Played on Windows
Available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4
There is a Disclaimer at the End.
In 2014, Activision released Destiny. Destiny was the first game from Bungie after being a first party developer for Microsoft. It was met with optimism but it had some valid criticism. Three years later, Destiny 2 was released promising to improve on the original game and fix many of the problems with the original game. Let’s see how that went.
I played the original Destiny at launch and was pulled along with the hype as most people were. This was the first game of an all-new franchise made by the guys who dominated the console shooter market with Halo for over a decade. While Halo was never high on my list, I wanted to see what a brand new IP would allow Bungie to bring to the table.
The biggest thing that Destiny brought was an MMO feel to an FPS. While there were other experiences like that such as Planetside, Destiny promised a strong story and classic Bungie gameplay which had been really refined.
While Destiny succeeded in ways, such as the ability to bring a good number of people together in large areas, the story was admittedly weak. The classic example is the famous line of a female character saying “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain” when someone asked her name. It’s not just bad, it’s famously bad.
The other big issue with Destiny was the post-game offerings were lacking. There was one raid and it launched about two weeks after release. I personally had moved on to something else by that point and the raid didn’t entice me back.
Destiny was alright, and I probably recommend it because of how novel it was and the promise of more to come. I still do, I enjoyed it for what it was, but it wasn’t exactly my type of game.
Before we get to Destiny 2, there’s another detour, because I want to bring up something important. When Destiny was announced there is a famous line that it was a 10-year plan for Destiny as a platform. I always assumed that was misunderstood. When I read that, I didn’t expect Destiny to be a single game for ten years. Instead, I assumed there would be another Destiny before 10 years. The “Destiny” franchise is the platform for ten years, not a specific game. So I also expect Destiny 3 and possibly Destiny 4 before those 10 years are up.
When Destiny 2 was announced, I wasn’t planning on picking it up. I had played all of Destiny in the base game, and I didn’t want to play more. I heard Destiny 2 was a lot better, but I decided to play other games. I also had stopped buying games at launch just on principle, and while Destiny 2 was on PC it wasn’t on Steam. That’s not a major problem but I didn’t constantly see ads for it, so it was out of sight and out of mind.
However, May 2018’s Humble Bundle is Destiny 2, and I review Humble Bundle Monthly’s games when I can. So I picked up the Monthly Bundle for twelve dollars and gave it shot.
I have to admit, this game looks great at times.
As of May 9th there are already two expansions out for Destiny 2 called The Curse of Osiris and Warmind. I don’t own either nor have I played them. I bought no DLC, microtransactions, or additional add-ons. So this is a review of Destiny 2’s base game, a little over half a year after release.
In addition, I’m not going to dig into microtransactions or the DLC. The only time these got in my way was when the advertisements for the expansions popped up on my initial boot up (and my first boot up after the release of Warmind). Neither was overly intrusive nor did I have a constant feeling that I was pushed towards microtransactions in the base game. You do open engrams in the same place as the microtransactions are made but it’s not intrusive enough to mention beyond that. There is enough else to discuss about Destiny 2 that I feel I can safely ignore this. Destiny 2 does have microtransactions though.
I also won’t go into the major controversies surrounding the game. There are enough articles and news about them, and I wasn’t a party to any of them. I didn’t play the game at the time and I can only say what others have said far better. Again, there’s far better stuff to discuss in my opinion and there are other people who have a more insider opinion.
Now that we got the proper scope of the review out of the way, let’s dig in. To start discussing Destiny 2, we need to take a look back at the original Destiny. The biggest complaint of the first game that I heard was the story. In Destiny the main game’s story was weak. A lot of the universe and lore was left untouched. Instead, the game expected players to gather “Grimoire cards” and read them. The big issue with this plan was when the Grimoire cards were gathered they weren’t available in-game, you would have to go to Bungie’s website (or later the app) and read them there.
Admittedly if you read a lot of the lore in the Grimoire Cards, there was a good lore and story in Destiny, however, the question has to be asked, if there was such a great story, why wasn’t it in the game? It’s the same question I’ve asked about Final Fantasy XV. A rich story and world, with a weak story in-game, boggles my mind.
