(NOTE: This is a review-in-progress of Destiny 2, due to the online nature of the game and the amount of content that is available. We will be updating this review with more thoughts throughout the week.)
The first edition of Destiny is now 3 years old and to say it is a divisive among gamers is a little bit of an understatement. The first major project from Bungie since they stepped away from their smash hit Halo series. The first in the series was a mix of solid gun-play, an interesting concept but some frustrating replay-ability mechanics and story telling. Over the three year cycle it released multiple DLC updates, each one showing that Bungie was open to the negative feedback and were trying to make amends for the shortcomings of it’s initial release.
For some it was too late and their guardians wouldn’t be rejoining us in the tower, for others Destiny became a community that galvanized against the on trend haters the game received. My partner and I, as well as a close circle of friends, were loyal — we loved the game, we loved playing as a team. I was fairly critical of the game during my time with it but I could never deny the joy it gave me playing as a robotic space wizard who had harnessed the power of the sun.
With all of this in mind Destiny 2 had very big shoes to fill. Not only did it have to reprove itself in the eyes of those who has been spurned by it’s vanilla release — they also had to wow and impress people who had been devoted for three years now. That’s no small task, and it has been a point of conversation for quite a lot of gamers over the last few months — can Bungie deliver. Over the next week I am going to do a running update of what I’ve experienced with Destiny 2 so far and if I think the future is bright for this MMO RPG FPS.
The premise in Destiny 2 is for the most part a fairly straight forward plot, built off the story created by Destiny 1. Many eons ago humanity discovered the giant space ball deity, The Traveler, and with it we experienced a golden age. That is until a malevolent force tracked down The Traveler and began eradicating the human race. Backed into a corner in The Last City, things looked dire until The Traveler sacrificed itself with it’s last dying breath pushing back “The Darkness” and creating Ghosts who in turn created Guardians — that’s where we come in. Resurrected from those long dead from the initial destruction of civilization we are now vessels for The Travelers power to protect the last bastion of humanity while it silently slumber above.
After the events of Destiny 1 though we are dropped right into the thick of it and the story starts barreling ahead from the word go. Ghaul, a warlord of the Cabal race who posed a minor threat in the original game, has rallied his feared Red Legion and launched a full assault on The Last City and the Guardians in the towers that protect it. Opening with a large battle taking place in familiar location of the original social hub from Destiny 1 things take a turn for the worse when Ghaul cuts off the source of our mystic powers granted by The Traveler and we are reminded what it is to be lowly mortals. From there it is as you would expect, reclaim your powers, rally the troops and take the fight back to the Cabal, the Red Legion and Ghaul, who seems to know more than he is showing.
In terms of a plot it is exactly what Destiny needed, nothing too abstract, a clear line of what you need to do from start to finish. It is focused and your antagonist is imposing from the beginning, you know him, you want to defeat him. Gathering familiar faces to fight back gives us a clear reason to be exploring the cosmos trying to bring back your mentors and team mates for one last stand.
Along the way you will meet a couple new characters and while nothing in the story is necessarily ground breaking story telling there are some solid performances from Gina Torres as Ikora Rey, Lance Reddick as Zavala and Sumalee Montano as newcomer Hawthorne. Obviously Nathan Fillion as the beloved Cayde-6 continues to delight however in a surprise twist for myself The Speaker, voiced by Bill Nighy, has some of the most affecting moments. One or two of the other characters you’ll meet don’t necessarily have bad voice acting but I would raise concern that some of the vendors out in the free roam areas will begin to grate.
Unfortunately one or two open story lines from the original game are still hanging threads, and some of them may never be resolved. Frustratingly once again voice actors have not returned to give spoken dialog to our guardians. Instead we remain mute our companion Ghost speaking on our behalf — voiced again by Nolan North since he replaced Peter Dinklage. Had this been the way since the beginning of the franchise there would be no problem however Destiny 1 made it very clear my Guardian has a voice box and he used it for more than fall damage grunts. #lettheguardianspeak.
“I would say that once or twice while exploring I could have dealt with the music just calming down for a moment — more of a relaxing walk in the forest feel and less jaw dropping knife fight with a god vibe.”
Visually the game looks stunning. Now that the series has decided to not cater for PS3 and Xbox 360 they are able to put current gen hardware through it’s paces with lush environments and beautiful particle effects on your powers. Magical explosions drip with character and the visual flare around a rare item dropping triggers just the right gland in my brain to make my heart beat a little faster. Play areas are large, social spaces are populated and lively. As I write this my TV sits on in front of me as my guardians just sits in a certain end game location looking out at a stunning vista. I could looks at these environments for days.
