Note: For the benefit of our readers, I will be avoiding major spoilers where possible in this review, regarding much of the story, powers and events. It is also a late review, so that I could experience some events and features added later in the game. If there’s something that’s not been mentioned here, it’s likely down to spoilers or just simply that there’s way too much to cover in Destiny 2.
Oh the hype train, a journey that could lead to a derailing destination, or it could be a destination that lives up to expectations of the demanding public. No matter whether it’s a DLC expansion or, in this case, a sequel with the backing of Activision and Bungie, the Destiny series will always have a legion of devoted fans, and haters, each giving equal expectations in its paradox. So where exactly does Destiny 2 sit? Does it live up to its hype or does it crash and burn faster than our beloved vault space in the Tower? Well, depending on your perspective, it’s a little bit of both. Now I’ll say right off the bat that I am a big Destiny fan, so I’ll often favour many of its aspects within reason, but I also have high expectations for all of my beloved games that I always want to see the best of. In truth, if I’m being totally honest, Destiny 2 feels much like a major expansion, a Destiny 1.5 if you will, rather than a game changing sequel.
I would say however, that there are most certainly more positives than negatives in Destiny 2 (thankfully) and Bungie have managed to build upon the foundations of The Taken King and Rise of Iron, expanding on certain aspects that fans appreciated, addressed much of its issues and simplified many of its features to make the game far more accessible for returning and new fans to the series. One thing is for sure, Destiny 2 is in a far better state at launch than the vanilla Destiny was, and that’s a huge plus from the start, though it’s not hard to improve upon its September 2014 release in all honesty.
Perhaps its biggest improvement and from one of its biggest complaints initially with the vanilla game is its story. Originally, other than light fighting dark, and a big globe in the sky known as The Traveller, there wasn’t much that had you wanting to care about the vanilla story; it had poor dialogue, very few cut-scenes to help tell its story, poor endgame features and an ending as flat as I’d ever seen. However, leading on from the likes of The Taken King and Rise of Iron, the story in Destiny 2 does many things right. It has more of an emphasis on lead characters such as Cayde-6, Zavala and Ikora, while introducing a few new characters, with the sniper Hawthorne being somewhat of a standout for me.
The script is far better written, which gives the talented voice actors a healthier platform to shine, it has some fantastic cut-scenes that had me gripped throughout, the story pacing was fairly balanced and once more it had a fantastic soundtrack. My only issues with the story perhaps, is the flat end of game boss battle with Gary, sorry Ghaul and as fantastic as the soundtrack can be, at times it seemed to pick up a frantic, dramatic pace and quite random intervals, such as on low-end Patrol missions. But with that said, from a story telling perspective, Bungie have done a lot right with Destiny 2.
In terms of core gameplay, as with the original game, Destiny 2 feels as good as any of the best First-Person Shooters out there. The aiming is smooth, shooting is satisfying, certain platforming sections feel a lot less fiddly (for an FPS) and in general, while Destiny 2 won’t be everyone’s cup of tea as we all have different tastes, from a gameplay standpoint, there’s a lot to appreciate here, without Bungie having to improve much on the original formula to begin with as it is. Simply put, it’s hard to argue that Destiny 2 doesn’t handle with the best of them within its very over saturated and competitive genre.
There are literally heaps of improvements made in Destiny 2 and to list them all, my review would soon begin to turn into a bullet-point format, for which I want to avoid, so for convenience sake I’ll go through some of the improvements that I appreciated the most. Firstly and arguably the biggest, certainly most convenient improvement made to the game is how you travel from place to place. No longer do you have to return to orbit to travel to one of the four planets (Earth, Io, Nessus and Titan). You simply hold down the touch pad (on PS4), open up the Director, choose your location and select your chosen Landing Zone/Fast Travel location. You can even do this on your current located planet. So for example, if there’s a Public Event that’s about to begin on the other side of the map, load up the Director, choose the nearest Landing Zone and you’ll be in on the action before you know it.
Speaking of Public Events, they are far more frequent than they ever were before, with a new event spawning every few minutes or so. What’s even better about the new Public Events is that the rewards are far greater. As long as you complete certain stipulations, you’ll have a chance of earning an Exotic Engram and at the very least, you’ll earn some currency associated with that said planet, which can be spent at its designated vendor for gear and Engram rewards. Currency can also be spent at the Farm for participating in Crucible and even dismantling armour and weapons, will earn you currency to spend at the Gunsmith. Now, there is more to the currency and the various factions, but for the benefit of avoiding spoilers I won’t go into detail. The new currency system also changes how you level-up with each of the vendors and factions. As you complete challenges, you spend the tokens at the respect vendors or faction; the more you spend, the more you level-up with that vendor/faction and each time you do, you’ll be rewarded with at least a Legendary Engram.
