As someone who invested over 50 days of his life in Destiny, I approached Destiny 2 with both excitement and trepidation. While I undoubtedly wanted to carry on my journey as a guardian, I was also slightly concerned about being dragged back into late night raid marathons and endless grinding.
Of course there was never any real doubt that I’d be jumping back into the fray, and since Bungie decided to stagger the launch based on local time zones, I found myself logging onto the servers at 12:00am on launch day and playing for far too long, given that I had to go to work the next morning!
The first thing that will hit any veteran Destiny player is a feeling of loss; loss of all that gear you spent the past three years grinding for. All those weapons, all that armour, all those symbols of your commitment and obsession – everything that made you the guardian you are is gone.
On the one hand it’s undeniably hard to say goodbye to old friends like Fatebringer and Vision of Confluence for good, but on the other, it feels good to make a clean break of things and start a whole new adventure; and what an adventure it is!
Let’s be honest, the story in Destiny made no sense whatsoever. It was a confused mess that touched on so many themes, but never really brought any of them together for a satisfying conclusion, or even a logical explanation. Things got better when The Taken King expansion was launched, but even that storyline was built on those shaky foundations.
Obviously Destiny 2 is set in the same universe, with the same incomprehensible backstory, but that almost doesn’t matter this time. In Destiny 2 the hows and whys that led to this point are somewhat moot – all you need to know is that a ‘psycho space rhino’ called Ghaul has invaded Earth and stolen all the guardians’ power, and your job is to stop him.
Although the story is infinitely simpler this time around, Bungie has spent significantly more time and effort telling it. We learn more about Ghaul in his cut scenes than we learned about anyone or anything in Destiny; we even get some rudimentary understanding of the Traveller, although we’re still don’t really find out what the hell it is!
But the biggest step forward in the storytelling is the way Bungie has expanded the NPC involvement, primarily the three Vanguard guardians, Zavala, Ikora and Cayde-6. Voiced by Lance Reddick, Gina Torres and Nathan Fillion respectively, the Vanguard were woefully underused in Destiny, but this time around they’re major players.
Not only do we see more of Zavala, Ikora and Cayde-6 throughout the Destiny 2 campaign, we also learn a lot more about them, and begin to understand their history and reliance on each other – I’d never seen these guys as a fire team in Destiny, but in Destiny 2 it’s clear that they would fight and die for each other.
There’s a host of new NPCs, too, with the main players being Hawthorne, the leader of a group of humans living outside the wall on Earth, Asher, an unbearably obnoxious warlock on IO, and Failsafe, a schizophrenic Golden Age AI living inside a crashed ship on Nessus.
Of all the new characters it’s Failsafe that’s the most successful, managing to come across simultaneously sympathetic and maliciously insane. Remember GLaDOS from Portal? I think Failsafe was turned out of the same broken mould.
The campaign isn’t massively long, but finishing the story is really just the beginning of Destiny 2. Once you’ve put an end to Ghaul’s invasion, you’ll be at a level where you can start to really lift the lid on what this game has to offer.
As with Destiny, you’ll get the most out of Destiny 2 by playing with others. You can play through the whole campaign solo if you wish, and you can drop into multiplayer modes where the game will match you with other players, but the real fun comes from playing with people you know, or at least are willing to get to know.
Bungie has tried hard to encourage players to join up with others by putting more emphasis on clans this time around. You could join clans in Destiny, but doing so didn’t offer any benefit beyond an easier way to fill your fire team with likeminded players. In Destiny 2 being part of a clan delivers you tangible bonuses, even if you’re not playing as a team.
The Destiny 2 universe operates on a weekly schedule, so each Tuesday morning everything resets and all the weekly challenges change. Those challenges are where you’re likely to find the best loot, and once you’ve polished off the campaign, this game is all about the loot.
To make the most of those weekly challenges you’re going to want to make use of all three of your character slots. There are three character classes in Destiny 2 – Hunter, Titan and Warlock – so it makes sense to create one of each, but if you’d rather have three warlocks, or two hunters and a titan, that’s your choice.
Each character class has different abilities, and consequently different strengths and weaknesses depending on the situation. If you’re a Destiny veteran, you’ll know that certain parts of the raids pretty much require specific classes to be present in your fire team – another reason why it’s worth having one of each at your disposal.
