Destiny 2 Review: Incredible improvements, still a ways to go

Three years ago, Bungie introduced an interesting, but somewhat empty, world in Destiny. Players were tasked with defending mankind against enemies such as the Vex, Fallen, and Hive on various planets in the solar system. Over the lifespan of Destiny, the developer addressed these concerns and added appealing new content, starting with The Taken King. Many had high hopes for Destiny 2, but still felt the need to have some reservations about the sequel so they wouldn’t get burned again. Luckily, Bungie has continued to learn from their early mistakes and Destiny 2 is in a much better starting point than its predecessor.

The biggest improvement, and quite possibly the most important, is the campaign. There were countless times during the first game’s campaign when I questioned what exactly I was doing and how this helped the overall story. Why did the Traveler select humankind to guard? How did the Vex, Fallen, and Hive come to our solar system? Why do they hate humanity? Granted, some of these questions might have been answered via Grimoire cards. These cards were meant to provide more in-depth background lore about Destiny, but the problem was that they only appeared on a specific website. Destiny 2 does a phenomenal job of constructing a very fluid and engaging story that makes you actually care about what’s going on.

One major factor in establishing an engaging plot is the villain. Destiny 2’s big baddie, Dominus Ghaul, is the Cabal leader of the Red Legion, hell-bent on obtaining the light powers of the mysterious Traveler. Ghaul believes the Traveler picked incorrectly in bestowing its powers on the human race, and is determined to change its mind. The opening mission, the same mission from the beta, shows Ghaul and the Red Legion utterly destroy the Guardians’ Tower and securing the Traveler. This leaves the Guardians powerless, weak, and virtually unable to mount a counter attack. Not to mention, Ghaul has a Death Star-type weapon aimed directly at the Sun with means to wipe out the entire human race.

The second major factor that complimented the storytelling is the soundtrack. The music from the Tower siege up to the final showdown against the Cabal leader is absolutely engrossing. Not once did the music feel out of place or unnecessary; on the contrary, the sound selection felt perfect for every given scene throughout the campaign. Tremendous credit to the sound team at Bungie for further enriching the experience.

Bungie’s sequel does not do away with all of its faults. An important cut scene in the campaign showed the Speaker possibly being killed by Ghaul’s mentor, the Consul. The Consul was worried that Ghaul was becoming soft after he had insinuated that the Traveler must be reasoned with and not to take the light by force, as originally planned. Subsequently, Ghaul seemingly crushes the Consul’s skull. The main issue here is, we don’t know for sure if the Speaker is dead because they fall to the ground semi off screen. Not exactly sure why Bungie would showcase it like that, especially because the Speaker is a pretty important supporting character. If the Speaker is indeed dead, I wish Bungie would’ve given him a more impactful sendoff.

Once the campaign has been completed, the end game offers plenty of activities for players (much of the side activities, otherwise known as Adventures and Public Events, can be done side-by-side of the main campaign). The downside though? Much of the end game activities are simply not worth doing. During my run of the campaign, I completed a lot of the available Adventures that increased my Titan’s levels exponentially. Players have two different levels: overall level and their power level. There’s a cap of 20 for the overall level and roughly 300-305 for the power level. Around 265-270, it becomes extremely difficult for players to gain additional power level. Currently, the only ways to obtain more advanced gear and weapons is to either get lucky during loot drops in Public Events, completing the Leviathan raid and the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, or waiting for the milestones to reset every week. The milestones are typically easier to achieve powerful gear, they either revolve around completing Public Events on a certain planet or participating in Crucible.  After those milestones, however, it becomes a bit more difficult to raise your power level. Exotic Engram drops are extremely rare and odds are that the gear or weapon you decrypt from it won’t be useful to you. One solution to this is to infuse different pieces of gear together to increase the level of it, but even that is a bit more challenging than what it seems. Trying to secure loot from the Trials of the Nine mode and the Leviathan raid are equally as challenging. In order to participate in either Crucible mode or raid, you must have a Fireteam of four and six respectively. You cannot simply go into matchmaking and randomly hook up with another Fireteam. This can be very frustrating for players that don’t have any friends who play Destiny, effectively restricting them from playing through important end game content.

Other than the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, normal quick play and competitive Crucible modes have returned. While I fully expect Iron Banner to return, the Crucible mode where the players’ guns and armor stats take effect, there isn’t much incentive in playing Crucible. While Destiny 2 does incentivize the player in completing Crucible modes through milestones, after those are finished it’s hard to return until the milestones reset. I imagine players can get engram drops, but that’s the same possible reward for completing Public Events. Maybe if Bungie incorporated some sort of ranking system with the competitive Crucible mode alongside the milestones that would make it a bit more appealing, but in its current state I don’t see any reason to spend much time in it.

If there’s one word that I would use to describe Destiny’s existence it would be “evolution”. Bungie did an amazing job of listening to criticism early on with the first game and has built off that criticism to deliver a solid sequel. The storytelling and soundtrack are a major improvement from the first entry. Destiny 2’s biggest fault is the sudden plateau at power level 265-270, especially because it’s relatively easy to reach that milestone. The insistence of completing the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine is expected, but the necessity of being a part of a Fireteam is a major downer. Hopefully Bungie increases the level cap, allows solo players to join up with random Fireteams, and ushers in more compelling and rewarding end game content. Otherwise, Destiny 2 might fall into another case of redundancy that vanilla Destiny fell victim to until the release of The Taken King.

Final Score: 8.25/10

Disclaimer: I have not yet participated in the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine Crucible mode. Score may change after completion.

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