Starting in 2014, as a part of a “10-year plan,” Destiny was always a bit of a divisive franchise. Often used as the example of Developers promising more than what’s delivered, the first game’s launch was admittedly lacking during year one. Over time, and thanks in large part to its hugely vocal fan-base and supportive development staff, Destiny, as a game became incrementally better with each update, with many fans feeling that 2015’s The Taken King expansion was the best the series had been to date. In 2016, Guardians continued their legends by becoming Iron Lords in the Rise of Iron expansion. While not offering much in terms of game play updates as compared to King, the developer had managed to “iron out” its narrative wrinkles, and bringing the first series run to an enjoyable close. The future looked bright, as eager Guardians awaited the sequel.
From the beginning, there are a number of things Destiny 2 gets right. Presentation takes center stage, featuring more cutscenes in its first few hours than the entirety of the first game. Fans of narrative can prepare for a story that you can easily follow, and may even care about this time around. While not breaking any new ground in storytelling, the game opens up with the of siege of The Last City, but more notably, The Tower, home base to our characters, the Guardians. In Destiny lore, Guardians are chosen warriors of “The Traveler,” the giant sphere you may have seen in Destiny’s marketing campaign. Light bestowed by The Traveler grants the superhuman abilities players grow accustomed to, and also of note, Light allows Guardians to return from death. This sets the stage for Destiny 2, as the sequel’s lead antagonist, Dominus Ghaul seeks to claim the Light for himself, believing that the Traveler erred in choosing Humanity. What follows then, is an enjoyable, though derivative tale of reclaiming’s one power in the face of ultimate adversity. Players find themselves forcefully ejected from Ghaul’s starship as the title card fades in.
With so much focus being on story, plenty of work went into ensuring we’d be spending time with characters in which there’s some level of emotional investment. Veteran actors Gina Torres, Lance Reddick and Nathan Fillion return to voice the Vanguard leaders, advisors and quest-givers from the original Destiny. This time around, the individual characters have been updated from glorified menu screens, to full-fledged plot MacGuffins, adding a sense of urgency to the game’s events. Getting the band back together rarely feels so satisfying. Among several returning and new characters, Fillion’s Cayde-6 is widely-accepted to be the series’ standout, injecting the game with a sense of humor and wit, well-needed against some of the darker moments found in the game.
Up to its launch, Destiny 2 was billed as “a world without Light,” though it only takes a few missions before things return to status quo and you’re hurling the elements with the best of them. The game also brings along 3 new sub-classes, Arcstrider for the Hunter, Striker for Titans, and lastly the Dawnblade sub-class for Warlocks. Gun-play still feels quite crisp and ultra-responsive. Each class of weapon handles as well as you remember, though two new weapon types, Sub-machine Gun and Grenade Launcher, have been introduced as well; allowing even more ways to fend off waves of enemies. There’s plenty of comfort to be found in how similar the game feels to the first, so a returning Guardian can dive back in with ease and feel at home.
There are lots of activities to complete in Destiny 2. In addition to Public Events, which now occur more frequently and can be viewed on the map, there are also Lost Sectors throughout each planetary locale. Think of a Lost Sector as a mini-dungeon, within each can be found a named enemy. Kill the enemy, pick up its key code, loot a chest, then on to the next if you so choose. Guardians can also hunt Region Chests, secret chests located in an often out of the way area, and viewed from the map as well. Once finishing the game, players can purchase treasure maps from Cayde-6 using Glimmer, which lead to further hidden caches – keep in mind the chests’ contents and location refresh every week with the reset on Tuesdays. Exotic quest lines have returned also, offering a slight break from the monotony of chest-hunting. There’s also Strikes, allowing Guardians to team up with a Fireteam of 3 to take on the Red Legion or whatever horde the game sends in its direction through narrative driven co-op missions.
If Player-versus-Player is more your style, Lord Shaxx returns to host The Crucible, home to various combat games where the objective is to kill, or assist in killing others, co-operatively as a team. There’s a bit of change this year, as all PVP battles feature teams of 4v4. Lastly, there’s Trials of the Nine, similar to Trials of Osiris in Destiny where pre-assembled groups go head-to-head in a showdown to see who is the supreme Fireteam. The ultimate goal in Trials, is to achieve a flawless 7 – 0 run, which gives some the best rewards in the game
As welcoming as it is to rekindle some of the better experiences over the series’ last 3 years, this is also where things start to go a little sideways. Once the story concludes, what was once a refreshing recall soon becomes the same old grind. What good is content without the compulsion to play it? The world may be several times larger than the original, but players are still doing the same activities, only in bigger sandboxes. Most quests grant world-specific currency to purchase items from the local NPCs, but here’s the problem, the rewards are structured where it isn’t really worth the time once your Light level reaches 265. As many different chests as there are to hunt, they all offer the same randomly-generated rewards, Cayde’s chests may also contain Exotic engrams, though you can find them just as arbitrarily in other activities. There is a Raid as well, called “The Leviathan. After spending hours in the Raid dungeon, the rewards at the end, as of this writing, are of less quality than what you’d find in a Heroic Public Event, which tend to drop exotics more frequently in general.
The story is widely-praised this time around, but still falls victim to some of the same genre tropes that are easy to pick up on for even novice-level sci-fi fans. The tale of Ghaul and his ambitions may be entertaining, but cliché nonetheless. This cookie cutter narrative could have used any villain to achieve the same end. Clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours, it’s not particularly long either. There are interesting possibilities brought about with the game’s ending, but even that seems like an advertising for DLC. Playable set piece sections like the Tank battle later in the game, have been done better in previous generations, the opening missions of Halo 2, for example. Finally, microtransactions have returned in the form of the Eververse vendor, for those in the market to buy cosmetic items. Color-changing Item Shaders are now single-use items by the way, though no one really understands why.
Rather than a true sequel this feels more like Destiny: The Cabal Expansion. Newcomers to the game should enjoy themselves well enough, and returning players should certainly check out the new additions. Longevity may be a deeper concern as it took 3 years and several expansions for the game to find its current identity. At initial appearance, The Taken King expansion and its innovations seem to represent a peculiar plateau considering there’s still 7 years left in Bungie’s plan. With just two weeks into the sequel and the first expansion set to launch in December, here’s to hoping the best is yet come.
Destiny 2 launched on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 6th. PC players can join the fray starting October 24th.
Read more reviews from Dom Watkins, right here on FanBros.com!