There began a looming fear when talk of Destiny 2 came about that the game would feel more like Destiny 1.5 rather than a sequel. However, a mere 10 minutes into Bungie’s latest addition to the series and we can see this simply isn’t the case. Playing through Destiny 2’s first story mission alone we see a hop, skip and Hunter-style triple jump up in the content and overall standard of the story. Honestly, the first mission alone far surpasses the quality of the entirety of that of it’s predecessor. As we play through the first campaign mission and the initial fall of The Traveller, we see the key characters that were left underutilised in the first title really come into their own as they kick some serious Cabal-ass as The Tower (Destiny’s social hub) is overrun with The Red Legion. Cinematics are gorgeous and informative, the FPS style gameplay is fast and fun and it’s fulfilling that we can finally become in engaged in a thoroughly story-driven campaign to accompany all that was already great in Destiny.
As mentioned prior, Destiny 2’s story features primarily the fall of The Traveller. This is the enormous sphere that hovers above earth, the source of a guardians power, their light. Not that you’d have got a lot of that from the cryptic, bitty narrative of the first title unless you put aside some time into browsing the net for answers or dedicated significant time to reading through Grimoire cards on the companion app. Bungie do not falter to boast their ability to write a good antagonist as Dominus Ghaul (picture Bane crossed with The Goblin King from The Hobbit) makes his entrance, stripping you entirely of your light level, armour, weapons and pretty much everything you invested heaps of time into grinding for in the first game. Dominus leads his Cabal forces – The Red Legion in snuffing out the light for The Guardians in hope of claiming it for his own. It’s actually pleasantly surprising being able to comprehend the story of Destiny 2 without looking to external sources for answers. The game is built on it’s impressive lore and it’s great that this time around it’s actually prominent and at the forefront of the game as opposed to being a sort of inaudible background noise. Not only is the story easy to follow but within it are well-written and brilliantly cast characters, some pre-existing Destiny assets and some new additions all of which contributing to the story’s impact. As our Vanguard’s lose all that is dear to them, we see epic displays of emotion and heartfelt action scenes all of which accumulating to adding a whole new level of immersion to the game. Don’t worry though, Destiny 2 hasn’t become a solely story-centric title. The grind is still very much real and anyone who spent the first week prepping for the release of the Leviathan Raid will agree that the quintessential Destiny “feel” still runs deep in the sequel. It is however nice to see Bungie picking up the slack from their first release, broadening their audiences and reeling in new Destiny fans with an immersive narrative.
Of course, in being stripped back to basics, it would seem only appropriate that the game give you adequate means of bringing your Guardians back up to scratch and Destiny 2 does not slack in offering those much needed steps back up the ladder. On each planet there is a mind-boggling amount to do that offers players the chance to secure higher level gear, tokens to redeem engrams and upgrade points to cater their sub-classes to their personal tastes. At first, I was overwhelmed and pretty much in awe of the sheer amount there was to do on each planet. Alongside the campaign missions we see the return of Strikes and the Nightfall, Patrol Missions, Public Events, a whole new Raid and furthermore the introduction of Adventure Missions, Challenges for each planet you visit and Flashpoints. It was relieving that as I ventured further into the game’s proceedings, the number of things I was able to do did not dwindle. Yes, it’s evident Bungie are striving to maintain that replay-ability element Destiny is so renowned for. Not only does all of this constitute an insatiable variety of things to do, but it also augments the depth of the game, enriching the characters, their back-story’s and ultimately the game as a whole. Destiny 2 features a very smooth difficulty curve and thanks to the sheer amount of things to do, I never fell short of the recommended level requirements of any story mission. This was however, so much so that the final campaign encounter felt exceptionally anticlimactic. I found the first title’s, penultimate battle in The Black Garden at least somewhat challenging. Cowering behind pillars, thinning out the Vex enemies that swarmed you as you dodged void blasts from the Vex Minds. However, reaching the initial campaign’s finale in 2 was underwhelming. I am a good 90% sure I didn’t take a hit from the final boss himself and to top it off, it was over in a mere few minutes. After the build up, I can’t help but admit I expected a little more of a challenge; I wanted to be given a little more grief from that particular encounter.
One thing that really struck me as I played through Destiny 2 was how all the missions for each specific planet have been cleverly grafted into one easily accessible open-world area. There was no flitting back and forth from orbit in order to go from a campaign mission to Patrol. Instead it’s all available to access via the Director interface. This was a lovely addition in making Destiny 2 gameplay feel a lot smoother and fluent. In not spending a frustrating amount of time watching your ship hovering in a loading screen, you get additional time to devote to indulging in the wonderfully designed planets: Earth, Titan, Nessus and IO. Whether you are taking in the gorgeous post-apocalyptic feel of EDZ or the understated pastel palette of Nessus, each setting is just as ostentatious as the next. I found myself disabling my HUD on numerous occasions in order to capture screenshots of the many wonderfully atmospheric vistas I come across on my travels. New enemies of each faction are introduced seeing new animations. We see the return of the Fallen, Hive, Cabal (The Red Legion style), Vex and Taken. One new animation that particularly stood out to me was the “spider-like” animation of the Vandal (Fallen). As more stealthy, nimble enemies this tweak was hugely complimentary. Small elements such as this really helped establish an overall feel of freshness, easily putting to rest any criticism of Bungie being lazy and simply re-skinning the first title and trying to pull it off as a new game by sticking a “2” at the end. Each character model within each enemy faction is heavily detailed, making encounters with these alien races all the more intense and intriguing. Destiny 2 not only looks great, but it sounds great. Whether it be the the whoosh of mystical energy rushing out the barrel of a Fusion Rifle or the Alien, clicky whispers of Fallen who conspire to kill you. Everything sounds crisp and really pushes the atmosphere of the game in making it more lifelike. All of which wrapped up with a most enjoyable soundtrack composed by Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin and C Paul Johnson, that is tailored perfectly to the tone and ambience of each of the planets you visit.
It took Bungie a game and 4 expansions to nail a captivating, well-informed narrative but it’s nice to finally reap the reward of that in Destiny 2. Bungie have set a tone of vulnerability throughout the game and done well to keep that intact in all elements from the setting to the gameplay itself. This underlying tone is what spurs you on as you play. The basic FPS elements haven’t been lifted, leaving Destiny 2 still feeling like a space-based Call Of Duty at times. It isn’t all tedious familiarity however, there are some newly introduced gameplay elements such as dodging and new sub-classes for each class of Guardian. We see new planets, enemies, characters and missions. In meeting the perfect balance between these newly introduced elements and some snug familiarity, developers have allowed Destiny 2 to preserve it’s trademark “feel” yet still uphold it’s own as a sequel. In Destiny 2, Bungie have really tried to encourage players to play as a team. Each planet is riddled with Public Events that allow you to take down bigger enemies with random players or friends. Destiny 2’s Crucible (PvP) is now reduced to 4v4 in an attempt to instigate more tactical and coordinated team-based play. A great deal of the bosses within the campaign themselves feel catered to those who play in a Fireteam and of course, taking on Raid and Nightfall modes isn’t something you’d look to tackle with randomers. Furthermore, players are able to benefit from being part of an active clan by earning rewards. It’s almost as if the game is whispering the words “play as a Fireteam” as you play. It seems that Bungie have really tried to bring together the Destiny community more officially this time around and it’s actually rather heart-warming. In listening to players and rectifying their mistakes from the first Destiny title and combining that with the online/ multiplayer elements Bungie mastered and excelled in within the first game, Destiny 2 is most definitely a worthwhile play and I’m very much excited for the expansions to come.