Destiny 2 Review
My fingers are clenched, the controller warmed by my tight grip as if it siphoned off my life force to fuel my Guardian’s adventure. The last few hours of gameplay running through my head, digesting the fact that just a week prior I had all 3 character classes at 400, my book of triumphs complete. Sitting there, contemplating what I had just experienced in Destiny 2. The story, the music, the mechanics and graphics passing through my mind, hearing the voices of my comrades, those who survived and those lost along the way who weren’t able to make it… I just beat the main storyline in Destiny 2.
I wanted to put things in perspective for this review because it’s important to understand the beginnings of a story just as important it is to observe its evolution. I played the Beta for Year1 Destiny, pre-ordered the regular edition and after about 3 weeks realized, this is not my cup of tea and promptly returned it. It bothered me how much I had spent on a game that lacked in even its most basic promises and how hollow the experience as a whole felt with grimoire cards, a lack of direction in story and endgame content that felt prolonged and disconnected. I came back to finish off the original Destiny content(Vault of Glass, House of Wolves and Dark Below) in time for what was promised to be improvements with the Taken King. The game was evolving and showing promise and Rise of Iron furthered those hopes but was it enough to bring back the guardians who abandoned their quest and left Destiny for other games? I remained a fan, but an anxious fan due to my experiences and eagerly and apprehensively watched for the coming of Destiny 2. The Beta only showed us what our starting point would be and showcased some changes in weapons and PvP, but really failed to give us more detail as to what to expect. All we knew was that we were about to lose our light as guardians and those we protected would need our help once again.
Booting up Destiny 2, the first thing you’re greeted with is a tribute Bungie included that really hits you right in the feels by paying respect to the memories that we created in Destiny 1. This trip up memory lane segues directly into the first chapter and thus our story begins. The storytelling and cinematics are engaging, and while not groundbreaking, the adventure leaves you wanting for more of this incredible universe and with all of the end game content included there’s so much more to explore and experience. Bounties have newly been replaced with Challenges which reward players for participating in events such as PvP in Crucible and Competitive Crucible to PvE with its different Adventures, Missions, Strikes and Nightfalls to Patrols, Public Events, Lost Sectors and the Raid. These side quests make it easy to get to level 20 and also to raise your light level to the cap which is between 300/350. While patrols remain the same, public events have been refashioned in such a way that by meeting certain criteria, you can unlock the heroic version of an event which results in added difficulty and of course better loot. A new map feature that is particularly appealing is the new Lost Sectors featured in different areas of each location and marked by a rainbow symbol with a dot in the middle. These Luigi’s Mansion-esque secret areas each feature a mini-boss that must be killed in order to loot the chest. If you’re looking for better loot, Strikes are always a lot of fun whether jumping in with some random people or joining up with friends. Nightfalls have evolved where now you must complete the nightfall in under 10 minutes or else be sent back to orbit. Killing certain enemies give you time back which inspires teamwork in deciding about whether to destroy all your enemies or hope to sneak passed. Completing the Nightfall also gives you an aura to show others your accomplishment much like the Year 1 blue flames. So much of this endgame content adds to the well fleshed out levels and characters that it feels less of a chore, and more of an adventure.
It’s not just that Bungie has shined new Light into their franchise with their storytelling, they’ve also looked to reinvent certain aspects of the game that make it far superior to its predecessor. One such change has altered the weapon slots for primary, secondary and heavy Weapons and instead utilized these slots for kinetic, elemental and heavy weapons. There’s a new freedom to wanting to use two of a preferred weapon type such as two scout rifles, or an auto rifle and a hand cannon. It creates a more dynamic meta for PvE and PvP alike and keeps firefights fun and refreshing. In addition, gone are the days of farming for god rolls. Guns and armor now share the same perks and this has the advantage of no longer giving players a distinctive edge because of random drops(RNG). Matches now feel more balanced with your choice in weapons and skills having more of an effect on the outcome of a game. Another smart change was the decision to move Snipers, Shotguns and Fusion Rifles into the same slot as Heavies such as Grenade Launchers and Rocket Launchers. This too impacts PvP much more than it does PvE, and due to the changes made in Heavy Ammo spawns, recalls memories of the good ole days of Halo 3 PvP. Now Heavy Ammo spawns are more frequent, but only available to one person at a time and in an environment that has changed from 6v6 to 4v4, matches feel less crowded and overpopulated and plays become more deliberate and compelling.
