If you followed Destiny’s earliest developments, you remember that we were promised evocative, open-world, group-focused content that would awe and inspire. We were promised a sense of belonging to both a community and a setting that was absent from nearly every console game on the market at the time.
As the saying goes, the hype was real.
What we got with Destiny 1 was a shell of what we were promised. It was beautiful and played well enough, but it lacked the substance that we expected from this goliath of a publisher. Over the years, Destiny 1 solved many of its early issues and responded to numerous complaints. It grew into something wonderful and mysterious, filling the oft-ignored science-fantasy genre. It was fun, and it was addicting. But it still wasn’t what we were promised. And then, Bungie listened.
Destiny 2 makes its predecessor look like beta gameplay, and rocks the FPS community. While it isn’t without faults, and we’ll get to those in a moment, Destiny 2 boasts radically improved narrative and gameplay elements that show just how much Bungie was listening.
The depth and implications of the changes this beast of a shooter has undergone are extensive. In this review, we’ll break these changes down into several categories so we can focus on each aspect.
Destiny 2: Gameplay and Narrative
How Does It Feel?
Our Destiny 2 review starts with the intangible – how does the game feel?
Destiny 2 capitalizes on gamers’ favorite part of its predecessor – it’s incredibly fun to play. Bungie has been known to deliver intuitive, cleverly designed gameplay, and Destiny 2 is an award-winning example. The controls are so quick, so smooth, so responsive, you never feel as though a failure was due to a faulty hit-box or a panic-induced button mash failing to register.
One complaint I’ve seen on forums and shared personally is that the game feels significantly easier as a whole than its predecessor when played on the default difficulty setting.
The Guardians and Their Tools
Each and every firearm, grenade, and subclass ability is tuned to a razor’s edge to facilitate competent gaming. Each weapon comes jam-packed with statistics and Weapon Perks so you can find the perfect tool of destruction.
Speaking of tools of destruction, Destiny 2 brings a set of new weapon types to the mix, including sub-machine guns and grenade launchers. The game delivers more player agency with regards to its core feature – shooting aliens – than ever before. The only things holding you back are your gear, your own skills, and your friends stealing your kills.
Speaking of abilities, each of the three main classes has undergone impressive overhauls. The subclasses are divided into core abilities that include your Super Ability, Grenade Ability, Movement Mode, and Class Ability.
The Class Abilities are a new feature in Destiny 2 and allow different utilities that further enforce your chosen playstyle. Hunters choose a dodge roll that gives special benefits while Warlocks select enhancing auras, for example. Furthermore, all subclasses get two tertiary paths to pick from that refine and flavor their given abilities even further. Once both paths have been unlocked, they can be switched on the fly. Finally, once you complete a given subclass’s story quest, you no longer have to grind through leveling it up, it’s available immediately.
The Cabal’s Red Legion are the stars, but Destiny 2’s enemies have evolved into something far more interesting than what we saw in the previous game. They react more quickly and more intelligently to player actions, hiding behind shields and drawing players into risky situations among other new tactics.
The enemy types have remained largely the same, but the look and feel of the creatures our characters face have seen remarkable improvement. In Heroic modes, even more new mechanics are introduced.
The design reworks continue to reinforce the concept of player agency – what you do and how you do it matters. When the Cabal close in with their energy shields, instead of peppering their barriers with rounds, taking precision shots at the central power module can quickly disable their defenses.
The Campaign and PvE Experience
Next up in our Destiny 2 review is a look at the PvE experience you can expect out of Bungie’s new game.
Destiny 2’s campaign is exceptionally well written. It is a story of failure and losing what makes our characters special. The Red Legion is a terrible foe indeed, one our Guardians rise from the ashes to challenge. Every mission in Destiny 2 can be played solo or with friends. A solo run evokes a more personal appeal, but heading out with your fireteam is the heart and soul of the community-driven shooter.
Each story mission brings the players through wondrous and beautiful locations over a series of different planets. Bungie has gotten considerably better at having the overarching narrative involve and envelop the player, leading to a more fulfilling experience overall. Several of the characters we know and love are fully realized this time around with character models, top-notch voice acting, and personalities that feel real. The story is warm, it’s human.
