Welcome to Late to the Party, a series in which I discuss video games that I’ve finally gotten around to playing. Today I’m going to talk about Destiny 2, a sci-fi FPS RPG. I played Destiny 2 on a PlayStation 4 Pro and today’s review is going to be focused on the version of the game that is currently available for free. It should also be stated that with the exception of matchmaking done for Strikes and multiplayer, and the natural interactions that occur in Destiny 2’s shared worlds, I’ve been playing the game completely solo.
My time with Destiny 2 has been a bit unusual. As some of you might remember, I started playing Destiny 2 prior to my extended trip overseas and at the time I published my initial thoughts on the game (some of those thoughts will be repeated in today’s review). While I was gone, however, Destiny 2 experienced a major overhaul called New Light, which launched on October 1. New Light essentially gave everyone free access to the base version of the game, along with all the year 1 content and a lot of the year 2 content. The more recent Forsaken and Shadowkeep expansions, as well as some other content, are still behind a paywall but otherwise there’s a massive chunk of Destiny 2 that is now free to play.
When starting Destiny 2 you’ll first either create a character from one of the game’s three classes, or if you played Destiny 1 you may be able to import your character(s) into Destiny 2. For my part, I imported my Destiny 1 Warlock and created a brand new character just for reference. With the changes brought by New Light, Destiny 2 now begins with you playing through a modified version of the opening story mission from Destiny 1 and then you are brought to the Tower, which serves as the game’s primary hub and social space. At this point Destiny 2 dramatically opens up, with your character’s light level being automatically boosted to 750 (out of a current limit of 970) and all of the game’s aforementioned free content becoming immediately available. This can potentially have both positive and negative effects. On one hand newer players can now quickly get up to speed and experience the best parts that Destiny 2 has to offer. On the other hand, having so much content immediately available can be a bit overwhelming and a new player might accidentally stumble upon certain story spoilers that are in the Tower and in some of the side quests scattered throughout Destiny 2’s worlds. One major story spoiler will be staring you in the face upon arrival at the Tower (though you might not realize at first) and another big spoiler will likely be heard among the chatter from some of the NPCs. If you’re the type of player who cares about Destiny 2’s story then my suggestion would be that after you go through the process of meeting the major NPCs at the Tower you then immediately visit the shipwright and acquire the Red War story campaign. You’ll also want to purchase a Sparrow from the shipwright as soon as possible, since you don’t earn one from playing the game. Focus on knocking out the Red War story missions, while also doing a few side quests if you want to strengthen your character, but avoid running any Strikes and don’t do the side quests near Firebase Hades in the EDZ.
Speaking of Destiny 2’s story, what we get in the Red War campaign is definitely a notable step up from the story in the base version of Destiny 1 and overall I’m pretty positive about it. While there’s nothing particularly deep or novel about the narrative it’s still a good, straightforward tale of your character rising to meet seemingly insurmountable odds, though there are a couple of questions related to the Destiny universe that I would have liked to have seen answered within the Red War campaign. For those that haven’t played Destiny 1 I’d say that you can certainly play Destiny 2 and get the basic gist of game’s universe fairly quickly but if you can spare the time I would suggest going to Youtube and watching a video that gives an overview of Destiny 1’s storyline so that you can have a fuller understanding of what’s going on.
Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer or veteran, what’s going to keep you coming back to Destiny 2 for hours on end is the gameplay. I’m pleased to report that the signature FPS RPG gameplay experience that kept me going for about 136 hours in Destiny 1 is back in Destiny 2 with some small additions and adjustments, and so far nearly all of the changes appear to be for the better. Character classes and subclasses have been reworked, enemies have new variants, there are tons of new weapons to collect and use, the shooting feels as good as ever, and there are a lot of small but appreciated adjustments such as being able to join a public event while in the middle of a mission. Like it’s predecessor, Destiny 2 is the type of game that’s fun to play, whether you’re pursuing an actual objective or just wandering around one of the worlds and engaging whatever challenges you come across. I encountered some minor gameplay issues scattered around the game’s periphery, such as my ship sometimes being invisible during loading screens, servitors every now and then floating up into the air upon death rather than exploding, enemies on rare occasion popping-in out of nowhere, and most strangely, my character being invisible in the inventory screen until I purchased my first Sparrow, but none of these problems come anywhere close to ruining the experience of playing Destiny 2 and will hopefully be patched at some point in the future.