Destiny 2 easily fixes that. The main story starts with you having some power from the first game. You start with a light level (equipment level) of 100, which is about halfway through the game. You start by fighting against an invading force that’s attacking the City which is the stronghold from the first game. The attackers turn out to be “The Red Legion” which is a specific version of the Cabal class in the first game.
The Red Legion is lead by a ruler named Ghaul. Ghaul and his legion beat your team, and pretty much everyone very easily, and throws you off his ship, as the mysterious Traveler (a small moon sized object) from the first game which gave everyone “The Light” is caged in what looks like bondage gear for a planet called a Cage. Due to the Cage all Guardians, including the player, lose “The Light”, which equates to their ability to respawn and that’s where the first mission ends. I’m going to go a little deeper so there are some spoilers coming up, however, I will not spoil the ending or major points.
I have to admit I really wanted more Ghaul in game. He’s a badass.
The game definitely has a Metroid feel to the opening. You have a lot of power and lose everything. However, there are issues I had in the opening. The first issue is that great and powerful “Light” that’s lost, is returned to you in a single mission. You follow a falcon and kill some enemies as the game warns you that you can’t respawn. Yet you can, you just restart from a checkpoint. This is something the game also will do later for no reason.
After those easy fights, you get “The Light” back. This story returns it only to you, but I really feel like this “Light” shouldn’t have been removed if you were immediately going to get it back. It is a stupid gameplay construct tried to explain away by a story, but it’s done so fast it’s weak.
In addition, Ghaul does nothing for the rest of the game until the end. You see him in cutscenes, and he talks to a prisoner (I believe it’s “The Speaker”). But he monologues every four or five missions. He doesn’t do much. I would have loved to be challenged by him, or taunted, or chasing him. He treated you like a fool at the beginning but never shows up to finish the job. You just have all the time in the world to gain all the power back and then take him down.
Worse the game tries to make “The Light” sound special. However, right after I got my “Light” back I went to what is the hub city called “The Farm”. Problem is, I also saw about 20-100 different people running around. They all have “The Light”. It’s hard to make “The Light” sound amazing when the game tries to say no one has “The Light” anymore and the game is introducing you to hundreds for other players who have “The Light”. Again if we were “only a select few of the millions of Guardians” maybe there’d be a bigger impact, but the game really pushes this idea that everyone lost it, and it’s not easy to regain.
There are three characters at the beginning of the game that the game tries to mark as important. These are three “friends” you’ll find later to help you. But the game doesn’t really develop them a ton at the beginning, and only develops them slightly when they appear. I also didn’t care much for them. The jokey one, Cayde-6, who people seem to like, feels like the writer tries too hard to be funny in a way that made the effort cringe-worthy. You only spend about 4 missions around these people and mostly in cutscenes. There are no bonding moments (like the sniper mission in Call of Duty Modern Warfare) where you have the time to really develop a relationship with them.
Don’t get this wrong though. There’s an acceptable story here. Ghaul is such an imposing figure I wanted to face off against him more, the final fight is excellent in the game. There are some major parts of the story that I won’t even touch upon. The entire story is in Destiny 2 though, there is no supplemental reading required, and it’s a massive upgrade from the first Destiny game.
Yet it shouldn’t be winning awards. Video games are growing as a medium and Destiny 2 isn’t on par with the industry. It is probably not Destiny 2’s fault. Destiny 2 is a multiplayer game, that focuses on loot drops. The story is good enough. In fact, much of my complaints being fixed might hurt the multiplayer aspects which seem to be the most important in Destiny 2.
Yet, the main player doesn’t speak, his personal droid (Ghost) does it for him. There are no really terrible lines such as the infamous “That wizard came from the moon.” But there are weak lines like “It’s that falcon again, is it following us? Or are we following it? “. The game does tell more story, but there are two parts of the game almost back to back where the game tells you “I don’t have time to tell you what I don’t understand.” and when you ask a ship about what happened to the crew it answers “Only my captain is able to access those memories but he’s super dead”. It still pulls that same card, but at least it’s side quest parts. I just wonder if the story could have just skipped asking about the crew and it would have been fine?
I want better from a story but I also am a realist and feel like we got the best story we could have for multiplayer. I think there’s far more that could be done, but if we assume the ten-year plan is still going, I don’t think Destiny 2 was supposed to be a major improvement in the tech and so it’s limited in what it can do.
