The first Destiny was a success on some aspects but for a vast number of people, it failed on far too much. From the story that had a lackluster “is that it?” ending to expansions that felt anything but a side step in story telling. Over three years Destiny was indeed improved but the core issues and reports of a very troubled development has made a lot of people nervous about Destiny 2 with concerns of more of the same and not wanting to board the hype train only to be let down all over again. I can happily say, as one of the many who were let down by the original Destiny, the sequel has shown that not only has Bungie listened and learned, but they have finally delivered on their promise and vision for the series.
I will start with for me, the biggest let down of the first game which Destiny 2 not only addresses but shows the biggest improvement for the sequel, the story telling. The first 45 minutes of the main campaign showcases just how much Bungie has focused on the story of Destiny 2, with an impactful opening that to put it simply, resets everything you experienced about the first game if you played it but also to give a launch platform to anyone picking up Destiny 2 and the series for the first time. It opens on the Tower, the social hub of the first game that players will know all to well as Guardian leaders Zavala, Ikora and Cayde-6 begin to discover that something is wrong with the storm that has enveloped the last defended city on Earth. The deadly truth becomes all too clear as the city is suddenly attacked by a cabal fleet, the Red Legion who invade the tower with ground troops taking the Guardians by surprise. But it soon becomes clear that their target is not the city itself or the Guardians defending it but the Traveler itself and the game opens with the player and their chosen Guardian, joining the battle.
As you fight your way through familiar sections of the Tower that the attack has destroyed, it feels like the previous Destiny as you take out Cabal forces left and right as you move to the center of the tower. But then the first big change takes place as you find yourself fighting along side Zavala in the central courtyard, actually fighting beside him. This is huge as previously, the Guardian leaders were generic NPC characters who did nothing, said very little and simply represented the three classes of Guardian in Titan, Warlock and Hunter. For Destiny 2 they are now a huge part of the story and it is vastly improved as a result of them being given more to do especially in their dialogue. Then you have the big bad making his entrance at the end of this prologue mission, Ghaul and oh what an entrance he makes. For the first time as a fan of this series despite all its faults, the game finally has a credible main adversary in the form of Ghaul, the leader of the Red Legion who has one purpose in mind. To take The Traveller and the Light for himself and his forces and make them powerful and immortal. This is a main villain who basically showed up at the home of the Guardians, kicked down the front door and took what he wanted just because he could. The prologue ends with the Red Legion placing a cage around the Traveler which cuts off the Guardians from its light, taking away their powers and in the final moment of Ghalt meeting your Guardian, he simply pushes you off the tower with his foot leaving you broken, powerless and for the first time…afraid.
The main story focuses on the fight to take back The Traveler, the Light and to defeat Ghalt or “Gary” as Cayde-6 so perfectly named him in a pre-release trailer. He and his forces are a real and credible threat to all life and the Guardians. He has taken the Traveler, sacked the last city on Earth and taken away the light from the Guardians making them powerless and mortal. It is something I had really taken for granted without thinking about it, that one of the benefits of having the Light was the immortality it brought my Guardians. Each time I respawned it was enough that I was but I had never really considered what that meant and that it was truly the greatest gift from the Traveler. But now that has gone and the Guardians are now normal people who now feel the fear of death which changes the storytelling dramatically and overall, the main campaign benefits from this as a player and a fan. We see this truth come out in the main characters with each leader going their separate ways as they deal with the loss of it all with Zavala retreating and feeling the guilt and shame of failing to defend the city and Traveler. Ikora retreats to Io, the last planet touched by the Traveller in order to feel that presence once again and Cayde-6 who takes it upon himself to get revenge by going after Gary on his own even without his powers. The story is rich and it feels it each step of the way with a blend of gameplay and cinematic cut-scenes which tells the side of the story from Gary’s point of view.
So that is one big tick for me but I know that for many it is really the gameplay and content that is the biggest worry about Destiny 2 but like the story telling, this has also been overhauled greatly. Destiny 2 base game, outside of Raids and Strikes, has the same amount of content and things to do both solo and in a fireteam that Destiny had with all its DLC by the end. Main campaign missions take players to different worlds as usual but now the worlds feature new dungeons called Lost Sectors and extra story missions known as Adventures which serve as side missions to the main campaign for extra XP and rewards which can be undertaken during or after the main story missions. There is certainly plenty of content to do throughout and Bungie have taken a lot of feedback into consideration. Enemies no longer have a set level, even the minions so unlike the first game where it would differ depending on location, now they simply exist as a threat wherever you go keeping everything balanced. Some aspects are locked out until you reach the end of the campaign or at the very least close to the maximum player level of 20 such as Patrols and Strikes so the game makes players work for it and it’s a very enjoyable ride and journey to get there. Once the main story is completed even more becomes unlocked with new missions on each world to return to and complete. It is staggering how much content there is to do in this base version of the game which is great to do solo or with friends.
