I was very vocal about all the problems I felt Destiny had when it first released. Devoid of story, lacking content, and reliant on a massive end game grind, its flaws were many, with its only selling point being just how good the shooting felt. It eventually got better once The Taken King expansion was released, and while it wasn’t perfect, it sold me on what Bungie was aiming for. I fell off after that, not bothering to come back for whatever the second, smaller expansion was, but my eyes were always focused on the future, on what Bungie would do for Destiny 2.
Going into a game like this thinking that it would be fundamentally different than its predecessor would be folly, and it’s clear that the better portion of Destiny 2 is built on the foundation laid down by 1. This was no sacking of Rome and rebuilding from the ashes, but more a renovation show whose crew shows up over a fast weekend, tears out and renovates a couple of rooms, and lays down some new plants outside for “curb appeal.”
The first room renovated clearly belonged to the story department. No longer devoid of any kind of tale whatsoever (I am firmly convinced that NOTHING actually happened in Destiny 1 Prime, and that things only started working themselves out with the Taken invasion), Destiny 2 is the story of Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion, an even more military subsect of the Cabal, previously encountered on Mars, and his invasion/takeover of the Last City, home of the Guardians and ever silent, light giving globe of a diety, the Traveler. Ghaul rolls in like the apocalpyse, with dropships losing Cabal warriors as though they were raindrops during a downpour. Your Guardian fights his/her way through the Last City and finally boards Ghaul’s ship, only to witness a harness tighten around the Traveler, cutting the light off from the Guardians in total, removing their one advantage in battle, the ability to come back from the dead.
The loss is not completely insignificant, and it does add a bit of tension to the next hour or so that it takes for your Guardian to eventually find a broken piece of the Traveler, thereby making her/him the lone force in the galaxy capable of taking the fight to the Red Legion. The story is more than a little cheesy, and quite easy to follow, but it is hands down better than anything put forth in Destiny 1. While the action tends to follow your Guardian, the cut scenes revolving around Ghaul are thoughtful and measured, with each focused on him trying to not only understand the Traveler, but earning the light rather than forcing his will upon the ancient force and taking it.
Bungie also uses the opportunity presented by their Guardians no longer having their light to shed some on the rest of humanity living in the Last City. It seems while you were out doing Guardian things, they were living in not so great conditions, under near total martial law to “keep them safe.” The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it takes them being the same as everyone else for Guardians to accept that. I won’t spoil the rest of the story, as there are some pretty impressive set pieces, but if you’ve read this far, I really don’t have to for you to figure it out.
Were I still playing on the PS4, this would be the part where I told you that gameplay remains tight and enjoyable as ever. As I am not playing on the PS4, but on a PC, this is actually the part where I reprimand you for playing on an inferior version and beg, literally beg, you to stop what you are doing, rethink your actions, and try this with a mouse and keyboard. I am NOT that guy, in fact, I normally default to gamepads on my PC for just about everything that has the option. Why I decided to just randomly roll into Destiny 2 on mouse and keyboard I will never know, but it was a decision that has fundamentally changed the way I feel about the work Bungie is doing.
In tandem with the better controls, Destiny 2 has switched a couple of things with the way weapons are equipped that allow for a bit more variety on the part of the player and using what speaks to them. Weapons are now split between ammo types, with the primary slot occupied by kinetic or standard bullets, the secondary set for energy weapons, and the special slot for those weapons of the heavy variety. As primary and secondary types are mainly delineated by the type of damage dealt, it’s now possible to run around with two auto rifles, or a pulse rifle and a hand cannon. The change also streamlines the way that ammo types affect enemies, so you are no longer struggling with how to approach a particular type of shielded enemy, you simply switch to energy weapons, bring it down, and then go right back to your bread and butter. Or shoot it with a rocket. I mean, you do you.
All items are still judged by an overall number score, referred to now as power instead of light, but they essentially mean the same thing, serving both to gate content through the end game as well as provide a means to you when you don’t have any further to go. I hate reducing it down to that, but the systems Bungie has in place, like heroic strikes, nightfalls, and raids, end up providing such small incremental boosts that I had no problem simply not investing the time into them. This, the grind, is the part of the foundation that stayed the same, and those building blocks just no longer held any appeal for me.
I can’t point to whether it was the campaign’s service as Destiny tutorial, 20 levels of relearning what it was that Destiny was eventually leading to again, the lack overly different activities, or even having one of these grindy games hanging around in my orbit already (fellow Battle.net user World of Warcraft), but there was zero draw to engage in anything endgame once I unlocked the ability to do so. Even with minor improvements like slightly deeper patrol missions, and a variety of reputations to grind out, there’s just was not enough meaningful content to keep me around.
With the types of activities staying the same being more than a minus for me, the great vistas and killer visuals are still present, and enhanced, by the PC version of Destiny 2. This is a damn gorgeous game, and while I do not have the capacity to run it at its ultra settings, high is still super impressive. From the beautiful cut scenes to the carnage on screen at 60fps, there’s not a moment when Bungie is not giving you something wonderful to look at. Even simple vistas like the Farm are beautifully detailed and a joy to just walk around.
I’d feel remiss to not mention the presence of in-game loot boxes, but at this point in the cycle, so many weeks away from release, what’s needed to be said has been said. I appreciate that they are earnable in game, without needing to invest in Silver, the real money currency, but their presence continues to draw controversy regardless of intentions. Were there more to do, and if the shaders and other items most often drawn from them not consumable, I may be able to see a reason for their inclusion beyond the simple monetary, but there isn’t, because there’s not.
So should you take the dip into Destiny 2? If you are looking for something to sink your teeth into, have a ton of time on your hands, and like shooters, there’s a lot here to get behind. But if, even for an instant, the thought of grinding out slightly better pieces of equipment in a near endless loot to get just to see a number go up just a tiny bit, seems unappealing, you are going to have some issues with Bungie’s future shooter. In the end, I think it may be just a bit to close to the original for me.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!