolled by an actual clan. Though competitive play is tighter, Bungie needs to be careful with weapon balancing considering how often weapon nerfs can sour players.
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Loot is ever the driving force of Destiny and likely will be until the end of eternity. On the journey to level 20, I burned through loot like a madman. Very few pieces of equipment stayed on my Guardian for more than 30 minutes. In a smart move, the story injects that yearning for better gear by rewarding a few exotics to players.
So far, the grind for gear in Destiny 2 is not half as stingy as the previous entry, with players constantly getting rewarded. As of now, my Guardian just broke past 240 power level and is suited for a Nightfall strike.
Progress walls will pop up for large chunks of time, forcing players to grind out strikes or public events. Again, none of this is showing its teeth currently because Destiny 2 is still fresh. The constant run of the same handful of activities ultimately gets tiresome but only if no new content is added to spice things up. Keeping that in mind, as a vanilla Destiny player I remember the grind wearing thin on me quite early in the experience because progression was ultimately locked by the raid and the game was quite bare bones. Destiny 2 is packed with so much right now, I think most players will be satisfied.
Satisfaction really is one of the biggest sentiments I can express with my time in Destiny 2 so far. Many Guardians — myself included — joke that vanilla Destiny was the 0.5 version of the game or that The Taken King was the actual release out of “beta.” As flawed as that initial experience was, Destiny had heart and a bright core full of promise. Destiny 2 delivers on that vision in countless ways. Not only does every aspect feel like a quality of life improvement, they are things most people would want out of a sequel.
Destiny 2 is a difficult beast to tackle. Bungie set so many odd bars for itself in the first three years of the series, constantly morphing and polishing, and often going at odds with the player base. There are features I miss, like the Grimoire, strike scoring and progress books, but over time, it’s possible those will be added to the sequel.
Bungie has already laid out its plans for the first month of Destiny content, which includes the raid, Trials and something involving the game’s factions. Once me and five other Guardians in my Fireteam have braved the raid, I’ll pass final judgement.
tags: bungie , destiny , Destiny 2 , Destiny 2 review , review