Destiny: Why the Heat?
Bungie’s release of Destiny back in 2014 seems to have sparked a lot of debate amongst the gaming community over things like quality/quantity of content, pricing, and, certainly not least, the idea of “grinding” for rewards. These debates led to an eventual division among gamers, separating diehard fans of the franchise from those who felt the time and money they had invested was not worth it. Now, three years later, with the announcement of Destiny 2 many of these same debates have resurfaced and many gamers are still sitting on the fence, deciding whether Destiny 2 is worth the buy after all the heat the first game received.
This review of Destiny 2 will take a slightly different approach. I played quite a bit of the first Destiny, and, while my feelings towards it were a bit mixed, I put past prejudices aside and went into this second game with very little as far as expectations, aside from the fact that I hoped to see at least some sort of tangible improvement over the first. With this in mind, my review will be broken down into two parts. First, an analysis of Destiny 2 as a stand-alone game and second, a comparison to the first game and a look at the differences between the two. If you are one of those still unsure about whether or not this game is worth a buy, perhaps this (spoiler free) review will influence your decision.
The First Few Hours
Right out of the gate, one of the first things I noticed about Destiny 2 was how stunning the visuals were. Whether I was gazing up at the nighttime starscape, wandering into a dimly lit cave, or being bombarded by a slew of projectiles as I gunned down a pack of Cabal, I regularly found myself pausing to take in the visuals each time I entered a new environment. This, paired with the music from the game’s soundtrack made for some truly memorable moments within the world of Destiny.
I also found the level design to be very well done. Initially, each map (planet) felt pretty basic; you start off in a fairly controlled area, run around killing a few things, and then head to the next area. However, as you progress through the story a bit you find yourself heading back to previous planets with more and more to do each time. If striking out on your own is your forte there are daily tasks and side missions to complete or hidden areas to explore, and if you are more of a team player there are public events, strikes, or just some mindless killing with friends; which leads me to the next topic: Loot!
Many modern RPGs seem to incorporate a looting system of some kind, allowing players to earn a random variety of cosmetic and stat-enhancing gear as rewards for completing tasks or exploration. Fans of this mechanic will be pleased to know that Destiny does have plenty of loot to obtain and it is fairly readily available. You seem to come across quite a bit of loot, most of which is nothing to write home about. At early levels this isn’t a huge issue as almost everything you find is at least slightly better than what you are already using, but by the time you hit max level you will find yourself going through tons of metaphorical crap loot before you find anything of real value. It can become very time-consuming, but it is still rewarding enough to keep you going.
One of my biggest concerns was in the progression system. Now, Destiny leans more towards the First-Person Shooter end of the spectrum than it does the RPG end, but it has enough RPG elements that it should invest in a decent progression system. Unfortunately, all we really get is a basic set of skills that only slightly affects the gameplay. There is a grenade that will help get you out of a tight spot, a near pointless dodge skill, and a random ability that is more aesthetic than anything. Then there’s your “ultimate” ability that essentially lets you kill a bunch of things in a short amount of time. You gain skill points upon reaching certain milestones that let you decide how you want to develop your character, but options are very limited and each class handles about the same, so deciding how to spend your points is not at all challenging.
In a continuation of the first Destiny game’s campaign, Destiny 2 has you traveling the galaxy in order to stop a fleet of Cabal, known as the Red Legion, from dominating the Traveler and harnessing its power. This time around Bungie certainly seems to have picked up the slack. The story itself is engaging and the characters are worth caring about. The story is complemented with some very well-done cinematic cutscenes that help shape characters and their roles. In a way, though, these cutscenes may have been the saving grace of the campaign.
The “missions” between cinematics typically had you fetching something for someone or repairing something and lacked a lot of creativity. Luckily, the gunplay is fluid and exciting enough that you forget you aren’t really accomplishing anything. You will probably be much more motivated by the fact that killing everything makes you feel like a badass; that and the fact that you know there is some shiny loot waiting for you at the end of the slog.
The campaign also did not offer much of a challenge. There is very little risk and no reason to play cautiously as, in the uncommon event that you die, you don’t actually lose anything. The only real loss felt upon death is that it will take you an extra few minutes to finish the campaign. It still truly feels like the actual Destiny gameplay lies in the post-campaign endgame content.
Destiny vs. Destiny: How the Games Compare
Generally speaking, Destiny 2 is a huge step in the right direction when compared to its 2014 predecessor. It has an actual coherent storyline and vibrant open-world maps that are actually full of things to do rather than just having a few specific locations where enemies spawn. The drop-in, drop-out online gameplay with others feels a lot smoother and helps to make the world feel more alive. Finding new weapons and gear is far easier and more frequent as well, something I am sure we can all appreciate. This being said, I am still not sure Destiny 2 has reached its full potential.
Behind the beautiful graphics and thrilling, fast-paced gunplay we are essentially looking at the same grindfest we received with the first game. I’ll be the first to admit I have already had a ton more fun with Destiny 2 than I did with the original, but I don’t feel I really have anything new or unique to show for it. Even with the release of an entirely new game we are still playing with the same three classes, the same skill sets, and the same run-and-gun gameplay against the same bullet-sponge enemies. As much as I hate to say it there is actually very little about Destiny 2 that feels truly original.
If you were a fan of the first game, you have nothing but improvements to look forward to. If not, you may still run into some of the same setbacks, but, from personal experience, you will certainly have a good time doing so. Either way, Destiny 2 has a lot of room to grow and I am excited to see what adventures Bungie comes up with next.