Destiny 2 improves on everything that was wrong with Destiny 1 and delivers a solid game that fans of the original will love.
*Be prepared for minor spoilers ahead*
Destiny 1 grew by leaps and bounds over the years, fixing much of what had made the launch version of the game so lackluster. But some things can’t be fixed with tweaking alone. So after three years of learning Bungie decided it was time for an overhaul. That’s where Destiny 2 comes in.
As a fan of Destiny 1, I was worried that Destiny 2 would go too far and ruin what made later Destiny 1 fun. On the other hand, I was also worried that the game wouldn’t go far enough to justify destroying our hard earned loot. I am pleased to announce that my worries never came to fruition. The game feels comfortable and familiar as I settle into my Destiny 1 routines, yet at the same time, the overall structure of the game feels like it has been fixed for the better. Allow me to elaborate.
The Characters Make For a Killer Story
The characters in Destiny 2 are varied, intriguing, and relatable in ways that make the story truly shine. Not only do we get to see familiar characters like Zavala struggle with losing everything they hold dear, but we get to meet new characters like Hawthorne who are pissed with the Guardians’ apparent lack of concern for the refugees. Every character has their own way of dealing with the fallout of Ghaul’s attack, and every character does their part to bring the story to life with friendly jibes, heartfelt moments, and a commendable determination to fix a bad situation. The game has come a long way since Dinklebot’s lackluster Ghost voice-over.
Not to mention, we get to see more of the bad guy. In previous Destiny stories, the bad guy is someone we glimpse maybe once during the main course of the game when we discover his plans to take over our world, then players meet him again at the end when it is time to finish the campaign. Just a big baddie with the appropriate name over his head. Perfect for shooting. The only players who really understood who the villain was, or what sets him apart, were those players who read the grimoires outside the game. Spoiler alert: no one likes reading the grimoires.
But in Destiny 2 we get cutscenes with the bad guy. We get to learn about Ghaul as he interrogates the Speaker, revealing his past and his motives. By the time we encounter him we know who he is and we know what brought him here. And we know why we have to defeat him. The bastard kicked me off a flying ship! He destroyed my loot! That fucker is going down!
I have never been so invested in defeating a bad guy.
I’ll admit, the Destiny 2 story feels linear, and you can burn through it just as quickly as you could in Destiny 1. But the end of the campaign doesn’t feel like the end of the story. It feels more like a launching point for the rest of the world. Scannables encountered while exploring breathe more depth and context into the world the Guardians are exploring, whether they are revealing the history of an abandoned station or foreshadowing threats on the horizon. For those of you who don’t know, scannables are objects the player encounters that can be scanned by their Ghost. Ghost then reports on what he found, whether it’s the last log from the stations’ engineer, or an old commercial from days gone by.
Story snippets previously limited to the old Grimoire have found their way into the game as well. Exotic items come with a lore tab that shares entertaining or insightful legends which lend character to players’ favorite gear. Apparently the boots I am wearing nearly ripped their creators’ legs off. Who knew?
Even the social spaces have nooks and crannies that reveal more about the vendors who occupy them. Overall, the world feels alive. It feels like there is no end of story content to explore during gameplay, which is far more intriguing than simply experiencing everything through cutscenes. Which is saying something, considering how awesome the cutscenes are.
And to be honest, as a veteran Destiny player the campaign usually feels like an obstacle to be burned through before I can get to the endgame with my friends. While I appreciate that players can take their time and get truly involved with the story, I also appreciate that players who want to speed through on their third character can do so as well. It feels like a healthy balance for both fanbases.
The World is Alive
As I mentioned above, the world of Destiny 2 truly comes alive through exploration. Not only does the game give us scannables for learning about the locales, but there are Lost Sectors, Adventures, Public Events, and NPC’s on each world that make each destination feel unique and engaging.
Lost Sectors are fun because they give players a way to slip off the beaten path and delve into caves loaded with loot. I’m not going to lie, Lost Sectors are much smaller than I had expected, a bit underwhelming once you’ve seen them a couple times, but they are still big enough to get lost in, and they are still unique enough that I truly feel like I am exploring the world in a way I never could in Destiny 1. The bosses defending the loot are a bit lackluster as well, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the fight as I pull out my sword and chase them down for the security codes that will grant me access to their coveted chest.
