Developer Bungie is somewhat of a legend. After leaving the insanely popular Halo series in the hands of Microsoft and 343 Industries, Bungie moved on to Destiny. Released in 2014, Destiny is what Bungie called a “shared-world shooter,” introducing the multiplayer online shooter crowd to massively multiplayer online game elements like other players running around in a shared online world, loot of varying rarity, and raid encounters.
While initial critical reception was mixed, Destiny hooked players with its shoot-and-loot mechanics while turning away other players with its sometimes confusing and mostly non-existent story. Destiny 2 takes a few steps towards solving the issues of its predecessor, but ignores most others while providing more of the same.
Destiny 2 starts off with the last human city, appropriately called The Last City, being attacked by the Red Legion – a conquering Cabal army led by their emperor, Dominus Ghaul. After a battle with the player-controlled Guardian, Ghaul defeats the player and strips them of all powers – a crude, but effective explanation as to why all Guardians are essentially starting back at square one. I can almost forgive that gaming cliché because Destiny 2 has something that the original didn’t: a campaign with a story.
While the original game had players hopping from planet to planet embarking on missions for obscure reasons with objectives that seemed to make little sense, Destiny 2 provides some much-needed context and purpose. Even most of the dour seriousness of the original has been set aside for more personable characters and mildly effective humor. Instead of a vague threat of evil and darkness, there’s an interesting antagonist in Ghaul and the immediate threat of the star-exploding, system destroying weapon called “The Almighty.”
Not only did the campaign have a story that finally drew me into the Destiny universe, it was full of moments that would seem right at home in a Halo game. Full of vehicle sections and NPC banter, Destiny 2 skirts the line between those two games so closely I half expected to be called “Master Chief” at some point.
I’d like to say that Bungie is back in cinematic story-telling form, but while effective, the campaign is ultimately just so-so: it feels like it’s over too quickly, and while fun, can feel pretty repetitive. Fortunately, Destiny 2 retains the great gameplay feel of the original with shooting that is fun and mechanically tight.
You can’t have a good shoot-and-loot without the “shoot” part being well made, and Destiny 2 has it down. While there are only a few classes of weapons – auto-rifles, pistols, pulse rifles, submachine guns, swords, etc. – there is a large variety of them at varying levels of rarity, from common white colored items to exotic yellow items.
Each weapon feels like it has the appropriate kick and power, and enemies are fun to dispatch. Even the bullet-sponge enemies have interesting tactics and shields or other reasons for their resiliency that makes them more interesting to fight. The player controlled Guardians also have movement abilities that differ slightly between each class – like the Warlock’s glide and the Hunter’s double-jump.
There are three different character classes in Destiny 2, and while they often don’t feel too different to play, they have significantly different abilities. There’s the damage blocking Titan, the magical void-harnessing Warlock, and the gun slinging Hunter. Every character unlocks subclasses through gameplay giving each a total of three subclasses that further adds variety. Each subclass has access to different grenade types, passive abilities, jumps, active abilities, and super abilities.
Super abilities are extremely powerful attacks or modes that you can enter into once your ability bar is charged. It can be one powerful attack, like the Warlock’s Nova Bomb, a mix of defensive and offensive like the Titan’s Sentinel shield, or a super energy weapon like the Hunter’s arc-staff. Different abilities are unlocked through player levels, with the level cap being 20 – which is usually what you end up at after the campaign is completed.
Once players are done with Destiny 2‘s story, they can choose to play as another character class or push their character’s potential as far as it can go by increasing their Power Level. Replacing Destiny’s Light Level, Power Level measures how powerful the entirety of the player’s equipment is. Get better gear by completing guided milestones, 3-man challenges called strikes, and 6-man raids which test the limits of your group’s ability to work together. There are five Strikes available to all at release, with the sixth a PlayStation 4 timed-exclusive. Available as of yesterday is Destiny 2’s first raid, Leviathan, with more on the horizon.
While there is an extensive amount of content to group with other Guardians to tackle, there is also the Crucible, which allows you test your mettle against other player controlled Guardians. All game modes in the Crucible are now 4v4 instead of the 6v6 found in the previous game. The lower player count has made Crucible PvP a little more tactical and less chaotic than before, making matches feel more balanced and fun. There are five different game modes in the Crucible – from team deathmatch, to holding and controlling territory.
In the end, Destiny 2 feels like a step in the right direction in almost every way from its predecessor, albeit a little light on content at launch. In about a week, I’ve managed to see most of what Destiny 2 has to offer, but with plenty of content such as new raids and upcoming DLC there should be lots more shooting and looting for fans of Destiny in the future. Available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Destiny 2 will also be available on PC on October 24th.