As those of you who have read my previous ramblings may well be aware, I was a big fan of the original Destiny game, sinking more hours into the game than I care to think about. I was expecting big things from the sequel, the imaginatively named Destiny 2, especially having been whipped into a frenzy by the beta and Bungie’s carefully staged reveals. Having now spent 3 days, 1 hour and 16 minutes in the game in the last two weeks (a stat that is still beaten by 20 people on my friends list), I feel that I am more than qualified to drop some thoughts on this new game. So come with me into a world of Vex, Cabal and big guns!
Now, Destiny has always been a pretty game, there’s no denying that. But with Destiny 2, the graphics have been turned up to 11, with more particle effects and lens flare than you can shake a stick at. The new worlds all look very different, with wildly varying landscapes noticed, even when you’re in the same location. Quite often I’d find myself turning the HUD off to get the perfect shot of my Guardian dancing near a Vex milk waterfall, for instance. The new enemy designs are very well done too; the War Beasts being fast and agile and the Gladiators being surprisingly tough and resilient, as well as very damaging. The audio has also had an overhaul, with the sounds emitting from weapons being crisp and clear, the enemies shouts and shrieks bouncing around the rooms you are in, and the general ambience ensuring that tense is the name of the game – expect to jump at any minute!
From the start, Destiny 2 impresses by its attempts to correct what the first game got wrong. The writing feels more natural, more flowing, the voice acting is believable and the actors are to be commended for the personalities they bring to their roles, Nathan Fillion in particular puts in a spectacular turn as Cayde-6, with his trademark humour shining through even the darkest moments of the game’s twists and turns. The journey of your guardian from refugee without the Light, to saving the entire solar system is one that is described with warmth and one that you will become invested in.
Comparing this narrative approach with Destiny 1’s is like comparing chalk and cheese, the difference is so marked. A special mention has to go to the cut scenes too, as they are just outstanding. Ghaul is a truly menacing bad guy, but has his own twisted honour system that almost tips him over into being a sympathetic character, as he cannot understand why the Traveller would not judge him worthy and grant him the Light. A point he makes in the story is that with the Light, our Guardians are no longer brave, they have just forgotten the fear of dying, whereas his troops have only one life but fight anyway. The narrative and the story are full of little reflections like this, and they cause us to question our place in the grand scheme of things. Is a Guardian without the Light still a Guardian?
I don’t want to spoil the story here for anyone who hasn’t finished the campaign, so I’ll only write in broad strokes to avoid giving too much away. After the Tower falls, it is left to our Guardian to try and find a way back from the brink. Having found a different source of Light, one that is corrupted, we must overcome the trials that lie before us to finally be granted our powers back. As the one Guardian with abilities, we must reassemble the scattered Vanguard, each member of which has fled to a different, new planet throughout the galaxy. Somehow, we have to get the band back together.
Glossing over the similarities in story to that of Borderlands 2, what the campaign boils down to is helping each member of the Vanguard, Zavala, Ikora and Cayde, partaking in missions on the planets they have settled on until they realise that the real fight is back on Earth, with Ghaul and the Red Legion. As each member is recruited, they tell you where the next person has gone, opening up a new planet and a new set of missions. It is possible to blast through only the story missions and get to the end of the story arc very quickly, but to do that would be to miss out on a huge part of the charm of the worlds and the different NPCs that you can meet and interact with. Each world has a deputy, for want of a better word, that will remain behind and dish out missions after the Vanguard are back together, and also in the post campaign game. On Titan, there is, appropriately enough, a Titan named Sloane who happily dishes out rewards for collecting tokens and materials. On Nessus, the NPC is a malfunctioning AI called Failsafe, who is alternately as bright as a button and depressed. She is the stand out new character for me, her dialogue is frequently hilarious, and the interactions between her and “The Cayde Unit” made me laugh out loud more than once. The last character is a cranky warlock called Asher Mir, who talks in technical jargon and is generally a cold fish. I didn’t warm to Asher at all, finding him more annoying than anything else. Still, him calling Zavala, Vuvuzela, was enough to raise a chuckle…
So, having got everyone pulling in the same direction once again, it’s only a matter of time before we have to face the final battle. Having won that, the game then moves into the after party. This is where the grind for loot really begins and Destiny 2 starts to become alive.