As something of a quality-of-life improvement: adventures, side-missions, and NPCs are all available on the same map. In Destiny 1 players were forced to hop in and out of orbit to access different activities on the same planet, which made the game feel disjointed and bogged the players down with a series of loading screens as they tried to transition from one activity to the next. Yet in Destiny 2, players simply have to choose where on the map they want to land, and they can do anything they want from there. In practice, this makes for an incredibly fluid experience. I have loaded into a map for a side mission, become distracted by a Lost Sector on the way to the starting point, activated the mission, hopped into a public event that happened to be along the way, finished the mission, and then hopped over to the neighborhood NPC to redeem my rewards. All without a single loading screen. Brilliant.
There are also weekly treasure maps from Cayde-6 that create a fun hide-and-seek game of “find that loot chest.” If you have ever looked for a Geocache in the real world, that is exactly how this works. The location of each chest is marked on the map, and sometimes players will be able to walk right up to it, and sometimes they will be left hopping and climbing and checking every nook to figure out where the heck the chest has been tucked away. It’s a fun activity that players will be able to repeat and enjoy long after they’ve finished the main game content.
So that’s much of the game’s positives, what about it’s negatives? I will admit, I understand that Bungie wanted to encourage players to explore their new world, but withholding Sparrows until level 20 was incredibly annoying. When the waypoint for my mission is on the other side of the map, I don’t care about the scenery. I just want to hop on my vehicle and zoom to the marker. There will be plenty of time to explore later when I am in the mood to do so.
Also, Flashpoints were incredibly underwhelming. I was expecting some Nightfall-equivalent challenge to be faced on the main map. In practice, players simply knock out a series of Public Events, and it is done. Time to pick up the loot and wait for next week. Woo.
As a last point, I am extremely happy with Desitny 2’s new in-game map. In Destiny 1, players had to use either a photographic memory or third party websites to see a map of each world if they wanted to know where the heck they were going. Third-party websites were also necessary for knowing when and where public events were landing. Quite a pain if your phone is dead and the computer is out of reach. Well no more! In Destiny 2, players are given a detailed map complete with fast travel points, Lost Sector locales, and a live indicator of which public events are incoming on the map. Glorious.
The New Weapon System is a Win for PvP and PvE
When players discovered the new weapon loadout system in the Destiny 2 Beta, they were in a tissy. I won’t rehash the exact changes here since it is a lengthy topic. Suffice to say, shotguns and sniper rifles were moved to another category with limited ammo, which seemed to favor PvP players and hurt PvE players. While that may seem to be the case at first glance, I would argue that PvE players received a boost in the reshuffling as well.
In Destiny 1, Bungie quickly did away with elemental damage on primary weapons because it was far too overpowered in PvE where the increased damage and the easier access to appropriate shield element matchups made it far too easy to take down enemies. Players were upset to lose their solar scout rifles, but Bungie stood by their decision for balancing purposes. A decision I agree with, even if it does take away some of the fun.
Destiny 2 however, has a fix for that. By creating two categories for previously dubbed “Primary Weapons,” players can now decide to have a sidearm as their primary weapon, and a scout rifle as their secondary weapon, or any other such combination previously unavailable in Destiny 1. This makes for a far more customizable experience in which players can cater their favorite loadouts to their needs, whether they prefer a fast shooting sidearm as their kinetic weapon or a heavy burst pulse rifle for their arc damage. Depending on the enemies or the elements faced, players will not have to switch to less desirable guns in order to meet the challenge. This is a major win for PvE players.
Plus, we get elemental primaries again and Bungie gets to keep the balance. Everyone wins. Woohoo!
New Subclasses Are Fun, But Simply Replace Old Subclasses
This is another case of, “Destiny 1 messed up, Destiny 2 cleaned up the mess.” Except in this case, it’s a mess up that no one really noticed or complained about. Apparently, according to Bungie, it was a balancing issue.