One of the other things that I appreciate about Destiny 2 is that there are so many different ways it will generously reward you. Public Events, Patrol Missions, Adventures (which are kind of like Patrols, but with added story and better rewards), High Value Targets and more. Many of which will be associated with the in-game milestones. An ever evolving set of challenges that will reward you both as an individual and for your clan (if you’re a part of one).
Clans in Destiny 2 are a big deal, and being part of one finally has more meaning, other than having a clan tag to show-off with or without your Fireteam. Your clan will now have their unique clan banner, which will be created by your clan leader(s). Each week you’ll have clan goals for you to achieve, from completing the most basic of tasks, to playing Crucible, Trails of the Nine (the updated Trials of Osiris), Strikes, Nightfall’s, Raids – practically any action in Destiny 2 will contribute (no matter how seemingly small) towards your weekly contribution. Then at the end of the week, you’ll be rewarded with a clan Engram and even when a clan member achieves a milestone in a Raid or Trials of the Nine, clan members will be rewarded also. Now of course, those that achieve a goal in the Raid will be rewarded with the greater items, with clan members getting a lower light equivalent.
Another big change has come to the Crucible format, going from the traditional 6v6 in the series to a 4v4. Now, I was sceptical about this new format, mainly because it was two less clan members for me to have in my Fireteam. However, even when playing with randoms online, I’ve noticed that with your team now having less members, I and other randoms have been sticking together more during Crucible matches, which is very likely down to the 4v4 format. So anything that prevents more people going all John Rambo Han Solo, and working more as a team, then I’m all for that.
Big changes have also come to how you level-up your weapons and gear. Well basically, you no longer have to level-up your weapons or gear in Destiny 2. When you acquire them, whether they’re Rare, Legendary or Exotics, they’re good to go from the get-go. It took me a while to get used to this, but I believe it’s for the better, because there’s lots to keep your grinding in Destiny 2 for an increased light-level or items, so I like the fact that once you get an item you like, you can enjoy the benefits from it as soon as your receive them.
You can, however, change the powers and perks of your weapons and gear via a mod, so if you’re in the middle of a Nightfall or Raid and want to change a weapon from Solar to Void for example, as long as you have the desired mod, you can change it there and then. It’s a level of customisation at ease that I’m sure most players will enjoy. All weapons and gear now also have the same perks, which has valid arguments for and against. On one side it puts people on more of a level playing field, but then it also removes the grind for that perfect roll that some players love doing. There are also no Strike exclusive rewards at this time, which I do find a little disappointing, but that may change with future updates.
Sticking to customisation, Ornaments for your Exotics and Shaders for your weapons and gear have changed a fair bit in Destiny 2 in terms of how they are applied. From Rare gear upwards, you can apply an Ornament/Shaders to just about anything: weapons, armour, sparrows, ships and more. It’s a level of customisation that will truly allow your Guardian to standout from the crowd. With your armour also, rather than one Shader to colour it all, each piece of your armour such as helmets, chests, gauntlets, legs and class armour have their own separate Shaders to apply.
I absolutely love having Shaders applied to each piece of armour, because it adds more depth to your Guardian’s look. I even enjoyed applying Legendary Shaders to Exotics and Rare Shaders to everything else. However, what I’m not a fan of is that the Shaders have a one-time use. So once they’re applied, unless you have more, they’re gone. You can acquire them back via in-game activities, but obviously the Legendary Shaders will be a little harder to come by. I would say however, that after sinking many hours into the game, Shaders for me at least, are not of short supply and I’m constantly being awarded them from all angles.
There has been some controversy about this, as many believe it pushes you towards making a microtransaction purchase via the in-game retailer, the Eververse. Now, I can’t and won’t speak for anybody other than myself and my own experiences, but despite having a very addictive personality, which I have been tempted to spend real world money, I’ve never felt like I had to spend real money to get any kind of advantage. So in that respect, while the microtransaction temptations are there, it doesn’t feel like it’s been pushed down my throat. This is largely down to the constant rewards you’ll get in the game, and every time you level-up you’ll earn a Legendary Engram to collect at the Eververse, which can reward you with microtransaction items found at the Eververse.
Your Guardians will of course have three sub-classes, some of which you may have sampled in the recent beta. Again, I’ll tread carefully for spoiler purposes, but each of the newly introduced sub-classes is so much fun to utilise, and even those that returned in the beta have been tweaked a little, such as your meter now filling up more quickly. With the Titans Fist of Havoc, rather than being one big Hulk Smash, while your special metre is burning, you can unleash several Fist of Havoc’s during that time-span. Some of the newly introduced Sub-Classes come in the form of the Sentinel for the Titan, which is kind of like if Captain America’s shield was powered by the Void. The Warlock has a thumping Solar powered Sword to hack and slash the enemy down, while the Hunter has a badass Arc powered staff. Each of the classes has a decent level of options to customise to your needs and approach more tactically in Destiny 2’s more competitive events.
