Destiny 2 (Xbox One Review)
Ever since Yuri Gagarin first explored the black night sky, space has offered countless possibilities. Even before then, we dreamed of whatever lay beyond the stars, often concocting magical alien races that would one day befriend or befall us. For years, we had delighted in the works of H.G. Wells and latterly explored space in the likes of Alien and E.T. There has always been a fascination of something “out there” and whether or not they wanted to wear our mother’s clothes. So, can Destiny 2 instil the same fear of the unknown as well as the wonderment of dressing up in wonderfully colourful outfits and making odd gestures at friends?
With Destiny, there are a few things to consider, especially the initial release and then subsequent additions that completely swayed opinion. For me, I was totally lukewarm towards Destiny at first, but over time it grew on me and I gradually fell in love. It was a special game, one to share with friends. Destiny might have been the poorly told story of a lone cosmonaut slowly awakening, but the bigger picture was that of friends and strangers alike banding together to reclaim the Dreadnought, fight off Crota, and pursue the Cabal to the corners of the universe. Although, even those friends meeting regularly had some pretty serious issues with the delivery of Destiny’s story, some of the core components of the Guardians, and a few other issues that really prevented Destiny’s scale to match the universe that it inhabited. And that’s why Destiny 2’s opening is so important.
Destiny 2 opens with everything we know being torn asunder as Ghaul raids the Tower, snatching The Speaker and dispelling the Guardians as he seizes the Traveller. Beaten and bruised, we tumble down towards those that we protect. It’s a fall from power of the highest order, and I wished we had reveled in it a little longer. But even with the rather clichéd approach to the fall from grace, Destiny 2’s story is lightyears ahead of its predecessor. It gives tangible times and places to the players without the need to read Destiny’s online database of Grimoire Cards outside of the game, and has some truly fantastic cutscenes. In fact, they are so good that I nearly overlooked some very obvious leaps in narrative and explanation as to why we never really address why our powers returned different than before and why we didn’t explain to the Guardians without powers how we went about doing regaining ours. There are some moments that I genuinely love, even if they draw heavily from the Halo series – then again, why is drawing inspiration from one of the Xbox 360’s greatest games a bad thing?
And just like the Halo universe, Destiny 2’s continues to expand for better or worse. Previously the Patrol areas often felt baron and tiny. Now, they are vast expanses that stretch across the worlds of Earth (EDZ): Titan, IO, and Nessus. Although the offering of planets is comparable to that of Destiny, they feel like they are perpetually changing. Adventures will come and go alongside the daily public events, all of which are now displayed on the in-game map as opposed to a budget site with estimations of when to expect them. Every planet even has its Lost Sectors, again displayed on the map by an enigmatic icon, which can be explored with the promise of better loot and a high level captain to vanquish. Although Lost Sectors are very generic and can become a little stale after a while. Thankfully, the copious number of guns on offer can offer some levity as all of these areas are rife with sitting ducks to take shots at.
There is one thing that remains constant in Destiny 2: the shooting. The wonderful feeling of some space-age cartridges unloading into unsuspecting soon-to-be Hive carcasses is unmatched. Guns are back in a big way in, with more exotic quests popping up from the moment you complete the game and a large pool of both legendary and rare toys to play with. Unlike the original Destiny, there is no need to constantly reroll for the best iteration of a weapon and they are all streamlined down to one version, which also applies to the armour as well. There is also the added bonus that you’ll never find class items that aren’t intended for your class, taking away the sting of decoding an Exotic engram to discover that it’s for a that Warlock you were planning to get around to eventually.
Weapons aren’t the only area to see a renovation at their core, the way missions and vanguards work have also been tweaked. Guardians like Ikora, Cayde, and Zavala all work alongside each other now as opposed to weighing in to your questline when your class corresponded with theirs. It helps these characters graduate from the sidelines of your story to major players and reduces the large focus on having one of every class assigned to your three Guardian slots at the main menu. These characters now provide Milestones, such as completing so many challenges across the galaxy or completing a set amount of strikes. It has massively simplified the grind for better gear and allows new players to establish what they need to do while providing some quirky anecdotes and tales from before the fall of the Tower.
