Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 6th September 2017 (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), 27th October 2017 (PC)
Reviewed on: Xbox One S
Like many other Guardians, I had been counting down the days until the release of Destiny 2. After spending hundreds of hours in Destiny 1 (D1) over the past two years (most of those grinding for better weapons) I was eager to see what feedback Bungie had taken on board when developing this next installment.
Understandably, many are hesitant to dive into Destiny 2 after the PR mess from D1 which left many feeling like they had been lied too. It would seem though, that Bungie have learned their lesson this time around.
(Before I move any further ahead with this review let me be quite clear that there will be several spoilers ahead, all minimal and of no impact on the how the main storyline concludes, but spoilers none the less.)
I wasn’t prepared for how the opening scenes of the game would affect me, taking me back to memories forgotten of nights spent gaming into the early hours of the morning with old friends, missions that I completed, triumphant raids (and recalling the ones that weren’t so successful), and then there she was. My Hunter that I had spent so many hours with, waiting and ready to make “new memories”.
After the opening cinematics finished I wiped away a few tears and settled in for a VERY long night of gaming.
Thankfully, this is one element that has drastically improved from that offered in D1, with several sections really standing out. Surprisingly, I went through a variety of emotions whilst playing through the main story, from fits of laughter through to tears and anger. I was extremely impressed with the improvements made to charter development this time around which made playing the campaign pure fun.
For anyone that has watched the trailers you will know that Cayde-6 plays a much larger role this time around, bringing with him a carefree and lovable style of humor that only he can. He is up to his usual antics, providing for some hilarious moments, and is clearly the most standout personality in this game. I can’t remember the last time I laughed as hard as I did during a campaign, all compliments of Cayde-6.
You are left with a sense of clear direction as to why you are in this new battle and what you are fighting for. This clear narrative will drive you forward through many hours of grinding in order to get prepared for the upcoming raids and expansions.
Your enemy is a familiar foe, the Cabal. This was a little disappointing as I was hoping I’d seen the last of those oversized bullet sponges. Ghaul, who is the Dominus of the Cabal, is striving to become the emperor and as you would imagine, plans to stop at nothing in achieving his goal. It’s the usual bad guy wants to take over the world scenario and you, the Guardian, and your allies must stop him. This adventure unfolds in such a way though that it’s utterly enjoyable from start to finish. Spectacular battles, engaging cinematics, laughs, tears, everything you want from a good storyline.
GAMEPLAY & MECHANICS
You will be pleased to know that Bungie decided not to re-invent the wheel and you can pick up the controller and begin playing like you never left. The controls, for those of you who are new to the franchise, are very intuitive, easy to get the hang of and are sensible.
The menu navigation system is really easy to understand as glowing rings/lights appear around anything that you haven’t yet checked or need to explore.
Rewards & Leveling System:
One of the key improvements that you will notice very early on is that the rewards/loot system has been buffed to make leveling up easier early on and keep you interested in actively completing challenges and missions to gain more loot.
Acquisition of exotic engrams is no longer an astronomically rare event and the weapons awarded early on are a lot of fun to use. You will find yourself hoarding weapons and armor in the earlier stages, worried about breaking anything down, but I advise against this as those weapons will become obsolete very quickly (do save five Scout Rifles in your vault though, I won’t tell you why but trust me, you will thank me later).
By breaking down or ‘dismantling’ your weapons you can trade in your weapon parts to the gunsmith who will reward you with legendary (purple) engrams when you level him up. This is a great way to get your hands on better weapons and a light boost.
Similarly, you can also receive legendary engrams from handing in your vanguard tokens to Zavala. These can be acquired through completing strikes.
There are several different options for getting your hands on better gear through redeemable items which makes improving your light a much easier task early on than that of D1. Contrary to various reports, the level cap for items from the vendors is not 265, I have not yet reached a cap yet and am receiving 272 level gear currently.
Once you find yourself at max level (20) you will now be primarily focusing on your light (power) level. You can however, still earn rewards from the XP you are earning and these are given to you in the form of Bright engrams. Every time you earn enough XP to hit the next level you will see a notification advising you that you have earned another Bright engram. Simply visit Tess at the Eververse and she will hand over the goodies.
Shaders are now heavily dependent on random drops and are a single use item. So once you equip your shader to a gun or armor piece for example, there it stays. So think carefully about what you use them on as some of the more spectacular shaders can take quite a while to come across.
You are also able to get certain upgrades for your equipment through microtransactions which directly affect gameplay and improve said equipment. I am not at all impressed with this decision. The cosmetic-only approach from D1 should have been retained and I feel this needs to be rectified sooner rather than later (having said that, you can earn bright dust SLOWLY in-game which you can then purchase some of Tess’ items with).
