Destiny 2 is Bungie’s sequel to their 2014 project of the same name, Destiny. Blending a first person shooter, action game, and RPG elements, the original Destiny paved the way for a new form of massively multiplayer online experience, aptly named a shared world shooter. Destiny 2 picks up after the events of the original when a new threat comes to town and takes away everything that the last city on Earth holds dear, and the power that their protectors, the Guardians, once thought irreversible. As Dominus Ghaul, the main protagonist of the game, puts it, “Welcome, to a world without light.”
Destiny 2’s overlying theme is Light. What is light? Why is it important? Why are we, the Guardians, the one’s who have it and what are we without it? Bungie has done an incredible job of setting up these questions and answering them in meaningful ways from explosive start of the game, to the emotionally touching ending. Ghaul has come to Earth to claim the Light from humans and their Guardians, as he feels that we are not worthy of such power. The story has multiple facets that the player gets thrown into. The main quest follows a power struggle between your Guardian with the Vanguard (Cayde-6, Ikora Rey, and Commander Zavala) and the Red Legion, Ghaul’s elite Cabal army. However, since your Guardian is stripped of everything they know right from the get go, to accomplish their goal, the player must rekindle their light, get the band back together, and take the fight to Ghaul.
One of the major criticisms of the original Destiny was the lack of story content and a genuine confusion as to what was going on. Bungie tried to turn this around with their release of their third DLC and first major expansion, The Taken King and subsequently their final DLC, Rise of Iron. Though they were able to improve substantially on the issues players had from the vanilla version of the game, for those who were on the fence about the series, it was too little, too late.
The key trait that I admire most about Bungie is their dedication to their community and their willingness to take feedback from their players. Enter Destiny 2. Bungie has taken the biggest criticism of the first title and has made it one of, if not the biggest focus of Destiny 2 and in my opinion one of the strongest elements of the game. Destiny 2 has a storyline that any newcomer to the series will be able to jump right in and have a solid understanding of what is going on. For returning players of the game, the story picks up after the events of the original Destiny. There are plenty of references to instances from the original game that are almost like fun easter eggs, but also explain themselves in a way that players who are new to the Destiny universe will understand why these story details are being mentioned.
Destiny lore was something that most needed work from the original game. Bungie created some of the most detailed and incredible lore that I have ever seen in a game, if I had actually been able to see it in the game. In the original Destiny, players would have to read grimoire cards, brief snippets of Destiny history and story, out of the game on Bungie’s website or their companion app. This was a huge disservice to players as it was a complete disconnect from the game. This time around, Bungie has taken that feedback and incorporated what would have been grimoire cards, into all facets of the game. Extensive lore stories have been added to Exotic Weapons, Armor, and Subclasses as well as side quests known as adventures, and pieces of story are scattered all over the worlds as interactive objects. By keeping the lore in the game and making it more easily accessible to players, the Destiny universe has easily been expanded upon in a way that puts a rich, detailed back story into a lot of the game’s key characters, factions, and events.
While some might consider Destiny 2’s story to be a little safe (bad guy comes to earth, bad guy kicks out the good guys and takes over, good guys have to go through self discovery and find inner power to take on bad guy), I think that Bungie has delivered a story that is meaningful to the player and creates a genuine emotional connection. As someone who has played Destiny from day one, seeing some of my favorite characters get fleshed out and have solid development in their backstory, I couldn’t be happier. The Cast of characters provide a genuine motivation that pulls my investment and attentiveness to every detail I can find in the game.
If Destiny was the prologue to a story of a rich, detailed universe, Destiny 2 is a great first act. It seems bizarre to call a sequel a first act, but Destiny 2 has done a great job of taking its core from the original Destiny and finding a way to create new stories and plot lines to let us dive deeper into the illustrative lore Bungie has created.
