Destiny 2 - Review

Destiny 2 succeeds where the original failed to deliver: its delivery of a story-driven campaign is matched with its excellent first-person shooter gameplay and visuals. Every time I thought I was scraping the bottom of the “content barrel”, the game teased me with more just a few Light Levels away.

During the exposition, we are introduced to Dominus Ghaul, the main antagonist, whose goal is to take away everything that had been built in the Destiny universe. The campaign gameplay that follows is filled with brilliant cutscenes that give the cast an opportunity to show great emotional range filled with sadness and determination. Characters include Zavala (played by Lance Reddick), who is unwavering in his plan to assault Ghaul. Ikora (played by Gina Torres) seems distraught and near the point of giving up.

Both new and returning players are given reason to climb the Light-level based power ladders. The game kept me entertained through exhilarating missions set in eye-catching environments, such as the penultimate mission. A soaring soundtrack backs pulse-pounding missions before shifting tone to evoke sadness.

The game lays out a wide range of gameplay including public events, PvP (player vs. player), roaming boss fights, side-quests, patrols, planet-specific challenges, Strikes (Destiny’s dungeons), the Nightfall (a more elaborate take on Strikes), the lengthy main story, and the Leviathan Raid (the biggest, most complex dungeon). Early on, there is so much gameplay that it is almost overwhelming. I found myself frequently getting distracted from the activity I embarked upon by something enticing, such as a roaming boss or public event that promised some quick loot. However, after around 10 hours of campaign buildup, the final battle fizzled out. Due to some awkward super ability restrictions, I had to resort to finding a safe spot and shooting the ultimate enemy in the foot until he perished. It seems that the battle was meant for a different weapon class, but without any way of knowing that, I was not able to effectively combat the boss.

After the campaign ends, you can experience some new story events via additional Quests on each of the four planetoid locations in Destiny 2. These not only flesh out the intriguing new characters we have met there, but also guide you into new spots you may have missed and fun encounters built to be played with a three-person Fireteam. They also end with big rewards, like Exotic Quests and coveted Legendary items, which makes them a great way to continue your climb to max Light. The visual effects of Destiny 2 are spectacular as well. Whether it’s the milky waterfalls of Nessus or the overgrown European Dead Zone, each offers a colorful and unique environment to explore.

The first Destiny is a strong first-person shooter built using expertise from Bungie’s (the developer) experience creating the Halo series, but subtle touches have made a big difference in Destiny 2 in terms of making combat more explosive and exciting. For example, popping an enemy’s shield with the right damage type causes it to hit its nearby allies with area-of-effect damage.

On the other hand, Destiny 2’s approach to the Shader system, which allows you to customize the colors of your various pieces of gear and weaponry, is confusing and awkward. It  encourages players to wait before applying any customization to your gear. Instead of a reusable Shader color which you unlock and then apply any gear for an unlimited amount of times, they are now consumables that must be individually earned as loot or purchased. I found myself simply holding onto my Shaders until I had enough to not worry about coloring a piece of gear only to replace it when a better item is earned minutes later.

Destiny 2’s three character classes – Titan, Warlock, and Hunter – have all been simplified relative to the original Destiny. Each of their subclass trees now only include an upper or lower power path with a few grenade, jumping, and power option. However these options still leave classes with distinct abilities that work well together. Figuring out how to use customizations and weapon pairings is still a rewarding puzzle to solve. The Hunter’s dodge seems underpowered in the early stages, though, since the other classes’ abilities have a clearer immediate benefit to the team. While the Titan starts with a shield that protects everyone and the Warlock has a healing or damage-buff ability, the Hunter is left with a relatively weak dodge move that reloads or recharges their melee but does nothing for the team. It isn’t until they unlock a certain pair of Exotic boots that reload everyone’s ammo can fully contribute to the team in a way other than direct damage. It’s unfortunate that the first subclass (which allows you to specialize your character) is well integrated into the leveling experience with a story event, while other subclasses just drop like an ordinary piece of loot. It was a missed opportunity to tell a story about reacquiring your powers, similar to the way Destiny’s The Taken King DLC gifted you with new abilities.

Once the player has finished the world events, the plot becomes a little more involved while the player embarks upon on a more interesting quest to get a bit of backstory delivered by your Vanguard leader. However, these moments don’t compare to their grandiose counterparts of Destiny.

Visually, the game is massive in scope as you scramble to the tops of an incredible building and still have the workings below to explore. A few bugs that forced us and other Raid teams to restart several times sullied my otherwise amazing experience, but Bungie (the developers) says they are working to address that issue. Also in the category of known issues still awaiting a fix as of this writing are crashes affecting PlayStation 4 Pro users playing in 4K resolution.

With all 30 to 40 hours of game content, there is great gameplay waiting for you in Destiny 2 before the Raid. It’s unfortunate that most progression is tied to Public Events, as they give a huge experience drop for each heroic completed and they spawn so frequently. Even the weekly Flashpoints consist of simply completing Public Events on a certain planet. That said, once you’re ready for the Leviathan Raid you can hop in and tackle its many challenges for loot. Once completed, quests, like the Destroyer of Worlds line, allow you to enter an extra-challenging Strike mission. Bungie has promised that Destiny 2 will continue to evolve with a roadmap of even more content on the way that already includes Trials of the Nine and Faction Rally in late September. In October, the Prestige difficulty Raid and Iron Banner, another popular PvP mode for competitive players, have been teased.

Overall, Destiny 2 is an excellent sequel to the original. It lives up to its predecessor through its immersive gameplay and beautiful visuals. Hopefully, Bungie can keep up their cadence as the additions to the game so far have been expansive. Time will tell if Iron Banner and Faction Wars can keep up the same level of excitement as a raid.