Destiny 2 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC and Microsoft Xbox One
The hype surrounding the release of the original Destiny was unreal, it was to be the beginning of a huge new epic franchise with enormous investment from Activision, the brains behind the Halo saga and a fleshed out ten year plan - then the game launched. Hype overload fairly rapidly turned into mild rage in some quarters; whilst few could deny the game had fantastic gunplay at its core many despaired at the lack of content provided, some truly bizarre design decisions and a game that just didn’t feel finished. As time has shown us Destiny had a very troubled development and what went on behind the scenes clearly had an impact on the final product. So here we are, Destiny 2, the sequel, time to right all those wrongs, time to deliver on the hype, build upon what worked and take the franchise forward...but would Destiny 2 be a true sequel to the original or simply just what the original should have been? The truth is somewhere in between.
Check out our review of the original here - https://www.thedigitalfix.com/gaming/content/2615/destiny/
Destiny 2 shows us in its first few hours that a number of lessons have been learnt, no more so than within the main story campaign. A full campaign greets the player complete with a decent amount of story missions, albeit still hammy, as well as a significant ramp up in alternative things to do. The original felt disjointed in so many ways with a brief story-lite campaign that thought it was a good idea to hide most of its detail on a website (it wasn’t). Story beats seemed like they were missing entirely, any sense of being propelled forward often got lost as it was so poorly communicated players had to turn to the internet to figure out what is going on and what they should be doing next - there are no such issues here. Destiny 2 feels both more complete, more finished and generally tighter across the board.
The campaign begins with the beloved Last City coming under attack from a new Cabal enemy known as The Red Legion, led by the huge bulking figure Ghaul. Bombastic, Michael Bay-esque action ensues in the early missions and sets the tone for what ends up being roughly an eight hour campaign. The Guardians have lost their light, the Traveller has a ball gag in its mouth and for all intents and purposes it is the end of days. Your mission, Guardian, is to get your light back, rescue the Traveller and kick Ghaul’s ass.
As you work your way through the campaign Destiny 2 does a vastly better job of explaining its base mechanics and systems to you than the original. Your introduction to the levelling and in turn the loot grind for power is nicely laid out as you are propelled through the core content to the end game activities. Tons of additional content is available this time around too with multiple public events happening all the time, adventures, lost sectors, challenges per planet, there are even post-campaign completion missions which guarantee a suite of excellent weaponry - all of this firmly addresses the barebones feeling that the original had on release. There is now a lot to do and marrying that up with the trademark Bungie visuals, audio and phenomenal gunplay you are really onto something in that initial race to hit the level cap.
Hardcore players may groan at the ease of the campaign as to be fair it is really easy, aside from one or two encounters - any player who’s played a first-person shooter before should be able to plough through it all with little or no fuss without dying, or at least only dying from our good old friend first person platforming. However, we’d argue that this is actually overall a really good thing as it removes the feeling from Destiny that only the most ardent fans can enjoy the game, you no longer have to have played it for a thousand hours and studied like you would for an exam to figure out how the hell you level up a bit more - it has become accessible, and to many this translates to one thing: fun. This may be a bit of a bummer for any self-titled l33t gamer who enjoyed the fact that only they knew how to do something following hundreds of hours of trial and error but that’s the minority and to win a lot of people back following the lacklustre original launch, it’s the sensible thing to do. Bungie has made Destiny 2 feel like the baseline for Destiny, it feels like this is what it should have been from the off and after ploughing in many hours you cannot help but accept what feels like them working through and correcting the faults of the original.
Destiny has always had the gunplay, the atmosphere and the visuals; even though the first title felt incomplete and severely lacking in content you could never say it didn’t feel like the best gunplay one could experience in a first-person shooter. Destiny 2 takes that solid gunplay, iterates on it, adds in a wealth of new weaponry, a fresh layer of up-to-date console gloss, some stunning audio design and provides the player with some of the best minute to minute gameplay you will find in a shooter. Four planets packed with things to do, tokens to collect, and an ever increasing power rating (the system that takes over from your character level once you hit level 20) set you up nicely for the next batch of activities. Strikes and Raids return providing content for high level committed players and in true MMO style the grind is absolutely real. Repeating these content items daily or weekly in some cases will net you big rewards but they can be really tough and often deviate away from what makes the game fun.
To supplement the now decent amount of PVE content is the slightly tweaked PVP Crucible. Previously this was predominantly 6v6 and this simple player on player until the death setup provides an interesting change from the often horde style PVE gameplay with a few tricks up its sleeve mode-wise. Now 4v4 with tighter maps, the Crucible offers players a slice of simple head to head action with small environments, a reasonably varied set of modes and some decent loot. It’s not for everyone though and much like the original seems to be there to provide an alternative to the PVE content rather than supplement it.
Destiny 2, even as a clear shot at redemption following the original isn’t without its faults, faults of which hold it back from being a must have stellar title. Firstly whilst the campaign is substantially bigger than before, there is nothing groundbreaking or new here. Big bad dude we’ve never seen before catches the good guys off guard, robs them of their powers, reducing them to mere mortals and your mission should you choose to accept it is to get it back - it isn’t startlingly original. The gameplay, whilst containing some variety here and there along with the often annoying platforming, never really progress far away from being a series of bog standard horde mode situations. It doesn’t matter what you are doing around the planets, whether it be an adventure, a campaign mission, a strike or a public event, the majority of the time you will find yourself holding a specific area defeating waves of enemies. Throughout the game there is one situation where this horde mode type of style works fantastically well and that is public events (which can be upgraded to Heroic events if you figure out how). Multiple guardians defending an objective with wave after wave (or drop after drop is more accurate) pouring into them, the screen becomes awash with glorious colourful chaos. It is in these bonkers over the top moments that Destiny 2 shines. Those moments are great but not so good that you are happy that it’s pretty much all you are going to be doing regardless of the mission type.
“It’s all about the end game” is a phrase often associated with the original and that will not be any different here - sadly if that is the case then it’s a little disappointing to date. The variety of strikes at launch is a tad underwhelming with very little in the way of interesting encounters and only slight variations from the aforementioned horde mode like situations seen throughout the campaign with a huge boss at the end. The initial Nightfall (a very hard version of a strike) feels like a series of poor design decisions taken to artificially increase the difficulty with the added effect of removing any semblance of fun from proceedings. In stark contrast to the normal version of this strike the Nightfall mode adds in a crazy amount of enemies, a countdown timer and a series of mechanics such as jumping activities to allow you to accrue more time, which change weekly. As a result you rush through encounters and it’s not really anything like the game up to this point. If all end game activities reduce the sumptuous gunplay to the bare minimum and ramp up random alternative mechanics in its place then one could argue that this takes away what makes Destiny fun in favour of a random, artificially difficult challenge. At this time we’ve not successfully completed the Raid but having experienced some sections the feeling of disappointment found in the Nightfall is echoed - as a result the long term appeal is questionable and for some burnout is inevitable once the higher level’s power levels are reached.
Destiny 2 looks good, the gunplay is second to none and unlike the original has a good chunk of content. A hammy yet reasonably sized campaign does a solid enough job of introducing new players and returning players will embrace the additions to the world and its lore. To a player who burnt out quickly on the original, Destiny 2 feels like the game that should have launched back then - a more refined and meatier experience in most ways. To a returning player who is part of a Raid crew that religiously repeated the same strikes in Destiny for thousands of hours, you just got a whole chunk more of roughly the same, so rejoice. It’s still some way away from the definitive first person shooter MMO it strives to be, but is a much better effort than the original.
(Review copy provided by Activision)