Gameplay - PVE
I have had some great experiences with PVE (Player Versus Environment) encounters during my time playing the game as well as having a couple of “WTF” moments. Fortunately, the latter have been few and far between, with a couple enemies popping in and out of the map and one or two random textures that didn’t show up. Campaign missions, side quests, strikes, and just patrolling the new worlds feels smooth and seamless. Players now have the ability to launch missions without having to go into orbit, and the ability to see how these quests play into the surrounding map just makes sense. Certain adventures will explain why a part of the map looks the way that it does and helps you to discover new portions of the map that you didn’t know were available. Firefights with enemies feel substantial and important, regardless of whether you are playing the main campaign or a public event. There are new enemy types with each faction that force you to strategize differently with individual encounters, making each one, unique and challenging in its own way.
Classes and Subclasses are another huge part in the Destiny universe that defines your character. Destiny 2 does a great job of making each class feel different and capable in their own respective way. Guardians will be in for a treat as they gain their additional Subclasses as I think Bungie did a great way of tying in lore to the discovery of the new subclasses as well as how they are obtained. From a PVE perspective, each class has been able to be most useful in certain situations, while still being able to handle themselves during solo play. When I had the opportunity to play with a character from each Class together, it was like a finely choreographed dance and even without being on a voice chat with each other, we were able to know the roles our Classes played and how we were able to come out on top.
Bungie is known for being some of the best masters of gunplay in the industry and Destiny 2 is no exception to this. One of the mechanics that the original Destiny nailed was how it felt to run around a world and shoot a gun. The core mechanics surrounding this moved over to Destiny 2 with a few tweaks here and there. One of the biggest changes this time around is instead of having a primary, secondary, and heavy weapon slot, you have a kinetic, energy, and power weapon. This slight adjustment actually makes a huge difference in the overall gameplay. In the original Destiny, gunplay was pretty much derived of using your primary weapon for add control, your secondary weapon on a case by case basis, and your heavy weapon when you needed to unload damage. This time around, kinetic and energy weapons truly have their own purposes and utilizations in unique scenarios. Energy weapons do high damage to shielded enemies, while kinetic weapons are good for popping off some headshots of the gun fodder. I found myself constantly switching back and forth between weapons on the fly, versus the original game where I pretty much took everything out with my primary gun. The focus around constantly changing weapons adds a unique strategy to the gunplay that was not as prevalent in the previous game and it fits perfectly in the new experience.
Now, for as good as kinetic and energy weapons are, I’m slightly disappointed with power weapons in general. A substantial piece of feedback from the beta was that power ammo drops were almost non existent in PVE sections of the game. Bungie has made that adjustment with the launch of Destiny 2 and there is no shortage of power ammo currently. That being said, overall, the power weapons feel weak and inconsistent. Sniper rifles feel like there is no punch behind them anymore, while shotguns still wreck as they always have. Even rocket launchers have felt like they are lacking something behind them as I have experienced multiple occasions where I shot a rocket into a group of low health enemies and instead of wiping them out, I only mildly damaged a few of them. Overall, I feel like power weapons need some love and attention, because right now, most of them are not living up to their name.
Gameplay - Crucible
PVP is a living, breathing experience and has been an ongoing battle between Bungie and the players ever since the launch of the original Destiny. The constant battle of balancing, buffing, and nerfing, is a never-ending process that unfortunately will never make everyone happy. That being said, so far, I feel like Bungie has done a decent job of getting things off on the right foot. With the new gun categories, engagements with other players has felt more gun skill based than it ever has before; and that’s a good thing. In the previous Destiny, PVP was very heavily focused around how well you could use your abilities and what shotgun you had. This time around, engagements are longer due to a longer time to kill and because of that, I’ve seen firefights change sides halfway through, when previously, whoever got the jump on the other person would come out on top.
One of the other refreshing things about coming into PVP with new weapons, armor, and abilities is that there is currently no meta of what equipment or ability set is best to use. Finding out what works best for me and seeing that it is just as successful as someone else who has completely different gear equipped is great to see, refreshing for the Destiny community, and I hope that it continues down the line.
Online servers and lobby wait times are also a huge component of a positive Destiny experience. While I know that there were a few issues in the very beginning, those issues seemed to have started to get ironed out by Bungie with their hot fixes/patches. Personally, I only experienced two server disconnects in my first 40 hours of the game on both platforms. Bungie has stated that their focus on PVP for Destiny 2 from the beginning will be getting the best quality match connections for players as opposed to skill based matchmaking. In my experience so far, I have not had overly long queue times while in the Crucible lobby and my game connections have been solid with no lagging teammates or competitors.
