Two steps forward, one step back.
I was quite the fan of the original Destiny, so much so that I sunk hundreds upon hundreds of hours into it. I completed each story quest dozens of times, completed every strike, nightfall, and raid, and collected almost every legendary and exotic item I could get my hands on. While it wasn't exactly the game we were initially pitched and new content could run out for months at a time, Destiny eventually got to a point where it started to show us a small glimmer of what we wanted all along. Destiny 2 continues that momentum and makes strides in the right direction with subtle but effective quality of life improvements that do well to welcome new players and reward those who are returning to the light, with only a few stumbles along the way.
Whereas the original Destiny suffered in how it conveyed its story to its players, Bungie made sure that Destiny 2 was fitted with a proper campaign that took its time to explain and provide context to the world around it. While you don't have to visit a website to learn much of what is going on anymore, it does seem that Bungie has held back on implementing a grand sense of lore like it did with the original Destiny. I appreciate that much of what we need to know is conveyed in game through scanning items and lore pages for its weapons, but it should have been replaced with a full in-game lore section to allow players to poke around to discover more and more of its secrets.
Once again you are taking to the battlefield with your Guardian, a resurrected soldier brought back to life via your Ghost, a construct created by the Traveler. While the history of the Traveler is still somewhat of a mystery, its presence on Earth has been one of protection. Those who are chosen by the Traveler are granted special abilities and can be resurrected upon death, thus becoming immortal. It's these qualities and gifts that have had many attempt to seek out the Traveler and that is exactly the core narrative to Destiny 2.
In the opening moments of the campaign, the Last City on Earth is attacked and its base of operations, the Social space called The Tower, is decimated by a Cabal attack and the Traveler is taken hostage, shutting down the abilities of all Guardians, making them not only powerless but mortal. The threat you face in Destiny 2 is Dominus Ghaul, the military emperor of the Cabal. What I really enjoyed about his character was the desire to seek out the Traveler by knowing you have to be chosen, by committing to showing that he be worthy. Between several of the main story missions, you are treated to a few scenes of Ghaul and a prisoner of his, talking back and forth about how you are chosen and what is required of him to be granted the gifts of the Traveler. These scenes are wonderful and further impressed me with how well Bungie had crafted their villain, that is until the final encounter, which lacks the fun and engaging mechanics that almost every other boss is structured with.
The story itself is far more confident in its execution than what we had during much of the original Destiny and even its expansions. There are numerous cutscenes and moments that are truly remarkable and some vehicle segments that are just spectacular and a real treat. The campaign can be completed in around ten hours, but this simply just opens up the rest of the game for more missions, public activities, and exotic quests.
When you begin your quest to reclaim your Light and earn back your abilities, you start with the new subclass given to the main class you've chosen for your Guardian. These new subclasses are not just added to what your Guardian is capable of, they actually replace one of the original subclasses from the first Destiny. Once you hit around level 7 and then again at around level 14, you have a chance to be granted a token for each of the two remaining subclasses that will have some sort of requirement to be fulfilled. These then lead to story-based missions that see you reclaim these dormant abilities.
Destiny 2 changes up how each of the subclasses functions by forcing you down two paths within each subclass. In the previous game you could mix and match most of the abilities to craft a Guardian to how you played, and while there is still the ability to pick your jumping style and grenade type, you will have to pick one of the paths that each feature different ways that subclass works. For example, as a Hunter Nightstalker I like the multi-shot nature of my Shadowshot ability as well as using smoke grenades to sneak away from my foes. These abilities are part of the Way of the Pathfinder subclasses within the Nightstalker subclass, and not included in the Way of the Trapper path. I know this is done for balancing and maintaining specific roles within the group, but it can feel somewhat limiting.
As I mentioned, when you begin your journey in Destiny 2 you will soon have access to the new subclasses for the Hunter, Titan, and Warlock. The Hunter gains the Arcstrider subclass that allows them to fight briefly with an electrified staff and enhanced mobility. The Titan wields a Captain America style shield, allowing them to bash enemies or throw their shield at nearby foes. The Titan is also granted a mobile cover that allows players to construct a durable wall to stop incoming fire. The Warlock borrows a page out of the Titan Hammer playbook and is granted the Dawnblade subclass, where they are able to throw solar projectiles as well as the ability to lay down healing pools for a swift healing recovery.
While much of Destiny 2's content can be pushed through over the course of a few days, the staying power that has been Destiny's strength is in its loot. During the entire run of the first Destiny, loot had been changed, retooled and expanded at various times to get it nearly perfect and Destiny 2 continues that progress and makes it far more rewarding than ever before. It isn't long before you are flooded in rare to legendary loot and even the drop rate of exotic items seems far more plentiful than ever before. In the original Destiny, it could be a chore to discover the best ways to earn gear and many activities just wouldn't have the payoff you'd expect and this forced players to repeat the same activity over and over again and players even found ways of cheating the system. Destiny 2 ensures that every single activity is based around earning loot or receiving planet specific tokens that can be saved up and then used to unlock even more loot.
