Full disclosure before I begin: I really enjoyed Destiny when it came out and logged quite a bit of time in it, so needless to say I was quite excited about this much-hyped sequel. I didn’t expect, however, to find so much to like about this game. I wanted to at least finish the campaign and get a taste of the end game content before I really wrote this review as well, to reduce my chances of misrepresenting anything. That said, I can recognize why it wouldn’t be for everyone and this is definitely going to end up being a successful-but-niche game after the initial fervor dies down.
After the Traveler is captured by an intergalactic Genghis Khan named Gaul, all of the Guardians, revered for their strength, lose the Light, the source of all of their powers. It is up to you (and the millions of other players), to recover the Light, turn the tables of the struggle against the warlord and return the Traveler to its greatness, restoring the Light in the guardians and saving Earth. It’s a pretty epic story, albeit cliched, but Gaul is an excellent villain, and the final battle with the vile menace is arduous and menacing.
Destiny 2 is built much like its predecessor with a few changes. You have a short list of planets, each of which is its own open world, where you can travel, explore and take part in various public events and challenges but there only a few goals in the end: Complete the short-but-great campaign (including a stellar final series of levels that rank among the best of any FPS), grind public events and side missions to get gear upgrades and power yourself up for more difficult missions, prepare for Strikes to maximize your growth and face exciting bosses, then lead up to Raids which remain the ultimate challenge. It is all built around a quality gear system that tiers to your level. Rarely will you ever get a drop that is far too weak to be worth at least trying out, with the only discards generally being weapon types you do not want or old gear you’ve outgrown. It never feels like loot drops are a waste and while everything is very randomized, you can use mods that drop regularly to alter gear to your playstyle.
Destiny 2 plays a lot like your typical FPS, though a bit faster, and the ability to use various skills speeds things up significantly. Different class perks also change the approach to the game. I invested most of my efforts so far into the Titan, a resilient class built for close-quarters combat with numerous foes. Essentially, the Titan is Destiny 2’s tank class. Each of the three classes (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) have 3 subclasses, and each of those subclasses have two passive skill sets that affect how that subclass functions in combat. Subclasses also allow for a selection of 3 types of grenades and the differing functions of the double-jump. You can freely swap between each subclass and skillset, grenade and jump type you’ve unlocked at any time, even mid-combat.
Outside of that, it’s standard loot-based-FPS fare. Think Borderlands, only more frenetic. Public events place you right in the center of onslaughts of enemies, boss battles take place in massive arenas that fill with enemies, open worlds are slathered with randomized mobs, and everything is ready to ruin your day! Optional missions allow for longer excursions with greater rewards and are often similar to story missions.
Once you defeat the villainous final boss, more content opens up for you, including giving the option to replay side missions for further rewards, take part in patrols (very short, random side missions that can be chained for easy loot), and take part in more public events to get medal drops that allow you to raise your reputation with the NPC from that area.
Destiny 2 looks great, but it isn’t going to blow your mind. Comparing this to Far Cry, Just Cause, or a PS4 exclusive like Horizon: Zero Dawn, seems unfair as this is an online game and thusly some visuals may be throttled for performance (which so far for me has never taken a hit, or even so much as lagged). Some areas of Destiny 2’s worlds are dark and the absence of a toggleable flashlight can make navigation in some areas difficult. The open worlds themselves vary in aesthetic appeal as well. For-instance, Earth’s overgrown, post-Apocalyptic wastes have a desolate feel to them, especially as you navigate further and further away from the starting section of the planet. Titan is a series of cold steel and concrete platforms built outside of a massive arcology that is filled with lush greenery and a colorful mall that seems eerie in its abandoned nature, its holographic and neon signs still spinning on and flicker as though nothing has changed. Nessus is filled with lush, bright-red fall greenery and giant rectangular pillars of marble that tower and shape the world. Lastly, Io is a toxic wasteland of golden soil filled with dangerous radioactive liquid and dank, hazardous caves.
It is obvious a lot of care went into sections of these worlds, but some sections can feel like rehashes of each other, with a few map segments seeming as though they could be placed in other worlds with different textures and it wouldn’t matter at all. This isn’t typically to the detriment of the game itself, but it does make the initial awe of the new world’s visuals lose its appeal quite quickly. Sadly, these few planets are the only open worlds you can really explore and while they are somewhat large, it would have benefitted Destiny 2 to offer a little more variety in the areas themselves.
With each planet having its own theme, you can be assured that each area has its own story. These plots are head up by a single NPC that represents that world who also provides commentary as you fight through the map but their constantly-repeated lines get very, very old. In an obvious attempt to add some humorous banter to the grind to give it a little character, you can get “witty”, overwritten dialogue that may be occasionally funny at first but can wear on you making you reach for the volume controls for your TV after the story missions are complete.
That said, the voice cast is quite good, complete with an A-list of respected performers in the field including Nolan North of Uncharted fame, who is near-unrecognizable as your companion Ghost, Firefly’s Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres as two of the guardians who join you in the struggle against Gaul’s forces, and The Wire’s Lance Reddick as the righteous leader Commander Zavala. The voice acting, when it isn’t grating with repetition, is very good and helps shape the tone of the game.
For most, Destiny 2 may slow as it ages due to its grindy nature. There is variety in what you can do, but after just a few days of doing the same patrols, strikes and public events over and over, it can feel exhausting. The push to level 20 goes by quickly enough, but then you have to very slowly raise your average gear rating by finding more and more valuable drops. There are many ways to grind in the game, but if the repetition turns you off, there will be little for you after completing the campaign. However, there are rewarding events that come to those willing to stick it out.
I would say Destiny 2 is a worthy sequel and it came out at a great time, preceding the onslaught of fall releases by a little over a month, giving players time to become invested in the online action. It was smart to get it out to players before the barrage of online shooters and co-op action games that are right around the corner slam gamers with a near-insurmountable backlog. Sadly, the PC version of this game is being pushed back to mid-October because of the contractual obligation of Bungie to release the game on consoles first. This is unacceptable for me but if you are willing to wait, that version is coming as well, only expect a brutal framerate cap and throttled graphics to keep it from being too competitive to the console releases. This is the tragic reality of today’s gaming.