I have to begin this review with some points of disclosure. Bungie has always held a formative place in my heart. While my peers were playing Doom on their 486’s, I was cutting my FPS-teeth on the offering from a then-unknown, small, Macintosh-exclusive publisher of Pathways Into Darkness and the Marathon Trilogy on my family’s Macintosh PowerPC 7500. Fast forward a few years and my gaming journey continues with the great, green juggernaut, Halo: Combat Evolved – a game that forged many of my college-to-adulthood friendships. Now, this is our Destiny 2 review.
I don’t say any of this in an “I liked Bungie before they were cool” tone; I love that many others have shared this experience, no matter their entry point! From the very beginning, Bungie dared to write epic stories which gave purpose and value to why we spent hours traversing catacombs, space stations, and foreign planets all while introducing us to characters that we actually cared about.
This is all import – I promise, but I know… you’re here for our review of Destiny 2 and so am I.
(This review contains spoilers.)
I will be scoring my review of Destiny 2 on the basis of three major components: Story, Gameplay, and Cohesion of Delivery.
Destiny 2 picks up where Destiny…well… where Destiny never really started: with the in-game story. There is no consulting the Grimoire anymore – just straight forward video game story telling. This is a giant and welcome leap forward (or backward – depending on how you look at it) for Bungie in weaving their narrative throughout the game.
Whether you were a returning player or new to the Destiny universe, you will not be lost. We are dropped immediately into cutscenes which introduce you to the Vanguard (class leadership for each of the Guardian factions) and the main conflict within the game. But the story is told through more than cutscenes. There are interactions between characters throughout missions, further developing the characters and their relationships to one another. This is helped by a stellar cast of voice actors that make the experience feel natural.
Let’s talk about that threat for a minute:
His name is Ghaul, Dominus of The Cabal’s Red Legion. And he has come for the Traveler – the source of humanity’s power and reason for their survival over generations of alien invasion – and for it’s Light, your Light. He is, in his own word, an “annihilator of suns and razor of a thousand worlds.” His conviction is terrifying, but Ghaul’s character is more than domination and brooding. His story is almost sympathetic; born a runt into a brutish culture where only the strong have value, Ghaul’s story and name are fitting: bitter. Even up to the very end, I wondered, could he have been redeemed? Could the Light of the Traveler have changed Ghaul and his Red Legion or would the power of the Light further fuel his campaign of carnage?
Ok, ok – we’ll get beyond the story.
Destiny 2 feels mechanically similar to Destiny. As an already stellar shooter, this is certainly not a bad thing. The controls are as tight as ever. The enemy AI is pretty smart with some interesting mechanic beyond being bullet sponges. Weapons recoil the way that you would imagine them to and there are plenty of types to choose from!
Once you have completed the campaign, Destiny 2 gives you a choose-your-own-adventure style way of playing. The Crucible is there if you like PvP. Many of the Field Commanders and Ikora lets you replay Campaign missions. There are weekly Flashpoint events, Nightfall missions, Strikes, and Raids.
(For a resource on what to do at level 20, check out our article here.)
The end-game is where Destiny 2 makes a slight break from its predecessor. While patrol missions and public events still exist in similar forms, the pacing feels faster and the rewards are much quicker. Each planet has their own field commander and sets of commendations that can be exchanged for Legendary engrams. These engrams typically containing at least one Legendary gear piece (if not more) and the reward level escalates off of your existing power lever – up to 265.
Several years ago, Bungie, commenting on the success of Halo: Combat Evolved, said that the success of the game boiled down to 30 seconds of fun that was repeated over and over again. It’s fair to say that this formula is still alive and well in Destiny 2… and it works. This is made easier with the ability to fast-travel across a map.
Destiny 2’s gameplay is enjoyable and rewarding. With a schedule of events following its release already announced and content in the works, it looks like Destiny 2 will not disappoint in the department of longevity.
Cohesion of Delivery:
Does the gameplay mesh with the setting of the story, the art direction, and the score for the game? Does it all work together?
Destiny 2 is an epic: a story with an ever expanding scale made greater by the heroes of whom the story is told with tragedy, struggle, and redemption. It is very fitting that the score to accompany it must be, too. And it is. There were moments that I had to put the controller down and simply listen, taking in the scope of what I was experiencing.
This game makes you feel the moment you are in. Whether it was the helplessness of powers lost or the triumph of overwhelming odds overcome, Destiny 2 delivered fantastic vistas with sweeping scores. Everything works together the way that it should… with one small hitch.
You would think, being imbued with the power of the Light that your Ghost might have a flashlight app built into it.
I will end this review with an interesting thought: The story of Ghaul in Destiny 2 mirrors the story of Bungie as a publisher: humble, runty beginning (being a Mac game publisher), molding by an older mentor (Microsoft Studios) with an ulterior vision for their company, rise to indomitable power (the Halo years), a search for meaning beyond the power (splitting off the Halo franchise to 343 Industries), a fall from grace (leaving Microsoft), to becoming engulfed in the Light of their achievements (partnership with Activision), ushering in a Second Golden Age (Destiny 2). But, hey, that’s just a theory… for another time.
Whether you buy the theory or not, with Destiny 2, Bungie has truly entered a Second Golden Age.
Strap up and move out, Guardians. I’ll see ya starside.
Note – This review was done with a PS4 copy provided by Bungie/Activision PR.