So we come to the gameplay. And where Destiny’s story needed improvements, Destiny’s gameplay was good, I think Activision took the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach. I would agree with that but I think that’s only in theory. In my opinion, stagnation is what causes my biggest complaints.
The similarities between the two games are pretty large. You have the same races attacking a second time. There’s not a new race that I noticed. You also have the same enemies attacking. I don’t remember every enemy in the first game, but I don’t know if there are any new ones here. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t give at least a few new enemies or a whole new race in this game. They don’t even get much development in this game, it’s just “There’s the Vex” and you’re supposed to shoot them all the same.
That’s also the same, the shooting. And while I said my biggest complaint is Destiny 2 is too similar to its predecessor, the shooting is the one thing that should remain the same. It’s highly effective and fantastic. There are new types of weapons I believe but they all feel great in the player’s hand and I have to admit, as much shooting as there was, I never really got bored with killing more enemies with similar guns.
There’s just something about the way enemies jump in the game that’s satisfying.
Destiny 2 also uses the same classes for the player, and this is another area that I can give the game a pass for being the same. There are differences that I’ll discuss in a moment, but Titan, Warlock, and Hunter are fine as classes. A new one would be nice but I think they changed it up enough that I think reusing the same classes is more than fine.
The game also uses the same loot grinding system. Items drop, though only very special items are now “encrypted” and have to be identified, which means fewer trips to the store to unlock items. This means in the middle of a mission you can usually swap in a new item you get, and for the mission gameplay up to level 20, this is great. The highest grade gear can require an unlock, but usually if you get one of those you are almost assured of something extremely special. I believe I was seeing level 205 gear dropping but the gear that needed to be “unlocked” was level 230.
Speaking of level 20, the grind is the same. You quickly level up to 20 through XP and reach it about at the time you do your final mission, and then you grind for gear. There’s nothing really unique about it except how to get gear, so it’s the same system as before. Though the game now allows you to earn additional levels to earn that “Legendary” gear.
So there’s a lot of Destiny 2 that’s the same, but there’s still some rather major differences and flaws, and for a second game in the series, they’re a little less forgivable.
The biggest issue I have with the game is there are really three things you do. You shoot similar looking enemies, even the various races don’t change that much outside of a few special units. Then, you then sometimes walk up to an object and hit x. Finally, once in a blue moon you “hold a position” and sometimes that means literally standing in a circle to watch a bar go up. These three actions not just a majority of the gameplay, but every single part of the game.
It’s a shame because I like the story more, and the level designs have some good locations, but it’s a “shooty bang bang” game. That’s it. On the first level, you run around and hit x at least once. Once you see standing in a circle you’ve seen all the tricks, from there it’s a pure loot grind.
There is a point where you take over a tank. You might think it is different, but even then you move around and do the exact same three actions. You shoot enemies and then jump out to open big doors. It’s about the same as the rest of the gameplay.
Even Call of Duty for how similar it is, tends to try to switch things up and give unique experiences. They might have enemies that need to be flanked or enemies that have hard positions. Here the enemies spawn in and run around. There’s nothing scripted, but there’s also nothing different from the first time you’ve seen these enemies.
Now, this might be a symptom of the fact the entire game is supposed to be played as an online game, so every mission should be playable with friends, but the game doesn’t feel special. While it’s hard to do something different especially with multiplayer games like Borderlandsthat have interesting mission layouts and unique experiences while still having full co-op. Borderlands and Destiny 2 are different but the mission flows in Destiny 2 feels like they’re too simplistic. They don’t even seem to try to do anything different.
Another issue I had was the rarity system on the loot feels off. You start the game and you get “commons” and then you get green “uncommons” around level 10, then you start getting blues “rares”, purples “legendary” and rarely yellows “exotics” at the end of the game.
I think of Diablo’s gear system here, and I wonder if it would be better. If you find a Blue or a Purple, it should be significantly better than a common, but it’s not. It’s more which level do you find it on. I replaced some blues while leveling up, which are “rare”, most of the time I replaced them a level later with an uncommon because the uncommon has better stats. Not different stats, but just the same stats where every stat was better.
