It’s been a long time coming, but Destiny 2 is finally here. It wasn’t too long after the release of the first game that murmurings of the next game started to circulate through gaming communities. Yet in that time, what has been an interesting three years, we got to watch Destiny 1 blossom into something that was much closer to what was initially promised. A game that felt like two parts first-person shooter from a company that helped to popularize the genre on consoles, and one part MMO-lite, mixing together seamless co-op and team challenges to create a loot-centric RPG. Watching the experience grow and change its shape ever since the alpha has been a wild ride, but it was definitely time for something more.
On the surface at least, Destiny 2 looks a lot like the first game. It’s something that will be undoubtedly levied against it in the weeks to come. When I first laid eyes on the game I remember feeling just a bit of disappointment, thinking that this was just going to be another unnecessary sequel. Then I got to play it. I got to try a couple of subclasses, run through a strike, and show my might in the new Crucible mode, Countdown. I was intrigued by the small but meaningful nuances added to the gameplay that helped Destiny 2 feel, for lack of a more descriptive word, better.
A class ability that made the Warlock, Titan, and Hunter feel legitimately unique on the battlefield, and offering a role for each for those looking for one. Mantling, the simple act of being able to pull myself up ledges, felt like a godsend after years of bouncing off of edges. And the weapon system, which adds more freedom to how players want to outfit their loadouts took some getting used to but really felt like an evolution of the previous system. Yet this was just the tip of the iceberg. Now, after having played a rather large chunk of Destiny 2 and immersing myself in its worlds and activities, I can see that there’s a lot more than just subtle nuances to make a better game. Destiny 2 is, in fact, a true sequel, worthy of the digit that follows its name.
From the moment you jump into Destiny 2 proper you’re greeted by something that fans pleaded for with the original release, story. No, I’m not just talking about the cutscenes that play when you first boot up the game or after you finally create your character (Awoken Warlock for me). The opening mission, which some will remember from the beta, helps to set up this deep, involving, and downright depressing narrative as players are unceremoniously stripped of their light. For a moment you’re left helpless, just like the citizens of the city you’ve vowed to protect. The Tower, a shining beacon of light and hope, is decimated and you’re left to fend for yourself. And this continues well after that first set-up mission.
As you explore the worlds of Destiny 2 as a guardian you can see how much things have changed since Ghaul and his Red Legion (the Cabal antagonists that serve as the focal point for the game’s main narrative). Guardians are in hiding after losing their abilities, hurt, angry, and lost. Yet there’s an uprising swelling beneath the surface that is given form by some of Destiny 2’s new NPCs such as Hawthorne and Devrim Kay. Humanity thrives on hope, and that permeates every facet of Destiny 2’s story, even during times when it seems like all odds are against you.
As crazy as it sounds, especially after vanilla Destiny, I find myself legitimately caring about the story, not wanting to just blow through missions on my quest to reach the credits. Without going into spoiler territory, it’s the new characters who caught my attention the most. First was Hawthorne with her dauntless humanity. But more so than even her was Dominous Ghaul, the Cabal general who kicks the guardians out of their home and lays siege to the last city. With each new expansion of the first game, the antagonists grew more interesting, offering a character that’s easy to despise and set your target on. Yet Ghaul is different. Yes, he’s still easy to hate (he re-enacts a scene from 300 to show you that he’s truly in charge), yet there’s more under that thick, turtle-like skin. He has goals and desires and, dare I say, feelings. He’s not just a show up and kill everything kind of guy, he has a purpose.
Of course, while story is a big deal when it comes to Destiny 2, gameplay, which left the player base divided at times, has received just as much, if not more, attention. A key part of this step forward is how Bungie has used the worlds, the spaces that players will actually find themselves in for a vast majority of their time with Destiny 2. There is a lot to do on each planet, and I’m not just tossing that word around. Returning from the first game are public events and patrols, repeatable activities that you can farm for some resources and experience. While patrols remain the same, public events now have triggers that make them heroic which adds new objectives, powerful bosses, and better rewards.
New to the game are Adventures and Lost Sectors. Lost Sectors make use of all those caves veteran players will remember seeing on each planet. Now you’ll enter some and find hordes of enemies and bosses waiting for you. Overcome their challenge and you’ll earn yourself a key to a loot chest. Adventures are more like actual side missions that are fully scripted and really open up the lore of Destiny 2. You’ll get to learn more about the worlds and characters, and even about the wars happening behind the scenes. They’re full of emotion, wild encounters, and a healthy dose of humor.
Helping tie it all together is just how rewarding Destiny 2 is, especially when compared to its predecessor. While exploring the worlds, playing the story, or just slaying your fellow guardians, there’s a steady stream of rewards that keep you going. The best part is that they didn’t feel like just random drops that I constantly discarded. For the most part everything new was better than what I already had.
I know you may have realized that I haven’t really said anything negative about Destiny 2 during this review in progress. And that’s because it is still very much in progress. I have yet to reach the actual end game, so there are elements of the game I’ve yet to see. I don’t yet know how repetitive things may become and whether or not that will be a good or a bad thing. Nor have I ventured into the raid (which is set to go live in just a few days) or grabbed some buddies for the Nightfall and Trials.
What I have seen, though, has made me eager to continue on and see the credits and whatever else may follow, and that’s saying something. The first game was known for not getting good until you already invested dozens of hours. Something that, for me at least, is not the case with Destiny 2. That doesn’t mean I won’t hit a wall and find something that I strongly dislike. But for now, for all the hours I’ve put in, I’ve had a heck of a good time.
I’ll have a full review, with deeper impressions of the Crucible (which I need more players to fight against), the raid, and all of the other end game activities that open up. However, if you were looking just for a nudge to dip your toes into what Bungie has built here, I think it’s safe to say that things are worthwhile.