Destiny 2 (PC) Review – A Collection of Improvements and Flaws
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release: 24th October 2017 (PC)
In 2014 Destiny, the most expensive video game so far, was released … and well, it wasn´t horrible but pretty bad. A grind party without a story, presentation or interesting game design. Yet, through years of patching and expansions, Bungie somehow managed to transform it into a quite good game. Now, with the release of Destiny 2 they had the chance to deliver a game true to their ideas. After playing it for quite a while (before Nioh robbed me of all my time again) Bungie certainly delivered a better game with a still flawed core.
A year, or so, after the events of the predecessor, Destiny 2 begins with the invasion of the Last City. Lead by Ghaul the Red Legion invades this beloved hub world in no time, corrupting both the traveler and destroying most of the Tower. At the end the guardians have no choice than escape, sacrificing everything they built so far. Either dead or injured, the guardians begin to rebuild their strength and retake what was stolen from them while finding out more and more about Ghaul´s goals.
Destiny´s main story was a mess when it came out, featuring nearly no cutscenes, comprehensive story telling or a clear goal. Over its two big expansions Bungie eventually delivered better stories, fixing most of the complaints without ever offering a truly great one. Naturally I didn´t expect much despite the huge hype Acitvision created around this new story. Yet, the story is actually quite good, not great but better than any other one so far. Surely it´s nothing more than “kill the bad guy” with a potential little twist at the end but the cinematic presentation, characters and focus on a quirky action adventure help a lot.
On the one hand, having a clear enemy with boss fights etc works as good as int he expansions but due to the larger vision of it being a second main entry in the series, every aspect got bigger. On the other hand, the game actually introduces really well working characters like Kade or Ghaul, which are able to create entertaining cutscenes. Despite their cliché nature, Destiny 2´s unsurprising plot can entertain and engage the player to a certain degree, due to the far better writing, pacing and characters. Can it live up to the hype? No, but it´s the best one Bungie delivered with their series so far.
At the same time the base gameplay stayed pretty much the same, it didn´t need a rework though as it was pretty damn great the first time. The high jumps, jetpack, fast pacing in combination with the great gunplay known from the Halo series work like a charm and offer a really fun and compelling shooter experience. Especially the huge range of weapon types make it a beautiful experience for everyone. Honestly, there´s nothing about the gunplay or movement I dislike, it´s fast, not too coverbased and fun.
As in the predecessor, the three main classes play very differently once again. Each with their own abilities, functions and playstyles, along the sub-classes, go hand in hand with the diverse combat. The Captain America styled Titan in particular is super fun. Still, the character progressions system remained mostly untouched. With every level the guardian gets a new skill “option”, like replacing the frag grenade with a different one. However, it remains a grenade, the alternatives may vary the behaviour or function but ultimately don´t bring a way to branch out of the pre-set playstyle. The way a class can evolve is very strict and controlled, only customizable by choosing a sub-class or in very late levels. I just wished the skills were more diverse.
Where Bungie made the biggest improvement to the original game is the mission design. Defending the Ghost was pretty much the whole game before the expansions and Destiny 2 follows up on this tradition of avoiding it by all means. Every mission is started from little open worlds on the different planets, which offer not only the access to main missions but also public activities, hidden treasures or side missions. At the same time, the game doesn´t force the player to constantly backtrack to other locations, even though it´s required at certain points. The whole world just feels more alive and persistent.
The main missions themselves are way better as well now because they actually have some sort of presentation. Of course there are still the more boring ones, only consisting of shooting enemies in corridors but once the plot reaches a climax or important point, the levels start to offer bigger arenas, more interesting designs and visually stunning passages. The opening mission in particular shows off perfectly what can be expected of more important missions. Defending gates or persons became way rarer as well, only required in a few missions and way shorter than before I wasn´t nearly as frustrated with them.
Same for the bosses, ranging from stronger normal enemies to actually unique ones. Gone are the days where beating the same guy four times, who even was a recycled boss from before, counted as the end boss. Fighting them may still be chopping off giant health bars but at least they look cool, have unique patterns and help to tell an epic story. Considering how unfittingly the first game used its amazing soundtrack to underline super boring stuff, Destiny 2 understood how to create action packed events or cutscenes that profit from its music. I couldn´t bring myself to like even one thing about Destiny´s original campaign but had quite a lot fun with Destiny 2.
Nevertheless, it´s still Destiny and with it comes the grind, a lot of grind. After completing the campaign Destiny 2 just begins to open up with its strikes and giant raids which are truly impressive. While the randomized loot may mostly be gone and enemies tend to actually pack a punch rather than giant health bars, the goal of getting better and better loot through extensive grinding is still there. Hoping to get the desired item, the game forces the player to replay the same missions, strikes, raids or anything else that gives loot. Who liked the first will know the procedure and either like or hate it. Surely it´s not as randomized or bad as in the beginning but still requires a lot effort to get a high level.
Unfortunately, Destiny 2 also remains true to the micro-transactions, offering emotes and other “amazing” customization options for purchase at an unreasonable price. Neither good nor player friendly, it´s just annoying.
The PvP modes are back as well, from deathmatch to CTF and other modes, it´s possible to battle in 4v4 matches against other guardians. Every weapon being buffed or nerfed to ensure even chances between the teams is an essential tool of at least providing some fun here. Sadly it quickly becomes obvious that Destiny 2, like before, isn´t a strong PvP game. On little maps the flying, jumping, ability using players create more of a mess than fun multiplayer. From particles spraying all over the place to the different unbalanced ultimate abilities or special weapons, PvP isn´t well balanced nor tactical or unique … it simply exists for whatever reason.
Last but not least, Destiny 2´s finally came to PC too and considering the amazing graphics and gameplay it´s just the right choice. Running on 4K on a 1070 with nearly no turned down options really speak for itself when it comes to optimization and mouse + keyboard controls help the game to truly shine. Models, textures, cutscenes, environments, everything looks sharp, even though it´s not a huge improvement over the predecessor. Still, the artstyle or anything else stayed true to the core, letting it look very coherent to the universe Bungie built. While the soundtrack is once again absolutely amazing.
At the end, Destiny 2 easily puts its un-patched predecessor in the shadows but does nothing truly new compared to the expansions. Surely it offers a bigger campaign, more strikes, raids and far better mission design, good story-telling and a working plot but the grindy endgame remains without offering enough content to justify the repetition. For people who liked the first game, Destiny 2 will just be the right fit, for anyone not eager to grind dozens of hours, the campaign and great shooter gameplay could offer a great experience for a discounted price.
[A Review Code was provided by Activision]