The audio continues to have epic ballads that really set the stage for some larger then life battles. I would say that once or twice while exploring I could have dealt with the music just calming down for a moment — more of a relaxing walk in the forest feel and less jaw dropping knife fight with a god vibe. Outside of that though the music ebbs and flows and sets the scene for each mission that it takes part in.
Then there is the gun sound effects, I used an under powered grenade launcher for so long just because I enjoyed the plumpness of the sound it made when I lobbed it into my enemies. Visually and audibly this game is a masterpiece, it is just amazing to see what they could create and I can’t wait to see everyone posting their screenshots across beautiful landscapes with their own Guardians.
But how does it play? Oh boy does it play well. Bungie know how to make a shooter and they’ve expanded on the solid mechanics they already had. Movement around the space is fluid, guns have the right recoil weight and feel and powers are weighty. There has been a lot of descent from players about the slowing down of the powers recharge but I’m that 1 guy that likes it. Grenades and melee need to be used in the right conditions, you don’t necessarily want to save them but you can’t just clear an entire room hurling grenades everywhere. It is forcing players to be a lot more tactical in their approach.
“All the races we love are coming back to battle us. Hive, Cabal, Vex and, my personal favourite, The Fallen.”
All the races we love are coming back to battle us. Hive, Cabal, Vex and, my personal favourite, The Fallen. However extra enemy types have been added, character models have been tweaked and the enemy AI has had an update. The Fallen for example will now be much more mobile, hit and run tactics and not ashamed to straight up run away from you, thankfully I’d hate to wipe out my sweet sweet Fallen. Also bravo to Bungie on The Fallen’s new sprinting animation, genuinely creepy watching one scurry at you like snake in the grass.
Guardians now pull themselves up if you just miss a ledge, something that would happen to me often. Gone are Primary, Special and Heavy weapons and instead we have Kinetic, Energy and Power weapons. This change means that your first two weapon slots, Kinetic and Energy, are a lot more interchangeable and you don’t have to wait for specific situations to justify using them. Meanwhile the Power weapons are a limited resource but hit hard, the entire game meta has been flipped as Sniper Rifles, Shotguns and Fushion Rifles have been moved to Power weapons removing their overuse in the game for both PVE and PVP.
Gone is the reliance on going to orbit, your map can take you from one sandbox play zone to another with ease and all missions are commenced from inside the patrol area. Social zones still exist for your vendors and community bits a pieces as well as the Strike and Crucible playlist. Adventures are the new side quest and are scattered through the world, I still haven’t gone through them all because there are so many. Lost Sectors have also been added and are hidden little encounters that you can run for some quick rewards as many times as you like, as long as you can find them.
Public Events return and can be tracked from your map so you know exactly when and where they will drop. To add to the fun there are secret objectives in the normal Public Events that you can trigger instead of just finishing it and that will activate Heroic Mode for a harder challenge and spicier loot. Story quests have all play a little differently. Maps have much more verticality and variety to them. One specific quest on the water covered moon Titan has a quest giving massive Aliens vibes — Sigourney Weaver give me strength.
There is so much to do in this game right now, Bungie have clearly been listening to what we are looking for in this series. However as some of my friends who are new to the series have said to me, perhaps it’s a little to much. There is a lot to learn, and I’ve been running a few quick personalized tutorials with some first time guardians to help them get their heads around how everything comes together.
Performance wise I never experienced network issues but there have been some who have, however Bungie have their full support team resolving issues as quickly as they can. Once or twice I’ve had an enemy disappear but they are usually just around the corner and my partner and I did run in to one public event fighting invisible enemies, but after getting flattened and respawning their visibility was no longer up for debate.
The Bottom Line (so far...)
This game has floored me. In the very opening it welcomed back older players with memories of their achievements and who they achieved it with in Destiny 1. Three years of the original game came flooding over me and made me very emotional. I have made friends because of this game and I have spent three years enjoying the company of my best friend and partner, Rohan, while playing it. We were squished by dark ascendant demi gods, kicked backwards through time by sentient machines, blown to smithereens by usurper rulers, the list goes on and I would do it all again. Instead I get to do a whole bunch of new things for the first time and I’m so glad.
Bungie have done their fans a service with this game, they’ve done something amazing. My PS4 friends feed is just a dozen people playing Destiny, and while PC will be waiting a little longer I think it will be just as much a hit there.
While today I focused on a brief overview of the game there is just so much that I can’t talk about or don’t want to spoil for players. Like I said at the beginning this will be an ongoing review so in a couple of days I’m going to speak about the community side of Destiny with Clans, Crucible PVP and the cooperative dungeon style Strikes. Lastly I’ll then be finishing up next week once I’ve had a chance to run the first raid, Leviathan, which will be launching on Thursday.