Destiny 2 is now live and ready for players to jump back into the fight for the Light, but the battle to properly review the game still has a few more missions to complete. While EGM’s full review won’t arrive until after the first raid begins, September 13th, I wanted to share my initial impressions for the sequel from my unique perspective.
Bungie and Activision held a preview event in mid-August to give press, including myself, some hands-on time with the full game, meaning my current playthrough of the story with the rest of the world is technically my second. While it was impossible not to know what Destiny was, I was someone who had barely played the first game before attending the event, putting me in a strange situation. After two days of full play and completing 80 percent of the primary campaign, I felt immersed in the world of the Traveler and the Guardians that fight to protect it.
Since then, I’ve gone back to play through the original game in its entirety, including all DLC and leveling up each class to 40. Now, playing through Destiny 2 once again with the rest of the fan base puts me on a different playing field than my first exposure. While there are plenty of new features and changes that I will cover in the full review, there are a few I want to cover earlier on to set the precedence of my thoughts on how Bungie has shifted into a new era for the franchise.
As a fan of RPG’s that include rich storytelling, I was disappointed to see Destiny tout such an impressive scale of importance to the players, only to deliver most of its interesting universe building lore through collectible Grimoires. Truthfully, I never fully understood why I was going on a mission in the first game, let alone what part I played in the supposed grand soap opera centered around the Traveler. Granted, later DLC like The Taken King approached storytelling in a much more engaging and streamlined way, but it was an absolute necessity that Destiny 2 introduced its story clearly and succinctly right off the bat. Thankfully, that’s what we get in the sequel, as the opening moments of the game explain what the Traveler is, why Guardians are important, and what the consequences of losing the Traveler will be moving forward. Then, we jump into an intense battle where the enemy is identified, power is taken away, and we have a reason to want to continue forward. It’s a simple narrative device, but it at least adds more weight to the intensity that the rest of the game wants to make players feel.
An extra touch that makes the opening moments feel substantial are what returning players experience when launching the game. Unlike newcomers, players that carry over their Guardians from Destiny will receive a slideshow of all of the raids, DLC events, and major events to remind them of their accomplishments in the past. The names of other Guardians that helped them also appear, building that sense of camaraderie that becomes a clear theme in the rest of the game’s narrative. This is the first example of Bungie taking the right steps to address the dedicated community of players, acknowledging all of the work they did to prepare them for the adventures awaiting them.
As far as the main gameplay goes, the movement from Destiny to Destiny 2 feels seamless. There aren’t any new features to overwhelm new or old players, and even the small changes, like the new weapon categories, are easy to understand. While change is always something to embrace, it’s clear Bungie had the intention of making Destiny 2 the immersive experience that Destiny became after all of its DLC became available, which essentially makes the sequel feel more like a reworked Game of the Year Edition with new content. While some may argue this makes Destiny 2 a copy and paste job, it’s arguably more accurate to classify it as a fine-tuning of Destiny‘s aesthetic into a new package—a redo of sorts.
The most significant change from my experience is the planet sizes increasing and patrol zones feeling vast and ready for exploration. Guardians will still go to orbit to fly from one planet to the next, but they’ll find themselves doing it much less this time around, and that’s an incredibly welcome change. If Destiny is about taking on exciting quests and teaming up with other players, we shouldn’t have to constantly fly back to The Tower to get a mission and then sit behind another loading screen just to fly to one particular area on a planet for one mission. Destiny 2‘s patrol zones are filled with teleporting points, letting you zip around the map to take on public events, Lost Sectors, Red Legion story quests, and the new Adventures. I should want to get lost in uncovering hidden areas and side missions, and thankfully, Destiny 2 delivers that feeling.
As for what isn’t working, while the scope of the worlds has expanded, the gameplay variety has continued to stay repetitive. Players will still go from mission to mission just shooting their way through with the same selection of weapons seen in the last game. There is more of a focus on subclass optimization, such as getting the chance to hold three at once, but those are the focus for only two missions out of the 80 plus available in the game. This repetitiveness feels even stronger when it comes to later missions where enemy versus enemy battles start to form, and you can use that to your advantage to get through an area unscathed. This would have been an excellent opportunity to introduce a new style of play, such as stealth or strategic enemy placement, but it comes and goes without much attention.
On that same level, the customization options are head-scratching and antiquated. Shaders, which Guardians can use to change the color and overall look of their gear, are back in the sequel but come with a mess of complications. Instead of the first game’s option for unlimited use of each shader, players are only allowed to use each once. To make matters worse, they are only usable on one piece of gear or weaponry as well, meaning that special raid shader you earned may go to an auto rifle you end up dismantling down the road in place of a better one. The idea of being able to customize on an individual level is a good one, but then attaching the consumable variable to it just feels like a step backward.
While most Guardians are looking forward to the main crux of the series success, Crucible modes and raids, we still have some time to wait until we can get a full understanding of how they’ll differ from the first Destiny. Bungie has promised the Trials—now known as Trials of the Nine—will offer up several new features and improvements, and since Destiny fans operate within the PvP and PvE events a majority of the time, it’s imperative to wait for a proper rating on the game until we’ve had time with them. Make sure to check back to EGM for my full review of Destiny 2 shortly after the first raid launches on September 13th.