The original Destiny is a significant part of my gaming life. I have not put that many hours into a single game and returned to a single game as many times as I have with Destiny. Whilst I am not one of the people that has multiple thousands of hours in Destiny I did spend 324 hours in there over the three years of Destiny being around. Destiny is responsible for me becoming a more social online player, beforehand I would play solo all the time, no matter the game. However, Destiny made something change in me where from that point on I have seriously shifted my gameplay focus to one more of co-op and multiplayer games and it really is a big part of who I am in the gaming world today. There is just some magic formula that Bungie, the game’s developer, has created that makes people come together and be social.
So almost three years after Destiny launched, on the 6th of September 2017, I found myself awake at midnight ready to play the sequel that I had been waiting almost six months for and on a weeknight where I had work starting very early the next day. The next morning and night were such a buzz, the feeling was amazing as I fell head over heels in love with the franchise all over again. All I could think about was Destiny 2 and all I wanted to be doing was playing or consuming content about Destiny 2. The game felt slick and everything seemed to be just perfect as I closed in on the end of the campaign and towards the end game. Now I am 44 hours into the game with my Titan not only looking great but also a very well rounded killing machine.
Let me begin with what makes this such an amazing title and one of the best games I have played in 2017 because I truly believe that this is a very special game and one that I will be playing a lot going forward. We all know the story about how bad the story was in the original Destiny and it was so very forgettable. One can only assume that this really drove Bungie to build the story that they did in Destiny 2 and really highlight a very strong, heartfelt story that left you feeling closer to the characters in the game and understanding what and why we were doing what we were doing. Besides the ending of the story, I really think they built one of the best first-person shooter storylines I have played in a long time.
The start of the story, that first hour or so of campaign contained absolutely everything a big blockbuster film would want in the first act to really pull on the heartstrings of the audience, give them a great scale of what was going on and giving them that true feeling of dread that you want from your audience before you move onto the hero moments. Making this section only playable by yourself was another masterstroke as it made the moments feel even more personal. The music and the artistry, which I will discuss later, also added to an almost perfect opening that just made me stop at times to truly take in what was going on. However, Bungie really missed an opportunity here to really capture this amazing villain, Dominus Ghaul, that they built up by killing him off before he has even left his ship. I would have loved to see us spend the next 12 months pushing him and his forces back before finally taking him down in year five.
Let us look closer at the art and music of Destiny 2 which I believe is the part of the game that really stands heads and shoulders above the rest of the game. There are still moments in the game where I get completely distracted by the music in Destiny 2 where I have to just stop and take it in. The first hour of the game really is the best example of this. When you are without your light and wandering through the city a broken Guardian you really do feel the tone of the music pull you right into that terrible and depressing moment. The scene then after you leave the city and heading around the hill for safety and you get to look back on the city in ruins and the traveller all caged up, visually, the most impressive piece of storytelling in the game. There are so many moments like that where the art truly did tell so much story that a cutscene or dialogue could have ever done. The art and music team deserves all the praise they get for Destiny 2.
Destiny 2 has crammed so much to do in these beautiful new environments that they have created for us that you really can do anything you want to level up, well to power level 265 that is. I took my time with the campaign itself and found myself hitting level 20 very early in the campaign and being a very high light level by the time I finally took down Ghaul. The way they have created these living, breathing worlds for us to explore is such a great aspect of the game. I truly found myself just getting distracted doing anything else by the main story missions which are a true testament to the game design. As I wandered around the world doing public events, lost sectors, adventures and golden chests my power level increased at as good a pace as someone doing just the main missions which are a great feeling. I always felt a sense of accomplishment every time I turned the game on to play. Bungie really nailed the level system up to power level 265.
The missions themselves are a huge improvement on the original Destiny as well. There were a few moments where the battles felt forced and drawn out because of bosses being too spongy but overall the main missions and subsequent quests and adventures all seem to have great puzzles, action and mechanics that really kept you entertained and motivated to finish to move on to the next. Also, the way Bungie brings tanks in to break up the grind at a few key points serves perfectly to break up the norm. Working alongside the amazing characters that Bungie has now brought to the front of the game really gives you a sense of belonging that was sorely missed in the series so far. Just for the solo player out there, this campaign is worth the price of the game on this aspect alone. However, if you want to play this game with friends or soon to be friends Bungie has hit this aspect of the game out of the park.
Bungie is one of the best companies out there for building a community around their games and Destiny 2 is the game that proves the rule. Bringing clans into the game was a big step forward in the aspect of building a bigger and better community around Destiny 2. Clans work together to earn rewards for all members through weekly and seasonal activities. Besides the strange fireteam number limitations playing with your mates in the clan really easy. Keeping the weekly reset ritual really does bring your clan together on Tuesday night for us and we find ourselves working together really well to knock over the weekly activities so we can then focus on the big picture rewards for the raid and trials. Once again there are steps Bungie could have taken to make this experience even better but at its release version, it really does work to bring people together around Destiny 2.
