The concept of the original Destiny was an ambitious one. It was more than an attempt to build a “shared world shooter” where players would suddenly find other players helping them along with their missions, though that was what it was billed as. More than that, it was an effort to build a habitable, cohesive universe and tear down the boundaries between modes of play. It wasn’t the “next Halo,” experience many anticipated, though it had its similarities. It wasn’t a linear campaign on one side and a multiplayer game on the other. In concept, it was grander than all of that. In application, well, it came pretty close. Close enough, at least. Destiny 2 provides a clean slate, a fresh endeavor to realize that ambitious dream, and thus far it hits much closer to the mark. Destiny 2 provides the clean and clear narrative the original always lacked, a much more welcoming and rewarding universe to explore, a well-woven world that is easy to access and comfortable to traverse, and innumerable quality of life improvements that make the game a pleasure to play. Though not without faults, Destiny 2 immediately abated many of this writer’s fears and provides an experience sure to be heralded as “what Destiny should have been all along.” To be candid, the sequel is also massive, with content I’ve yet to experience and more content on the horizon. Consequently, this is only part of the review, a review in progress, if you will. Here’s Goomba Stomp’s review of Destiny 2 thus far, a look at the campaign, the world, and its inhabitants.
Destiny 2 is a tale of loss, rebirth, and reclamation, and it’s easily the best narrative ever delivered by Destiny. A fierce faction of the militaristic, “Cabal” alien confederation, the Red Legion, have invaded the last city on Earth, captured the Traveler (the source of player’s power), and destroyed the Tower, the home of the Guardians, and all players have fought to collect and preserve in Destiny with it. At the helm of this siege is Dominus Ghaul, a strong and cunning general who feels the Traveler chose wrong in leaving the light in humanity’s hands who’s willing to go to great lengths to prove it to all who’ll bear witness as he lays claim to what he views is rightfully his. It’s up to the player to restore their light, reunite the Vanguard, and put an end to Ghaul and his formidable Red Legion.
Veteran players will certainly feel a sense of loss seeing the social space they’ve called home for three years left nothing but embers, all of their loot gone (goodbye, Gjally), but even newcomers are sure to feel the weight of proceedings as they traverse a decimated Tower in the game’s early, harrowing sequences. Gone are the days of disembodied voices giving expository dumps between stages like in the original Destiny. Instead, players are treated to strong visual storytelling in and out of missions and gorgeous, engaging cinematics between stages effectively displaying the pathos of Ghaul, the precarious situation the Guardians find themselves in, and strong characterization of the supporting cast, taking characters like Zavala, Ikora, and Cayde-6 and making them relatable, human characters and not just quippy scenario builders. Paired with sensational voice acting, it was a rare treat seeing these characters face their mortality and the fear that brings for the first time in centuries or getting to see them fight for the City despite the likelihood of their own demise. All of this storytelling is punctuated by a truly brilliant, evocative score that seamlessly transitions as players progress through stages, building to heartrending crescendos or invigorating, memorable melodies. While the dialogue is on point, some of the best storytelling is in the wordless moments where the visuals and score perfectly set the stage.
Speaking of setting the stage, one of the best changes from the original Destiny is the ever present director guiding players to assorted activities across the map, eliminating the need to constantly travel to orbit. Story missions are now found planet-side alongside returning Public Events and Patrols, all highlighted on the director. Public Events are far improved, incorporating fun, often familiar puzzle elements from the predecessor’s Strikes and Raids. These Public Events can be elevated to Heroic Public Events by going the extra mile and fulfilling specific, secret requirements, often changing the completion requirements, as a result, making for some thrilling, more rewarding variation.
More excitingly, Destiny 2 introduces a handful of new activities to tackle across each planet. Adventure missions are perhaps the best of these, which works much like a story mission, often expanding specific narrative threads and potentially foreshadowing future content while keeping the player in the public player space. Not only do these Adventures explore new narrative space (one highlights another potential Cabal threat, for instance), they often highlight portions of the map players might not otherwise traverse or spend much time in. Lost Sectors are also new to Destiny 2 and are semi-hidden areas, often operating like secret passageways across the map, all featuring cool stage design, and a loot-guarding boss at the end. Each planet also features its own vendor, allowing players to turn in collectibles from across the map for valuable rewards all to sweeten the deal. Undoubtedly, players have much more to do across each planet, and, what’s more, Destiny 2 does its best not to take players out of the experience.