Bungie has addressed one of the biggest gripes that players had with the Destiny 2 beta – the fact that your abilities took so long to charge. Playing the Inverted Spire strike in the beta would see you being able to trigger your super once, maybe twice if you were very lucky. Grenades and melee abilities were equally lethargic, leaving you woefully vulnerable at times.
I’m glad to say that in the full release of Destiny 2 your abilities charge far more quickly, allowing you to unleash hell on those mobs of enemies far more often than you could in the beta version. This comes as a major relief, but the other worry that reared its head during the beta remains – the new weapon system.
In Destiny your weapons were split into three groups, primary, secondary and heavy. Primary weapons consisted of hand canons, auto-rifles, pulse rifles and scout rifles, while secondary weapons were sniper rifles, shotguns and fusion rifles. The heavy category contained machine guns, rocket launchers and eventually swords. Ammunition was less plentiful as you went down the list, with heavy ammo generally in short supply.
In Destiny 2 you still have primary weapons, but now the secondary weapon category – called energy weapons – contains exactly the same weapon types as the primary slot, just with the added bonus of elemental damage; there are three types of energy shields in the game, arc, solar and void, and using a weapon with the corresponding element will melt those shields in seconds.
As a result, the third category – now called power weapons – contains sniper rifles, shotguns and fusion rifles, as well as the traditional heavy weapons, essentially leaving you to choose between, say, a sniper rifle or a rocket launcher because you can’t have both!
This change has been made specifically to balance the PvP side of Destiny 2, and give more players a fighting chance in the Crucible, but it also significantly affects the PvE characteristics of the game, and not necessarily for the better.
If you’re putting together a loadout for a mission, strike or even a raid, you’re now very limited in your choices. If you know that you’ll be encountering some enemies that will require the precision hits from a sniper rifle and others that need the massive melee attacks of a sword, you’re going to have to decide which you need more.
But while this seems initially frustrating, what it does mean is that your fire team needs to be more cooperative and collaborative. If different aspects of a challenge require different weapon types, they you’ll just need to ensure that you spread the right hardware across your team – not ideal for lone wolf players, such is life.
The new weapon structure also means that you’re less likely to stick with the same old loadout no matter what you’re doing – anyone remember rocking Fatebringer, Black Hammer and Gjallarhorn for pretty much everything? Yeah, me, too!
So, has the new weapon system made PvP better? Hell yes! By dropping sniper rifles into the power category you won’t find yourself picked off from the other side of the map every time you step into the Crucible. Now successful PvP is all about your skill with your primary weapons, and the playing field has been significantly levelled as a result.
Of course there are already people whinging about certain weapons being too powerful in PvP – MIDA Multi-Tool is back, and it’s even more deadly than ever – but that’s inevitable; we’re a species of moaners after all. All I can say is that I found that I was competitive from the minute I started playing Crucible in Destiny 2, long before I got my paws back on MIDA.
Bungie has also changed the infusion system for weapons. Previously you could infuse any type of weapon into another from the same category, so if you found a high powered hand canon but preferred auto rifles, you could infuse the former into the later to increase its power. Now you can only infuse a weapon into the same type of weapon. Want to increase the power of your scout rifle? You’ll need to find a more powerful scout rifle to infuse into it.
To make things even more complicated, Destiny 2 also has mods for armour and weapons – these can be applied to a piece of equipment, which will then be imbued with more power and sometimes extra perks. But if you then choose to infuse a modified weapon or piece of armour, you’ll only get the benefit of its base power, the modifier doesn’t count. Confused? You’re probably not the only one.
The scale of Destiny 2 is definitely a step up from the original game, with only the moon of Titan feeling slightly cramped and claustrophobic. There’s a plethora of patrols, adventures and missions to get your teeth into, before you even start to delve into the strikes and eventually the raid.
And that’s the thing with a game like Destiny 2; I’ve been playing it for two weeks now and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ve yet to complete a Nightfall strike and haven’t even set foot in the Trials of the Nine arena, or pulled a six-man fire team together for the raid.
But what I’ve seen so far of the game is good, very good, and I can – somewhat worryingly – see myself spending as much time with Destiny 2 as I did with Destiny. Good thing I have a very understanding family.
Destiny 2 is available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.