Better in every single way.
Destiny 2 on PlayStation 4
Last week, when Destiny 2 first started rolling out around the world, I shared my initial thoughts on Bungie’s latest outing. I was quite impressed with the steps forward that the developer has taken from the first game. The worlds felt more inviting, activities were both more challenging and more rewarding, and there was a story, a legitimate story, starting to blossom within the actual game. I didn’t have to step away from my PS4 and check in some Grimoire to seek out the meaning of something I found, it was just there. Yet I needed more time. I needed to see if I was just wearing rose-colored glasses, overly grateful for the improvements brought to the universe.
Destiny 2 is very similar to the first game. A lot of the structure is the same, the controls are pretty much identical, and if you enter any of the menus as a veteran player you won’t be lost at all. Even the ebb and flow of gameplay, as well as the grind, is reminiscent of Destiny 2’s predecessor. These were things I knew going in, and to be honest I was a bit worried. The original Destiny had this cycle of playing the content, grinding to a cap, then taking a break until the next expansion or major update. Many players had their fill of the first Destiny after the first few weeks. It wasn’t that it stopped being fun, it just stopped being engaging.
Over the past week or so, since my first impressions were published, I’ve basically done what the community calls no-lifing the game. Every waking moment has been spent on Destiny 2, seeking out secrets, obtaining exotics, and powering up not only my own Guardian but helping my clan mates as well. I’ve farmed the Nightfall strike each week, got my ass handed to me in Crucible (I’m getting better, though), and have memorized each Public Event. Yet, I still haven’t grown tired, even with easily over 100 hours into the game already, and a lot of this has to do with how Bungie has approached the player experience.
In the first game, especially at launch, a lot of the systems felt like they were guiding you on one specific path of play where you had to do certain things to keep moving forward. Oh, you got a cool gun? Time to start farming for some arbitrary resource to unlock its perk nodes only to find out that someone else has the same gun with much better perks. This created a grueling grind that offered up hours upon hours of filler with no real substance. You could feel yourself falling into the trap, knowing full well that you’re doing all of this work just to enjoy one activity that may release in a few months.
It feels like Bungie recognized that flaw and transformed the parts between major events. You know, the actual game that glues things like the raid and Iron Banner together into one large experience. Don’t get me wrong, there is still some randomness to the experience, but it’s not the type that creates unnecessary and boring padding to the game’s replay value. For example, all pieces of gear are identical. Meaning my Scathelock is the same as yours, with all the same perks. Your current Power level will determine how strong it is, but you can always infuse and not worry about being shortchanged in the ability department. Destiny 2 respects your time way more than the original, and you don’t have to stress about grinding for a perfect roll now.
Some may be turned off by that still present grind, though. While it is drastically improved over what players had in the first game, it’s still the same system at its core. You will get multiple repeats of weapons and armor before you finally obtain that jewel for your collection (if I get another Coldheart I’m going to scream), and very few items are guaranteed rewards. If you’re the type that hates random gear progression and it turned you away from the first game, the refined version on offer may not be enough to sway you. Simply put, Destiny 2 is still a loot treadmill and a grind, it’s just the process is a lot more enjoyable, diverse, and rewarding now.
Instead of there being just one ironclad path and side options that eventually force you to return to said path, everything in Destiny 2 is a valid option for growth. Maybe you’re purely a Crucible player and want to grind out your levels that way. You can level up, earn exotics, get amazing gear drops, and more tailored to what you like to do. PvE players have the same options, and they apply to all of the various activities. Want to kill things without the fuss of a narrative and still earn rewards? Loot Sectors and Public Events abound. The credits rolled and you need more story? Hello, Adventures.
Then there’s the campaign which is no less enjoyable than any other component of Destiny 2. I’m not going to mince words here, Destiny 1’s in-game story sucked. Yes, I read all of the Grimoire and fell in love with the deep lore working behind the scenes, but for most players, who stuck only to the product they spent their hard-earned money on, what greeted them was a half-baked plot that tasked them with unceremoniously killing a god with no real fanfare or weight to it. It was soulless. I would love to say that it was just very by the numbers, but I believe a by the numbers approach to the story would’ve been a much better experience than what was present in vanilla Destiny. However, in Destiny 2, it’s very easy to find yourself quite literally on the edge of your seat as the action ramps up, and you find yourself in a beautiful location surrounded by enemies. Yes, some aspects are clearly predictable plot devices (the entire losing your light portion of the story could have been used more in the opening hours), but it still all translates to a very fun ride that even continues after the credits roll thanks to Adventures and lore scattered throughout the game’s universe.
I think what may be my favorite part of Destiny 2 is how much it embraces the community and team play. As returning players already know, Destiny, in general, is a far better experience when it is shared with others. Whether that’s while simply exploring, running strikes, jumping into the Crucible, or tackling end game activities. The issue has always been finding others to play with and having a reason to work as clan outside of a simple raid trophy. For starters are the clans themselves. You can now work together to rank your clan up earning perks for everyone with your banner. There are even ways to earn end game loot for everyone, even if they don’t play those modes. It’s nice that you can complete the Nightfall and earn some rewards for your lower level clan mates to help them power up. There’s also a way to pay it forward thanks to Guided Games.