I like the idea of a rarity system, but the “common” and “uncommon” appear to be retired when you hit 20, you don’t get the money or items for them, you just don’t see them any more. But that really means they’re not “common” they’re just an implied rarity system to make you feel more special.
This also means that you should just keep replacing any gear you have with the next drop because it’s almost always going to be incrementally better. It’s a shame because when I saw my first blue, I felt special, but when I hit level 20, blues drop so often they felt average. Purples were still a bit of a deal, but it didn’t have the same feeling as if I picked up an Orange in Diablo.
I also have a mixed opinion on the level design. In general, I have to say I like the level design, there are some good locations and the game keeps you moving through interesting locations, but there are two real issues I have with it.
The game has a minimap button, and this button is crucial because while the level design is amazing looking, the game doesn’t really give you a good idea of how to get through locations. One time the indicator was above me because I never looked up I didn’t notice a hole in the ceiling. Often times there’s a little hidden alley or a room off to the right. The navigation system in the game really hides the fact that the levels aren’t laid out very well and require that navigation system even in the mission levels that have a single way through the rooms.
A bigger problem with the level design is with what I called “Darkness doors”. There’s a number of locations in the game that have open doors. These doors are filled with a dark smoky look that won’t allow you to enter into them. I’m not sure of the reason. After seeing one I figured I’d be back later to proceed down that corridor. I never returned to that area again. Maybe they’re supposed to be monster closets, but monsters never seemed to come out of them, they just appeared.
The Darkness doors, they just looked odd.
The open doors feel lazy, and maybe I didn’t have the expansion for it, or it was once a doorway and now it isn’t but a closed door would have been more effective. Instead, it leaves an unanswered question of why?
Going back to that first level, there was a large room with a massive fight. I saw people come in and we had to hold the line for 3 rounds. It was great to see a few random people fighting with me in the story mode. I thought it was a great moment. It’s a shame the game never attempted to do that again that I saw. I could imagine walking into a major conflict and randomly finding people to fight alongside. It is a shame because it could make some epic moments.
Still, the idea does come together in the Public Event. This is something new from Destiny 2 and might be my favorite change. An event starts somewhere with a 5-minute countdown informing people it’s coming. On the world map, there’s always one or two of these Events active, and a couple more counting down, so as a player you can always swing by and try something out. There’s a flag to rally to as to sign up for the event, but even after it starts shooting any enemy in it, signs you up for the event so you can earn rewards.
These Public Events are big moments. Usually, the enemy drops something onto the world and tries to extract sometimes, such as “glimmer”, the currency of the world, or take over an area. As players you need to fight them back with your team, sometimes fighting large enemies, or tanks, or just wave after wave.
The Public Events fall into the same problems as the normal gameplay. If you chase these on a single planet, you’ll see the exact same events come up rather quickly, and most of these events are shoot the target, or stand in a circle. A couple require you to grab an object and deposit it in the middle of a fight for some more firepower, but the majority are just shoot everything.
These Public Events are also quite hectic and I get the feeling that the more people in them, the more hectic they get. I fought in quite a few of these and they are great with a group. I tried two Public Events solo and got devastated, it’s a shame it doesn’t scale down low enough but it does mean that you start to fight alongside a group going from event to event.
They also reward you with tokens for the area (that you can turn in for Rep that you turn into level 20 tier items) so there are reasons to do them. They also sometimes drop rare (blue) gear, and the fights are interesting. However, there are no leaderboards for a Public Event so I was never sure how much I was contributing. Was I being carried or was I carrying? But like I said, Public Events are the high point in my mind of Destiny 2.
I mentioned the classes are the same, and I played a Titan in Destiny 2, the same as I played in the first Destiny, and they play similarly. There does seem to be more customization put into the game. Titans’ have three subclasses, the Sentinel, the Striker, and the Sunbreaker. You start with the Sentinel, and a few levels later you get a quest to earn the Striker subclass, and then a few levels later another quest for the Sunbreaker subclass. Each quest starts with killing enough enemies and then go to Earth for a special mission which pretty much introduces you to the class.
