Where Destiny originally failed back in 2014, Destiny 2 has surpassed expectations with flying colors. With a relatively robust campaign and a story that’s fleshed out within the game (rather than in some grimoire card app), I’m happy to say that Destiny 2’s campaign makes up for the barebones missions we received in vanilla Destiny. After completing the campaign, I managed to squeeze another 50+ hours out of the game’s post-game content. Whether I was running through public events with randoms, trying my hand at some PvP in The Crucible or failing over and over again (until I didn’t) in the Leviathan raid, I always had something to do.
Right from the beginning, your guardian is thrusted into a state of peril as our new formidable foe, Dominus Ghaul, destroys everything the world of Destiny has been building towards for three years. The Tower is demolished and the Traveler is attacked, taking away any and all light your guardian once had. From there, you’ll run through a multitude of unique story missions spanning four planets, each filled with memorable characters and stunning cutscenes, all expanding on the universe of Destiny. Because your guardian begins with no light, the climb to regain your guardians light is not only explained in story, but makes the light-level climb past guardians are well-aware of, more tangible than ever. Through each of these missions, while pummeling through waves of Fallen, Vex or something else, my ears were treated to the best music I’ve heard in a video game in years. From pulse-pounding, to gut-wrenching, to soothing, to ambient, each and every theme the writers wanted you to grasp were met with musical perfection. The soundtrack sweeps you from mission to mission, helping you fully understand what it is you’re supposed to be feeling while doing whatever it is you’re doing.
Upon finishing the campaign, you’ll find that Destiny 2’s story is more self-contained than the world-changing story it started off to be. It’s very clear that we’ll likely be getting more in upcoming expansions. To keep you entertained until then, and while climbing to the maximum light level of 305, Bungie has laid out a multitude of events throughout each map. Public events, The Crucible, Strikes (think dungeons), Nightfalls (think more elaborate and more challenging strikes), exotic quests, Vanguard missions, Flashpoints, Adventures (side-quests), treasure chests and Lost Sectors (off-the-beaten path areas) all serve as different and refreshing ways to keep you engaged as you work towards 305. Of course, some are far more rewarding than others (Heroic Public Events are my personal favorite to grind), but when one grows stale, it’s easy to find one of the game’s other offerings somewhere nearby. Most of these will get you to a light level around 260, but it’s the tougher challenges that will ultimately help you max out–Nightfalls, Leviathan and Trials of the Nine.
All of this post-game content can be found on any of the game’s four planets–Nessus, a robotic planet filled with electric waterfalls, Io, a musky and radioactive-looking moonscape, Titan, a massive oil rig-like floating on a Baja Blast-colored ocean, and of course, the European Dead Zone, the game’s largest map which is essentially a rundown European city outskirts section. Each of these maps are unique in their own right and are filled with little secrets such as investigations for your ghost to make with grant snippets of lore about the planet, and chests filled with map-specific tokens, which can be turned in at the appropriate vendors in return for engrams. My only annoyance with the game’s exploration is that you’re not given a sparrow (your hover-bike transportation) until after the campaign is complete, meaning any exploration that takes place during the campaign–which will be a lot–must occur on foot. For a small map like Titan, that’s not a big deal, but for an area like the European Dead Zone, exploring on foot can get extremely annoying.
All of this exploring is ultimately for the purpose of acquiring engrams, which hopefully, will grant you more powerful loot. Compared to Destiny, I’m a bit underwhelmed with Destiny 2’s gear, both in variation and use. Some of Destiny 2’s gear is simply gear from the first game–lazy. Most of it is brand new but almost all of it looks identical. Many of the Hunter’s helmets look the same, and this pattern applies to both the Titan and the Warlock as well. Furthermore, the gear this time around is quite confusing in how it’s power level can be raised via infusion and mods. If you have a legendary mod, which grants 5+ to the gear’s power level, when you infuse, you must find gear that is equal to that gear or higher without taking the legendary mod into account. If you wish to infuse a new piece of gear with an old piece of gear that has a legendary mod, you’ll have to look at the old piece of gear as five less than what it’s power level shows on screen and that’s because of the mod. Sound confusing? It is, but after some time spent with game’s gear system, all of this math will occur without you even realizing it. The weapons follow suit in terms of upgrades so these too will be confusing.
Even more confusing than what I just described above is Bungie’s choice to make the shaders, items used to customize the color of your armor and guns, consumable. In Destiny, one shader applied to your entire gear set, which meant less customizability, but, you had that shader for life in your inventory. In Destiny 2, shaders are applied to each piece of gear, which means way more customizability, but, each shader is consumed upon use. Why is this bad? I fell in love with a pink/purple shader called Dusk and Dawn. Tess, a vendor who sells the shader, saw me quite often as I shamefully bought bright engrams with real money. Even though you reach a new XP level, you’re given a bright engram. In the bright engrams, many things drop such as ships, sparrows, emotes, shaders and bright dust. Basically, I would purchase multiple bright engrams with real money to obtain fake money a la bright dust so that I could purchase multiple Dusk and Dawn shaders. I would apply this shader to my character until everything was pink and purple. If I ran out, which happened often, I bought more. Am I a part of the problem? Oh yeah but hey. I wanted my character to be pink and purple and I made it happen.
