Update: This review was written based on over twenty hours of playtime from a hands-on event in Seattle that Bungie and Activision organised. Also I’ve spent the last ten hours straight replaying the launch day game and holy crap my eyes burn with the intensity of a thousand stars going supernova someone please pass me some eye-drops. We’ll have a full review up next week after we’re done playing more Strikes, Crucible matches and the Raid itself.
Update 2: Two weeks later, and we’ve done the Strikes, the new Raid and actually kicked some ass in the Crucible. The final verdict? Destiny 2 is good. It’s damn good.
Update 3: The first expansion for Destiny 2, Curse of Osiris, is out and can be read here. It remains a disappointing first step at expanding the mythos.
Update 4: The second expansion for Destiny 2, Warmind, is live and can be read here. While it is a step in the right direction, something more substantial will be needed to keep players around.
Update 5: Forsaken has arrived, and Destiny 2 is better than ever. The second year of Bungie’s sandbox has kicked off, and with it has come an evolution that has resulted in a leaner and meaner game that still deserves top marks.
What kind of a game is Destiny? A first-person shooter at its core, mixed with various other genres in an effort to stand out from the pack? When Bungie first revealed their grand new project after handing the Halo franchise to Microsoft and 343 Industries, they remained coy about the experience that players would embark on.
Maybe too coy. Destiny’s initial offering was frankly bland, annoyingly vague and its much-lamented story was reserved for a mobile app that nobody bothered to download. Destiny in its original form, was a game that had the potential to be great but would need some significant work to reach the lofty benchmarks that it was aiming for.
Destiny 2 then, is about finding an even groovier sense of momentum
Fortunately, Bungie was up to the task. While the first slice of DLC in the form of the Dark Below was a middling effort at best, Destiny turned over a new leaf with the introduction of the House of Wolves expansion. Less cryptic and more than ready to actually allow Guardians to have some fun, Destiny would follow up with the phenomenal Taken King expansion that gave players the Guardian experience that they had been waiting for.
A new zone to patrol, a definitive adversary and a heap of new content that would be explored over the months to come. Last year’s Rise of Iron may not have nailed the same highs as The Taken King, but as a love letter to the three-year journey that Destiny had started, it was the perfect send-off. In its current form, Destiny had most definitely found its groove.
Destiny 2 then, is about finding an even groovier sense of momentum that’ll have Guardians new and old dancing away long after the end credits have rolled.
Destiny 2 at its core, is the exact same game. The same setup for Guardians, the same system of exploration and the same enemies even. It calls into question exactly what a sequel should be. How much of its content can be repurposed and presented as something new? Just how closely can it stick to the original template without being labelled a clone of the debut game?
It’s a daunting scenario, because Bungie clearly needed to bring in a new audience while retaining the original. To do just that, Destiny 2 does indeed feel comfortably familiar. Albeit with dozens of its established systems tweaked and refined to a degree where you can see your reflection in the polish that has been applied.
a fresh start.
Destiny 2 is a fresh start. It’s Destiny without the baggage, without the cryptic overtones and gameplay mechanics which serve to hinder the player rather than keep them invested. There’s nothing worse than a game which disrespects your time and throws meaningless sandbox fluff your way, something that Destiny 2 is acutely aware of as every facet of its construction serves a larger purpose in helping you forge a new legend.
I’m not joking. The number of small enhancements and tweaks that shine through are impressive, augmenting an already joyful sense of gunplay and turning that system into a game of bullet-powered rock-paper-scissors. Every action has a reaction, and in Destiny 2 that’s a sensation that you’ll quickly get used to as you power up your Guardian for the ultimate battle that lies ahead.
Destiny 2 is a rock ‘n roll sci-fi action adventure
A battle that would feel hollow and undeserved if you didn’t have a story that was worth following. I’m not going to delve too deep into the quality of the tale, as that’s something that I believe does rely on established science fiction tropes where every character has a role to fulfil, from the wise-cracking Cayde-6 through to the stern Zavala and other new faces in the Destiny crew.
What does shine, is the execution of this tale. Destiny 2’s narrative moves on at a swift clip, humbling players in the opening hour and then slowly building them back up into the legends that they were always destined to be. It is once again humanity’s darkest hour, and only a well-oiled gun can push back against Dominus Ghaul and his Red Legion.
That’s where Destiny 2 succeeds. For all the talk of its story asking players to question what it truly means to be a Guardian, the real payoff lies in the power fantasy, that sense of triumph that is accompanied by a dynamic soundtrack when you turn the odds in your favour and emerge victorious. With a villain who you sometimes loathe and pity, Destiny 2 is a rock ‘n roll sci-fi action adventure bookended by some impressive cinematics and voice-acting.
Adventures add more flavour to the worlds around you, giving Guardians a brisker 15-20 minute level of action and story as opposed to the far meatier story. If Destiny 2’s main narrative succeeds in stripping all the fat off the meat as it tells the story of the Red War, then Adventures are that delicious sliver of marrow that suck you straight out of the bone.
So what happens after the end credits have rolled?
Destiny has always managed to have one hell of an endgame, that has managed to keep Guardians playing for dozens if not hundreds of hours beyond launch. Destiny 2 doesn’t support, throwing a myriad of modes and activities at players: Lost Sectors, Public Events, Flashpoints and Adventures just to get started.
These are some of the best arenas that have ever been in Destiny
While each activity can be solved with age-old tradition of applying a few bullets to the dilemma at hand, there’s more to these activities of course. There are at times more complex ideas that are saved for some public events and Flashpoints, all of them taking place in maps that are as beautifully detailed as they are vast and filled with all manner of secrets that are waiting to be uncovered in the weeks to come. While having only four new worlds to explore may feel lacklustre at first, trust me: These are some of the best arenas that have ever been in Destiny.
Io, Nessus, Titan and the European Dead Zone are gorgeous sandboxes, characters in their own right and environments which feel densely populated with challenges. I’d lose myself in a tour of these planets and zones, if I wasn’t in danger of having my grey matter spill onto the ground below me from a well-placed Hobgoblin sniper round.
I want to talk more. I want to delve into the new lore, I want to chat about how the Crucible feels tighter and more focused. I can’t though. Destiny 2 is much like its predecessor, a game that will always be evolving. To attempt to do a full review now is an insult even when I’ve got around 30 hours of play under my belt. There’s so much more to see, to feel and to experience and I couldn’t be happier. The charm is in the grind, and until I’ve played every Strike, explored every Adventure and run away from my PlayStation crying after the first Raid leaves me a broken husk, I won’t be satisfied.
So what is Destiny 2? It’s a reminder. It’s a second chance at glory, where every complaint has been addressed and every issue has been fixed. It’s a new beginning, polished to an absurd degree and an example of what a sequel should be: Same same…but different.
Last Updated: October 2, 2018