Character subclass trees have also been reworked into a more sensible format. When you obtain your initial subclass you receive upgrade points that are used to unlock attributes that are simply divided into choices of 2 versions of a special, 3 grenades, 3 kinds of jumps, and two subclass branches with 4 perks each. Through gradual level progression, you gain access to all three subclasses which include Void, Solar, and Arc. The new manner in which these subclasses are unlocked makes you feel radiated with power and serve as a great introduction (or reintroduction) into the capabilities of each character. This simplified version of attributes really helps to create a level playing field and by removing Agility, Armor, and Recovery, you have more time to focus on what subclass will get you through your task.
In addition to removing RNG attributes from weapons, Bungie has also removed the armor perks that affected the time it takes to generate a super, melee and grenade. Now you can upgrade a certain stat of your character by applying a mod to your armor or weapons. If you find that you need your melee or grenade to charge faster, modifiers are the new way to do so. In addition, Destiny now offers us a much broader range of shader options. Instead of altering the entire armor set of a character, shaders can be applied to change the appearance or EACH armor piece, gun, and even your sparrow or ship. Note that these modifiers and shaders are one-time consumables and are discarded when dismantling the modified item. There have been some complaints about this new change to Destiny since these mods can be purchased through Eververse, but it needs to be clarified that these modifiers are easily obtainable as they have replaced Motes of Light with Bright Engrams that can unlock anything from Exotic Sparrows, Ships and Emotes, to shaders and modifiers. In every play-through, I’ve acquired at least one bright engram so I don’t see this change being detrimental to the overall experience, especially since regular activities can result in getting a new shader or modifier just from opening a random chest or doing public events. If anything, I recommend on holding onto your consumables until you are satisfied with your character’s look before applying any perishable aesthetic.
One of the characteristics of a game that Bungie has always paid close attention to is sound, music, and graphics. In this, Bungie has really shown love for their craft from Nathan Fillion’s sassy Cayde-6 to Gina Torres’ solemn Ikora, to Lance Reddick’s by the book Zavala, and Nolan North’s Ghost. Newcomers to Destiny (though certainly not voice talents) include Neil Kaplan who delivers some fantastic dialogue as Gary (Ghaul). Let me also not Fail to mention Joy Osmanski as its Safe to say she is one of my new favorite voices this sequel has delivered with some quips and quotes that will certainly bring a smile to your face. Along with the voice talent, it seems that the sound team has also stepped up their production. Certain sounds hail back to Destiny 1, but other sounds have been introduced that are new, and crisp. The stuttering of pulse rifles, the bark of shotguns and the guttural cries of the enemies falling before you against a backdrop of environment sounds that immerse you even further into the luxurious elements of your location. The same is true for graphics as Destiny 2 is only available on next-gen consoles, it seems that Bungie was able to overcome some of the graphics issues that affected the original. From the rolling waves on Titan to the building husks in the EDZ and the canyons and plateau’s of Io, the details are incredible. Particle effects appear much cleaner and crisper and I’m thankful that so much of the campaign needs to be completed without a sparrow since it allows us to truly appreciate the world around us with all its stunning views and panoramas.
Bungie is no stranger to a good soundtrack given its iconic echoing and reverberating Halo theme to the space odyssey of Destiny 1. The Destiny 2 soundtrack is both haunting and exhilarating with moments of mourning laced between tracks like Journey and Guardians Sacrifice to the majestic Be Brave to the thrilling and blood rushing crescendos of Legions March. The music speaks to frontiers undiscovered, moments of frantic survival and long-winded treks to victory. When interlaced with some of the music we are familiar with from Destiny 1, the soundtrack truly becomes a sequel of both nostalgia and new discoveries.
Destiny 2 has become one of the few games for me that isn’t just a video game, but an immersive experience. I look forward to going back and replaying the story on my other characters and I’m excited to see how I can approach the level differently. There’s so much more to this game to be discovered and so much more to experience. Guardians who put their ghosts on the shelf are now back at it again and the social space seems as full as ever. It’s great to experience the thrilling adventures together once again with old and new players alike. To sum up this review, if Destiny 2 was a blue engram and you handed it into Master Rahool, you’d be pretty happy because that blue engram you were unsure about? Just turned into an exotic…