One of the new features that Bungie has implemented into Destiny 2 are mods. These can increase the speed at which you run, how fast your grenade charges up, or even what elements several of your weapons can use. By equipping a legendary mod it can raise your power level as well, making it a convenient way to boost your overall character level. While you max out at character level 20, you can raise your character's power level much higher with several players already pushing past 300. Currently, I am hovering around 288 and still growing. The original Destiny measured players through their Light level and frankly, Light.. Power.. it still serves as a basic number that is attached to your character to rank their worth, so despite the name change, it's still a very much a similar system.
Customization has always been a huge factor in Destiny and while Destiny 2 continues to allow that level of playful design, it does so with some shady business practices that has the fan community outraged. Shaders are color palette's that allowed players to change up the appearance of their gear by swapping the look of each item by changing its color. These were permanent items that you could earn by completing certain activities or by luckily finding them in chests. Destiny 2 rewards you with numerous shaders from a wide variety of events that it isn't long before you have dozens and dozens of colors to choose from. The problem? they are single use to each item and erase themselves when colored over. It's a system that I think will be changed eventually, but it's awful to see such a sought-after feature like customization become fodder for micro-transactions.
The original Destiny set weapons within three different categories; primary, secondary, and heavy. Primary weapons consisted of auto rifles, hand cannons, and your standard burst firing guns. Secondary weapons were comprised of shotguns, sniper rifles, fusion rifles, and sidearms. Heavy weapons closed off the selection with rocket launchers, machine guns, and eventually, swords. Destiny 2 changes things up yet again by completely retooling what weapons belong where and by changing the weapon classifications to Kinetic, Energy, and Power.
Kinetic weapons consist of any gun that fires non-elemental rounds, so in some cases, this didn't change too much as auto rifles, hand cannons, and burst rifles are all still present. Energy weapons, however; consists of any standard gun that fires void, solar, or arc elemental rounds. This means you can equip two separate auto rifles where one is placed in your kinetic slot and the other one, for example, could be an auto rifle that does void damage, placed in your energy slot. Power weapons are those that deal a lot of damage from either far away like a sniper rifle, close range via the shotguns or swords, or mid to long range through the rocket and grenade launchers. This new system offers far more flexibility in your choices and allows for some pretty interesting weapon combos.
All those abilities and guns are put to use outside of the campaign in group activities such as patrols, public events, adventures, strikes, lost sectors, and the jewel of Destiny's content, the raid. Patrols and strikes remain unchanged from the original Destiny and operate exactly the same here with patrols being small side missions on the planet's surface where strikes are fair sized missions each with their own little compact story. Public events return and while there are new types of them to take part in, I found that they tend to repeat far too often for their own good. I like that you can turn them into Heroic events by completing a certain objective, but when you can sometimes end up doing the same one four to fives time in a row, it tends not to be worth it.
Lost sectors are one of the newest editions to group events and they can be somewhat of a mixed bag. These are small bite size missions that feature a boss at the end that unlocks a loot cache upon defeat. Lost sectors take just a few minutes to complete but there is nothing lost about them as they show up on the map. I love the idea of them and they can make even the smaller maps feel big with all the caverns and locations they take place in, but they are far too easy to locate and just don't feel as rewarding as how Bungie described them to be.
Adventures, however; are some of the best content in Destiny 2. These are missions similar to the main story as they have their own little narrative and feature some of the best boss encounters in the game. In fact, there is one in particular that is one of my favorite Destiny final encounter moments in the series.
The raid had recently dropped and it's been hit or miss on whether or not you enjoy its new structure. The raids in the first Destiny featured a few bosses to each event and several moments of platforming and puzzle solving. While the latter two are present in full force here, the raid only features one boss in its entirety. While I have yet to fully complete the raid, I will update the review when completed, but I don't see my completion of it affecting the score at all. The raid is gorgeous and well thought out, but it does feature some mechanics than can break a parties spirit and cause players to just up and leave.
Destiny 2 isn't the best looking game out there but it does contain some moments where the game is just flat out gorgeous. There are several locations that have some fantastic art direction, but then several other elements that feel lazy and half finished. Each of the new planets; Io, Nessus, Titan, and the European Dead Zone on Earth, are pretty impressive and are, for the most part, visually distinct from one another due to their wide range use of color. While Titan and Io may seem small when looked at via the game's all new map (the previous Destiny didn't feature one) they more than make up for it with locations that pack in a lot of exploration via the structures and deep caverns. Earth and Nessus are massive locations that also contain a lot more going on that you are exposed to initially.