With clever play and use of the new armour mods, it’s entirely possible to create a very strong character in a short period of time. As you earn mods, either from the Gunsmith or from engrams, you can slot them either into armour or into weapons. The mods have lots of different effects, from seeing a particular subclasses abilities charge faster, to reducing the recoil of energy weapons, to increasing armours resilience, to name but a few. The mods you want to look out for are the legendary purple ones – these either add five to the attack power of a weapon, or add five to the defence value of a piece of armour, in addition to the other perk they add. These remain in place when infusing too, so if you infuse a weapon into a weapon with a mod in, the plus five effect is applied to the new base power of the weapon, if that makes sense? This is a really good way of tweaking the game to suit your own play style, allowing you to change armour to give you the perks that you want. Faster grenades? Faster abilities? More armour so you can go toe to toe with the Cabal? You choose!
The after game playlist wouldn’t be complete without Strikes and a Raid, and luckily Bungie have us covered here. While it’s true that the Playstation players have an extra Strike to play with, the scale and scope of the new Strikes means that I don’t really feel short changed. They are now much harder than previous, and that’s just on the normal difficulty. It is possible to raise the Strikes, the Nightfall and the Leviathan Raid to Heroic difficulties, but the chances of getting through those things, at least at my current lowly 278 power level are very remote indeed. Going in with a fireteam is definitely recommended, as communication makes everything easier, whether it’s calling out enemies or telling your team mates where you died. The Nightfall in particular has required some planning, as the elemental burn rotates between the three elements, so ensuring you have Supers and weapons covering all the elements has been very important.
The new Leviathan Raid that launched a week after the game released is very tricky as well. The first few sections are a breeze, comparatively speaking, but there is one section where you have to sneak around a garden, trying to gain enough power to be able to take out some Cabal watchdogs that you have to avoid. This section reminded me of the Gorgons section in the Vault of Glass Raid, with the big difference that being spotted isn’t an insta-wipe. In the new Raid, there is a safe house that you can hide in to avoid the dogs Psionic Howl attack, but you can only use it three times before it is sealed. Add to this the fact that each team member can only perform one revive, and staying alive becomes vital. Sadly it was initially here that our team kind of fell apart, with arguing about whose job it was to spot the dogs and guide the team on the ground through avoiding the enemies.
Exploring the world’s post game has also been made more challenging and adventurous. Each world has adventures that can be undertaken, multi stage missions that can be picked up in the field and, usually, a laundry list of objectives to be finished. They also have a series of Quests, marked on the map by a blue icon. Each of these is again a multi stage mission, and leads you on to an Exotic weapon. Some of the stages in these missions are hilarious with my personal fave so far being the “Kill 50 enemies while airborne with an SMG”. So run up to an enemy, equip an SMG (not the most accurate weapon in the world), jump and spray and pray that you kill it before landing. It sounds weird, but it looks funny watching someone doing it!
Public events have also been overhauled this time around. In addition to being able to see them on the map, enabling you to fast travel to the area in time to join in, each public event now has a secret method to turn it into a Heroic event, ramping up the difficulty and the loot that can be obtained. The method for each event is different, ranging from using all the arc charges to blowing up a ship, but it is certainly worth trying to figure out how to do it.
The Crucible has also seen a lot of changes in Destiny 2. It’s been reduced to four on four, and the Super and grenade charge rate has been slowed right down, meaning the fights now revolve around gunplay and the correct choice of weapon. Obviously Supers still decimate enemies, but with only four people to find in quite sizeable maps, the effects have certainly been toned down. A new play mode has also been introduced that works a lot like Rush in the Battlefield series of games. You have to get to a point, and either defend it or get in and plant a charge, then defend your charge. In practice this is a fast and furious game mode, with tension as the charge starts to count down and the enemy is charging in to try and overwhelm the defenses. Tactical play and communication are again key elements here.
With the returning Clash and Supremacy modes, along with my personal favourite, Control, the new maps to learn and strategies to perfect, the Crucible will certainly give hours of fun. The returning Trials, this time called Trials of the Nine, is just the icing on the cake. I’m certainly not good enough to try that mode, but in a disturbing note there have been reports that the old tricks of DDoSing and cheating have transferred to the new game.
All in all then, Destiny 2 does more than enough to make up for the sins of the old game. It is no exaggeration to say that the final mission of the game, one that takes over an hour to complete, has more story in it than the whole of the first game. Better writing, a story (and a good one at that) and a series of vast new worlds to explore make Destiny 2 a must play for anyone who like aliens, guns and shooting aliens with guns.
If I’m super critical the story has been done before, but for Destiny, this is as good as it gets.