The original Destiny didn’t just promise the world. It promised an entire solar system.
Bungie mostly delivered, too. The planet-hopping, loot-grabbing gunplay was fantastic, even if the end game was a massive grind-fest that four major DLC drops failed to fix. The story never felt coherent, either, unless you researched the Grimoire lore books online.
The sequel has to do more than please players who get an engram-shaped gleam in their eyes at the mere mention of more Destiny, then – it has to win back lapsed Guardians and prove Bungie can still do story as well as it can do shooting.
At the time of writing, Bungie hadn’t flipped the switch on the raid, traditionally Destiny’s toughest end-game challenge, but after spending a week with the finished game, I can safely say Destiny 2 fixes everything wrong with the original.
And we’re still just scratching the surface of what Bungie’s upgraded and overhauled universe.
HOME NOT-SO-SWEET HOME
There was so much going on in the first game it was difficult to keep up, but there’s none of that here. Destiny 2 has a laser focus on a single story thread.
You’re not being pinballed across the galaxy any more – the fight starts right on your doorstep, with Cabal commander Dominus Ghaul and his Red Legion troops assaulting the Tower you’ve been calling home for the past three years. Spoilers: things don’t end well for you.
Ghaul imprisons the Traveller (the interstellar… thing giving every Guardian their powers) and steals your Light, leaving you stumbling helplessly through the Tower and its surrounding city as it burns to the ground. Even if you didn’t spend much time in this social space, seeing it unceremoniously razed still packs a punch.
Of course, you don’t stay powerless for long, and pretty soon you’ll be on a path to reunite the Tower’s previous inhabitants and take back the city, which naturally means more space travel, visiting new planets, and dealing out hot lead death to your enemies.
Familiar faces like Lance Reddick’s Zavala are given much more of a starring role this time around, and Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 injects plenty of humour to a campaign that’s otherwise deadly serious – and often OTT.
Every mission furthers your one goal, and it really feels like Bungie has made an effort to make everything feel more connected to the overall story – but there’s plenty here to keep you coming back once you’ve seen it through to the end.
Each planet has a public area where you’ll bump into other Guardians, just like before, only now everything has been reworked so there’s more stuff to do while you’re there. A map now shows you when public events are due to start, as well as where to hunt for secret loot chests, or hidden Lost Sectors – small levels with a boss at the end guaranteed to drop some sweet gear for your character.
In fact, just about everything you do will add guns, consumables or armour to your increasingly full inventory. What used to be a mess of side quests, NPC missions and reputation ranks has been streamlined, so it never feels like you’re too far away from earning a new legendary Engram or Exotic weapon quest.
There’s still plenty of depth for Guardians looking to max out their power levels, with new Meditations letting you replay story missions for better loot, and the return of Strikes, Patrols and Vanguard ranks to keep you busy.
Destiny’s minute-to-minute gameplay of shooting waves of enemies remained largely unchanged, but the way you do it has. Guns forgo primary, secondary, and heavy slots for new classifications: kinetic, energy, and power.
Kinetic guns fire regular bullets, but energy weapons use void, arc or solar energy instead.
This opens up more freedom and flexibility with your load-out, so you can run with slow-yet-accurate two scout rifles, mix and match hand cannons with pulse rifles, or spray and pray with the new submachine gun class.
Fusion rifles and shotguns have been bumped into the power weapons group, too, so you won’t spend an entire multiplayer match covering from the guy at the top of the leaderboard, because he’s always first to the heavy ammo pickups.
Your Guardian’s abilities have received a shake-up, too. Each class gets three new sub-classes to upgrade, with an extra ability on top of your melee attack, grenade and super that helps your fire team out when playing multiplayer matches.
My favourite is the new Warlock subclass, Dawnblade, which heals your allies, and temporarily turns you into a flame sword-wielding version of Phoenix from the X-Men. Which is awesome. Triggering this special move shifts the camera to third-person, allowing a competent player to completely clear the screen of enemies using a combination of deadly sword swings and ranged flame attacks.
DRESS TO IMPRESS
Reach the level cap and you’ll unlock Bright Engrams, which gives you another reason to keep plugging away at patrols and duking it out with other players in the Crucible. Or break out your credit card – because they’re also linked to microtransactions.
Each one gives cosmetic and gameplay upgrades, but they are all one-time use deals. Weapon and armour mods can give your gear extra perks, directly impacting gameplay, so it’s not cool to see them up for sale.
We’re not deep enough into the game for it to have a major impact yet, but I imagine once players have found the best possible gear and guns, these minor boosts could make all the difference.
Destiny’s vocal player base has been up in arms about the potential for pay-to-win items, so expect Bungie to address it sooner rather than later.
Colour-changing shaders are also a one-use deal now too, but seeing as these also drop fairly regularly from loot chests and enemies, I’m not convinced it’ll be a major problem later down the road.
Destiny 2 verdict
Destiny’s gameplay has always felt immediate, reactive, and ear-rattling, each blast is rewarding, from trigger-pull to enemy-stopping impact, and the sequel is no different.
Guardians that loved the first game will be right at home here, with new worlds to explore, new abilities to master and a heap of new gear to grind for. The end-game has been simplified and streamlined, which should hopefully keep players coming back week after week, even if just to explore the now action-filled public areas.
With the PvE Raid. PvP Trials of Osiris and Iron Banner still yet to arrive, there’s plenty more on the horizon, too.
It’s Bungie’s stellar storytelling makes all the difference, though. Destiny 2 is every bit the superior sequel, with something to offer every Guardian – whether you pumped in over 700 hours to the original (like a certain ex-Stuff staffer who shall go unnamed) or only scratched the surface.
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Destiny 2 refines and reinvigorates Bungie’s space loot epic in almost every way. The formula mostly stays the same, but if you liked the original, you’ll love this
Engrossing, entertaining story
Gorgeous worlds overflowing with content
Streamlined end-game is much slicker
The loot grind is still real
Micro-transactions aren’t great