Destiny 2 is very much more of Destiny 1 – at least, that’s my impression after spending some time with the game. How much that will mean to you depends on how much enjoyment you eked from Bungie’s first loot-driven sci-fi shooter. A lot of the changes seem to be quality of life improvements, things like clans and assisted raid matchmaking; things I fear won’t mean much to those who were left unimpressed by the first game.
But the shooting? It’s still as good as ever.
Destiny 2 starts off with The Traveler (proper noun #1) being attacked by a faction of The Cabal (proper noun #2) known as the Red Legion (proper noun #3). Humanity’s last home – The Tower (proper noun #4) – has fallen, and all Guardians’ (proper noun #5) Light (proper noun #6) has been stolen. What this means is that all your progression, guns, and armour have been reset.
“This story is really about loss and recovery,” said executive producer David Allen during an interview I conducted with him. “These universal things that people really understand and I think will resonate with a lot of players.”
The core of Destiny remains untouched in the sequel; you play one of three classes, and shoot bad guys in the face with an array of weapons that suit your playstyle. More weapon types have been introduced though (like the SMG or grenade launcher), and the weapon-slot system has seen an overhaul – with shotguns and sniper rifles being placed in the same category as rocket launchers and machine guns. This has an impact on the traditional rhythm of fights, as encounters take place at mid-range for longer periods of time.
To facilitate this, Bungie has introduced class abilities. Activating these provides small tactical advantages. The Warlock for example can create a zone which either heals teammates over time, or amplifies damage. Titans on the other hand can create a small barrier, blocking damage from one direction.
While my time with the game’s PvE elements were limited, and mid-range combat is where I felt the original Destiny excelled, I can’t help but feel that these changes were made primarily with PvP in mind. When I asked Allen about community feed-back versus Bungie’s authorship, he pointed out that his team helps bridge that gap.
“Going into Destiny 2, we had ideas about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take the franchise, and what we thought would be good for the game,” he said. “But the other thing to keep in mind is that everyone at Bungie is a big gamer, and plays Destiny – so we’re also drawing on our own experience as people that play the game.”
I managed to play a few rounds of the game’s new competitive mode Countdown. Like Counter-Strike’s bomb defusal maps, one team is tasked with setting up a bomb at set locations. If they plant it, the opposing team must respond before the timer runs out. Matches start out slow, but pick up momentum when the bomb is planted, as the opposing team is notified of its position. Due to the small player-count and lethality of super moves, most matches ended via kills instead of arms/defusals – although this could be due to the map we played on, which featured small and tight corridors.
The story mission we got to play was that seen in the reveal trailer. Interacting with important named characters in-person – and not just over radio chatter – was cool to see, but I’m not convinced that new players will be that impressed. If anything, that’s more of an indictment on Destiny 1’s handling of its cast than anything else.
But the flow of the mission and snappy repartee shared by characters reminded me of the writing in The Taken King – which was great to see. Hopefully this means Bungie listened to feedback on story and presentation, and have landed on a more consistent tone.
I also got my hands on the PC version, and it’s sharp. The game was running on a GTX 1080 Ti at 4K/144Hz, and the framerate never dipped – although it was running on medium settings.
“We’ve been interested in bringing Destiny 2 to PC for a while – it’s something we’ve heard a lot from the community, and just internally at Bungie we have a bunch of people that play a lot of games there,” Allen added.
“The partnership with Blizzard is definitely amazing, and I’m very excited to say it out loud – but PC is something we’ve wanted to do for a while.”
Playing Destiny on mouse-and-keyboard felt completely foreign at first, as the game’s weighty movement and lumbering jumps didn’t align with the immediacy that the PC’s control scheme represents. After several matches it clicked though, and I was pulling off shots and supers with a speed I hadn’t seen in the console version. The default button layout leaves a lot to be desired though, as you’ll have to perform a contortionist act with your hand to reach critical keys and abilities. Thankfully, you can remap all of them freely.
As a critic – and undeniably, a fan of Destiny – I want new experiences, not just refinements. The pitch for Destiny 2 seems based around quality of life improvements – something which the base game did sorely need. But this is a sequel, and what’s been shared so far hasn’t got me excited. But E3 is around the corner, and Bungie still has more to show off, like Adventures, Treasure Maps, and Lost Sectors.
I’m not ready to give up on Destiny 2 yet.
Keith travelled to Los Angeles to preview Destiny 2, courtesy of Activision.