Destiny 2

Destiny 2

There’s a moment in Destiny 2 – one that eclipses all the storytelling seen in the first game. It’s small, and maybe not even intentional. Amidst the countless lines of dialogue and high-budget cutscenes, it’s a tiny, insignificant thing. It’s about a wall. An eight-foot-high wall that – in any other game – you would effortlessly climb over. It’s an eight-foot-high wall that in Destiny 1, you would glide over without a second thought, on your way to shoot more enemies and acquire more loot.

Destiny 2 begins with your abilities being stripped. Dominus Ghaul from the Cabal has invaded humanity’s last bastion, and attacked your source of power. We’ve seen this abilitease in other games before, where you have the full set of skills available at the start of the game, only to have them removed moments later. Destiny 2 makes it feel that much more important, because it’s an extension of the first game – a thing you’ve spent countless hours with. Actions like throwing an elemental grenade or popping a super are as reflexive as breathing or blinking, and now they’re gone.

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I approached this wall while trudging through a sewer, my Guardian devoid of her Light. I knew I had no powers, no ability to soar through the air – the game made that abundantly clear in the preceding cutscenes and dialogue.

But I still hit the jump button twice.

And my Guardian hopped feebly.

There are maybe a handful of moments in games that have been burned into my brain, that transport me to a time and place. This can be counted amongst them.

Bungie also make good on the legacy of Destiny 1, and again it’s simple. A collection of JPEGs, dates, and names cataloguing your achievements; when you beat the campaign, which players stood by your side when completing the raid. It’s nothing more than SQL calls, pulling strings and numbers from a database, but it’s oddly powerful.

If you’re looking for a more traditional story to follow, Destiny 2 has that – and it has a lot of it. Returning characters are given moments to shine, while new faces are also slotted in, giving depth and context to the universe in an organic way. You get a sense that the different factions aren’t just repositories of guns and armour. They’re all pushing and pulling for their share of the solar system.

But by making the story more transparent, the game also loses much of its mystique. While some cast members are given more depth, the game becomes all too comfortable with relying on one-or-two for comic relief. At times Destiny 2 feels like its erring towards the MMO storytelling singularity – that grey sludge of comedy. Where depth is sacrificed in favour of making dialogue meaningless enough to button through, so you can pick up your next quest.

If inscrutable writing and flavour text is your thing though, Destiny 2 still has it. It’s no longer sequestered behind Grimoire Cards, or in some app or website. Weapons and armour of a high enough tier come with their own little stories that you can read, each with unique prose and form. What little identity Destiny 2 loses with its main campaign, is survived by these elements on the periphery.

The game also carves out an identity through its music. The sweeping drum-heavy tunes make a return, but now they’re punctuated with lilting strings and breezy melodies. Much of Destiny 2’s music feels like it belongs in a JRPG – and that’s cool. It differentiates itself from the stuffy, orchestral bombast that Bungie has relied on for years.

The core of Destiny 2 is unchanged from the original; aim down the sights of your space gun, shoot at enemies until they pop, hope they drop more space guns, repeat. But where Destiny 1’s handling of equipment felt like a trickle, the sequel is a deluge. If you’re playing the game right, you’ll constantly be swapping out guns and armour, breaking them down, and infusing them to make other gear stronger. Even at higher tiers of play you won’t be getting too attached to your equipment, as there’s always something with a slightly higher number on the horizon. Destiny 2 is constantly rewarding.

Some tweaks have been made to the minutiae though. Instead of primary, secondary, and heavy weapon slots, these have been broken down into kinetic, energy, and power. What this means is that it’s now possible to pair weapon archetypes – auto-rifles, SMGs, hand-cannons – across these different slots. The change is small, but it allows for more granularity in your loadout. Moreover, it recognises the different playstyles that players appreciate.

The way that you customise your appearance has also seen a change, but it’s not all for the best. Shaders – items that apply a colour scheme or pattern – are now applied to individual pieces of gear. Mixing and matching different colours and textures to create a Guardian that is uniquely yours is cool, but the system hobbles itself so microtransactions can awkwardly be hammered in.

Shaders are now single-use consumable items, which can be purchased alongside other items in bundles – all for real money. What this means is that if you’ve playing Destiny 2 correctly – which is to say, routinely swapping out your gear and breaking it down – then you’re effectively throwing shaders in the garbage. The game does reward you with random packs of them through quests and other activities, but it’s a salve for a self-inflicted wound. I don’t want to commit time to maintaining my appearance, when I could be finding new weapons and armour. It’s especially egregious, as Destiny 1 never asked you to make that choice.

