Game: Destiny 2
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a Destiny fan-boy. For anyone who really knows me, they will tell you that before Destiny I never touched a first person shooter, an MMO, or a console RPG. The first Destiny gave me a taste of all of those and even though I was late to the party, I was the last one standing. This was because despite all of its flaws, it’s a game people wanted to love due to everything that made it so addictive and fun.
Now Bungie have released Destiny 2, a game that has been teased to us for the last year, and I have finally been able to get back to my Guardian alter-ego and I am ready to see if Bungie have learnt from the mistakes of the first game. There is a lot to cover here, so bear with me while I lay my thoughts down for you.
The original Destiny suffered massively at launch with its severe lack of story. The rumours had stated their entire plot was scrapped last minute and it’s not hard to see if that was true or not. Destiny 2 has clearly solved that issue; the story, while maybe not the most original, still really hits home with its audience. Someone takes everything away from you and it’s up to you to fight and get it back. A simple concept but a brilliant one, especially for Destiny, and the perfect excuse to start over again as Ghaul destroys the tower and all of your gear. He traps the light, breaking its link to you and all other Guardians. It really is down to you to re-establish that link and take back your home. In terms of the actual story missions, Destiny 2 starts strong, introducing new NPCs for you to meet and get loot from, then has a slight lull in the middle where you feel the repetitive nature of the more mundane missions. However, its ending is among my favourites for any game I’ve played; some creative and epic level design has me excited every time I replay the last few quests.
Once the story is over there is still plenty to do, from Nightfall strikes, adventures, lost sectors, meditations, treasure maps, and public events. If that sounds like a lot, then you’re right, it is! Plus alongside that we have the weekly milestones that refresh at the scheduled reset on a Tuesday such as Flashpoint and the crucibles, Call to Arms and Trials of the Nine. Bungie have given us a plethora of content to keep us ticking until December when we are expecting the first expansion, now revealed to be The Curse of Osiris.
A particular focus has to be on Public Events. In the first Destiny, public events were a throw away activity I only ever did when I first started the game and once the novelty wore off there was nothing there for me to go back to. However in D2, public events have become a focal point of the grind to max power level. Not only do they provide you an opportunity to finish them with complete strangers, you can now trigger heroic versions of the public events and increase your chances of getting better loot. The chance of Exotics is one of the biggest reasons to keep grinding these events as they are usually over in 3 to 4 minutes and there will always be another one starting not too long from when you finished your last. To boot, they are just plain fun! Each planet has its own set of public events and they have interesting mechanics, fun bosses and can be done solo or in a team.
Clans, while present in D1, are a massive part of the experience of D2. You pick up your clan banner from Hawthorne and earn Clan XP from taking part in activities. Once you earn your weekly allowance of 5000 XP you will earn a reward for yourself and help get your clan to the next level to unlock perks for everyone. You can also earn your clanmates rewards by playing with some to complete the Raid, Trials of the Nine, a Nightfall or a Crucible match. Everyone wins when you’re a part of a clan!
Of course the game looks stunning. Particle effects on explosions are excellent and cut scenes are straight out of a blockbuster film. The general scenery is beautiful but then again even in D1 this stood out. Bungie know how to create a beautiful game and they have done so again, this time in 4K.
Audio is another area that the game shines and shines bright. Weapon noises are meticulously created to give, Exotics especially, their own distinct feel and sound. The soundtrack is incredible and I highly recommend anyone who loves epic, grand video game scores to listen to the official soundtrack on Bungie’s YouTube channel. I have found myself listening to it when I’m not even playing the game and it does a really great job helping you connect with what you’re seeing on screen. You feel real emotion and excitement based not only on your actions but by how the score presents it to you. I cannot state enough how great the score is and I have to say that this is one of the stand out parts of Destiny 2.
Gameplay is largely unchanged from the original game. You still feel like you are playing Destiny but the game has been tweaked and has evolved. The gunplay is still superb and is largely what kept many playing the first game. However, alongside your melee and grenade abilities come the new class abilities. Hunters retain their shadestep power from the Nightstalker subclass in D1, however now when you shade step, you can either automatically reload your weapon or if you are near enemies you can regain your melee ability. Titans are more defensive, and can summon shields to protect them and their Fireteam in battle. The first is a large shield that when walked through deals massive damage to their opponent, whereas the second is a much smaller shield that you can duck behind and your weapon will automatically reload. Warlocks have rifts of energy that they can call upon to either heal themselves and their Fireteam or empower them all with added damage to enemies.
The same format is followed from the previous game as well when it comes to levelling up your guardians and your abilities. You start at level 1 and with 0 power and through XP earned in game you level up until 20, while your weapons and armour will dictate your power as you earn loot. You’ll find your experience levelling up to be fairly consistent until around 260. You can get to this point but getting Engrams from the usual activities as well as handing in tokens earned to their relevant NPC’s. You will need to grind your way to 280, which is the next level milestone. After 280 you are able to purchase legendary mods, which give your weapons and armour a +5 boost alongside a new perk. This is where the real challenges begin and end game loot (Raid/Trials/Luminous Engrams) becomes increasingly important.