It’s not just the map and story that have gotten make overs; character classes, subclasses, and the gun system have all gotten an overhaul. New gun classifications, including grenade launchers and submachine guns, make their debut in Destiny 2. The weapon system has also been rearranged so that most weapons classified as Secondary weapons in the original Destiny are grouped with Heavies, now labeled Power weapons (ie. rocket launchers). In their place, players now have Energy weapons, weapons nearly identical to the “Primary,” now Kinetic weapon slot, only modified with a specific burn ideal for burning through specific enemy shields. It’s a welcome change that balances both PVP and PVE and ultimately allows a wider range of play.
Each class, Titan, Hunter, and Warlock, all have a new rechargeable abilities to go alongside their grenade and melee abilities. Hunters, regardless of subclass, have a Dodge ability, which, beyond being a solid evasive maneuver, allows the players to instantly reload their weapon in hand or buffs the damage of their melee depending on the perk selected. Similarly, Titans have a new Barricade ability providing a half shield easily shot over, or a full on wall depending on the character setup. Finally, Warlocks have a new Rift ability, which generates a small pool offering instant healing or a pool which buffs damage, again depending on the perk selected by the player. These inclusions make the classes more dynamic and bring vital new roles to each.
Each class also features a new subclass replacing an existing one from the original game. Hunters have the new Arcstrider class, capable of decimating waves of foes at close range. Titans continue their defensive trend with the Sentinel class, which conjures a Void shield fit for bashing enemies or sending it careening in their direction Captain America style. Ironically, the Sunsinger Warlock class wasn’t resurrected for Destiny 2. Instead, Warlocks have the aerially oriented Dawnblade Solar class with which they can cast fiery blades from above. The new classes are a welcome fit and mark a more versatile form of Super ability for Destiny. While subclass customization is limited, ultimately focused on the selection of one play style over another, the rapidity with which subclasses can be fully unlocked is a welcome change to the tedious grind present in the original Destiny and ultimately can be justified as a balancing measure.
Level progression has also been fairly streamlined. Characters gradually gain experience before reaching level twenty. After that, each level up earns players new Bright Engrams which can be traded in at the Eververse (Destiny‘s microtransaction market) for fun cosmetic items including shaders, ships, emotes, and some fun, rare, exotic items as well. Consequently, players can earn everything from Eververse without spending a dime IRL. The rest of player’s power comes from their Power Level (it’s over 9,000! Sorry, couldn’t help myself). Power Level is determined by armor and weapons found in traditional Engrams by completing specific events or randomly dropped by enemies. Rather than players constantly having to equip their best gear to ensure Engrams are dropping at the highest possible level, Destiny 2‘s smart inventory system does everything for the player, calculating the highest possible reward based on everything in the character’s inventory and vault. It’s one of many quality of life improvements that makes Destiny 2 so much more gratifying to play than the original. Other enhancements include further gun, armor, and even Sparrow and ship modification, static weapon rolls for balancing and to eliminate pesky RNG shafts, improved loading times, much larger currency caps, way more vault storage space, and, of course, in game lore.
And that’s just the beginning! In most regards, Destiny 2 is a marked improvement over its predecessor. A clear and engaging campaign, immense balancing, gorgeous visuals and cinematics, more activities than ever before, one of the best, most dynamic game soundtracks I’ve heard in while, and much more ensure Destiny 2 will see as much play as its predecessor if not more. That’s not to say it isn’t without its hiccups. The single use shader system seems like a step back (especially if they’re going to try to create limited time ones), a bit more subclass customization might be welcome, among other issues like connection stability, but overall, the grievances are minimal compared to the game’s successes thus far. As for the rest, Destiny 2‘s PVP arena, the Crucible, the game’s staying power, and a collection of endgame activities tune in later for the conclusion of this review including coverage of the raid and Trials of the Nine.