They tell you about the class, and then let you learn the subclass on the subclass missions
One of the first choices for the Sentinel class was if I wanted an active ability to be that I put up a giant wall, or to create a similar wall at half the height that gave me the ability to duck behind it and pop out to shoot enemies. All three subclasses got the same choice, but it’s an interesting move as it changes how I’m using my ability, and customizing my class.
Each subclass gets three different grenades, so a total of nine different types of grenades can be thrown by the Titan class alone. They appear to be unique depending on which subclass you choose. There’s also an option what type of double jump (height, speed, or maneuverability) you want, though I believe all classes get the same options for the double jump.
Then there are the “passive” abilities. I use the quotation marks because one of these abilities is usually attached to a melee attack or kill. A recharging melee attack trigger abilities aren’t exactly “passive” in my opinion. However there are two sets on each subclass, and each group of passives abilities has 4 abilities to unlock (through upgrade points) You choose the grouping you want.
This all works and gives the player a lot more customization of the subclasses. If you wanted to know which subclass I chose it’s based on the “Supers”. I mostly went with the Sentinel but I switched to the Striker when it was available.
I did laugh at the supers of the Titan though. The Sentinel gains a powerful invincible shield he can throw that returns, the Striker jumps around and pounds the ground, and the Sunbreaker gets a hammer that he throws to damage enemies. Basically, I call them Captain America, Hulk, and Thor. Why couldn’t they just call the Titan an “Avenger”?
Captain America? Or Titan Steve Rogers, you be the judge.
The subclass customization is well done and delivers what it promises. It unlocks at a good rate, and I like the idea of the customization, though I usually found what worked and kept it. I’m sure endgame players will probably constantly switch between the customizations depending on what’s necessary.
Moving to the end game, there’s probably a question of “What do you do after the story?”. In Destiny, it was simply run the same strikes over and over and grind repetitive quests. Destiny 2 has a better answer. You do whatever you want to do.
There is, of course, a constant presence in the game of playing multiplayer. You can go to the crucible at any time during the game and enjoy multiplayer. You get matched up and away you go. I tried it at level 2, to see what playing with other newbies would be like. I got into a match with a level 2, a 4, and an 8. Not a huge difference in the group and that seemed fine.
And then the opponents found us. They had three low-level players, a 2 and a 4 and something else I think. They also had a level 25…
That level 25 decided to play target practice and just slaughter my team for fun. There’s no real communication in-game (there’s chat but I never saw a single chat message in my entire time playing). But that level 25 constantly was taking capture points and slaughtering us with his sword of unlimited power, while my team couldn’t even try to kill him alone and even when we all ganged up on him, it often wasn’t enough.
Now there’s a lot of ways to solve this problem. You can lower the 25’s stats, or abilities to level 2 to even it off. You could limit his power. But it doesn’t matter. I was a new player, that level 25 was clearly an expert who had been playing a long time and had an expansion (each expansion gets you another 5 levels). The problem is that level 25 would know the map, know how to play, and beat us easily.
The game could have given us a level 25 to tag along or found a way to balance the teams better. Instead, it chose to let us get stomped. Then I requeued hoping to see something better. It was better, except it was only better for the other team. Instead of just the 25, they also got a level 14. Two high-level players, and again my entire team was single digits. The matchmaking didn’t seem to try to even the teams up.
I know my love of games doesn’t really include competitive multiplayer, and getting stomped twice just ruined any chance of my continued enjoyment of the crucible so I moved on. It’s a good mode if you like Player versus Player battles, and the feeling is very similar to the first Destiny, but personally, I’m not usually in the mood for PVP.
Outside of the multiplayer, there’s actually a lot of content after the main mission. It’s not really story/lore content, but there are always things you can do if you’re bored. There are a ton of “activities” in the world. Activities are like shorter missions, that are still in the parts of the world where you can find other people doing other things. You run around and accomplish small goals like keeping a point safe.
There’s also post-game quests that are like missions after the game. However, by that point I had played enough Destiny 2 and didn’t feel a desire to continue playing them, however, this is where you get some of the fanciest exotic weapons.
Strikes make a return and the one strike I did play reused a level from the main story mode. Maybe there are more unique Strikes, but a few seconds after I started, my randomly made fireteam ran on, and I kept up but it felt like almost every other piece of gameplay in Destiny 2. Just repetitive shooting, this time it requires two other people.
