Destiny 2 Review
Heads up Guardians! The highly anticipated sequel to Destiny is finally here and boy oh boy was it worth the wait. Some may say that Destiny's launch was a bit rocky and Bungie later found their groove through later expansions, but I myself found the first game fantastic across the board, although the end-game grind and the fact that the RNG gods never really seemed to be on my side ultimately killed the experience for me over time. Each expansion almost felt like a concept experiment changing the experience just enough to spur little to large amounts of frustration. Those potential experiments may have just paid off as Destiny 2 squashes any issues Destiny may have had at launch or throughout its expansions.
Destiny 2's story begins a year after the Rise of Iron plot from Destiny's final expansion. A group called the Red Legion led by Ghaul has taken out all Tower communications and has launched an attack on Earth. Ghaul's primary focus is acquiring the power from The Traveler and eliminating anything in his path. The attack takes the Guardians by surprise and doesn't end well for anyone, including yourself. Stripped of your light and left for dead, you must fight your way to regaining your light and finding any and all survivors. Together, humans and Guardians must fight for humanity to save Earth and The Traveler from Ghaul's plan to strip the light from The Traveler.
One major complaint I had from Destiny is that the story felt like an afterthought. It had no real direction, depth, and delivery was lacking. Bungie must have vowed to fix that this time around as I immediately felt immersed in the story. The attack on Earth, The Tower, The Traveler, and Guardians, everything was personal. The path forward and the objectives were clear; survive and find any other survivors. The experience has hints of Bungie going back to its Halo roots, which is a good thing. Throughout the campaign you will work with humans and Guardians to regroup and band together against Ghaul. Each primary character you encounter has their own personal story and agenda that work well in deepening the immersion of the story and overall experience.
All of these experiences will take you across four zones to explore, Nessus, Io, Titan, and the European Dead Zone. Each zone has new characters to meet and its own part in the story, but there are also new additions to the series in adventures and lost sectors. Adventures are essentially side quests across the zone that will deepen the story even more, but also reward the player with gear and upgrade points for their class - more on upgrading later. Lost sectors are like mini dungeons where players can take on harder than normal enemies with a boss encounter. If successful you are rewarded with loot. Public events have also returned though they now occur more often and are highlighted on the map. Public events are where players can gather to take on a horde of enemies mixed with boss encounters. New to the public events are heroic events which are harder versions triggered by executing certain tasks during the normal encounter and of course reward more loot than a normal event. Essentially the zones are way more active and intriguing than in Destiny.
Similar to Destiny the player can choose between three classes, Titan, Hunter, or Warlock. Each class has three elemental subclasses with varying abilities. For Destiny veterans a couple of the subclasses will feel familiar, but at least two out of the three for each class are new or at least feel like a fresh rehash. Each class starts with its newest subclass which keeps the experience fresh. Unlocking the other subclasses comes via playing the campaign although it isn't necessarily required to obtain them once they are available to unlock, but the experience of unlocking the subclasses is a very satisfying. Earlier I had mentioned upgrade points which are used to unlock abilities within the subclasses. This is a new type of leveling process from Destiny. No need to be discouraged by leveling your subclass since completing the campaign, completing adventures, and just plain playing will reward you with upgrade points to use. Just play the game as you wish and eventually you will unlock all the abilities for every subclass.
After the campaign is complete which is roughly twenty hours, you should also be at max level 20. This is when the real meat of the game comes into play. Returning to the end game "grind" are Strikes, Nightfalls, Crucible, faction reputations, Trials, and Raids. New to the end game are meditations and milestones. Not much has changed among the same game types except that Nightfall is noticeably harder due to having a 15 minutes time constraint the players are up against and the addition of prestige modes for both Nightfall and Raids essentially taking the place of hard mode. Meditations are a new way to replay portions of the campaign which reward loot and tokens, which can be turned in for additional rewards. Not necessarily an awesome end-game addition, but it does provide some variety that the original game was missing. The most notable addition is the milestones. Milestones are weekly objectives that will have varying activities to complete to turn in for powerful rewards. These activities range from completing multiple Crucible activities, Strikes, and the Nightfall. These milestones are the best way to level up what is most coveted component in Destiny 2, power level.
Power level is identical to light level in Destiny. Power level is the actual number that matters outside of your character level. At the moment the highest Power level is 305, though after the campaign you will be nowhere near the max which is good, something to work towards. This at first may seem like a grind but again after you complete the campaign there will still be many adventures and questlines to complete which will propel you to getting better rewards leading to higher Power level. At some point though your focus will be on those milestones. Power level is derived from the average of all your weapons and armor. In Destiny achieving a higher level meant a lot of grinding and a good portion of luck. Destiny 2 has a more guaranteed and linear direction for achieving upgrades with less of a reliance on luck. With each reward there is a random factor, but in most cases it will be an upgrade. Even if it is a similar item that you already have you can infuse that item into another to raise its level if it is lower. This is a returning aspect from Destiny though there is a new addition in mods. Mods are secondary components of weapons and armor that will add raw damage or complimentary abilities for your character. Some mods can be used to raise item levels by 5. As you can see there are so many ways to increase your Power level that it will eventually come up naturally. Of course people have already found the fastest and most efficient way of getting to max level, but I recommend taking your time and just enjoying the ride.
So how does Power level impact the end game? Just as in Destiny the Power level unlocks access to the harder content such as Nightfall and the Raid. The higher the level of your character the easier time you will have in the Nightfall and Raid, but they are still challenging - though just because you have access to those activities doesn't mean everyone will want to play with you. Just as it was in Destiny, most players want to have others with higher Power level than what is recommended in order to complete the activity quicker, which can be frustrating at times. Also not returning is matchmaking for Nightfall and Raids which means you will still need to use other means to get into a team to partake in the events. Instead of matchmaking Bungie has added what they are calling Guided games. For example, if I am a single player looking for a group I can join a Guided game queue for the Nightfall or Raid and wait to get picked up by a Clan which is an organized group seeking additional people to play with. This is a neat concept though in practice I found myself waiting upwards of 20 minutes in queue without even getting a match and found faster results using other methods of getting a group. I would like to see more people use guided games since it is a built-in feature, thus avoiding the numerous friend requests and unnecessary messaging needed to get into a group.
There is so much built into Destiny 2 that I haven't even touched on all of it and you will just have to experience yourself. I have yet to even experience the Raid and have so much left to do. Every day I look forward to jumping into the game to chip away at the max Power level and uncover new items and weapons for my arsenal. Bungie has taken Destiny lessons learned and only applied the positive in Destiny 2. I definitely look forward to what more Bungie has in store for the series. This review alone doesn't do this game justice. Take control of your destiny, join me and millions of others in experiencing one of Bungie's best games yet.
Final Rating: 90% - Destiny 2 is what Destiny should have been.
Note: A review code for this game was provided by the publisher.