Destiny 2 is a lot more of the Destiny players of the first game will remember but with some significant changes to some game mechanics and the way some activities work that make the game feel much better with the way it works over the original.
The main plot of Destiny 2 and reason for why those of us who spent time farming all that precious gear on Destiny 1 lose everything is all thanks to Ghaul and his Red Legion, the main antagonists of the game. From the beginning after a brief cutscene introduction players are thrown right into the fray, fending off the Red Legion in The Tower, the main hub area from Destiny 1. This defence goes exactly how we all know it does from the promotional material that came out pre-release; Ghaul capturing the Last City and our guardian being left without their Light and on the verge of death. Within the first 10 minutes of gameplay Bungie already made a massive improvement over the first Destiny which is having a narrative that is actually present in the game! As most people are aware; Destiny 1 had a serious problem in its lack of a narrative and reason behind why are guardians are out shooting everything we see besides just ‘they’re the bad guys’ but Destiny 2 rectified that.
Now, there are a few things the story got right and definitely a few things it got wrong. Players can expect to get around 6 or so hours of gameplay out of the main story to begin with which isn’t exactly the longest amount of time. To top it all off a lot of that time is padded with running the entire time until you finally get a Sparrow (transportation) at the end of the game and levelling up to gain access to certain missions. While using the vault feature to give a sparrow to a fresh guardian it can probably shave an hour or so off that time. Now this can be forgiven by some who would say that narrative has never been the main focus of Destiny which is fair enough but I still felt a bit disappointed in the length. I also felt like there was a lot of wasted potential in the campaign. The main thing is having our guardian vulnerable without their Light. The threat of permanent death looms over your guardian right after the attack on the tower; for two missions at least and then we’re back to our old selves full of Light. Now of course a lot of the main gameplay mechanics such as using Supers associated with specific elements on each class and the ability to revive are associated with the Light and so had to be brought back in early anyway, but I think this made the whole idea of losing the Light redundant since we don’t feel vulnerable anymore and more just annoyed that we lost all that sweet loot from Destiny 1 (for those of us that carried a character over).
Despite our guardians getting their Light back however, every other character in the story doesn’t have that luxury. The 3 vanguards: Zavala, Ikora and Cayde, whom the majority of the story revolves around finding and getting together for a counter offensive still have that vulnerability that I wish was kept more on the player. It is touched upon a lot with Ikora once she is brought into the story with her worrying a lot about the prospect of permanent death after so long being able to revive. I love that Bungie did this and didn’t give everybody in the story their Light back because it really helped add more to the characters and flesh them out as people. It also really highlighted the contrast between the attitude of each of the vanguards with Zavala being determined to fight back, Ikora being the voice of reason but also worried, and finally Cayde who is the usual wise guy cracking jokes half the time.
An amazing addition that we got in Destiny 2 that we never had in the first game is cinematic cutscenes. Not only are they very impressive visually but they are also out main link to Ghaul and how we learn about him and what he’s up to while we are off gearing up to take on his Red Legion again. Ghaul as a villain had a lot of ways he could’ve went and I’m not sure where I stand on him. Bungie have a history of making amazing antagonists, specifically from the Halo days where our main villains had many different and unique motives. Ghaul doesn’t exactly have that. He’s a megalomaniac, obsessed with becoming all-powerful and dominating all… That’s it. There’s no sort of special reason why, he’s just doing it because he wants to keep getting stronger and I feel this makes him massively cliche on the motive side of things. In terms of how he acts though Bungie made him interesting in that rather than forcibly taking the Light when the option is there for him fairly early on in the story, he refuses to take it in multiple cutscenes and instead wants to earn it just as the guardians did, despite even his own consul telling him to forcibly take it. It becomes an interesting point in the story as to whether Ghaul will earn the Light or take it. Overall I think for the first real antagonist with large enough presence to be the main focus point in a Destiny game, Ghaul was good but in comparison to Bungie’s past he’s only better than the first Destiny which never had a main antagonist. Speaking of antagonists though, there is something very interesting teased in the final cutscene of the game.