It wasn’t ‘t until the weekly reset, where Tess’ inventory resets, that I realized my wrongdoings and Bungie’s. I returned for some more Dusk and Dawn shaders for my recently obtained gear and sure enough, Tess wasn’t selling it anymore. Now, I didn’t have access to the shaders I preferred to use and I also wasted real time dollars on said shaders, which in turn, add to the numbers Bungie sees when calculating how much real time money they make on bright engrams. In 2014, this problem would have never occurred, and my addictive personality wouldn’t have been preyed up on in an attempt to get real money out of me. Enough on that.
In terms of classes, the Hunter, Titan and Warlock remain, for the most part, the same as their 2014 counterparts. They each have a roaming super, a more defensive super and a ranged super. They each come packed with three subclasses, who in turn have two subclasses, allowing for a broad range of customization in how your guardian works. Like in the original Destiny, they each get their own custom gear sets and they each have their pros and cons. Hunters are fast and sneaky, but their health recovery and overall HP tends to fall to the wayside. Warlocks are powerful from a distance but not very mobile. Titans fall somewhere in the middle, almost acting as the tank class. You can’t really go wrong with what class you choose, and that’s thanks to Bungie’s excellent balancing.
In terms of guns, it’s quite obvious that the team behind Destiny’s creative and engaging gunplay is the team behind Destiny 2’s. With the addition of submachine guns, your guardian’s arsenal is more powerful and variable than ever. A good scout rifle is still my favorite weapon but this time around, the scout isn’t the end-all weapon it was in Destiny. Now, each and every type of gun has it’s place in this game’s fast-paced gunplay.
Sadly, many of Destiny 2’s negatives come during the game’s most important section: endgame. Let’s begin with The Trials of the Nine. This happens on select weekends and occurs on one pre-selected map with one pre-selected game mode. You’ll take a fireteam of four into the Trials in an attempt to achieve seven wins before three losses. At win 1, 3, 5 and 7, you’ll be given a Trials engram which can be decrypted at the Trials-specific social space, The Spire. Most try for seven wins but the elite will try to achieve a flawless seven. This means seven wins in a row with no losses. This yields a higher chance at even better Trials loot. I thoroughly enjoy Trials but Destiny 2’s Trials made one big change from the original, and it is nearly enough of a change to not want to ever jump back into this competitive mode: Light level no longer matters. In Destiny, your light level determine your damage output. Now, it’s an even playing ground. I understand why Bungie did this. They want it to be more accessible to those who have never played before but sadly, that’s at the expense of those who wish it to be as challenging and level-dependent as it was three years ago.
The Iron Banner made exactly the same change and I feel exactly the same about it. The Iron Banner is another PvP playlist where players attempt to crush their foes in order to obtain special Iron Banner gear. Light level doesn’t matter here like it did in 2014. This is another change that irks me although I’m finding that like with Trials, I’m still managing to have a great time.
Finally, the Leviathan, which is the first raid in Destiny 2. I won’t say too much because like with any Destiny raid, guardians should go in as blank-on-knowledge as possible to enjoy the game’s best content to its fullest. With that being said though, the raid is quite easy, at least comparatively. The first team to complete the Vault of Glass raid in Destiny did it in 14 hours. The first team to beat the Leviathan did so in less than eight hours. Overall, the raid just doesn’t present much challenge in skill beyond a guardian’s first few tries. After understanding the secrets of the raid, the Leviathan is a cakewalk. Because it is a raid though, it is still crazy fun. You and five other guardians will yell and shout during your first few attempts until you finally beat Emperor Calus and his elite showcase of challenge. You’ll be left wanting more and that more will come with the next expansion I imagine. For now, just kill Calus over and over again.
Bungie has already promised guardians with a roadmap detailing what’s in store for players and that roadmap only continues to evolve. In due time, Destiny 2 will be far more robust than it’s 2014 counterpart, and I can’t wait for that day. For now, 80 hours later, I’ll continue striving for the best-performing and best-looking gear the game has to offer my favorite Hunter, all while running around from planet to planet doing some task, I’ve done hundreds of times already, without the faintest hint of the game’s content going stale.
Destiny 2 is already leagues ahead of it’s 2014 predecessor. It’s almost the game we were promised three years ago but never quite received. With excellent storytelling and engaging gunplay, Destiny 2 is almost unmatched in the FPS space. Not everything here is perfect, and there are certainly a few changes I’d like to see made in future updates, but for now, I can easily see myself losing another 80 hours in this game.
- Full and fleshed-out campaign
- Exciting post-game/end-game content
- You'll never run out of things to do
- The best music I've heard in a game in quite some time
- It's the Destiny you know and love, but even better
- Trials of the Nine doesn't take light level into account
- Iron Banner doesn't take light level into account
- Shaders are consumable
- The raid is a bit easy