Destiny 2 review: No longer a guilty pleasure

Reviews
8.5

Great

Reviewed on Xbox One, copy supplied by publisher. 

I feel bad for how much I enjoyed the first Destiny. Despite all the issues, I found enough nuggets of fun to last me an absurd amount of time. But Destiny 2 makes the original and all its expansions look like nuggets of shit. I suppose that’s good for a sequel, but it just seems to show how rocky the launch of Bungie’s franchise was, with a ‘cinematic campaign’ being nothing more than a nonsensical plotline about shooting aliens. It’s impressive that Bungie can take that foundation and cement together a new game that feels like the true launch of a franchise. I’m not afraid to say that I enjoy Destiny 2.

The new campaign is easy to jump into for new or returning players. There are references to the previous game, but the focus is on a new villain, Ghaul, and a straightforward quest to stop him taking the Light, a power that protects humanity. The writing won’t be winning any prizes with lines like, “Humanity thrived. Until it didn’t,” and your character continues their vow of silence, but a few egregious moments aside, Destiny 2 makes sense. It has multifaceted characters. It has emotion, stakes, and purpose. It has a STORY. I was particularly surprised at how fleshed-out Ghaul is, and the post credits scene leaves me excited to see where the narrative is headed.

You know what they say about big hands…

The soundtrack amplifies every moment in the campaign. It’s more varied in its tone and style, even compared to Marty O’Donnell’s score for the original Destiny. Whether orchestral or electric, it sets the atmosphere on each world you visit.

Throughout the campaign, players visit four main areas: Nessus, Io, Titan, and the European Dead Zone (EDZ) on Earth. The stand out for me was Titan, set on a series of platforms that form a colony above a massive ocean and with Saturn looming overhead. It was exciting to discover such a unique area, and it contrasted well with all the sprawling spaces we’ve visited before.

On the other end of the spectrum is Nessus and Io. Both have been influenced by the alien Vex, so Nessus feels like Io, and Io feels like Venus from Destiny 1. It’s disappointing because the original Destiny had very distinctive spaces, which made them exciting to explore – until you realised there wasn’t much to find.

Thankfully, what Nessus and Io lack in variety they make up with in content. In all the environments there are plenty of new public events to fight, Lost Sectors to explore, and Adventures (side-quests) to complete, some of which are better than Destiny 1’s main missions. You can even track these and fast travel around by using the new map. It’s quality of life changes like this which provide a smoother experience and allows more time to hunt down loot.

Titan is great, but I’m still waiting for a planet called ‘Hunter’.

Another positive change is that you don’t need to equip your best gear to increase the power levels of your drops, it’s all calculated automatically. And all perks on your guns and armour are set, not random, and are unlocked on drop. You don’t need to find the best Better Devils hand cannon, each has explosive rounds ready to go boom.

Exotics still feel exotic, with new ones like a shotgun that fires a gravity pulse that hilariously flings enemies. The exotic/legendary combos are the most interesting, such as the MIDA Multi-Tool and MIDA Mini-Tool, which have a bonus perk while they’re both equipped.

Now that all gear has set perks, the main form of customisation is mods. These allow you to change the element of your weapons, gain cooldown bonuses for your class abilities, and more. The system is a little rough and basic now, but it’s a step in the right direction for players to customise their gear and focus their playstyle.

Or you can just focus on your fashion.

Strikes are back without the bullshit. Each strike has a different flow and mechanics, and bosses feel less spongey and more interactive. Even when Bungie falls back to its standard ‘defend Ghost against waves of enemies’ design, there’s enough complexity added to prevent every encounter feeling like a chore. My only critique is that you can’t select a specific strike to play, and instead must hope it appears during the strike playlist. The same goes if you want to replay a story mission, with only three per week available to ‘remember’ after you finish the campaign.

But if you’re a PVE player, everything is just prep for the new raid, the Leviathan. The raid is visually distinct, utilising a style of Cabal architecture we haven’t seen anywhere before, and unlike the raids from the first Destiny, includes dialogue which grounds it within Destiny 2’s narrative and lore.

Without going into spoilers, the Leviathan’s Gauntlet room and final boss are great. Both exemplify good raid design, requiring strong teamwork and utilising unique gameplay mechanics. I haven’t even managed to kill the boss yet, (I’m probably still trying as you read this) due to my random team’s constant flubbing near the end. And yes, that’s a good thing.

However, a couple of Leviathan’s main encounters are very reminiscent of sections from previous raids, such as Vault of Glass’ Gorgon Maze. There’s also a hub area connecting each of the Leviathan’s main rooms, with a tedious encounter you need to repeat each time you move through. What should be the biggest raid yet feels repetitive and lazy.

At least it looks like the gold standard.

Fortunately, PVP has received an update. It is now more team orientated, with all current modes locked at four players on each team. The time to kill and shield regeneration is longer, meaning if you’re ever caught in a 1v2 fight you’re likely to go down empty handed. This leads to a less chaotic and more focused experience, particularly in the hardcore Trials of the Nine mode.

There is a weapon meta but nothing is overpowered like Thorn was (so far), and PVP has benefited with the change from special and heavy weapons, to a unified power weapon slot with limited ammo drops throughout matches. Class balance also seems tight, though Hunters feel a little underpowered. Perhaps that’s just because I main as one.

Though Destiny 2 feels like it’s missing some PVP variety. Custom matches are non-existent again, and multiplayer could also benefit from a free-for-all playlist, especially for people playing solo.

Every player for themselves  ourselves!

Is it worth coming back to Bungie’s universe with Destiny 2? If you utterly hated the original you’re unlikely to find absolution here, but if you thought it was a decent game which only lacked content, story, or just a soul, then there’s something here for you.

Personally, Destiny 2 makes me retroactively angry at Destiny 1; this is what the original should have been. Though it’s not without flaws, Destiny 2’s issues aren’t entrenched within its design, and I’m finally confident that Bungie has a firm grasp on the franchise and its direction.

Good

  • A coherent campaign
  • Incredible soundtrack
  • Varied PVE content
  • Balanced PVP modes

Bad

  • Lack of diverse environments
  • Disappointing raid and endgame
  • No FFA or custom PVP matches

Summary

Despite a disappointing raid and environments, Destiny 2 is a strong and stable step forward for Bungie’s franchise, with a complete narrative, a revitalised PVP mode, and a new understanding of what makes their universe appealing. Destiny 2 is a smooth experience that welcomes new and old guardians, out of the darkness and into a future of light.

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8.5

Great

  • I need to get on this. I was unimpressed in the opening few hours of the vanilla Destiny, but by the sounds of things maybe I won’t hate this one.

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