Quickly, and as this review comes to its end, your weapon layout has also been tweaked. Rather than having Primary, Secondary and Heavy as with the original game, your loadouts in Destiny 2 are now called Kinetic Weapons, Energy Weapons (this is where you’ll find the Arc, Solar and Void weapons) and finally Power Weapons, which are effectively Heavy Weapons, where not much has changed in the final loadout, other than Fusions, Shotguns and Snipers have joined the Rocket Launcher category. It feels a little odd not having Shotguns and Snipers in the second loadout, and while playing Crucible, I doubt I’d use a Shotgun at the expense of a Rocket Launcher; but overall, I think this new loadout scheme offers more flexibility. Especially if like me, you prefer fast paced weapons, meaning that I could have both an Auto Rifle and Submachine Gun equipped in Crucible, with my Rocket Launch as my “heavy”, if you will.
One last feature that I believe benefits the game and its players comes in the form of the Guided Game. Here for example in Nightfall, you can join a queue of current online clan members to seek other clan members that will guide you through the Nightfall if you’re unfamiliar with it. Likewise, you can also add yourself to the “Guide” list to help those in your clan that may need help. Additionally, once you hit a Power Level of 280, the Guided Game feature also becomes available for the new Cabal themed Leviathan Raid, which has a recommended Power Level of 270 for those that gather a Fireteam to take it on.
The new raid experience in Destiny 2 is Leviathan. Without giving too much away, after the events of the main game, you are called upon by Calus, the former emperor of the Cabal. He is impressed with your achievements and thus calls upon you to partake in a series of gauntlet style challenges. I don’t want to give anything away both in terms of story or gameplay, but the Leviathan borrows some aspects previously seen in raids, but also adds its own unique experiences. It’s also along with Wraith of the Machine, arguably the most visually stunning raid to appreciate, and it’s potentially one of the shortest, depending of course how you and your raid team perform.
As before the Leviathan, teamwork is of the utmost importance and your enjoyment can depend on that aspect. But that said, my experience with this raid so far has been an enjoyable one, but then I’m yet to play the harder prestige version yet (prestige is also available for Nightfalls), but hopefully I’ll get to sample that in the near future. For the basic Raid difficulty, the game recommends that you have a power level of 270, but just to be safe, I’d say 280 should see you more comfortably “raid ready”, 300+ for the prestige attempts.
Destiny 2 has also just experienced its first Iron Banner, with the mode in question being Control. However, just like all the other reward systems in the game, Iron Banner also follows suit with tokens. Rather than earning new packages as you level-up, the more you play, the more Tokens you earn, with the Leviathan raid also following this approach, which for the Raid, goes towards you unlocking chests hidden through its many hidden rooms. From my experience so far with the new Iron Banner, reward drops seem to be less, well, rewarding and frequent.
While the general drops in Destiny 2’s most prestigious PvP experience haven’t been all that great in my personal experience, it seems that acquiring Iron Banner themed gear is proving much more difficult than before. Some like the new Token system, and in the Public areas, I think the new systems works very well with their respective vendors. However, I wish Iron Banner would have continued on with its tried and tested formula at least, because the drop rate when spending tokens with Lord Saladin has been very underwhelming, and at this rate it’s going to prove very difficult to get your Guardian fully kitted out in its snazzy armour.
While I’m on the subject of parts of the game I’m not too keen on, it seems the AI hasn’t been improved upon in the sequel. Many a time enemies just roam the same paths, stare at you ideally through a window, refusing to move until you enter said room, and still enemies continue to shoot your ghost frantically when downed. While much of Destiny 2 isn’t leaps and bounds above its predecessor in terms of a gameplay experience, and one could argue that it doesn’t need to be, I would have liked to have seen the enemy AI improved upon. Oh and finally, that shit with not giving you your Sparrow until very late on in the campaign just feels like a very cheap way to stretch out the campaign experience by getting you to walk on foot practically everywhere across the vast new planets and locations. But I suppose on the flipside, it gives you a chance to appreciate much of the beautiful scenery that the game has to offer.
In conclusion, Destiny 2 isn’t leaps and bounds above the final form of the original Destiny, it still has some dumb as fuck AI, but the game certainly has more valued improvements than not. Whether it’s done enough to tempt in newcomers or those that were put off by the original game remains to be seen. But speaking from a returning fans perspective, Destiny 2 is proving to be an enjoyable experience that I hope has enough mileage to keep its huge player base entertained through to when the first major expansion releases.
Oddly, Destiny 2 is far from my Game of the Year for 2017, but just like the original outing, I’ll still find myself investing way more hours into the game than any other, because if you can find yourself a good, well oiled clan, the Destiny franchise is one of the best games to experience with others, and hopefully in two to three years time, we’ll have many more fond memories to share. Guardian out.
- A review copy of the game was provided by Activision.
+ Feels and plays as good as any other top shooter
+ Plenty of hours of end game activities
+ Improved visual makes me wish I had a 4K console
+ Vibrant online community
- Perhaps doesn’t do enough to convince those not interested in first game -AI is still poor