But Destiny 2 is as much more about the end-game content. Unlike the structure of the first game, the dungeon-like Strikes aren’t peppered throughout the campaign. Instead you’ll unlock them all at the end of the game. Encounter design and exploration have seen a much-needed improvement too. Bosses aren’t just bullet-sponges with rotating shields, with some requiring mini-tactics all their own. Some require you to deal with adds before they electrify the floor, while others have you besting a gauntlet of thresher blades.

Nightfalls now come with more inventive modifiers too, that drastically change the way Strikes are played. The first game was more brutal, with everyone being forced to restart upon dying. Now things are more lenient, but rely far more on coordination. You’re constantly fighting against a ticking clock, while trying to coordinate damage types and abilities. It’s exhilarating and snappy, and a perfect distillation of some of the more advanced tactics you’d see in the raids.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find any time to set aside for the raid, but by all accounts it’s as mysterious and rewarding as the ones seen in the first game.

Destiny 2 is a long list of refinements. Tweaks and tightenings to the gameplay loop, and quality of life improvements that cater to the player – instead of making them subservient to mechanical whimsy. It still has its rough patches, but it realises – and raises up – the systems of its predecessor.

Keith received a digital copy of Destiny 2 from Activision for review

Destiny 2
"Realises the potential of its predecessor."
- Destiny 2
Follow Own it? Rating: M   Difficulty: Medium   Learning Curve: 1 Hour


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Comments Comments (12)

Posted by drunk_monk
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 3:28 PM
Even as just a single player game Destiny 2 is rad.
Posted by AdamC
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 4:20 PM
I can't wait to try it at the end of the month
Posted by Nuclearsheep
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 5:07 PM
Best game I've played in a long time, so much to do and great gameplay!
Posted by 163Battery
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 6:40 PM
3 October 2017, 03:28 PM Reply to drunk_monk
Even as just a single player game Destiny 2 is rad.
Yeah, I haven't played the full game yet but I enjoyed the beta single player level more than the whole of Destiny 1.
Posted by jtbthatsme
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 9:45 PM
I'm certainly finding it easy to get back into the Destiny fold of things. The game plays better and is still highly enjoyable.
Posted by Outlaw213
On Tuesday 3 Oct 2017 10:37 PM
Glad people are enjoying it, but personally I think it's a disappointing sequel and once again over hyped.
Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
On Wednesday 4 Oct 2017 10:11 AM
It's basically what Destiny 1 should have been like. Destiny has alway had some of the best feeling FPS gameplay, but they have certainly had some major improvements in areas ie story, quest giving, progression with less RNG etc. But they dropped the ball on a few areas I dont like - namely the weapon slot changes to suit PvP but hurts PvE compared to D1,, the timed Nightfall, and the Raid being more mechanical and less about bosses (D1 had better Raids IMO)
Posted by guido
On Wednesday 4 Oct 2017 10:42 AM
I'm enjoying it more than D1. It's more generous with the loot and there's a lot less things to grind for, it's more streamlined. Some of these grindy elements I miss in a weird way but mostly it's much better for players like me that don't raid or nightfall. I love the public events and combining these with joining a faction brings the loots enough to keep me happy!
Posted by splineman1
On Wednesday 4 Oct 2017 4:41 PM
I am a fan of D2 and play mostly solo. But, Nightfall timer sucks. Lack of skill tree customisation and fixed weapon rolls are a step backwards imo.
Also the mods system could have been better. More like Warframe.
Overall though it's a fun game to play, enjoying it for sure.
Posted by cutm
On Friday 6 Oct 2017 11:52 AM
Like with the Titanfall games I didn't come in until the second one which apparently was a good thing because the second games in both cases are what the first game was apparently meant to be.

So for any first timers out there wondering if you can pick up with the second game having not played the first I want to let you know...YES, absolutely give it a go.

The story isn't confusing and you will pick it up quick. For those who want to know more there are story-recaps on YouTube if you really want to delve into the narrative of the first game.

If you played the first game this might be more of the same but for new players like me it's all fresh, baby! :)
Posted by vanke499
On Friday 6 Oct 2017 1:10 PM
Agree with your comments, Destiny 2 is a great game and deserves the high score. I have been playing for the last month and have hit the inevitable power level plateau at end game. What I have found is that there is very little to get me playing more, after the reset on Tuesday night I will play for a few hours to earn my powerful gear, upgrade my equipment and then not pick it up again until the next week. What Destiny 2 needs is more content and quests that reward long term play (of course with the associated rewards)
Posted by drstu
On Tuesday 10 Oct 2017 8:31 AM
So many people telling me I should buy this game. This week!! Guess I'll have to now!