In Destiny 2, the Warlocks received a new solar subclass, the Titans received a new Void subclass, and the Hunters received a new Arc subclass. These subclasses completely replaced their Destiny 1 predecessors. When I reflected on why these three subclasses had been replaced, I realized that these three were the most broken.
Think about it: the Warlock’s Sunsinger could save a Nightfall by coming back from the dead, a Defender Titan was bored because all they could do was drop a bubble , and a Blade Dancer Hunter could easily rip through PvP. From a balancing perspective, these three subclasses must have felt like a nightmare for the developers trying to make challenging raids and balanced PvP.
Enter the new Destiny 2 subclasses. Warlocks won’t miss the resurrections if you give them flaming swords of death. Titans won’t miss their bubble if you make them feel like Captain America. And Hunters? Well, Hunters may have noticed that they were given a slower version of Blade Dancer, but they can’t all be winners.
As a Hunter, I’m a bit annoyed by the loss of Blade Dancer, but overall I think Bungie did an excellent job with these new subclasses. They are fun and empowering in every way that Supers should be. Don’t take my word for it. Bungie did such a good job on the new subclasses that the loss of the old subclasses has gone largely overlooked by an otherwise critical community. That’s a win in any developer’s book.
The Grind is Far More Rewarding
Don’t worry, I’m not about to break the pattern now. Because you see, in Destiny 1 grinding was a bit of a mess, forcing players to micro-manage their inventories to receive the highest light rewards, and pigeon-holing playtime into a few activities if players wanted the best rewards. No point in doing Public Events or Crucible if you wanted to hit that light cap. Strikes, my friend. Strikes for days.
Destiny 2 changes that mold, rewards are now balanced across all activities, which in turn encourages players to explore all the worlds, get lost in the campaign, or get competitive in the crucible. All activities have their own daily challenges and grant rank with the vendors, and all vendors ramp up their rewards to meet a player’s current power level, no micromanaging required. This makes the grind far more enjoyable, and it runs far more smoothly than ever before.
Now, that’s not to say that Destiny 2 is handing out rewards like candy. While players do receive more exotics early on than they did in Destiny 1, players still have to work to hit those higher light tiers. Once the vendors cap out at 260 light, players have to turn to more difficult activities such as the Nightfall or the Raid for those higher tier items. Because at the end of the day, you still have to earn it.
The Crucible Has Been Streamlined
As I mentioned in a previous article, Destiny 2’s smaller 4v4 Crucible feels much tighter and fast-paced. With power ammo coming up every other minute, heavier weapons are far more accessible making the games all the more exciting, but ammo is granted to one player at a time, meaning that players must compete with their fellow teammates in addition to their opponents for that ammo. Balance in all things, my friends.
There are plenty of quality of life changes too, including on-screen icons that show which players are dead, and which players have their supers available, making it easier to know when to push and when to strategically hightail it. In Control maps, points A and C are already awarded to each team, meaning players don’t have to waste time claiming points that are already a given. The devil is in the details, my friends, and this is another case where I think Bungie did a good job.
They have also released a competitive mode which gives more serious PvP players a place to test their skills against equally serious foes. In a trend that has popped up in other first-person shooters such as 343’s Halo 5, Destiny 2’s competitive mode focuses on an elimination game type that explicitly rewards players who can survive just as well as they can kill. But rather than a traditional elimination mode where players get one life per round, Destiny 2 teams share a pool of lives.
At first glance, this seems like a major annoyance because now crappy teammates can suck up all the lives and leave a player stranded. But in practice, this is a major improvement for the game mode. In most elimination matches, when a player dies they are left spectating everyone else until the next round. Depending on how good the remaining players are or how big the map is, this could leave a player watching for several minutes at a time. By the time the next round starts the player is “out of the zone,” meaning that they are no longer warmed up and are more prone to dying to an easy mistake, leaving them sitting for another several minutes and perpetuating the cycle.
In Destiny 2’s shared pool version, a player who makes a stupid mistake is quickly returned to the game where they can redeem themselves. Gameplay is fast-paced as always on the small maps, so lives are burned quickly, and once the lives are gone players usually have just a few moments to catch their breath before the next round starts. No boredom. No punishingly long waits as players chase each other around a huge map. Just exciting, fast paced, competitive gameplay.