Outside of the story there are many options available to players for things to do. With 4 planets to explore, each with their own unique environments and activities as well as the Crucible (PvP) and it’s special modes Trials of the Nine and Iron Banner, Leviathan Raid, and Strikes there are a lot of ways players can earn that all important loot to increase their characters power. Before getting into that however it is best to explain the changes to how progression works. There is still the 1 – 20 levelling for characters that was present in the first Destiny game; however the Light level part has been taken away and replaced with Power level. This level is an average of the attack and defence stat of all your guardian’s gear and becomes your level after level 20. Unlike Light level however, Power level is existent from the start of the game. Bounties have also been replaced for tokens specific to each region, faction and activity in terms of increasing reputation levels for the acquisition of engrams. Bounties still sort of exist as challenges which change daily for each region and activity to earn some extra tokens and there are also some bonus challenges called Milestones which can get some extra special engrams and reset weekly. While doing all of these activities and levelling each individual faction players can take advantage of the built in clan system which offers special clan engrams for doing clan related challenges and rewards for levelling up and playing with said clan. For those that don’t know: engrams are loot boxes that drop and give random gear of a certain rarity once opened.
Back to the activities though… After the main story missions there will be unique quest lines which become available (one on each planet) that can be completed to earn special exotic weapon quest lines. Also, there are the Strikes which return from the original Destiny, Nightfalls included as well as the Leviathan Raid and Trials of the Nine along with Iron Banner in the Crucible for endgame content. There are also a few other activities dotted around, some new and others returning for players to do at any level. Patrols make a comeback giving players small tasks to do and earn quick tokens for the region along with Lost Sectors which are hidden sections of the map which contain a mini-boss and a chest with loot and tokens. There’s also the standard and competitive Crucible which is available at all times regardless of level. One thing I liked which helped flesh out the world a bit more is Adventures, which are small, single mission quests the player can complete which gives a bit more interaction with the people and the environment you’re in while still doing the looting and shooting you’re used to. Finally, there’s public events: these can be found at multiple spots on every planet and consist of multiple events. These can range from Fallen walkers being dropped off to giant Cabal mining expeditions. A good source of loot available at all times and good rally points for players. These public events are also tied to weekly Flashpoints in which there’s a special engram up for grabs for finishing a certain amount of public events on a set planet.
Of course, this sounds like there’s an insane amount to do in the game, and there is quite a lot but sadly only about half of this maybe even less becomes viable by the end game for actual progression. Unless you’re farming challenges and tokens patrols become useless along with lost sectors and a lot of the adventures have such low power level requirements you quickly over-level them and sort of lose interest in doing them unless you just want to complete all of them out of curiosity. Public events also begin to be ignored by players unless they’re doing the weekly Flashpoint although they are still viable loot farms if you trigger the Heroic version of each event. To top it off a lot of endgame content becomes the only viable option and even then you can only farm the same strikes and raid for so long. I’d say the main problem with Destiny 2 isn’t a lack of content like the the first one had but rather that so much of the content just isn’t viable for people to do once they hit level 20 since there’s no progression from it. If there was some sort of rewards unique to each activity then maybe players would be more inclined but that isn’t the case. Then there becomes a problem of the end game content becoming extremely repetitive as you grind the same strikes and raid for loot over and over with waits between expansions. The only real exception to this I would say is the Crucible and it’s special events which consistently offer a new experience each game because of its nature as a PvP mode. Bungie is still adding new content weekly though at this point so there hasn’t been a content drought yet. I am extremely concerned there may be one a month or so down the line though until the first expansion is out. At least when doing these activities you have an amazing soundtrack, definitely one of, if not the best soundtrack in a game in the past year to listen to. Amazing audio in general has always been on of Bungie’s specialties and it shines in Destiny 2.
Despite its problems in leaving only certain activities viable, Bungie have kept its standard in making the gunplay extremely well done. The movement on characters can feel a bit floaty but besides that the gun play is spot on and fighting every enemy is fun, even if there are a few hiccups sometimes with AI. It’s pretty much identical to Destiny 1 in how it plays but why change it? It really is one of the best parts of the game. One thing that did need a change though for gameplay and did get that change was the amount of wave survival scenarios in the first game. Destiny 2 toned that down massively and no longer feels like a wave survival against hordes of enemies. A greatly appreciated change. Just to quickly mention there are other, smaller parts of gameplay such as applying modifications with special effects to gear, new ship transmat effects and aura effects for your guardian, as well as a change to the shaders system is that you can shade weapons now as well as individual pieces of gear but each shader is one-time use. A lot of customisation items are earned through either your usual engrams or bright engrams. A bright engram is earned for each level past level 20 or through micro transaction purchase. There’s also a currency called bright dust which can be earned from the engrams themselves or dismantling the contents of a bright engram, that allows the purchase of specific customisation options each week from the vendor which decrypts these engrams. I would go into more detail about these but there’s not much else to it other than a lot of it being loot drops amongst the rest of your gear. More customisation is always nice though right?