During my first fortnight with the game, I’ve taken three characters through the game’s story, slaved through countless Nightfalls, finished the raid twice and even managed to win a game in Trials of the Nine, the game’s weekly PVP mode reserved for the most dedicated and sweatiest players.
In total, I’ve given the better part of four days (almost 100 hours) to this game and I fear I’m only just getting rolling. So that’s why I’ve taken my time. I’ve been to the wilderness and now I’m back to tell you about my travels and the things I’ve seen.
It’s hard to know where to even start when talking about Destiny 2. The first game got a bad rap and there’s probably a lot of misconceptions about what it eventually did become at the end of its three-year lifespan. I can’t deny that, at release, its content dried up quicker than a puddle in the outback, rendering its endgame somewhat sparse and lifeless. Bungie clearly took a lot away from the original’s launch and made a point to create the feeling that the game’s eight-hour campaign is merely a small appetiser and only after you beat it does the game truly begin.A lot of dissenters of Destiny are quick to lean on the fact that the game’s story was largely convoluted, made little sense and relied too heavily on deep-diving into external content to try and grasp the game’s lore. It was always there, it was just hard to find. Though I originally thought Bungie might hit reset on the game’s canon and start afresh, to their credit they stuck to their guns and refocused, telling a contained and compelling story that introduced us to a new threat all the while giving air-time to the game’s many great secondary characters that, in the original, would simply watch from the sidelines. Bill Nighy’s reprisal of The Speaker is so magnificent and he steals the show with one cutting bit of dialogue, but the rest of the Vanguard is no slouch. The archetype leader Zavala is as stoic as ever and a more vulnerable take on Ikora Rey left her character feeling the most sympathetic. Unfortunately, Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 doesn’t feature nearly as much as one might like, given that he featured heavily during the game’s advertising and is funny as a fit to boot.
Thanks to all of the side content, a lot of the game’s events are now given proper context and it feels like everything is actually happening for a reason, rather than just happening to occupy your time. Of all the game’s content though, I feel like Strikes have sadly fallen to the wayside for now. As great as the new Strikes are, with phased boss fights that feel more epic and themed, the rewards aren’t worth the time spent. So I hope Bungie find a way to remedy this and give us a reason to go back into the playlist.
Bungie definitely hasn’t sought to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Destiny 2, choosing to very much rest on their laurels. And why not? The gunplay in the original was tight, satisfying and super easy to pick up. The new sub-classes are damn cool but the subtle changes to the returning sub-classes make them so much better than in the original. I’ve got a lot of love for Way of the Gunslinger, a new Hunter skill path that values and rewards hitting your crits. Plus there’s a tank build you can use for the often fragile Warlock that transforms you into a self-healing wrecking ball, so the balancing of the classes is on point this time around. The only the game’s rarest guns don’t feel as special this time around. Maybe it’s because I haven’t happened to see the very best of them, but it feels like none really stand out from the pack. Merciless is a boss-melter that’s destined to be nerfed but that’s kind of it. On the plus side, as far as the precious loot goes, all of the raid stuff I’ve seen so far is gorgeous. The Red Legion aesthetic is very much inspired by the Romans with ivory, gold and purple being the colour scheme.
Being one part shooter, one part MMO hasn’t ever really helped Destiny escape criticism. No, this sequel doesn’t have a trading post, it doesn’t have crafting beyond simple weapon and armour mods. And it’s got an extremely uncomplicated token-based rewards system that is now far more accessible than the original was. It’s easy to forget that Bungie’s meal ticket, for a long time, was the simple sci-fi shooter. If you’re returning to the series hoping it’s now an expansive, sprawling web of mechanics typically found in other MMO games then I’m sorry to disappoint you. The one upswing is that Bungie has gone to considerable lengths to integrate a more robust clan system which, so far, has certainly been worth the wait. I’ve never been so happy to ride the coattails of those better than me.
The change from six-on-six to four-on-four in the game’s competitive multiplayer is one of the more significant changes in Destiny 2. While I was cynical at first, I’ve come around and accepted that in a smaller team it’s even more important to be accountable. Unlike the original, the multiplayer is split into a quick play and a competitive playlist. The latter can be a bit hairy at times so I prefer to stick to the shallow waters where it’s a bit safer. It’s still a lot of fun despite everybody rolling with one particular weapon due to a case of unbalancing. But Bungie never sits on their hands, I’m sure they’re still locked in that neverending pursuit for complete balance. It’s scout rifles now, next week it’ll probably be pulses. As always, players will just adapt to the meta.
Bungie has become quite the master of crafting stunning skyboxes. Whether you’re patrolling the European Dead Zone or sifting through the waterlogged moon of Titan, there’s no stage where the view isn’t jaw-dropping. Nessus is my personal favourite, it uses the in vogue neons that made No Man’s Sky such a hot commodity. Some of the lesser vendor characters are a little lacking when it comes to their appearance, but it must be said that the souped-up enemies look great. I’ll single out the Hive, who look particularly pant-shittingly horrifying this time around. I never thought I’d see the day where I was content with Bungie’s split from Marty O’Donnell but Michael Salvatori’s score has made me forget all about the legendary composer. It reiterates the series’ strongest themes while crafting its own tender, catchy identity. I spend more time than I care to admit whistling some of the game’s motifs.
I put more time into the original Destiny than I've ever put into anything. I can see myself playing the sequel just as much. Though the core grinding loop might be slightly different this time around, it's still as satisfying as ever. Though it's somewhat of a prelude, the story is a compelling introduction to the Red Legion. Finishing the raid with my clan left me feeling accomplished as its ultra-hard mechanics put a team's mettle to the test. I can't say I've got a whole lot of gripes about this sequel. It feels like a pretty natural evolution of Destiny and does what it always did that little bit better.