Then there are Patrols… which again is shooting targets over and over for some reasons.
I don’t mean to harp on it, but the fact is almost everything in this game is “start the activity, mission, quest, level, strike, patrol, dungeon, or just walk around. Then shoot some enemies, get rewarded, and do it again.
It’s one of the reasons I stopped playing and it’s one of the reasons I didn’t spend the time getting more gear. The other reason is the only major thing I had left to do was the raid.
Some people might claim that I can only review Destiny 2 if I tried everything, and for that I say, my opinion barely changed over the entire story I don’t think playing more of the game is going to improve my experience especially if it’s because I’m required to level up to play a raid. To do the raid you’re supposed to have gear in the 260 range. At the end of the story I had 200 in the light level, and only two exotics, in the 230 range. At that point, I believe the game expects you to go grind reputation, repeatedly run strikes, and farm your way to higher gear.
This is what it’s all about, the inventory and gear score (power) .
If you like playing Destiny 2, this probably sounds great. You play more, get incrementally more powerful, and eventually take on the big bad raid, but for me, I was done playing. I had seen that Destiny 2 wasn’t much more than Destiny, and while it fixed many of the problems, it didn’t find a new compelling reason for me to continue playing. The Raid sounds like a coordinated effort of 6 players, which means the random groups I would be forced to find would be of varying effectiveness.
While I could probably run it with people holding gear from the two new DLCs, then I question if I’d be along for the ride, or doing anything of value to assist them. As such would that be the “proper” experience? Feeling like either a token addition to the team (the newbie) or a drag on their time, I decided to skip the entire experience. Maybe it’s the most amazing part of the game, but I still would have to ask about the ton of hours I invested in the game where I didn’t get to see anything that amazing just to reach that point.
Ultimately I decided not to even attempt the raid. I had seen enough of Destiny 2 and that was the conclusion of my play time.
Destiny 2 is an odd duck. I understand it’s built as an MMOFPS more than anything. The grind that is popular in World of Warcraft is also located here. However in World of Warcraft, there’s a lot more to do, and more focus on a variety of things to do, not just raiding at the end of the game.
But I think comparing it to World of Warcraft is dishonest, as one is actually an MMORPG, and Destiny 2 isn’t even an RPG, and honestly, the MMO part is limited at best. Instead, I think Borderlands is a better comparison. Both games heavily rely on the loot grind, both Borderlands and Destiny are shooters. Both are free to play, have multiple expansions.
To me though Borderlands has more interesting writing, while Destiny 2 has a better story. As much as I like fighting Jack, I have to admit the story in Destiny 2 is better. The shooting is better in Destiny by far. Borderlands has good shooting but it’s more stat based than just a pure shooting simulation.
But I’d be willing to go play through Borderlands again, and I probably don’t want to do the same in Destiny 2. Borderland might not have the satisfying shooting, but it does have better characters, more variety in enemies, and bosses that feel unique. It also has the feeling it’s a single player game at heart that has co-op, whereas Destiny 2 is a multiplayer game that allows a single player to beat it.
Really, it’s not that Destiny 2 is bad. It’s got amazing gameplay and a better story. It’s the I don’t see a reason for Destiny 2 to really exist. This isn’t a sequel to the original game. This is the original game with a few minor improvements. As much as I enjoyed the story, and the Public Events are interesting, the gameplay is too similar to the original game to really stand out. As such I’m giving this game a…
Final Thoughts: While it improves on the original in a number of ways, it doesn’t stand out from the original. It reminds me of Doom 2, where it added in a double-barreled shotgun and a couple of monster types. If you were dying for more Destiny, Destiny 2 is perfect for you, but this didn’t change my opinion of the franchise.
All experiences are subject to change, as Destiny is an “MMO” in some ways, expect multiple changes. However, the base experience is likely going to remain the same, especially as I played this eight months after launch.
Disclaimers: I know at least one employee at Bungie well enough that I saw him at E3 playing a game, and waited for him to finish to chat with him a couple years ago. There’s at least another employee at Bungie that I used to work with. They have not influenced my review, though as I played this game I was aware that I had worked with both of them.
I announce any conflict of interest I can think of so you can best judge my opinions. This is not a sign of any influence, however, I want to be as transparent as I can.