It’s like everything has been simplified, honed, to create a far better experience. There’s no longer a horribly convoluted series of collectibles with 101 different purposes. Materials are all clearly labelled with their intended purpose and the rewards for giving the items to their respective vendors. Even trying to recall the difference between Etheric Light, Ascendant Shards, and the swathe of other items required in the upgrade and quest progress in Destiny gives me a migraine. Now, weapons and armours are simply broken down into Gunsmith Materials (and Legendary Shards if they are of Legendary quality or higher). The main thing to take away here is that the whole process has become far simpler to understand and we are all better for it – let’s just hope it stays that way as more expansions release.
By now, you’ve probably guessed that I am going to tell you a whole list of aspects that have been condensed and you’re absolutely right. The multiplayer has been condensed too. With only two playlists available for the online player versus player modes, you’ll either decide on becoming a competitive god or a filthy, dirty casual. Although, even the division of playerbase between the two playlists doesn’t quite match their descriptors at present. The major difference between these options are the maps available and the game types. Competitive focuses more on the modes that mimic competitive games like Call of Duty, offering a bomb planting defense vs offense mode called Countdown and a variant of team deathmatch that gives each team 8 lives to be shared across the team. Both of these modes are run in a series of rounds as opposed to the one and done approach of the causal playlist, meaning that players participating in the competitive playlist will be there a bit longer. As for the casual playlist, well they get the returning modes, such as Clash, Control, and Supremacy. There is a roadmap to introduce a Trials of Osiris game mode and even talk of the Iron Banner returning, but currently all the playlists normalise the armour and damage ratings of your weapons to ensure that everyone is competing on the same level.
What’s more interesting than the changes to Crucible’s playlist changes is the impact of shotguns and snipers being relegated to power weapons in multiplayer along with heavy weapon ammo being limited to one Guardian per drop. It means that the Crucible is no longer a run and gun fest of shotguns as it was previously, supplementing the once great shotgun with the formidable SMG for close range combat. Although this seems like a great improvement, it does mean that auto rifles feel like they have the most effective range and DPS that makes them an automatic pick for every map and a secondary weapon that compliments whatever gorgeous map you end up on. If I am being honest, I am already sick to death of seeing Origin Story (a very popular auto rifle) and hope that the Crucible’s meta develops beyond these loadouts.
It’s easy enough to identify what has changed or even what’s new in a sequel, but it’s always hard to really distinguish those tiny imperfections that turn into gaping cracks under the pressure of prolonged pressure. In Destiny 2, there is a very clear issues with the overall homogenising of loot, the extremely rewarding loot system, and the lack of leap from Destiny to Destiny 2. It often feels like I am playing a big update rather than a new game. The quest structure may have changed, but within the first weekend of play, I already felt like I had experienced everything I wanted to – with exception of those game modes, like the raid, that are not out yet. I was raid ready, full to the brim with glitter, and hoarding countless exotics just in case they proved vital for another build I might want to try out later on.
Thankfully, you are now rewarded for continuing to play more than ever, even if everything does feel the same. With the clan servers now live, you’ll never feel alone again. Seasons will encourage players to unite under one customisable (almost phallic in some cases) banner. Even when you’re alone, you can see that you are directly contributing towards one bigger goal, and in some cases helping others get that extra boost they need – a theme which is prevalent throughout Destiny 2.
This idea of teamwork is also doubled-down on with Guided Games looming on the horizon. Another opportunity to help others and a crucial piece of feedback Bungie have taken on board. Previously players would need to consult external sources to find somebody to help them push for that last section of the raid/nightfall strike or a third player for trials. It’s all now tied up in a neat little package, we’ll just need to see if it actually works when it is open for everyone to try out.
If I am being honest, I never really stopped playing Destiny. Even when I had uninstalled the game and relegated the disc to a dusty shelf, I was always thinking of what could have been. The subtle improvements that could have tweaked the game to make it fairer. Now I have them. Since release I have been on Destiny 2 every night, be it to complete a few quick challenges or play the strikes until the light of our world faded so that my Guardian would earn that little bit more in his. It’s a wonderful experience and I get to share it with friends who share the same feeling of revitalised hope. Destiny 2 is far from perfect, but I am happy to consider myself at home alongside those blemishes on such a polished product.