One of the quickest ways to kill any massively multiplayer online world is through content droughts. The original Destiny sadly faced this from time to time as new content was too few and far between, but as of right now, I think it is safe to say that there is enough here to keep you occupied for hours and hours after the end of the campaign and with new additions already on the horizon. Bungie has put so many things to do in Destiny 2 that it almost seems daunting at first. Coming to a planet for the first time and immediately having adventures, side quests, campaign missions, public events, lost sectors, and caches pop up on your map are enough to have any completionist start to hyperventilate (but in a good way.)
Those familiar with the first game will know that Destiny truly doesn’t start until after the main campaign ends and the “grind” begins. Another improvement that Bungie has made over their previous installment is the implementation of having many ways to achieve endgame loot, and making the “grind” more enjoyable. As you continue to improve your power level, you continue to learn more backstory of the universe and its characters, which is a nice change of pace from go here, kill this thing, get a better gun, which was the equation from the first game.
Now, even though there is plenty to do right now, there still is always a concern of repetition getting old, achieving your highest power level possible, and then saying, “now what?” This is a question I can’t answer right now, but with the model that has been presented before us, I am optimistic that Bungie has learned from their previous mistakes and will continue to provide us with timely, fresh content. Only time will tell.
Bungie has definitely outdone themselves this time around. Destiny 2 is able to take full advantage of the current gen hardware for Destiny 2 as opposed to being limited by last gen hardware as with the original Destiny and it shows. The scenic views on each planet and incredible art design make each location just as much a character as Cayde-6 or Commander Zavala. Playing the game on a PS4 Pro or an Xbox One S and seeing everything come to life in 4K is just as good as you would think it might be. You can check out our gallery of 4K screenshots taken on a PS4 Pro here. My only criticism with Destiny 2 is that every character in the game got a makeover, except for our Guardians. Especially with the focus surrounding our character, I would have hoped that Bungie would have upgraded the character modeling for our Guardians from the first game, but sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, C. Paul Johnson, Rotem Moav, and Peter Schlosser have created THE MOST impactful, emotional, and moving soundtracks I’ve heard since Martin O’Donnell’s composition of the Halo 2 soundtrack. As I played through the game, moments in the story that were incredible to begin with were only amplified by the music accompanying it. It’s one thing to tell the player of the somber mood following the fall of the tower and the last city, but to be fully immersed in the downtrodden atmosphere by the bleak hymn of a string quartet is something you have to experience to understand. The new theme to Destiny 2 is revisited in multiple variations throughout the game and there are even some subtle tributes to the previous soundtrack that fans will enjoy. If you are a fan of video game soundtracks, I urge you to give this one a listen. You will not be disappointed.
The rest of the sound design for Destiny 2 is right on point as well. The guns sound solid and offer a realistic punch, while the supers and abilities sound just as powerful as they feel.
Looking to the Future
Typically we use this time to talk about things that we would like to see changed in the game. As of right now, with Destiny 2 having just been released, there haven’t been any exploits or game breaking bugs that require any immediate attention. The most crucial aspect to seeing Destiny 2 thrive is a continued dedication from Bungie. I want to see them make sure that they are still listening to their community about problems they are seeing, I want to see timely content releases to avoid any drought, and I want to see them maintain the strong passion that they have put into the release of this game in all of their future content and expansions.
Destiny 2 comes out of the gate with a strong start by improving greatly many of the issues and criticisms that the prior iteration faced. By also making Destiny 2 a game that is both accessible for newcomers while providing a new and mostly improved experience for those who are fans of the series, Bungie has created a robust foundation for the future. The true test is now ahead of them as additional content is released and we get the arrival of the first new raid. Overall Destiny 2 is a cinematic experience with a lot under the hood that is absolutely worth the time of anyone to check out.
If Destiny was the prologue to a story of a rich, detailed universe, Destiny 2 is a great first act.