One last note on the Crucible before I move on: Shaxx is nice now. Where he used to be brutally critical of losses, now he is optimistic and endlessly sings the Guardian’s praises. I’m not sure I like it. It seems like a cheap switch to appease players who felt he was too mean. But hey, at the same time, I can’t complain when Shaxx is finally acknowledging how much of a badass I am.
Shaders and Microtransactions Have Everyone in a Tissy
Microtransactions are an easy target for fan outrage. Which is why fans were upset when shaders, the things that allow players to change the color of their armor, became consumables instead of unlockable, free for life content.
That is to say, in Destiny 1 once a shader was unlocked it could be applied or removed at will and players could discard them and pick them up later at a kiosk for free. In Destiny 2, shaders are now mods that can be applied to a piece of equipment but cannot be removed without destroying them. This means that instead of a single shader that can be applied to everything, a Guardian needs eight shaders to color their current loadout, or more if they want to color addition armor, or if they want to change colors frequently.
The new shaders can be earned through gameplay, or bought through the Eververse store which deals in microtransactions. The increased number of shaders required for a set of gear, coupled with the fact that they can be bought with real money makes it easy to assume that it’s a money grab. And while I would agree that this was probably done in an effort to appease some CEO, I would argue that in practice this is far from the case.
Here’s the thing: as I mentioned before, shaders are earned in regular gameplay. Many of these shaders are zone-specific, meaning that if you want EDZ camo you need to spend time in the EDZ. More exclusive shaders will be available in Raids, meaning that players will be encouraged to play through multiple times to get a full set and show off their accomplishment, something end game players do anyway in their pursuit of the best gear and equipment. All of this amounts to a system that encourages varied gameplay and rewards players for playing their favorite activities.
But what about those shaders in the Eververse store? Those are also available via regular gameplay. You see, once a player reaches level 20, every time they “level up” after that they are rewarded with a Bright Engram instead of a higher level. Bright Engrams are basically Bungie’s version of a paid loot chest, meaning players get free Eververse content every time they level up. But the Eververse also sells specific items and shaders in addition to Engrams, so what if a player wants one of those? Not to fear, because Bright Engrams also drop a type of Eververse currency known as Bright Dust, which can be used to purchase said items.
Play the game, earn rewards, get free Eververse content. A system that could easily be skewed to punish players with painfully slow progress if they choose the free route, but Bungie does the opposite. Once a player hits level 20, and then again at every weekly reset, they are granted with a “Well Rested” buff. This buff allows a player to earn experience three times faster for their next three levels, granting them three quick Bright Engrams. Easy day. Consistent rewards for consistent play. I’d call that a win.
Clans are Neat
The clans feature isn’t as robust as originally expect, with players unable to search for a clan in-game for the first month of release. Instead, they had to find a clan online, or join a friend’s clan. But, once established, clans are a great way to keep a group of friends in touch.
Features like the clan roster make it easy to find and join clan mates in various activities, and activities completed by clan fireteams unlock engrams for the rest of the clan. This, coupled with the clan’s leveling system, strongly encourages social play and rewards that play in small ways that make everyone feel like a team.
Since the rewards for leveling up are small, such as increased glimmer on engram pickup, the grind for clan loot isn’t at the top of anyone’s list, but it is still nice to be rewarded for playing together.
Destiny 2 improves on the groundwork laid in Destiny 1 with a more immersive story, fast paced PvP action, and a loot system that reliably rewards players. Fans of Destiny 1 will love Destiny 2. Players who haven’t played Destiny 1 may get confused by story references and loot systems that assume players are aware of the old system. But fear not: the community is incredibly helpful, and the grind is worth it.
Also, did I mention: soccer fields are the best!!
Destiny 2 is available on Xbox One and PS4.
It will be available on PC starting October 24th
If you want to learn more, check out some of our other articles:
- Removed the bit that suggested mods could change a kinetic weapon to an energy weapon. Unfortunately, that is not a thing.
- Fixed paragraph that suggested Titans could no longer drop a bubble. Titans still have bubbles in Destiny 2. But who wants a bubble when you can be Cap’n America?
- Updated the section on clans, which weren’t originally available at the time of writing.