Recently I had the opportunity to dive into some more of Destiny 2 ahead of its upcoming Sept. 6 release on the PS4 and Xbox One. The session revolved around the European Dead Zone (EDZ), which I was able to freely explore while also taking on challenges, patrols, Heroic Public Events, Lost Sectors, Adventures, and more. I must admit that I was impressed by what I had time to actually play, and Destiny 2 has shaped up to be a true sequel to its predecessor thanks to all of the advancements being made to better player experience and the overall game. However, what I played wasn’t all that left its mark on me; what I saw and, more importantly, who I met was the biggest change to the open world gameplay I had come to know over the past three years.
When I spawned into the EDZ through its main landing zone I was greeted by a large, rundown church. I walked in and made my way to the top where I found a lone hunter named Devrim Kay. Now, this wasn’t a hunter as Destiny has conditioned us to view the title. This was a normal human being, holed up in his cozy church tower picking off Fallen and Cabal enemies with his rifle. He didn’t have a Ghost, wasn’t blessed with the light, wasn’t granted any special space magic to give him an edge over his adversaries. He was simply human.
Yet, despite his lack of powerful abilities and weapons he was there, on the frontlines, fighting to defend Earth. It provided a bit of perspective to me, as I had been running through the past three years in Destiny 1 and my hours spent with Destiny 2 like a bat out of hell with no fear of death. I could revive myself if I got over zealous against the tough cabal. I could use wicked space powers to carve a swathe through an enemy onslaught. I could teleport to my ship if things got a bit too dicey. But here was this man, living in my world that I was fighting to protect, and he was risking more than I ever could.
But he was more than just some narrative device, put there to give my powerful Guardian the chance to see the world through different eyes. Devrim Kay, and I imagine all other world NPCs, is a vendor, quest giver, and a bestower of rewards. It’s a simple addition, one that I honestly can’t understand why took so long, but it’s a clear step over what the original Destiny offered within its worlds.
For those of you who have been playing Destiny 1, you will already be aware that the open world areas are little more than farming spaces. You go there, shoot things, open chests, and then have to return elsewhere to actually get your rewards for the most part. Sure, bounties can now be claimed whenever, but there are no vendors planetside, and no real life outside of constantly respawning enemies. For the most part, you only talk to your Ghost and hear quick demands when picking up patrols.
Yet in the end, the worlds lacked life.
Sure, some could say “but there were tons of enemies roaming about.” That can be used as a quick, one-size-fits-all excuse to explain why we saw nothing but the same Fallen and Hive enemies on Earth over and over, a cycle that was only slightly alleviated by the introduction of Taken enemies. The only form of any wildlife were very few birds located on Earth (and yes we’re counting those rather stoic ones you see in the Tower), as well as the occasional dragonfly. There’s also the Ahamkara (the dragon-like creature you see flying off in the distance on Venus), as well as the Hive worms on the Dreadnaught. But they were extremely rare or just locked into a pattern where they didn’t give off that semblance of actual life.
Everything was barren, and the lack of any substantial wildlife only punctuated the absence of anybody living out in the world beyond the Tower. But now, in Destiny 2, you have a face to look into without having to go to a social space. A human present among all the monsters who’s there to help guide you and help equip you with the gear you need. And he’s joined by a bit of wildlife.
Granted, you won’t be hunting animals or running with wolves (they seriously need to add that at some point), but just seeing more animals lounging around and running when they sense you or hear gunfire makes the EDZ feel more alive than any part of Destiny 1 I played. Seeing small rodents scurry away, or actually being able to walk up to birds instead of them being an animated loop in the sky that never lands. Perhaps their presence can lead into a conversation about just what happened to the wildlife and other humans throughout the planet. Why is it that we’re just now seeing people that dwell outside of the Tower, people who refused to give into the alien threat.
After meeting Devrim Kay, and exploring the EDZ for a few hours seeking out challenges and what have you, I found myself returning back to that church, just to view a person living among the wreckage again. And you know what? It made me want more. I wanted to see an entire hidden village, a town, right there in the open world with mayhem going on all around and them fighting for survival. There’s a lot of potential to really open up the world and the lore of Destiny 2 as a whole by simply having an NPC on the planet with players. If Destiny 1 had this, chances are the Cosmodrome would have been a lot more interesting. Like Destiny 1 did with the Ghost and Tower inhabitants, Devrim Kay, and everyone like him, could get new lines or quests to give out to continue to expand on what Bungie has started to build in the EDZ.
While it was only for a few hours, and in such a small way, Destiny 2 gave me a taste of life within the chaotic open worlds that myself and millions of other Guardians plan to explore. It was a nice, thoughtful touch, and call me greedy but I want more of it. Granted, I don’t know what else Bungie has planned for the game. My wish may already be in development or found later in the game. But just this simple addition, of that one lone sniper in the church and a few random critters, already made my experience much more substantial than what I had in Destiny 1.