While Guided Games is still in beta (with the full release not far off), they do work. You can pair up with a player who can’t find a team and help them through end game activities, earning prestige for the clan in the form of an Oathkeeper’s Score, and rewards for the assisted player. Not only can solo players seek out some of the most elite team players, those in a clan have an incentive to help those in need which provides a balance that lets everyone have fun. It may not be a big deal to everyone, but for those who want to experience everything but don’t have friends who play or struggle to find teams, it provides a means of inclusion.
Of course, while I have heaps of praise to shovel onto Destiny 2, it definitely has its issues, some of which return from the first game. One of my biggest gripes is auto-aim. Auto-aim isn’t inherently a bad mechanic to have in a shooter, but when it’s as powerful as it is in Destiny 2, it makes for some serious frustration. You can’t aim down sights without some random element on screen forcing your camera in a certain direction, even if you already had a target locked in your crosshairs. An option to dial it down would be greatly appreciated, as moments when dealing with hordes of melee enemies can make for a nauseating experience as your camera goes batshit crazy when you try to shoot. Granted, this is predominantly a PvE issue, though it can rear its head in Crucible as well.
Speaking of Crucible, it has its ups and downs, but it’s mostly a good time. Bungie changed up certain aspects of the mode that change alters how players approach combat. All matches are no 4v4, making for less crowded, more personal affairs. Survival and Countdown headline the competitive playlist and require communication and high skill, rewarding players who take the time to really learn Destiny 2. There are some balancing issues, which was to be expected. Some guns such as the MIDA Multi-tool are clearly very popular and dominant in this very early meta. Whether or not it was a good call to include such clearly powerful and PvP centric weapons in Destiny 2 from the original Destiny is questionable. Coordinated teams equipped with powerful PvP weapons will dominate solo queue players in the competitive playlist. That said, maybe it’s OK. The quick play playlist is more forgiving thanks to its “crazier” game modes. There’s certainly some tinkering that has to be done, but by and large the Crucible is in decent shape at Destiny’s 2 launch.
I definitely need to address the elephant in the room that is Eververse and Destiny 2’s microtransactions. If you’ve been following Reddit or one of many other Destiny communities, you will have seen an uproar concerning Mods and Shaders. Eververse allows players to spend real-world money for random packages, and the packages sometimes include Mods and Shaders, the former of which can give you a leg up in gameplay and the latter allows for more customization. The backlash is understandable, especially early on when you haven’t built up a bank of mods and shaders. However, all rewards from Tess Everis (with the exception of Ornaments and exotic vehicles) can be earned from anyone. In fact, you can even earn Eververse rewards for free pretty regularly as long as you play. While it will still prove to be an issue for some who don’t have much time to enjoy Destiny 2, and its mere existence will anger some people, it’s far from abusive and/or pay to win.
Whatever issues I had with the game, though, quickly dissipated once I got a chance to jump into Destiny 2’s first raid, the Leviathan. I’m not sure what I expected going in outside of a Cabal-focused battle, but it definitely wasn’t a towering city of gold. What makes Leviathan stand out most is not just its appearance, though. It works much differently than other raids Bungie has created, providing challenges that are sort of free-form, promoting exploration of the palace grounds. There’s an entire Labyrinth surrounding the actual raid, and it’s full of interesting passageways, shortcuts, and even gifts. The raid challenges themselves call for solid communication and near perfect execution, pushing Guardians to be their very best.
The puzzles are challenging, and players going in blind (meaning no use of guides) will have their work cut out for them as they figure out the intricacies beneath each puzzle. Yet, I never grew overly frustrated with failure. The raid’s challenges never felt cheap or undermining, and may actually be my favorite multiplayer experience of 2017 thus far. They upheld this level of fun and engagement that permeates the entirety of Destiny 2, and that may be my biggest takeaway as I sit here typing, ready to dive back in.
Destiny 1 was known for not becoming “fun” until you were already well invested, something that definitely deterred some potential players. The grind was the largest piece of the first game’s puzzle, but the dev team hadn’t yet figured out how to make that something worthwhile. But here, in Destiny 2, from the moment I took control of my Warlock, whom I missed dearly, I was legitimately enjoying myself. From each story beat to every public event where players refused to trigger Heroic, right down to all the engrams that became everything I didn’t want, I’ve had fun. And after what is easily over 100 hours, there’s still more to see. Adventures still dot my maps, Trials of the Nine is calling my name, and I just know that the Leviathan is holding even more secrets within its golden belly. The first game was a solid effort and a clear learning experience for the team at Bungie, but with Destiny 2, they may have just created their greatest work yet.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great
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