There are a lot of reasons why Destiny could be considered a failure, but the biggest one of all was a major loss of potential. Bungie’s big step out post-Halo was built up for over a year as a vast explorative universe that offered near-endless customization and interaction with fellow players. It seemed like Destiny was meant to be one great big open book for millions of players to write in and in a way, it was. The problem was that Bungie forgot to finish making the book and thought they could ask for recalls to fill in the rest of the pages (otherwise known as “Expansion Packs”).
It was justified to feel robbed by Activision and Bungie, but it didn’t torpedo Destiny’s reputation entirely. For all its lack of backbone, there was still plenty to enjoy. For those who made the jump from Xbox to PlayStation and had a Halo-shaped hole left in their heart, Destiny was a fine substitute. A variety of guns, space travel, exotic enemy designs and gorgeous environments made for enveloping experience to be had, as briefly as that lasted. Potential has been the main thing Destiny had going for it and despite all the negative press it received, hype was strong for its follow-up. So after three years of expansions and dancing Guardian memes, does its sequel live up to all that lost potential?
….well, kind of. Destiny 2’s campaign (which is real and takes longer, don’t worry) allows returning Destiny players to take up their Guardians from Destiny or create completely new Guardians for first-time players. Not that it matters, as Earth is being invaded by the Cabal’s Red Legion and the Vanguard is under attack. Try as you might to gun down the enemy, you then come face to face with the hulking tyrant Dominus Ghaul who plans to suck the life out of the Traveler. His monstrous drive even takes the power out of your Ghost and kicks you to the abyss. From there, you must travel throughout Earth and the universe to reclaim your power, reunite members of the Vanguard, and make a final assault against Ghaul to save Earth.
While the first installment’s brief campaign was motivated simply by discovery of the game’s environment, the sequel’s campaign is actually motivated by the need to complete the story. There’s a purpose to traveling to different planets to rebuild the Vanguard and find out more about the Red Legion. There isn’t really a sense of mystery or suspense with the story (something normal in FPS games), but the game covers that with its surrounding universe. As it was in the first game, the design of the planets, weapons, spaceships and Red Legion are breathtaking. The size and scope of Titan, Io, and Nessus are very impressive with brushes of day-glow sunshine in the European Dead Zone to the endless ocean blue and grey of Titan. Granted, the boxy floating stone environment of Nessus feels recycled from the first game’s Mercury location, but Nessus’s pinches of red and deeper maps once the players go further into the game cover that up.
The Cabal offer varying degrees of difficulty even with the size differences between them all. It may be easy to shoot the smaller Gladiators that only deal melee damage with their two daggers, but can strike you down fast if you’re low on health and are facing a major swarm. Phalanx soldiers can get stressful as well, with their large shield that can block gunfire and even send blasts to knock you back. While having just the Cabal would be enough for enemies, Destiny 2 throws back in the Taken, Hive and Vex to stuff the maps filled with target practice. The game is wise enough to remind the players that the Cabal is the main villain because the game can feel overstuffed. It’s worsened when Vex, Cabal, and Hive soldiers crowd into one map and make it hard to distinguish each other.
As a Guardian, players have a wide variety of ways to mow down enemies. Your special subclasses (Hunter, Titan, Warlock) still have their unique abilities once they’re super-charged with great variety. Playing as a Warlock myself, I enjoyed the use of the Dawnblade to charge into a swarm of enemies and swing for the fences. Even the classic Voidwalker ability remains useful. On top of that, the gun variety help allow for different ways to take out targets. But like the last game, the dependency on having the highest-rated weapon to deliver the most punches pulls away from the players want to mix and match with weapons. Since the game emphasizes the need to have the highest power rating to have the best chance at going through the game, whatever weapon or armor has the highest power weapon will most likely be the one used, causing other weapons to be scraped and left mostly unused. While it’s easy to get more weapons from rewards and broken down weapon parts, there’s only about 15-20 minutes of gameplay for certain weapons. The color-customization of weapons, armor and even spaceships is a nice touch, but doesn’t mask the fact that the experience of Destiny 2’s weapons cache is rushed through.
Multiplayer is also recycled from the first game and is still reminiscent of Halo. There’s holding posts, defusing bomb charges as a team, or just team kills. While again, the settings and maps are an improvement and impressive in their design, there’s still the risk of relative newcomers or casual gamers being properly schooled by expert players that could sour the multiplayer experience for others. While they could still be teamed up with other players at their rank, going up against the sharpshooting experts with more powerful weapons seems a bit unfair and a rather cheap way to force players back into the campaign.
Sure, Destiny 2 is stretching out an already-used canvas and touching it up to make it look new. The good things are still good here, but the problems are only partially addressed and not solved. If you loved Destiny, you’ll probably like this one too but it’s now harder to ignore the issues the game has. Perhaps it seems too daunting of a task to combine the promise of an open-world exploration game with the typical straight-forward plots of shooters, or perhaps the game requires more devotion than the average Call of Duty installment. I’ve logged around 40 hours of gameplay and while it’s engrossing every time I come back to it, it’s also easy to put down after a short while.
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
Released: September 6 (console), October 24 (PC)
Copy Purchased by Reviewer