While positives rule the game there are definitely a lot of areas where Destiny 2 falls short and will see the player base drop off yet again. Endgame content is hard outside of a clan. You will receive extra loot just for being in a clan but for those not willing to take that jump the content does get very thin very quickly. The guided game feature is still only being trialled at the moment and will help but for now, that may not be enough for some. Also, having to rely on an outside app or website for your clan chat and other clan functions seems distracting. A little in-game option to ping the clan for a raid attempt or crucible run would be a godsend but at the current level, you have to randomly invite people or get on your phone or the website and ask for people and wait for replies.
Talking about playing with your mates before and how well Bungie does do this in their games they have made some very strange decisions in Destiny 2 to actually put a roadblock in your way of playing with friends. This is one of my pet hates with companies and they do seem to do it so often. What I am talking about is the structure of Fireteams. The play in the open world or in a mission or a strike, basically most PvE content you play in a fireteam of three. If you want to play crucible you need to then find a fourth player, dropping back to PvE content then sees you having to kick someone out. For the raid, you then need to find six people, which is fine, but to then do anything with that raid team after you are done you need to decide to kick people out because there is no more other content that lets you play as a fireteam of six. The whole process now just feels clunky and awkward.
Bright engrams along with shaders took a lot of the shine off the launch of the game and it really did play a part in my view of the game. Shaders I don’t have a problem with them now being consumable as it does make the use of them more meaningful and you do get a lot of them. However, I have just got to a point where I am finding gear to replace the ones that I have shaded and having to replace them feels a bit of a letdown. If shaders had a defined way that you could 100% obtain them then it wouldn’t hurt so much but at this stage outside of trials and raid shaders, they seem a bit hit and miss. As for bright engrams which are your cosmetic engrams I have very little issue with now as well. My only hold back with them was that we are forced to decrypt them at Eververse which is the microtransaction vendor which to me is a bit forceful.
The biggest negative for the game and where most people will drop off Destiny 2 is at the point you hit power level 265 and the game changes completely. There is no warning for this drastic change to the levelling process which is what disappoints me the most. The levelling process up till 265 just works perfectly but at this stage, there are two mechanics which kick in that force you to play the game the way Bungie wants. The first mechanic that kicks in is that all engrams in the open world and from vendors outside of exotics and Luminous engrams drop five power levels below your max power level. This means your only progress comes from the weekly activities which reward luminous engrams and if you can get exotics. This leaves no incentive to do other activities in the world like lost sectors, adventures, patrol or even strikes. At this point, the only activities Bungie wants you to consume are flashpoints, crucible, trials of the nine and the raid.
Compounding this issue is the strange mod system that Bungie has brought in in Destiny 2. You get a lot of rare mods in the game but no real way to sort through them easily and no reward for getting rid of them except glimmer which a lot of people hit the cap of easily once again. If you wish to use the legendary mods which you get as random drops sometimes these artificially increase your power level by five. This is not reflected by your drops though. Meaning if you get your light level to 285 with a full set of these mods on your gear then the drops you get in the world and from vendors will be at 275 which is useless for increasing your level. Overall, mods feel like an idea Bungie had and then made for the game but decided we don’t want to really use them but we can’t remove them from the game. They really to just stick out and can be very frustrating unless you get them right and only use the rare ones which I have changed to do.
Before I dive right into the endgame issues with Destiny 2 I would really like to touch on the end of the story. Firstly, I feel there was a real missed opportunity here with the game’s villain in Dominus Ghaul. He is by far the best villain we have had in the franchise to date and his presence was really felt on screen. Even his second in charge or mentor felt more fleshed out than any previous villain too. It was at that point I felt like we were building up to a long story that would have seen us finally taking down Ghaul in a year’s time and the first raid or upcoming expansions would have seen us take on his mentor to draw him out but alas Dominus Ghaul is over and killed before he even sets foot outside of his ship which just felt underwhelming in such an amazing story. The end just really felt rushed is the best way to describe it and the final boss fight didn’t help with that at all. There was no depth to the mechanic of fighting him and in the end, I hid at the front of the ship, under a bridge, and took him down from there. It was the least fun of all the missions and left a bad taste in my mouth moving into the endgame.
So from here, we entered the version of Destiny 2 that we will all be playing for the next couple of months. Before I go too far I must say that Bungie seems to be relying on rolling out weekly events to bring more loot to the game and more activities to the game like the current Faction rally. Saying that though, the endgame is rough, to say the least. As mentioned before, you have five real activities you can do at endgame and that is it. Flashpoints are farming public events on a specific planet which is fun but takes less than an hour. The nightfall seems fun again when it works and is a great way to get better loot once a week but it can be done in under half an hour. Crucible and clan rewards which can be done together in less than an hour and then there are the raid and trials, which both rely on you to be part of a clan or regular playing group until guided games are worked out. All this adds up to 150 minutes a week of gameplay for solo players and a bit more for clan players if you are good at trials of the nine. Seems lacking to me.
