Destiny 2 has launched.
At 11:30pm on a cold Tuesday night, I was stood in my local GAME store, seeing the staff (and a solitary customer) dressed up as Guardians, as I waiting for the midnight launch of the game I have been looking forward to since those first screenshots appeared way back at the end of 2016. After listening to the cosplaying customer explain to me for the third time why she loved Destiny so much, I finally grabbed the game and its expansion pass (yes, already), jumped back into the car and made my careful way home. After sliding the disc reverently into my Xbox One, I was hit with a 6Gb patch so went to bed, resolving to start my adventures the next day.
And so that next day came, and after choosing my Guardian – Titan of course, and I kept the same character model I’ve had since the beginning – I was treated to a slideshow of my highlights from the game, when I achieved certain milestones. In a nice touch, the names of the Guardians who stood with me was included. It came as a bit of a shock how long I had actually been playing this game: I completed the final “story” mission of vanilla Destiny way back in September 2014, first took Atheon down exactly a month later and so on. These screens were beautifully designed and brought back a real rush of nostalgia, so much so that the Atheon one is now the backdrop on my work laptop and looks awesome. Seeing the names of the players who shared that moment of triumph with me, and that of some I don’t play with anymore, was a real kick in the feels.
Anyhow, the game loaded and we were thrown into the first mission – one that was familiar from the beta. All the action was the same, except Shaxx didn’t just hand you a nice exotic gun in the first encounter, which was a bit of a shame. After fighting my way through, Ghaul (or Gary) kicked me off his ship, and the new game opened up. After staggering through the next section in a genuinely tense way, we made it to the new social space, The Farm. This was touched on in my beta write up, but now has all the vendors, postmaster, Cryptarchy and so on that was lacking in the beta test.
Now, at this point, I should say that I’m not going to talk about the story, except to say that there actually is one this time, and that it is a doozy. What I am going to talk about is the difference in the structure of the game, the much more free form feel of the worlds, and the new Adventures that you can take on.
When you first start exploring, at the behest of people on The Farm, you see the first of the differences. Whereas in Destiny any activity had to be launched from orbit, the new Director function in Destiny 2 makes the whole process much smoother. You launch the director by holding the “select” button as it used to be called, and it brings another first for Destiny, a map of the area you are in. This in itself is something that we really missed in Destiny, as the ability to see where you are, what’s around, and, in another new feature, where public events are going to occur makes me wonder how we ever did without it.
From the map you can fast travel to the different landing zones if you wish, although all the zones are interlinked on each planet and its possible to run from one end of the world to the other. Indeed in the beginning, running, or fast travelling, are your only options as Sparrows appear to be rarer than hen’s teeth. The word online is that you have to be Level 20 to be in with a chance of getting one. The other function of the Director is that you can select destinations from within it, choose a planet, and then even a landing zone on the planet and travel there, from anywhere in the game. So if you are running about on Earth and decide you want to go to Nessus, for instance, select it from the Director and the game will take you there without ever once going to orbit manually. Obviously, there’s still the loading screen showing your ship flying there, but it is so much smoother and slicker than Destiny that it makes travelling almost enjoyable.
Still, running about is where this game begins to shine. As you explore, you’ll come across another new feature, Lost Sectors. These are marked with a sign – one that to me looks like a rainbow, but could just be two arches and a dot. Whatever the symbol is, if you hunt around in the neighbourhood you’ll find almost a dungeon to explore. After fighting through the area and defeating the boss, usually a powerful, yellow bar mini boss, you’ll be given the code for a loot crate in the area, which generally contains some good gear and some tokens. These tokens can be used to level up your reputation with the person who gives you the missions on the worlds. Again, I’m not going to spoil who they are as they are introduced as part of the narrative thread.
Another thing that can be selected from the new map are Adventures. These are missions, usually multi staged, that require you to fulfill certain requirements in order to advance your reputation and get you some sweet loot. Please don’t think these are five minute diversions, they are of comparable length to the old strikes that were in Destiny, and they have multiple objectives to fulfill. An early one on Earth, for example, requires us to collect Fallen voice recordings, then track the Fallen, kill them, steal all their explosives, set up an ambush for the Cabal and then lure them in by using the Fallen voices to send a message. Once the ambush is set, luring the Cabal is enormous fun, ducking behind a rock just as the whole place explodes in their faces is a great feeling. This is just one of the Adventures, and from beginning to end probably took 20 minutes.
The weapon classes have been shaken up, as they were in the Beta. The classes are now Kinetic, which is where Primary used to be, Energy, which was once Secondary, and Power, which is where the old Heavy slot was. Kinetic weapons do what they say, they deal with only kinetic energy and can’t have an element applied to them. Energy weapons are all elemental, and in a good twist the two classes have the same weapon types in. So if you favour a pulse rifle or a hand cannon, it’s entirely possible to have two of them equipped, one in each slot. I’m currently rocking two auto rifles (my personal favourite), one of which has a Solar burn on. The Power slot contains things like rocket launchers and grenade launchers, as you’d expect, but also fusion rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns.
I’m still not crazy about this grouping, if I’m honest, however it isn’t causing me the amount of issues I thought it would, so it’s still in the “suck it and see” phase. Power weapons also have elemental types, the same as the Energy weapons. It’s explained that the Energy weapons are more effective against shielded enemies, and if you match the element of the weapon to the element of the shield, when you take it down the shield will explode, damaging nearby enemies. That in itself is always nice to see!
Loot appears to have been overhauled somewhat also, with new engrams and loot dropping fairly regularly. So far, I’ve had two exotic engrams drop from public events, which is nice given that my first in Destiny took about three months, and came in the Crucible! After the end of the story, apparently the loot system changes again with the introduction of “Bright” engrams, but I’ll cover that more in the full review.
As you wander and explore, things happen in the world, from Public Events which you can track, to random encounters with high level targets, who when defeated leave behind a loot chest. There are the aforementioned Lost Sectors to find, zone specific loot chests to locate, more enemies than you can shake a pulse rifle at and various things to find and scan that tell you more of the backstory of Destiny.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a different beast this game is to the first, vanilla Destiny. The story, the feel of the worlds, the familiar yet new way the guns and the new subclasses handle, the way things are now explained and the cut scenes are just amazing, really fleshing out what we are trying to achieve. The game isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself either, and it uses Cayde-6 to do it. In a mission, he pops up and says “I don’t have time to explain what I don’t understand!”, referencing one of the most risible lines of dialogue from the original game, “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain”, spoken by the Exo Stranger. Whatever happened to her?
As I write this, I’m level 19 with quite a few hours under my belt. By the time the Raid launches, I’m confident that I will be of a high enough level to mix it up with the bad guys, and will be bringing you a full review at that point. With new strikes, a Nightfall strike to try, exploration of all the worlds, plus the Crucible (I hate PvP), the new game is not short on content, and I am feeling very confident that this time Bungie have knocked it out of the park.
Until then, first impressions of Destiny 2 are that finally, this is the game that was promised three years ago.
This is Destiny.
If anyone wants to try the Raid when it launches, going in blind to try and figure it out, send me a message on Xbox Live (Red620Ti) and we’ll get a fireteam sorted out.