The original Destiny was revered developer Bungie’s (Halo) ambitious attempt at an shooter/MMO hybrid. It was insanely expensive, with reports suggesting a budget of around half a billion (!) dollars and released with much fanfare; however the early days of vanilla Destiny were not happy ones. While the game performed well commercially, critics were less kind. The story was painfully thin and forgettable, the systems of looting and upgrading badly explained and the game’s campaign could be knocked over in a scant three hours. The critical drubbing was reflected by an increasing audience backlash, as players found the experience ultimately a bit repetitive and empty.
Over the following months and years vanilla Destiny was improved, slowly and falteringly, until The Taken King expansion turned the game into what it should have been the whole time. It just took over a year to get there! The fact is, Destiny – as it was initially released – didn’t know what it wanted to be.
Destiny 2, on the other hand, has no such identity crisis. This time around there’s a robust, albeit slightly generic, campaign with likable characters and playtime of 8-10 hours. There are planets to explore, public events to join, Lost Sectors (space dungeons) to delve into, Adventures (side quests) to take part in and classic endgame content like Strikes and, of course, The Raid. On the PvP front the Crucible returns, with several new modes and a more focused 4v4 paradigm at play. So, the big question, is it any good?
Yes, it’s fair to say that Destiny 2 is very good, but that statement comes with a caveat. Although the advertising claims differently, Destiny 2 is a lonely old slog by yourself. Oh sure, the voice acting is uniformly decent and the locations you visit feature gorgeous, eye-melting sci-fi vistas but the single player experience can feel a little lonely. Destiny has always been about forming a fireteam and blasting the crap out of aliens, robots and alien robots with your mates, and the sequel is no exception.
Another big factor is that post campaign these games are all about grinding for loot. Imagine Diablo in space, with guns, and you’ve got the basic idea. So while you’re certainly able to play the game by yourself, it lacks the weird mixture of camaraderie, jealously and friendly one upmanship group play allows. Happily Bungie has made joining a clan easier than ever, and also tacked on guided games – where you can meet some fellow nerds and hope they can carry you through the hard stuff.
While the shooting is as peerless as ever, and the graphics and story much improved over the original, Destiny 2 still has its flaws. The new mod system is dense and confusing, and when you finally do understand it – a bloody pain in the arse. Get ready to lose a whole bunch of glimmer (in game currency), time and sanity trying to craft that elusive final bit of gear to hit the level cap. Mission variety is another sticking point, as ‘waiting for your ghost to finish opening a door while wave after wave of enemies attack’ seems to be the order of the day yet again. Occasionally the game attempts something a little different, but those flashes of inspiration are few and far between. Also the campaign’s villain, Dominus Ghaul, becomes less as less interesting and threatening as the story proceeds and in the end just sort of… stops. Also, and this is possibly the most galling flaw, there aren’t any new alien races to shoot. If this game is truly a sequel, and not the ‘1.5’ reddit so often snarkily dubs it as, where are the new alien races, Bungie? Carn.
Balancing out those problems, however, are the Strikes (which are almost all superb) and the Raid. The Leviathan Raid is one of the series’ best, a punishing version of It’s a Knockout in space with clever use of group dynamics and an unforgettable final boss fight. In fact included with this review is the clutch play of all clutch plays as my group finally bested the gold-gilt fatty in a sloppy climax that involved just two surviving players (MightyTiger242 and skaterguy845) resorting to using supers, their last few rounds of ammo and even punching to triumph.
And that, right there, is how and when Destiny 2 works. When you’ve slogged through adversity and triumph on the other side. That weird bond your forge, through mutual goals and lack of sleep; and the seething jealously when everyone else gets better loot then you.
Ultimately Destiny 2 is a slick space shooter with satisfying gunplay, a decent story and engaging endgame content for days. As a single player shooter, it’s adequate, but as a group online experience it’s unmissable. Flawed but fun, Destiny 2 is a the best kind of engaging timewaster set to vampirise your social life and make a dark mockery of your responsibilities. Use it with care, Guardians.