Let’s look at the crucible overall for a moment. I hated crucible at the start of the game and didn’t touch it again till after I was finished the campaign and well into the endgame. I don’t know what changed for me from those first few matches but now I have jumped back into it I do really enjoy it again. The problem I have with the crucible is the jarring lack of options compared to the original Destiny. No private matches and the lack of options when it comes to game mode really is a strange step back for me. This lack of options often sees matches start with people leaving the game or suiciding once in with no penalty. Since I have been playing other multiplayer games on the market and having ranked playlists the fact that Destiny 2 still doesn’t have this really stands out now and is strange that it hasn’t worked its way into the game. At the end of the day, while fun, the crucible feels like an afterthought and something not quite ready for the Destiny 2 release.
The raid itself is beautiful and being more mechanically heavy it doesn’t rely on power level so much but does rely on the full fire team being a good unit. This is why I think it will be tough to work with guided games but not impossible. There are a few points in the raid however which feels unfair at times and more than a handful of times we have had team wipes because of network lag or glitched AI. This becomes extra frustrating as there is no room for error in some cases with the new restricted respawn mechanic requiring you to revive a downed guardian within thirty seconds or the team is wiped. The gauntlet is the best example of this wherein its final phase everyone has to run the gauntlet which takes about 90 seconds but if someone dies they need to be revived in 30 seconds. This is okay except the guardian’s ghost is transported to the center of the arena where you can’t get to unless you finish the gauntlet. So one death in the first two-thirds of the run means a wipe for the team. Countless times we had this and lag or getting stuck on an edge that wasn’t there cause a death and a wipe.
Trials of the nine, endgame for the PvP crowd, where do I start with this. It is great that the game has this for the top of the crowd PvP players in the game and it is probably the activity that most of the Destiny players came back to, week in week out for the original Destiny. There are some smart changes in Destiny 2 for this mode and then there are some weird miss-steps here too. The lighthouse used to be the place that I knew I was never going to get to in Destiny but now in Destiny 2, we have the Spire which only needs one win to get to and then has different levels for more wins which is a really smart change. My problem with Trials is that unless you are either really lucky or become one of the top five percent of the game it just isn’t fun. We tried our best to get a win but losing 6-1 was the closest we got. We can hold our own in the competitive playlist and dominate in quick play but apparently Trials we were terrible. Without bringing in divisions or something that match-makes you for the first match I don’t know if this should or can be fixed.
The final real negative that I have with the game is just all the little bugs or weird glitched moments I seem to come across while playing the game. There have been some very strange moments with chests having nothing in them or the rewards being very slow to appear. Graphical errors just sometimes randomly occur while we are playing, like the player having a large triangle coming off them going several metres across the ground. We dropped to the tower the other night as we were finished with the crucible and when we landed we were in a new crucible match. Friends have got to boss strikes and been put in instances with a different fireteam and then there are the nightfalls which at the prestige level always seem to have a near game breaking bug. Overall, the game just feels like it needed another month or two of polish or this is what we live with these days with games that are ongoing services.
Destiny 2 is a really hard game to wrap up in a single paragraph and it really seems like a game with two very different faces. On one hand, Destiny 2 is this amazing game that really does have the best gunplay on the market, it is really easy to get into for everyone and has enough there that will make you lose sleep and daydream about this wonderful game right up to a point. Then there is this magically point where Bungie decides that you have had enough fun and you have to start playing the game on their terms in some weird fear that you will hit max power level and everything will be too easy and you will leave. In applying this handbrake to the game however they may have succeeded in doing what they feared and made people bounce off to another game before all the content has been rolled out. The fact that it stands out so much while you are playing leads to bad design in my eyes because it should always be a more gradual and smoother slow down. Honestly, overall, I love the game and it is still all I play and will be play weekly for a long time to come. Also, it is worth the money it will cost you to get the game, I just honestly expected more from Destiny 2 and if Bungie can overcome the game’s shortcomings the game we have in a years time could be spectacular.
The Good: Bungie can build a community better than any other developer on the market. This is proven with Destiny 2 which is 100% a much better game when you play this game with others. Doing this also somehow makes friends that much closer than any other game on the market. Getting people playing together is easily Destiny 2’s greatest strength.
The Bad: The levelling process is just not user-friendly once you get to endgame which is a huge disappointment as before that point it was honestly spectacular. This is a massive miss step on Bungie’s behalf and something that I hope the fix in later versions of the game. It is just a shame it was there at the start as I do already know people that have bounced off the game already because of it.
The Final Word: This game, Destiny 2, it really makes me mad, obsessed and amazed all at once. It does feel like that girlfriend or boyfriend you really should stay away from but you know you can’t. I am so hooked on this game even though it frustrates me with its levelling and glitches. There is just no better game on the console for gunplay though and the music and artwork is top of the class. Please do give Destiny 2 ago because if it does take over your life that is ok but if it doesn’t it still is a good ride.