This is again, very similar to D1, with you progressing from uncommon to rare, to legendary and then exotic weapons. As you move through the campaign you will receive your initial weapons and from there it’s up to you to continue doing missions, strikes and other activities to receive more.
Given that most weapons in the game are acquired through RNG drops it can become quite frustrating when you are trying to get your hands on a certain weapon such as Sweet Business or Origin Story. I have friends that had only just broken 200 light that have received some of the most sought after weapons and others that are over 280 light and have received none, it can do your head in.
Once you hit 280 light you have the ability to create weapon mods. This is where weapon customization really starts to get fun. In the meantime you can earn weapon mods from handing in weapon parts to the gunsmith, some of them of no real benefit, others which have a number in the bottom right corner, will boost the level of your weapon. So have a play around with this system but do keep in mind that once you equip a mod there it stays, or it destroys when removed.
There is also a variety of weapons that you can acquire through completing quest lines, such as upgrading the Mini-Tool to the Multi-Tool, a pistol called the Rat King which is perfect for raids (if you and 1 other member of your raid team have a Rat King the damage output for your pistol is doubled plus you go invisible when reloading), and various exotic weapons. It’s worth investing time into these quests as those weapons might require some time to get but are well worth the effort.
Guardian Classes / Sub-Classes:
The new sub-class systems for the Guardians are also a welcomed change, with a less convoluted unlocking system in play. Playing around with the various class options is a lot of fun and ultimately very important as you progress your character. For example, when completing a strike you will have three challenges that your fireteam can complete, one of these being specific to your character. As a Hunter, one of the challenges you might find yourself with is defeating ten enemies whilst blinded by your smoke grenade. You will need to have this ability unlocked and equipped to complete this. If you and your team can collectively complete these challenges you will receive additional vanguard tokens.
One of the major complaints I have heard is the removal of the self-revive from the Warlock class, which has instead been replaced by a shield. The self-revive was well overused in D1, making raids extremely easy and also meaning that you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Warlock. This switch up will force players to think more before leaping and hopefully encourage people to branch out and spend time playing with different classes.
You still have the same 3 main classes from D1: Warlock, Titan, and Hunter. Each with their own specific abilities, armor pieces and style. I encourage you to have a play around with all 3 if you are new to the Destiny franchise and not allow others to influence your class choice by what they need for raid teams.
Clans are up and running nice and early this time around. There are a variety of rewards that you can work towards acquiring with your clan members which reset at the end of every season.
Basically you will collectively work towards unlocking weekly engrams, and to do so at least two members of your fireteam need to be in your clan.
As a clan member you will also be able to participate in guided missions. I will go further into that below.
Clan participation is a great way to get the old clan back together, or start a fresh one, and meet new Guardians. This will also make ensuring that you have like minded gamers to team up with much easier as your clan roster will show you who is online regardless of friends list status.
As mentioned above, as a member of a clan you have the ability to run guided games. For those who are not a member of a clan you can participate in these games by joining as a seeker.
Seekers – As a seeker you can join a guided game (Nightfall for example) by spending a Guided Games Ticket. Only a percentage of the Destiny 2 community were awarded these as this feature is still in beta form. So if you don’t have one of these tickets you will just have to sit tight until this is fully implemented on September 26th. Check the postmaster to see if you have any waiting for you.
Guides – To be a guide you will need to be teamed up with one other clan member. You can then opt to be a guide and a seeker will be allocated to you. It is now the responsibility of you and your clan member to guide the seeker through the mission successfully.
Both parties will be asked to accept the Guardians Oath before starting which is basically an agreement that you will be: Helpful, Attentive, Observant, Willing to Learn/Teach, and Friendly.
The Oathkeepers Score measures how well your clan sticks to this agreement. There is no indication that I can see yet that explains how your overall score will effect your clan so stay tuned.
Strikes are a great way to level up, earn better rewards and vanguard tokens to hand into Zavala. Currently there are only 4 strikes available, meaning that you often find yourself repeating the same strike over and over. This can become tedious and frustrating at times however, if I am correct we don’t have long to wait until a new rotation of strikes are added to the playlist. If you have just finished the campaign I recommend grabbing two able Guardians and heading straight into the strike playlist.
This is what will set you straight about your current ability, understanding of elemental damage and ability to communicate well with your team. You can only enter the Nightfall with a fireteam, with the recommended level being 230 (I recommend waiting until you are at least 240 unless you have two 270+ Guardians to run with) so make sure your two companions are switched on. Basically you are dealing with a strike on steroids that has a time limit. If you don’t hustle, you fail.