In terms of game design, Destiny 2 is similar to Destiny 1 aside from some changes, and while most of these changes are for the better there are some that I think drag the game down a little. Side missions are more plentiful in Destiny 2 and are now divided into single-mission Adventures and multi-mission Quests. The side missions I’ve played are doing a lot better than their Destiny 1 counterparts at filling in the world-building gaps left by the main campaign but both they and the main story missions are not replayable. This is really unfortunate because replaying fun missions was one of my favorite things to do in Destiny 1 and I’m disappointed that this feature was taken out of Destiny 2. Related to the game’s lore, Grimoire Cards are gone, (praise the Traveler!) so I don’t have to go to a companion app to read the lore I’ve unlocked. Bounties are no longer centralized with a single NPC but rather spread out among multiple NPCs. While this allows for a greater number and variety of bounties to be acquired, I do miss the convenience of being able to grab all my bounties in a single place. I also rubs me the wrong way that shaders are now consumables. On a much more positive note, I can report that vault space in Destiny 2 is significantly larger than in Destiny 1. While vault space has never been an issue for me since I don’t put many things into storage, I know that one of the big complaints in the Destiny community during the Destiny 1 days was that the vault wasn’t big enough, so the larger vault in Destiny 2 should be a welcome improvement for many players. Just as a side note, I should mention that you can’t import anything from your Destiny 1 vault into your Destiny 2 vault. At the Tower I also noticed that although the factions representatives from Destiny 1 are still hanging around you can no longer interact with them and factions as a whole are now gone. This isn’t a big deal but I did like the additional rewards that you could earn from the faction you pledged your character to. Thankfully, bonus content and items are now given out via the Seasons that run throughout the calendar year. Some of the content from the various Seasons requires you to purchase a Season Pass but some of it is free. Lastly, while Strikes (which are 3-player cooperative missions) are as fun as always, I find it odd that there are no longer mission briefings during loading screens to give fuller context to the mission. When the Strike begins you’ll get an overview of your assignment via some dialogue but in the running riot that are Strikes it is really easy to miss this bit of context.
As you’d expect from a sequel, Destiny 2’s visuals and audio have been upgraded over the original game. It’s not a huge jump, but the improvements are noticeable if you’ve more recently played Destiny 1 like I have. Of the two, audio is the bigger upgrade in my mind, mostly because many of the guns and special abilities in Destiny 2 sound better. Destiny 2 also has a great soundtrack, so that’s another big plus in the audio column. On the visual front Destiny 2 looks a bit more detailed and has some marginal graphics improvements over the original. That said, Destiny 1 had a really a good visual aesthetic, so I’m ok with Destiny 2 looking fairly similar to Destiny 1.
Destiny 2’s multiplayer is something that I can’t speak definitively about since I’m normally not much of a multiplayer kind of guy, but from my brief time dabbling in the Crucible I can say that it works just fine (aside from a multiplayer trophy that is currently glitched). The standard team deathmatch, free-for-all, and map control modes are all there, along with a few other ones. Probably the most unique multiplayer thing Destiny 2 has going for it is Gambit, which combines both PvE and PvP for an interesting hybrid experience. In Gambit two teams of four players fight against AI enemies on separate maps and at certain points one player from either team can cross over to the other team’s map for a chance to take down players on the other team.
A second thing I’m not quite sure about is the grinding in Destiny 2. I could just be me, but I could swear that it takes a bit longer in Destiny 2 to complete some quest lines and earn high-tier gear. Granted, this issue probably will only impact players who are going to put a lot of hours into Destiny 2 but I could definitely see it discouraging some people from going too deep into the endgame.
For those wondering, yes, Destiny 2 has microtransactions, but no, they do not appear to allow anyone to pay-to-win. The Eververse Store from Destiny 1 has returned in Destiny 2 and once again it is full of cosmetic items that allow you to more fully customize your character. Purchases can either be made with Silver, which is bought with real money, or Bright Dust, which is earned in-game. From my perusing of the Eververse store, it looks like Bungie is pushing the items that are bought with Silver, and while a few items have caught my eye I’m not sure I’ll ever actually purchase anything. Part of that is my personal aversion to microtransactions and part of it is that the stuff I want (like a really cool finisher move) seems a bit overpriced. There are no activities in Destiny 2 that require you to purchase anything from Eververse, so it’s totally up to the player to decide if they want to drop some extra dollars to make their character fancier.
On the topic of money I’m again drawn back to the amazing fact that a massive chunk of Destiny 2 is now free-to-play. There is simply an absurd amount of quality content that anyone can now enjoy for free and you could easily get 50-100 worthwhile hours out of this game without spending a single cent. Bungie must be getting a lot of money from Eververse and the paid parts of Destiny 2 (and probably also from their new Chinese overlords at NetEase) to be giving people such a generous value proposition.
Destiny 2 is a good game and while not all of the changes it has made from Destiny 1 are for the better it is still an overall improvement over its predecessor. Based on the 60-some hours I’ve spent with Destiny 2 I’m going to rate it at an 8.5 out of 10, though I might update this score at some point in the future, especially if I get around to playing the more recent expansion packs. Whenever that happens I’ll also be able to give a final verdict on whether I like Destiny 2 more than the original. That’s a question I’m really curious to answer.