I’ve been a fan of Destiny since the private Alpha for the first game launched on Playstation 4, but it was hard for me to convince others to try it. Many of my friends were skeptical due the things they read online, and made sure I heard about it over and over again. I had people constantly telling me things like “Destiny doesn’t have a story,” “Destiny’s endgame content is a total grind,” and “There isn’t enough content to warrant a $60 price tag,” and they were right to an extent. I had a hard time defending what people called “a $60 beta.” However, I still believe that Destiny is a great, but flawed game.
Destiny 2 doesn’t need me to defend it though. It’s a beautiful game with superb gameplay, an engaging story, and it always feels rewarding to play. Bungie has taken the best qualities of the original Destiny and put them in the forefront of Destiny 2 while simultaneously getting rid of almost every issue that kept people away in 2014, resulting in one of my favorite games ever.
The story opens with the Tower, your base of operations during the previous game, being destroyed. Shortly after, the Traveler, a benevolent entity that watches over humanity and the source of your powers, is captured and cut off from helping you. Even if I hadn’t spent so much time in the original game over the last three years, the emotional impact still would’ve been felt. Seeing fellow Guardians (people blessed by the Traveler with superhuman powers, including the ability to come back from death) fight so hard only to lose everything strikes a fairly strong emotional chord. It also solidifies the Red Legion (an army of aliens that look like a combination of the Brutes from the Halo series and the Mondoshawans from The Fifth Element) as one of the more threatening enemy factions in the past couple of years.
What follows is a journey to regain your light (the fuel for your powers) across multiple planets that each feel like completely different sandboxes, with many secrets to discover and stories to tell. You are not alone though. Helping you bring the fight to the Red Legion are many different, enjoyable characters, some of which are the most entertaining that I’ve seen in any video game these past few years. While the final battle and main antagonist are a bit of a letdown, Destiny 2’s campaign kept me interested in learning more about the universe, and invested in my fight to regain what was stolen.
Even though the situation was mostly grim for the Guardians, I found myself laughing frequently. Bungie injected a lot of genuinely great humor into Destiny 2’s characters and their lines. From the banter between Suraya Hawthorne (Sumalee Montano) and Devrim Kay (Gideon Emery), to Cayde-6 (Nathan Fillion) being the luckiest idiot alive, the story has plenty of laughs. There’s one other character that’s just hysterical, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise here. When so many games, movies, and TV series are focused on being dark and bleak, I love it when one takes itself just a little less seriously every once in awhile.
One aspect that Destiny 2 only improved upon slightly over its predecessor was the gameplay, but that’s because it was darn near perfect already. Not many other developers can match the smooth movement and shooting that Bungie consistently brings to their titles. Bungie’s games have had incredibly tight and fluid mechanics since the original Halo in 2001, and Destiny 2 is their best yet. Whether you’re exploring a lost sector on one of the four planets, fighting a huge enemy in a boss battle, or playing against other people in the player versus player Crucible modes, Destiny 2 just feels right. Making it even more enjoyable is the large variety of weapons you can earn or find. Getting a headshot on an enemy feels great, but getting that same headshot with the shiny new scout rifle you worked so hard for feels even better.
Speaking of shiny new things, Destiny 2’s loot drops and progression system are the best I’ve seen in a game. While playing the campaign, I was constantly getting new and better gear, but it never felt unbalanced or overwhelming. And in my opinion, it gets even better once you reach higher levels. Eventually, the best way to level up is by completing milestones, which are weekly challenges of varying difficulty. Aside from the raid, you can complete all of them within two or three hours per character. That means you can still level up consistently, but don’t need to spend the vast majority of your free time to hit max level. You can complete a few milestones in an hour and be done for the week, or try to finish all of them if you have more time. One could argue that this limits the amount of meaningful rewards you can obtain each week (there are other, more grindy ways to keep leveling if you must), but I think it’s brilliant. I’ll be coming back to Destiny 2 on a weekly basis, but I’ll also have time for… Well, things that aren’t Destiny 2. Plus, running a weekly checklist for guaranteed high level gear in Destiny 2 is a heck of a lot better than running a bunch of random missions for hours on end and possibly getting nothing useful in Destiny 1.
When the original Destiny was released in 2014, many people were disappointed that it didn’t live up to their expectations. I loved it, but I wholeheartedly agree it wasn’t the game we were promised when it was announced. However, Bungie took their “$60 beta,” refined it, and put out a sequel that doesn’t just meet those expectations, but soars past them. Destiny 2 is Bungie’s best game to date, and it’s also one of the best games I’ve ever played.
UPDATE: After completing the Leviathan Raid (which I hadn’t had the chance to jump into by the time I wrote this review), I’d say it’s almost on par with The Vault of Glass, the first raid in the original Destiny and one of my favorite experiences in gaming. The raid begins after the events of Destiny 2’s campaign, and sets you (and five others) on a mission aboard the Cabal Empire’s prized ship. The challenges of mowing down hundreds of Cabal soldiers, solving elaborate puzzles, and constantly communicating with fellow Guardians all at the same time make it far from easy… But man is the sweet, sweet loot is worth it!