Destiny 2: The Game We Deserved?

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Many of my friends, and myself included, remember the beta test for the first Destiny with a deep and meaningful fondness.  The kind of nostalgia that you just can’t shake, something that went perfectly well.  From Crucible maps on First Light to simply messing around on Patrol and having fun trying out weapons, the Destiny 1 beta captured lightning in a bottle and it was something truly remarkable.

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Throughout the rest of the game’s life it would see many ups and downs; some changes were praised by the community (myself, once again, included), while others were completely baffling and mysterious.  It seemed as though the game had started sliding down a hill and we were unable to save it from itself.  This was something we loved dearly, and while we continued to play, we didn’t play with the dedication that we once had.  The passion had left us, and now we were just going through the motions.  While it was still a fun social outlet for staying in touch with friends, it was no longer something that we really looked forward to.

Once Destiny 2 was announced, you can imagine the trepidation that we all felt at the looming release.  Some of my friends were simply excited to have the next chapter, not having fallen out of love with it as I had.  Others were angry, and were certain that Bungie would repeat the mistakes of their past; nobody likes being fooled twice.  So, going into this review I have to admit a certain amount of mixed feelings.  I’m one of the folks that gave Bungie a lot of grief about their choices with Destiny 1, and why not?  I felt passionate about something I cared for, something I enjoyed.  I’d been pulled in, and I wanted to see the very best version of the game I enjoyed.

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The Last City Falls

The story of Destiny 2 involves the Red Legion, a faction of the Cabal, that have come to Earth with their sights set on the Last City and the Traveler.  With various machinations set into place, the Cabal rob Guardians of their Light, and the city falls as a result.  The remaining Guardians and Vanguard are scattered to the winds, and the future remains uncertain.

Saying much more would be spoiler territory, but suffice to say this is just the beginning of a long journey for your hero.  You’ll meet new allies, encounter new enemies, acquire a vast arsenal, and take the fight back to the Cabal to save the Last City, the Traveler, and reclaim your Light and the Light of your fellow Guardians.

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I had mixed feelings about some of the visuals; some assets and effects were practically breathtaking, and really made me appreciate what a fully fledged leap to the next-gen consoles could do.  On the other hand, some textures were muddy and poorly rendered, which was highly confusing given how beautiful most of the rest of the game looks.  A friend of mine referred to the initial setting, with it’s browned out greens and rusted textures, as something akin to Fallout 4 and I had to agree wholeheartedly.

Armed to the Teeth

Destiny was a game that loved it’s guns and featured some beautiful and striking models, and Destiny 2 attempts to follow in the same vein.  I say “attempts” because, well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.  Some of the weapons have that classic Destiny look and feel to them, while others are taken in something of a completely different direction altogether.  I’m not saying that this is all bad, but it definitely made this iteration of Destiny feel a bit… different?  I’m also not indicating that I wanted more of the same, which is also what this feels like at times.  But more on that later.

There are a wide variety of weapons available to your Guardian, and the system has seen an overhaul since Destiny 1.  Rather than Primary, Special and Heavy, you now have Kinetic, Energy and Power weapons — each replaced in that order.  This allows for some interesting combinations, as you could theoretically have two Pulse Rifles or two Handcannons equipped at once, but felt like something of an unnecessary change from the first game.  Picking between a Pulse Rifle and Auto Rifle was a meaningful choice at times, and forced you to allocate skill in a way that you might not have otherwise.  I understand giving freedom of play to the player, which is usually not a bad thing, but this system can feel like a mess at times.

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The weapons themselves now feature changeable modification slots that can add different abilities, such as changing the elemental type or adding more damage, and this goes for armor as well — armor featuring mods that change your three basic stats.

50 Shaders for Pay

Let’s talk about perhaps my least favorite change here — shaders are now a consumable item with limited uses.  In the first Destiny, once a shader was earned, you could swap to it or out of it anytime you wished — giving your armor a distinctive palette swap — and signifying completion of some difficult task, such as a raid completion.

Destiny 2 allows you to individually apply shaders to each piece of armor — as well as weapons — both of which are excellent changes.  However, once you use the shader, it’s gone forever unless you never change it again.  This makes chasing down duplicate shaders a tiresome task and was largely a poor choice in my opinion.

I understand the decision from a point of business acumen — everything from ships, sparrows, weapons, armor and even ghosts — can now be colored with a shader of your choice, and that means if you like a particular shader you’ll need to find it again somehow; often by buying it again from Eververse.  Or at least the chance at the shader.

Story Takes Center Stage

Bungie apparently took one piece of feedback to heart — that Destiny 1 had practically no visible story, despite whatever they knew behind the scenes.  There was plenty of breadcrumb lore lying around for those that had the energy to seek it out, but it wasn’t clearly presented at all and left many scratching their heads.  There are reasons for this, namely a lawsuit and some hurt feelings, but it was always something that’s been held against Bungie and the first Destiny.

Having played through a significant portion of Destiny 2’s story I’m confident in saying that this has been drastically improved.  There is a very heavy focus on story this time around, especially with regards to story content and playable missions.  The campaign itself had 17 missions for me to play, not to mention the dozens of Adventures — side stories that are easily as big as Destiny 1’s biggest missions — available on each destination.  Unless you no-life this game for an entire week, it’s not likely that you’re going to run out of things to do any time soon.

Conclusion

I can’t say that I’ve had a bad time with Destiny 2, despite everything in me saying to run away from it before Bungie gets away with hurting me again.  But for now, I’m having a fun time, remembering some great characters, and learning more about their particular stories and traits.

It’s a shame Bungie had to royally fuck up so bad in the first place with Destiny 1, otherwise I’d have no compunction about jumping in head first.  But, as a result, I have to play with a guarded sort of optimism, waiting for the other shoe to drop.