The update added during the 7 hour maintenance on September 14th brought with it the addition of the Guardian Guided Nightfall which I referred to above.
The Leviathan Raid:
Much to my delight a raid was added only a week after release which is significantly faster than in D1. The recommended light level for this first raid is 270 – 280.
I won’t go into details here as there is well too much to cover however, I will leave you with these two statements:
- This raid is EXTREMELY hard. Be under no delusion that you can defeat it under level.
- Make sure you have a mix of Guardian classes on your team, this makes a big difference.
If you don’t want to go in blind you can check out our walkthrough here.
The Crucible, where to start………….
Depending on your love for the Crucible, average connection and weapon levels, you are going to have a varied experience from one person to the next.
Personally, I always found Crucible to be rather unbalanced in D1 and unless you had a large portion of time to dedicate to learning the right armor and weapon combination to take in with you, along with what sub-class is best suited to combat that of your opponents, along with about 15 other factors, you are going to find it hard not to break your controller (or is that just me??).
Don’t be scared to enter Crucible because you have a lower light level though as your ‘power’ level doesn’t come into play. Your weapons are what will make the most difference, coupled with well thought out armor assembly.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check your Ghosts before heading into Crucible, chances are you have a Ghost that will give you boosts during matches.
Learning the lay of the land in the various maps doesn’t take long at all, so that’s one bonus, and these environments are generally a lot of fun to run around in. The layout feels like that of what we are familiar with from D1, with a mix of open areas, corridors and vantage points. Overall the map design is really well thought out and encourages you to move around. There’s a lot that other major FPS franchises could learn from Bungie in this regard.
You currently have two Crucible primary options to choose from, standard and competitive with both rotating through game-mode types (Clash, Supremacy, Survival, Control, Countdown). Before choosing your poison make sure you have visited Lord Shaxx at the Tower to see if he has any challenges for you.
Where possible find a friend to team up with, or preferably a few, as this will make your experience in Crucible a lot more fun. It’s easy to dominate the field in standard when you have a team that co-ordinates and communicates.
Competitive mode is a slightly different beast and a place where you will find teams that mean business. Given that you can earn slightly better rewards and points towards completing challenges such as Call to Arms, faster in competitive play, you will feel a significant jump in the general skill level of your competitors.
This is also where a lot of people are complaining that they feel Crucible is still unbalanced. To that I would have to say that whilst a few tweaks would be welcomed, overall if you know how to play as a team and assess your opposition accurately, it’s quite easy to put yourself in an advantageous position regards of your loadout.
This is one area of the game where I experienced the most issues with being dropped from the server. Intermittently I would get kicked back to orbit or out of the game completely (Beetle error being the most common) which is extremely annoying, especially if the match is about to end as you miss out on all of your rewards. I know this game is still in week 2 however, after waiting for several hours of maintenance to be conducted on September 14th I found this only made matters worse. Hopefully (not holding breath) this will be resolved by the end of next week. I can put up with it for a short time but if this continues to be an ongoing issue it will greatly impact my enjoyment of the game as a whole. Regardless of if I was in a game or not I would constantly get a notification advising that the game was trying to re-connect me to the servers. This is a problem that needs immediate attention from Bungie.
GRAPHICS & SOUND
Graphically Destiny 2 is stunning, which you would expect coming from a studio such as Bungie. Every scene is visually spectacular. Regardless of if you are playing the campaign or in the middle of an epic strike battle, the screen is always full of crisp and vibrant images.
Battles are where you really get treated with massive explosions filling the screen, gunfire whizzing past you, super’s being unleashed, glowing swords, Captain America style shields, it’s a never-ending feast for the eyes. Whilst the battle system is an absolute hoot to use, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without the dramatic visual effects that accompany it.
The soundtrack is simply awesome. I caught myself constantly humming along with the battle music, which really adds an element of urgency to certain areas of the campaign. Entering into the game one of the first things that really hits you is the well placed tone of music which I think is a part of what made me so emotional as I was entering the beginning stages of the game.
The explosions, gun fire, sounds of sparrows speeding past you, loot crate twinkles, everything mixed with an almost endless sound of PEW PEW PEW PEW really helps to raise your adrenaline levels.
This speaks for itself. The replay value is through the roof. Between having 3 different characters, all that can be taken through the campaign and leveled up to max light, the endless side-quests, missions, strikes and raids, the roofless Crucible matches, you can never run out of things to do in Destiny 2.
You will generally find that you will have friends either starting the game or a new character that you will spend multiple hours going back and helping, and then of course there’s the Public Events and hunting for chests.
For someone who enjoys aspects of games like Destiny 2, you will get extreme value for money.
Please see below for my summary and overall score of Destiny 2.