One element that is rather poor about exploring each of these new locations is that your sparrow, your vehicle for traversing the environments with a sense of speed, is locked from you until you complete the game, hit level 20, or had a bit of luck and unlocked one from one of the paid loot boxes. It's somewhat odd that you don't get access to one till so late in the game as it can in some ways feel like it is padding the length of the campaign with having to run everywhere you go. Thankfully, you can toss them in your vault so that your additional characters can use them during your future attempts at the campaign.
While Destiny 2 doesn't reinvent the forces of evil you are taking on, it does introduce a few new enemies types within the same races we've come to expect. Incendior's are new Cabal soldiers armed with flamethrowers and contain a fairly sizable fuel tank on their back. Gladiators are a new melee class for the Cabal and are armed with two large blades and are very aggressive. There are also the War beasts that could technically be considered a new race, and are creatures that tend to hunt in packs and can overpower you if you're not careful. The Fallen also have a new house that hasn't been seen before, but aside from a few small changes to how certain enemies act, there isn't anything terribly new added to them.
Destiny's PVP mode, the Crucible, is back and has been changed to incorporate just 4 on 4 matches throughout all its game modes. I found that by scaling back PVP to just 4 on 4, it made matches far more teamwork orientated as you have fewer players just going their own way, at least in the matches I've been part of. The Crucible features some changes to the HUD, mainly who is left alive, what class they are and if they have a super ready or not. These changes seem odd only for the reason that it feels like they should have been there all along. The new countdown mode is decent but nothing game-changing as it merely is a bomb planting mode where sides take turns in arming and disarming bombs. Control, however, has seen a huge change in its mechanics with sides now controlling a zone at the start of a match and zones require less time now to capture. I'm still not a terribly big fan of Crucible and tend to only play it to earn my Milestone rewards.
Milestones are tasks that can grant you a high-level piece of gear based on your current power level. During each weekly reset, you have a chance to obtain what is called "Powerful Gear" and these are items that drop higher than your maximum Power/Light level. Each character you make has the chance to complete these Milestones, so it's a great chance to earn more of this gear should you rock more than one Guardian, and you should.
While Clans were a part of the previous game, you now have a substantial reason for belonging to one here in Destiny 2. Clans have experience goals and task goals that can then grant loot to its members. Each clan can hold 100 members and the more active the clan is can lead to more and more rewards for its members. Each player has a set amount of experience that is needed to earn these rewards and frankly, it doesn't require a lot of work to achieve that amount.
For players that normally find it difficult to find groups to play with, Bungie has created what they call Guided Games. Its use is currently in Beta, but this is a system that will find players a group of others to play with. Its main use it to find players that will teach the ropes to those who normally play solo and want to take part in events like strikes and eventually, the raid. It's a great system that I hope the Bungie adds more into to allow all players to experience and enjoy all the content Destiny 2 has to offer.
Apart from the issues I've already mentioned, I do have a few more that aren't in any way game breaking, but a few of them are issues that have existed since the first Destiny. You still can't join a fireteam without first going or orbit, despite standing right next to them in the Social Hub areas. You still tend to bounce off the environment when missing a jump, however; at least you can now mantle up should you just made it to the ledge. Emotes can still only be added to one button instead of being able to customize each d-pad direction. You can still only create three characters, meaning that if you want to rock 2 hunters to double your chances of loot, you have to sacrifice your ability to make one of the other classes. Creating a new character still has a poor selection of hair and face options and there is no way to re-customize your existing character. While there is a new map system for getting around, the mini-map doesn't have a compass setting and this means you are almost always popping back and forth to the map.
Despite the wealth of content that Destiny 2 offers, it still lacks a cooperative horde mode like the Court of Oryx and the Archon's Forge, two of Bungie's best ideas for the original Destiny. While I am sure that one of these modes is on the way, it would have been a great thing to see at least a few of the best ideas that the developer had included right from the start.
With its stellar soundtrack and art design, and several quality of life fixes, Destiny 2 is by far a better game than its predecessor. It by no means shakes up the formula that many of us have enjoyed over the past few years, but instead improves on it in many key areas. Destiny 2 feels far more rewarding than it has ever has before and this is felt not only in the frequency of earning some killer loot, but that of a campaign that feels solid and worthwhile. Destiny 2 does have its issues and is by no means perfect, but as was the case with the original Destiny, it eventually found its footing with the expansions and content updates that looked to improve and add new and exciting adventures. With at least two planned expansion packs, one of which takes us to Mercury, we shall not be without more content for long. Until then, gear up Guardian, there's work to do.