Destiny 2 is back and this time Bungie delivers with all of the things players loved from the first game, new quality of life changes and only a few of the flaws from the first game.
Platforms: PS4, XB1, PC (coming in a month)
MonsterVine was provided with a code for review
Destiny launched as a mess, missing a story and a lot of content. Bungie worked post-release to eventually flesh out the experience into something better, but things still felt cobbled together. With Destiny 2 they have brought over the excellent gameplay and built a cohesive, coherent experience.
Right from the beginning Destiny 2 starts with stronger content than what was in the first game. Players can jump into their characters that they used in the first game, or start up a new character. The plot opens with everything being destroyed, and the player character losing everything in an almost metroidvania-like fashion. This is very welcomed as this is a new opportunity for everyone to learn the crazy details that were barely explained in the first game. If you played the beta you know what to expect: long, dynamic levels that involve shooting enemies and some light environmental puzzles or challenges. Destiny 2 opens strong and continues this pacing throughout the entirety of the campaign.
Plot is developed through every aspect of the game. Non-player characters interact with the player during combat with cleverly written dialogue, and the mission objectives actually make sense, unlike in Destiny 1 (remember destroying the vex heart in the black garden on Mars?). Between missions players are treated with some beautifully animated cut-scenes, usually watching the villains discuss their plans, or watching some awesome action scene play out. Even if the story is a little outrageous, things feel cohesive. The only times I found myself scratching my head wondering why we are doing something, Destiny 2 immediately gave me the information I needed without having to dig into any extended lore. Even quest-givers have more to offer, with multi-minute long audio sections just for starting a quest in the open world. The plot makes sense, is peppered with some tongue in cheek humor, and is infinitely better than anything from Destiny 1.0. The only downside is the main story can be completed relatively quickly, but lack of content doesn’t seem to be an issue. Even after I rolled the credits, there were still plenty of things for me to do; solo, cooperative or competitively. The gameplay of Destiny 2 is everything I loved about the first game, with some much needed improvements.
Bungie knows how to make shooting feel good, and Destiny 2 is no exception. The movement, gun variety and abilities blend together for some incredible moments. Each of the three classes all have three different subclasses each with different grenades, melees, jumps and super abilities. They aren’t vastly different, but they do take a bit of practice and remembering what class you are playing as to take full advantage. One of the troubles with switching between classes with multiple sub-classes is dealing with the slightly different jumps. Destiny 2 eases jumping frustration with the addition of a mantle. Anytime you don’t quite make a jump, characters automatically grab onto the edge and pull themselves up. This might not sound like much of a change, but it’s my favorite tweak to the mobility. It opens up faster traversal and lets players take advantage of terrain in ways which weren’t possible before.
Perhaps the largest change to the gameplay is the shake-up of the weapon slots. Weapons are lumped into three different categories: Kinetic, Energy and Power Weapons. Gun types are varied but handcannons, SMGs, scout, rifles pulse rifles etc.. all can be found in both the Kinetic and Energy categories. The biggest departure is recategorization of shotguns, sniper rifles and fusion rifles now being classified as Power Weapons. In Destiny 1 these weapons acted as the major damage dealers for quickly doing damage to the larger enemies. In Destiny 2 I found myself hardly getting to use them. This might end up being okay, but we will have to wait to see if the raid bosses have been designed in a way to make them challenging but not frustrating, without a steady supply power weapon ammunition to do large amounts of damage.
These weapon slot changes also carry over into the competitive side of multiplayer, which means shotguns, sniper and fusion rifles are all lumped into the ‘power weapon’ slot, requiring players to enjoy using mid-ranged weapons for the bulk of the battle. Power ammunition does spawn fairly regularly in most game modes, but not getting to use a shotgun or a sniper rifle because my teammate grabbed the ammo before me is frustrating. In Destiny 1 an entire team could benefit from one heavy ammo spawn, but in Destiny 2 it is on an individual basis. This encourages a more selfish race to the ammo. I don’t like this change and had multiple instances where players would get to the ammo just before me, and then end up dying without using it at all. Using shotguns and snipers in Bungie PVP has always been my favorite parts of the multiplayer, and rarely getting access to them feels strange in a way that I don’t think I will get used to.
The PVP is an example of something that has been fixed, even though it wasn’t broken. The new maps and game modes are a lot of fun, and the competitive playlists have a larger consequence for death (limited number of lives per round). But some of the fundamentals of the Destiny PVP have been changed. The Crucible has been cut back, only allowing teams of four instead of teams of six. I enjoyed the larger scale battles, because it meant there was always action on the map and it also meant that you and your entire raid team could all hop into the competitive modes on days when you wanted to fight some other players instead of the AI. Additionally the stats during, and after a game have been changed. Players can no longer see their individual kills and deaths. Want to know how many head shots you got, your deaths versus kills, or your assists? You can only make estimates using the cryptic stats surfaced like efficiency rating and opp. def. number, unless you keep track yourself. Bungie dropped the traditional post-game carnage report, which they perfected with the Halo series, in favor of something that feels soft and welcoming at the cost of relevant information for self-improvement. It feels like the bulk of these changes were made to give Destiny 2 a stronger edge in the esports realm, and while the core gameplay is the same, I miss the large scale battles and knowing my detailed performance during a match.
The Final Word
Destiny 2 is easily one of the best shooters to date. Most of the changes that Bungie has made are immediately recognized as better, although to someone who didn’t spend much time with the first game they would hardly be noticed. The worlds are beautiful, from the tidal oceans of Titan to the dilapidated, overgrown buildings of the European Dead Zone. The story is cohesive, coherent and compelling in a way that has never been experienced in a Destiny game before. Time will tell how repetitive the content will be, and if Bungie can continue to support Destiny 2 with meaningful content, but at launch things are strong, plenty and worthwhile.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great