I, like millions of others out there, am actually a fan of Destiny. I’ve poured hundreds of hours into countless raids, strikes, crucible matches (though this is my least played mode) and exploring the various planets in search of resources and (hopefully) engrams. While I kept coming back and did genuinely like the game, I could never ignore that the “exploration” component of the game was fairly dull. You saw pretty much everything worth seeing throughout the story, and the bounties and farming methods that players relied on to grow stronger were… well, boring. To top it all off, many times all of that grinding would amount to very little payoff, if any at all.
But here I was again, getting to try out Destiny 2 once more, only this time I was being let loose in the European Dead Zone (EDZ) of Destiny 2’s Earth. At first glance the size of the map while viewing the director doesn’t feel much bigger than the Russian wasteland we were introduced to in the first game. But you should definitely not judge this location by its cover… er, map.
Bungie is taking a different approach to its various open worlds this time around, and a lot of that has to do with giving players more reasons to stick around and explore outside of getting enough Helium Filaments to upgrade that one exotic you love so much. When I was allowed to dive in for myself, I quickly learned that the EDZ is in fact a world and not merely a level. There’s a lot of content bursting through the trees and from within decrepit buildings, and pretty much all of it rewards the player in some way.
Easily one of the biggest new features of the open world gameplay is story. In Destiny 1, most of the lore came from collecting Dead Ghosts, SIVA Clusters, and reading about exotic gear in the Grimoire. Not everyone was happy about having to go outside of the game’s universe to learn about the game’s universe. This time around, though, you’ll experience a lot of the story firsthand, and learn about it as you embark on side missions and scan items found hidden in the world.
Adventures, the side missions you’ll find while exploring, give insight into the current plight of the location you’re in, or even provide some background for the characters you’re doing the quests for. They’re full of humor, serious notes, and plenty of dialogue to make it feel like a real exchange, as if you’re truly helping someone in Destiny 2. As I moved from one adventure to another, stopping every now and then for a bit of spelunking action in one of EDZ’s many caves, I found myself constantly learning more about the world, the relationship between normal humans and guardians, and the way the entire galaxy has been dealing with Ghaul’s vicious attack.
Of course, there was more than just narrative pushing me along during my time in the EDZ. I wanted some of that glorious loot Cayde-6 promised us, and I was willing to search high and low for it. Lost Sectors played a huge part in my endeavor, and they served as welcome, bite-sized excursions from the usual gameplay. While they all played out generally the same (you dive in, kill some enemies and a boss, collect your loot), I was always surprised by what new layout hid beyond each darkened entrance.
Some of Destiny 2’s Lost Sectors are small, introducing you to the boss within after taking only a few steps inside. Others are sprawling affairs with platforms, and tunnels, and plenty of enemies to test your mettle. The best part is that the loot wasn’t half bad. I found myself seeking out more of these hidden oases in order to take down some of the strongest enemies the EDZ had to throw at me while also finding better gear to add to my loadout.
There are still Public Events, so don’t worry about Lost Sectors taking all the loot granting spotlight. If you’re anything like me, you probably grew bored of these activities not long after Destiny released. In some ways they’re still the same, offering an event that darkens the sky and requires the best guardians in the area to clear. But they have an extra layer to them. For starters, they’re much more challenging than those in the first game, especially if you’re alone. It’s not due to bullet sponge enemies or anything, but rather that the events throw so much at the player while also asking them to manage objectives. I found myself frantically moving from cover to cover as I lit up Fallen and Cabal enemies alike, hoping to emerge victorious.
As an added twist, though, you can now trigger Heroic Public Events by completing secret objectives during the basic ones. These can change the primary objective at times, or even add in powerful bosses for you to contend with, upping the challenge as well as the value of the reward you can earn. Even if you fail, though, you still get something, and that’s an element of exploring the EDZ that stuck with me.
While I didn’t get to see everything, I did get a lot of rewards as I continued on through my exploration. Each activity, big or small, gave me something for my time. Whether it was a weapon or piece of armor, or perhaps just some extra resources. Either way, it’s always something that left me feeling like the game was recognizing my efforts as I rained flaming swords from above (I love me some Warlock super).
What I’m possibly most thankful for from my time with Destiny 2 and the EDZ is fast traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love pulling off sick tricks with my Sparrow as much as the next self-respecting Guardian, but when there’s an event or side mission I need to be at on the other side of the map and I’m pressed for time, I’d rather not dilly dally. Thanks to Public Events being displayed with a countdown on the Director (that’s Destiny-speak for map), and unlockable fast travel points, I was getting around with ease without having to miss out on any action (and the rewards for provided for said action).
All in all, while the EDZ is just a small portion of everything Destiny 2 has to offer, it left a rather large impression. I went and played Destiny 1 for a bit, exploring the Cosmodrome after my time in the EDZ. And it instantly became clear how big a step over the first game Destiny 2 is, and that’s just from exploring the first planet. I can only imagine what the other areas and content have in store for me when the full game rolls out on PS4 and Xbox One come Sept. 6. If it’s even half as rewarding and full of content and, most importantly, lore as what I got a chance to try, fans and newcomers are in for a truly worthy sequel.