Speaking of loot, there are spectacular new Exotic weapons and armour pieces for Guardians to earn. Generally you will find a lot of cool loot just by playing the game normally but every so often you will need to go out of your way to earn some of it! Exotic quests await you after the main campaign finishes and they can be quite difficult. These range from simple to complete to being near impossible at times, with some requiring you to have finished the raid multiple times and even on Prestige mode (which is still to be released).
We have now also had our first taste of the raid, and it’s a lot of fun. I won’t go into specifics in fear of spoiling anything for those who want to go in blind, but Bungie hit another home run on this raid. The right mix of puzzles, mechanics and sheer brute force from enemies combine to make a solid challenge, dependent on being around the recommended power level. Once you start to push above that, at the very least the enemies aren’t as much as a threat but the puzzles are still tough to get through, but ultimately very rewarding once you have. This is a slightly different style of raid to what we have seen before in Destiny, but again, I don’t wish to spoil anything so try it for yourself if you want to know more! Having said all of this, my team has still yet to finish the raid, so this is no walk in the park.
I’ve left this until late to touch upon because PvP (Player vs Player) is arguably the most important part of Destiny 2. It is essentially half of the game but has a fraction of what PvE has to offer players. It’s even missing important elements that eventually came to D1, such as private matches. However PvP is now split into two playlists, you can no longer choose the specific mode you wish to play (which is really annoying), Quick Play and Competitive. Quick Play is made up of Clash, Control and Supremacy while Competitive has the two new PvP modes, Countdown and Survival. The games are now 4v4 as opposed to 6v6 in D1. Personally I would have preferred they keep 6v6 for Quick Play as they are the more casual modes and having it as 4v4 creates a more competitive atmosphere and can be overwhelming for casual players who are better running around with a big team.
The time to kill has been increased for guardians too, so you’ll need to team up with your fire team and shoot together to have the best chance of winning the exchanges. This has had a dramatic impact on how PvP games feel. Previously you could “solo” any game if you were good enough, now that simply isn’t the case as teams are looking to stay tight knit and pick off anyone who feels too brave.
Another big change for PvP is the entire lay out of the presentation. Bungie really wanted to give teams as much information as possible, so they have put visual cues on the screen every time someone picks up power ammo, or activates a super. They want to take the guess work out of it and try to prevent you needing to go out of the game to perform certain actions.
Trials of the Nine is the hardest test for PvP lovers. For those who are not familiar with Trials, it was a staple of D1 and now is here again, albeit slightly different, in D2. The mode alternates on a weekly basis, between the two competitive modes Countdown and Survival. Get to 7 wins with no losses and you’ll achieve the ultimate glory and get all the loot. If you can manage 3, 5 or even 7 wins with up to 2 losses in that time, you can have some of the loot. But if you lose three games before you get any number of those wins you have to start over again and your progress is reset. The loot you get is exclusive to the mode and always high level which makes Trials a very addictive mode to play. I should probably mention that the level it is played at makes it infuriating at the same time but that is what happens which you’re too competitive like myself! But with our first weekend of Trials over, I can safely say the changes made have been brilliant and although we didn’t quite make it flawless (we went 7-1) I still thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt like we really earnt our rewards.
Despite the glowing praise given to Destiny 2 above there are still elements I wish to see improved. The game has been suffering from a lot of bugs in the opening weeks and in things such as the Raid, this can have a really detrimental effect on your enjoyment and overall experience. The lack of dedicated servers is still an issue in PvP, where you can think you’ve made it into cover but the delay kicks in and you’re dead despite being out of sight. As mentioned previously the inability to choose the exact mode in PvP that you wish to play is really annoying as I have my preferences on modes and don’t want to be forced to play Supremacy! The loot drop system can still be frustrating, even if many will argue it is part of the fun. I’m not sure how many times I have to get the same duplicate exotics until I finally get something new!
But ultimately these are all minor details in a game that surpassed my expectations in every way. The story is brilliant and always has me gripped despite finishing it on all three characters, and the game looks and sounds incredible. The gunplay is still excellent with the tweaks from the first game really shining through. I have seen this game satisfy the hardcore like myself and draw in new, more casual fans who hadn’t really played the first iteration. There feels like there is so much more to cover but I will end it on this; Destiny 2 took everything that was great about the original, kept it, then looked at everything that was wrong with it and fixed so much. The game narrowly misses out on a perfect score for the niggles I mentioned earlier, but the sheer fact that Destiny 2 has hooked gamers who were not even interested in the first game says everything you need to know. Destiny 2 is superb and you need to play it.