The world of Destiny 2 is brought boldly into view with aggressive, intelligent foes, believable AI behaviors, and masterful level design. The narrative itself has left the secrecy and seclusion of Grimoire Cards, also. Now you can discover the world and its lore naturally as you play through the various PvE modes, including Adventures, Lost Sectors, and Public Events.
There is always something to do in Destiny 2 and each of these activities breathe life into the open-world experience we were promised. Each and every level has clues to the background workings of the world, as well, for those with a sharp eye.
The pulse-pounding campaign takes between four and six hours to complete, and leads the players through a beautiful story worthy of experiencing. But that’s only the beginning. Once you and your friends have completed the (current) story of Destiny 2, you gain access to challenging Strikes and the ever-tempting Leviathan Raid.
Overall, the actual gameplay of Destiny 2’s solo/cooperative experience is incredibly robust and masterfully engineered. The tactics and abilities employed by both players and enemies are refreshing and something that other games could take inspiration from in the future. With the added feature of Guided Games finally allowing solo players a chance to dig into the end-game content, Destiny 2 has taken a huge step in the right direction.
Lord Shaxx continues to lead the Crucible efforts to keep Guardians sharp in the face of new dangers. The Crucible is the core PvP mode in Destiny 2, and has seen extensive changes while managing to feel mostly the same, in a good way.
The Crucible levels the playing field between Guardians by removing progress-based damage modifiers and focusing instead on player skill and teamwork. Speaking of teamwork, all game modes in the Crucible playlists now feature four-person teams, a deviation from the first game. These smaller teams lead to more robust, intense games but can punish solo playing.
The game modes are categorized into two types: Quickplay is the casual playlist with faster matchmaking, whereas Competitive takes longer to match you, but emphasizes comparable skill and connection stability.
The Crucible feels fresh and has seen an immense degree of balancing to favor team play over lone-wolfing. However, with smaller team sizes, slow ammo drops for more powerful weapons, and slower Super recharge rates, the game feels almost too balanced. The chaos of Destiny 1 is practically gone, for better or worse, and solo players may feel overshadowed in the Crucible.
All that said, Bungie seems to be shifting towards the competitive scene with Destiny 2’s Crucible. This is illustrated by the smaller teams, and enhanced scoreboard functionality favoring efficiency over the traditional kill-death ratio. If this is the case, I suspect we’ll see several balancing patches to this game mode before long that reinforce this movement.
Performance and Overlays
Destiny 2 is a powerful game, and requires a powerful machine if you want it to look stunning at its maximum settings. Bungie released the minimum and recommended PC specs required to play their new game on October 12th.
On my current rig, which is comparable to the recommended specs, Destiny 2 runs beautifully and lightning fast. The game looks and feels even better than its console counterpart. Make no mistake – this is no simple port. This is a fully realized PC game, and it acts like it.
Another daunting issue is Bungie’s current policies regarding overlays and recording software have been accused of causing players to be permanently banned. Bungie clarified on October 25th, essentially saying that some people were banned in error, and those individuals have been unbanned. Others, however, were banned for using software that “posed a threat to the shared ecosystem of the game”. Still, the policy feels heavy-handed and has negatively impacted many streamers and average gamers just trying to enjoy a game they were excited about.
Destiny 2 Review: Verdict
Destiny 2 has seen tremendous improvement over its predecessor: Gameplay tuning, believable AI, explicit and evocative narrative, downright dazzling graphics, and lightning fast, responsive controls.
The game has truly come into its own and stands head-and-shoulders above Destiny 1. Quality of Life improvements are numerous, from simplified and improved UI, to an in-game map and standardized reward system, and we love it.
There’s a wealth of activities for players of all inclinations but does tend to favor group play, and this can lead to solo players feeling a little forgotten in some cases.
Even with its share of post-launch bugs, controvery, and troubles, Destiny 2 is easily one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in recent years with the potential to be an industry leading FPS as more content becomes available – the first expansion Curse of Osiris is set to release on December 5th across all platforms.
Final Verdict: 8 / 10
Note: As this review comes to a close, remember that it may become outdated as time progresses and Bungie updates their game. As this happens, this article can be useful as a state-of-the-game document and a symbol of how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go.