So what’s changed?
Destiny was an odd, money-making beast.
It was arguably one of the biggest and most polarizing games in recent memory, with the negative side of the coin winning out vocally — and I was somewhere in the middle. I mean, I cleared every raid in the game, including hard modes and challenges, the week they were out, so I know Destiny. I know its faults, its successes, and most importantly, what it needs to do to improve and keep players long term.
After playing a bit of Destiny 2, I can say that some of those facets were addressed, and other older habits are harder to break.
Destiny 2 (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One)
Release Date: September 6, 2017 (consoles), October 24, 2017 (PC)
As most people know the David Cross-less story was one of the worst parts of the original Destiny, and although it is better this time, that’s not a notable accomplishment.
I’ll give it this — although it’s comic book levels of ham, at least it’s easy to follow and occasionally, root for, the second time around. The first narrative was a bit miserable and cryptic at times, leading us down a rabbit hole to a final confrontation we had no emotional connection to. Now we have a clear big bad, as shallow as he may be in Dominus Ghaul, who basically destroys your haven and The Traveler (that big deal orb in the first game) in one fell swoop.
Nothing feels, for a lack of a better word, as epic as it should though. After temporarily losing your light force (the power that fuels all Guardians, the superheroes of the Destiny universe), the quest to get it back is rather limp and brief. Seeing more of the supporting cast (and watching them operate in any emotional state other than stoic) is nice, but they don’t really have to a whole lot to do yet other than mope. “The Farm,” the new rural hub and the ying to the ritzy Tower’s yang, has its charms (soccer!), but feels like a step down (I already can’t wait for the next social space to hit in a future expansion).
If you’re worried about re-treading, don’t be, as we’re going to a few new places this time — the European front of Earth, Titan (a moon of Saturn with rolling bright tides, my favorite so far), Nessus (a Vex terramorphed planet that looks far too similar to the Black Garden for my tastes), and Io (a moon of Jupiter that I haven’t been to yet). Open areas feel a tad more freeing now. Launching into action feels more organic, as there’s a real functional map that lets planets breathe a little more rather than be presented as a series of instanced tubes.
Bungie also put more effort into making these spaces actually mean something, with random lore bits interspersed into the open air and not on out of game Grimoire cards. Fast-traveling without constantly going back to orbit is also pretty ace, but the decision to limit Sparrows to rare drops is a head-scratcher (it’s not a deal-breaker right now, but it is annoying to have to hoof it everywhere).
Yet, the general Destiny flow hasn’t changed. You can engage in the story to unlock more areas, then grind the same content by way of Patrols, PVP, or playlists (which include Strikes, or, dungeons) to gear up. Outside of a few other nuances (mostly menu based), not a lot has changed in general actually. Dregs look a little different but they’re still Dregs. Walkers, with the same “sweep the leg then shoot the core” strategy are going to be several public event bosses yet again. Strike bosses are still bullet spongey meat bags that throw adds at you sequentially while lobbing artillery your way.
So its weaknesses have pretty much stayed the same, but its strengths have improved somewhat, and combat remains as master-crafted as it always has. It just feels good to do anything in Destiny 2, from shooting any given gun to dashing in and handing out a melee strike. The class design has been altered, and I think for the better. Although the Bubble Boy Titan will probably remain a staple for that class, the Warlock is definitely all sorts of mixed up now that the self-resurrection power is gone and have taken up an expanded role as a party buffer, and Hunters are as dynamic as ever with a full realization of the concepts put forth in the Gunslinger tree in the first game.
Destiny 2 doesn’t necessarily feel like a full sequel as much as an improved expansion, but that’s not a bad thing if you just wanted more Destiny. So far I’m enjoying myself despite its shallowness at times, but keep in mind that it remains to be seen just how grindy the endgame is. That’s something I’ll be taking a look at closely as I prepare for my full review, but only after I’ve maxed out (level 20) my Warlock!
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]