Leveling up has also become far less grindy and more rewarding as well. XP is earned in the usual way and will help get your Guardian level to 20 before the Light level becomes the next thing to work on. At level 20 legendary gear and weapons can be obtained and equipped along with Exotics. Legendary and Exotics can be infused as before to increase their light levels but are now class specific so armour obtained for a Titan for example can no longer be used to infuse the armour of a Warlock or Hunter. Each world will have a key character who acts as a vendor and everything you do on those worlds from patrol missions, to adventures, taken out high level minions and chests will give players Tokens that can be redeemed to strengthen reputation with that vendor. 20 tokens will earn a legendary engram from that Vendor which when claimed will reward in weapons or armor. So what became a tireseome grind in the first Destiny post game will reward players even more so now, making everything worth while which when combined with daily challenges means going through all this never feels like a chore.
Even the Crucible, something that drove me absolutely nuts with frustration previously, has also been changed and overhauled for the better. Crucible is now a 4 Vs 4 team affair with familiar modes like Supremacy, Control and Clash making up the quickplay playlist whilst a new objective based Competitive playlist adds new modes Survivor and Countdown to the mix. So even the PvP side has been given more content and with the 4 Vs 4 dynamic bringing a very HALO 2 MP vibe and feel, it is finally a mode I can enjoy either solo or with friends. The Crucible is not the only place where I feel Bungie have wisely gone back to their roots in HALO for Destiny 2.
Destiny 2 looks, feels and plays very much like the game Bungie promised as their follow up to the HALO series. Destiny itself suffered from a problematic development and just felt unfinished and messy. But here Bungie have so far gotten all their space ducks in a row by taking the strengths of the first game in terms of action and gunplay and removed all the niggles and nonsense from the gameplay itself. The Directory can be called up wherever the player is and can be used to travel to any location much faster than before, removing the need to go to orbit, pick a location and go there which plagued the first game. Loading times are way shorter now meaning more time is spent in game then watching a ship floating in a wormhole and overall everything just happens faster, smoother and with more common sense.
Visually Destiny 2 is absolutely stunning with character models and worlds looking sharper than ever even on just normal PS4 and Xbox One. Armour and weapons look amazing and the new Shader system, where you now get shader packs of one time use shaders to apply to weapons, armour, sparrows and even your ship, add a new customisation option which wasn’t there before. Having the main characters get more story time and dialogue is great, especially having Nathan Fillion voicing Cayde-6 just adding more Nathan Fillion to the mix is a big win. The Clan system is both rewarding and integrated far more cleanly than previously and the new Guided Games feature that allows solo players or teams to find others to take on the fireteam specific content like the Nightfall Strike or the Raid means that the large numbers of fans who felt disconnected from that side, can now take part making the entire experience more inclusive.
This really is the version of Destiny that Bungie wanted to launch with and should have. It plays amazing, has a large amount of things to do and you can noticeably see the enhancements and tweaks made to make it all just work that much better. If you put Destiny down ages ago and have been nervous about picking this up, please don’t be. It is an action packed thrill ride that so far for me at lease as someone who was frustrated and disappointed with the first Destiny, has no downsides. Now what is important is what happens next in terms of new content such as more Raids and Strikes which the little post credit scene (which I will not spoil) teases that something big is coming with the first expansion that should keep players happy and fighting.
I went into the first Destiny hoping for and expecting an experience similar to what made me fall in love with HALO and Bungie to begin with. Sadly that game did not deliver what I wanted but with Destiny 2, they are back on track and I am captivated in a story I can understand, worlds I can happily explore and get lost in and an online experience that delivers on everything Bungie said they wanted to bring to players three years ago but never quite got there. Right now everything is positive about Destiny 2 and I am happy for both Bungie and us as players that they were finally able to get their act together even if it took a whole truck load of mistakes to get here.
Now it is up to Bungie to keep delivering with Destiny 2 going forward but happily I came to the end of Destiny 2 main story not feeling the “Is that it?” vibe I had with the first game but a definitive “give me more of this” sensation and I am excited to see friends both loving and hopeful of what will come next for Destiny.