Bungie’s much-anticipated sequel to its dichotomous alien-slaughtering FPS/RPG has certainly been a success. Destiny 1 came under heavy fire upon release for its threadbare narrative and lack of character, but the potential for a great game was always there with its intricate raids and fluid gunplay.
The Taken King expansion, released just under two years ago, fixed much of what was wrong with Destiny. Characters were no longer as two-dimensional despite their reliance on Cayde-6 (Nathan Fillion) to carry the dialogue and a proper storyline was implemented, rather than forcing players to rely on the sometimes hard-earned and cryptic grimoire.
Destiny 2 picks up where The Taken King left off. Grimoire is now attached to weapons and armour and isn’t essential to understand the deeper plot. Perhaps most apparent, though, is the game’s best antagonist by some distance. Dominus Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion – an elite Cabal force – conquers The Last City and captures The Traveler; stripping humanity of its power and threatening to send them into extinction.
But Ghaul isn’t quite like the other villains the series has offered. Unlike Crota and Oryx, who are written as being evil for the sake of being evil, Ghaul has depth and complexity. The unflinching, unfailing leader of the Red Legion has the chance to forcefully claim the Light and complete his victory, but instead insists that he will earn it like the Guardians did; to do otherwise would be to admit failure.
The only issue I have with this is that it made want the Cabal to win. Why did humanity, birthplace of Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins, ever deserve the Light? They don’t in my eyes. And there is still a cold, unlikable edge to the less developed characters on your side.
There are a couple of new additions to Destiny 2’s character roster: Suraya Hawthorne; Devrim Kay; Sloane, and Failsafe. Each of them as unoriginal and irritating as the last. Hawthorne is the roguish founder of the new social area – The Farm; a peaceful, idyllic change to the surgical nature of the tower. She has some petty grievances with Guardians and lofty notions about her own abilities, though she never really backs anything up. Devrim Kay is the quintessential impression of an English gentleman written by an ignorant American who thinks watching Doctor Who has made them an expert on the matter. It’s genuinely painful. I could go on…
My biggest gripe with Destiny 2 is that it starts incredibly but doesn’t maintain its momentum. The first mission was dramatic and weighty, but then the game evolved into something else. You were stripped of your powers and death lurked around every corner. There’s a small section of a mission where you escape the ruins of the Last City and hide from the Cabal forces sweeping the streets which reminded me a lot of The Last of Us – which is never a bad thing.
You are forced to strike out on your own and there’s a genuine feeling that hope is lost. That you’re nothing without the Light. You drift through the beautiful landscapes of earth for weeks, devoid of purpose but carrying on because it’s all you know; humanity’s blunt refusal to lay down and die. It’s a novel experience and one to relish in the brevity of.
When your powers soon return, the game becomes somewhat lacklustre. As you grow in strength, there’s a feeling of disappointment in so easily overcoming such a seemingly insurmountable challenge. The characters around you, namely the Vanguard, do develop significantly as characters without the Light however, and it adds a charm to them that Destiny 1 or any of its expansions could not deliver.
The story does deliver its epic kicks towards the end, despite the plot being ridiculously easy to predict, although a side mission available before the last mission spoiled the ending for me anyway. Cheers Bungie. But this is when Destiny 2 really comes into its own: the end game.
The strikes available so far are some of the best I’ve played yet and there seems to be a fair amount of challenge and dedication required for the grind. Playing them and the Crucible repeatedly doesn’t get dull because the core mechanics of the game are so expertly crafted – it’s a pleasure to pick up and play again and again.
There have been some wholesale changes that have brought up mixed debate. Shaders, the collectibles used to change the colour of armour, have been made into a non-reusable resource, though they are much more readily available and can be used on separate pieces of armour. The logic is that players will play more to build up large caches of these shaders, rather than settling for earning them once and changing armour colours at will. Worse than this though is the availability to buy mods, which grant perks to armour (higher damage absorption, quicker ability recharge etc), via microtransactions. A large portion of the reddit community has sworn not to use microtransactions until Bungie change some of their fundamental aspects.
Another change comes in the attunements of subclasses, as well as some of the subclasses themselves. Sunsingers no longer exist, which means no more self-res (which saddens me deeply). Each subclass has two attunements, granting different perks to your abilities. It’s not as fun as when you could pick and choose exactly how you wanted to run your character but will definitely help with balancing issues; something Destiny perpetually struggled with.
Overall, Destiny 2 is a much more complete game than its predecessor. Its well-grounded story, character development, and exploration of new (but not always unique) planets all add up to a satisfying campaign experience. But it still struggles. There’s a lot of “go here, scan this terminal, hold your ground for 60 seconds while your ghost hacks it” rigmarole which gets intensely dull, and the side missions are instantly forgettable and offer no palpable rewards. Despite its flaws, though, Destiny 2 is a lot of fun and is only set to get better with its upcoming main event: the Leviathan raid. Hopefully there’ll be a review of that too in the coming days.