Bungie are back with the eagerly anticipated Destiny 2, and after a public beta which showed plenty of promise and many hours now under our belts is Destiny 2 worth the price of entry and a worthwhile experience for those who perhaps missed out on or ignored the first game?
To begin, we invested well over 200 hours in the original game across Xbox 360, Xbox One and PS4. Sampled the expansions and enjoyed taking on the challenges within each of the segmented DLC releases. Whilst the game wasn’t perfect, Bungie’s long history with the Halo franchise meant they are well versed in providing a thrilling combat experience and lore. Destiny lacked in terms of in-game story which came as a surprise considering Bungie’s past expertise and we’ll forget about the change of Ghost character from the original Peter Dinklage voice over to the more well known Nolan North to jazz things up post release. But we digress. How does Destiny 2 fare in comparison?
This time around you’re thrust into the action from the get go, a fitting experience somewhat spoiled by the Beta (which showcased the same mission) and an visual tour de force that sadly isn’t matched in the rest of the game; so there’s a bit of a misleading introduction to draw in the punters. It’s good, very good in fact and sets the tone for the main characters, the opposition, a world struggling to cling on to past glories having had everything invaded, pillaged and mostly taken away. Without going into too many specifics, the “Light” which powered the characters in the first game is lost making the once powerful, weak and somewhat meaningless. Except your character miraculously manages to get his or hers restored making you the demi-God like being ready to pursue the impossible for the greater good. It’s a neat concept but could have expanded on the bits where there was no light for all a little more. It’s over far too quickly and could have had a much wider impact. On the flip side, players are presented with the core gameplay pretty much within the first hour and are well set for the next 10 hours and beyond.
The combat remains largely unchanged which is good because as a first person shooter the mechanics are Bungie’s specialty here. It’s a satisfying blend of auto aiming for precise head shots and reducing a varied bunch of bullet sponge enemies with a variety of weapon types and special class based powers. There are some variants on the enemies we’ve seen in the first game, although most are familiar looking with some slight changes in AI behaviors for some but overall this is typically familiar ground for the experienced and easy to get into for newcomers.
The core gameplay revolves around character progression of which there are three returning classes to choose from. You’re introduced to your personal journey by way of the expanded story which offers goals to obtain before you can progress forwards. It’s simple, complete the missions, find items (or purchase them from a vendor) boost your power level with the new armour or weapons upgrade your class powers. Rinse repeat. It has to be said, the main story is much more engaging this time although is over quite quickly and it’s here you’ll reach max level for your character (that’s 20) before you can start the post-story main meat of the game – which effectively is a massive loot grind.
It has to be noted the structure is much improved with a touch more personality in terms of being in the field across the four new locales. You’ll meet new characters who remain a focus as you undertake additional side missions – or Adventures – the repeatable patrolling as seen in the original and some other optional quests. What’s neat here is working for these people to gain favours which in turn can be converted into new rare gear. So you’ve always got something to work towards within each area without having to return to the main hubs (of which there are two this time) to sort out your bits and pieces. The hubs are also familiar ground but you’re now able to upgrade your standing with each of the main characters more readily this time by simply completing the required tasks such as breaking down unwanted weapons and exchanging the parts for new ones. Level-up your standing and you’ll be rewarded with new items that push your progression ever closer to the power cap. More events become unlocked as you raise your power level such as Strikes, Nightfalls and Raids.
With the online component being an optional feature for co-op play the public events make a welcome return and are much more prominent this time thanks to being able to rally other players to their starting location and any that are in progress or about to start easily viewed on the map. Public events are a fun way to grind for rare items, plus there’s some camaraderie meeting up with others without having to start a fire-team or use matchmaking. The whole meat of the experience simply feels like a more refined repackaging of the previous game which isn’t a bad thing. At least Bungie are moving forwards, but staying with appealing to fans rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.
For multiplayer then there’s an easy way to hook up with other players in the field by way of forming parties or even clans this time round. You can also take advantage of the seamless matchmaking where required. For competitive play the crucible returns with a neat selection of modes and 4 vs 4 bouts to test your prowess.
In terms of visuals players who have sampled the rather lovely 60 fps 4K PC version (due out in late October) will have been spoiled. However, the Xbox One and PS4 versions are no slouch with impressing lighting and design even though there’s a 30 FPS cap which stays consistent throughout. Although again, the opening mission shows off way more fancy effects in such a short time frame than most of the main game. There are moments of wonder though as you explore new areas of the large maps with some neat variation between the locales although a lot of assets from the first game have been reused which comes across a little lazy at times. Most notably the character creation at the start is pretty much a carbon copy of the original which is disheartening to say the least.
Audio is of a very high standard with excellent sound effects, and a score to die for which highlights the full force of having a massive budget for audio. Some of the voice acting though is a little too cheesy and forced though, almost tongue-in-cheek sounding at times which is a shame. Destiny never came across as a sci-fi comedy and at times it really does feel like it’s trying to be one especially with some really goofy lines of dialogue in places.
In terms of overall play time, in a nutshell there’s a lot to do with the standard game before any expansions are added, and yes they naturally will be added over time such is the nature of the beast here. Expect to get your monies worth for sure and then some with a nice amount of launch content available which will take your play time well into double figures. It has to be mentioned there are elements where you can pay for items if you desire, but it’s certainly not a pay-to-win scenario and merely a way for those with less time or patience to grind, to get some extra stuff such as weapon mods and skin colours. Whilst we’re on the subject, Bungie has ditched the old approach of being able to colour your characters infinitely with found or purchased skin mods. These are now one time use items which are found quite plentifully in the field for those who invest the hours as a countermeasure. However, due to the nature of constantly swapping out gear for better stuff to raise your power level, you’re never properly attached to any items for long enough to waste your mods on them. What happens is you then build up a collection of mods which you don’t use until you reach the power cap which seems a bit of a shame.
Is Destiny 2 worth it then? Well as with most sequels designed to pull in the punters invested in previous offerings then it’s certainly a no-brainer really as this is simply a better overall experience even if it lacks originality. Cool combat, desirable loot hunting and a plethora of things to do either solo, versus or co-op means there’s never a dull moment with your time playing. Newcomers can easily jump in here without too much knowledge of the first game but it appears shifting the many players from Destiny (and its expansions) to Destiny 2 has been the ultimate goal rather than attracting a new crowd. Destiny 2 simply improves on the original without much deviation into new pastures which for some might be off-putting depending on your stance as to what a sequel should be. But there’s no denying this is a solid fun experience that is a must play for any shooter fan looking to dive into Bungie’s post Halo works. If you’re not a fan of grinding, then your mileage might vary here so it has to be said, post the initial story elements and side adventures the focus does become a little one dimensional, however, the journey is always fun to boot.