Su its you, sir
Outfitting our Guardians with the most lethal (and stylish) gear
respawning in the overworld doesn’t reset progress, so we whittle down his health until he drops a shiny new helmet. You can save time by scouting loot chests in the wild, indicated on the map, which provides incentive to explore. During one expedition we discover a Cabal data cache detailing plans to make fortified wine from blood. Yikes.
You could do a bite-sized Patrol, usually involving destroying a nest, scanning a signal, or shutting down a radio jammer, or join a public event in which many players work towards a common goal. Simply being near the action is enough to gain XP and loot, so we do our bit by peppering a spider tank with sniper shots from afar like the cowards we are. Public events occur randomly, which makes them great spontaneous social activities. The ability to warp to them would be nice, however.
Out of everything, Adventures feel most structured; they’re meaty 15-minute quests given by the location’s singular, permanently fixed local. In the EDZ, for example, gentlemen sniper Havrim has us clearing mines and planting beacons. An early highlight involves transporting a bomb up a mountain: Havrim teleports red barrels and tripwires to our location and causes a cacophony of fire and sparks as dozens of unwitting Cabal grunts stroll right through. He constantly tempts us with promises of tea, but there’s no kettle in his bell-tower-turned-crow’s-nest. What a tease. The game could have used a few more quest-givers, and it’s a shame they’re rooted to the spot, but the comparative complexity of their errands make up for the simplicity with which they issue them.
Campaign missions feature the best writing, giving the series a much-needed humour boost. “If I had feelings, they would be hurt,” malfunctioning AI Failsafe tells us. Later, the Nathan Fillion-voiced Cayde-6 calls back to an infamous Destiny line with “I don’t have time to explain what I don’t understand.” That makes your mute Guardian all the more conspicuous. Destiny 2’s newly characterful story would have been a golden chance to give them a voice.
Let there be loot
Like the first, this is a game primarily about the raw joy of shooting aliens until chunky numbers spill out like they’re mathematical piñatas, a constant visual reminder you’re ever closer to the next loot drop or Light increase. In one marble cavern we target the glowing white bellies of hostile Vex robots with slow and steady blasts of a hand cannon. Ka-chunk. In another we switch to a sub-machine gun and mow down charging swarms of crusty Hive. Ratatata. Even if you’re not in it for the digits, anyone can get behind the meaty thunk of a bullet escaping a chamber, headshots piercing enemy helmets like pins applied to shaken-up Cola cans, and Solar grenades with the force of stars vapourising entire crowds. It’s a good job shooting, meleeing, and powers feel great, because you’ll use them loads.
Light sits at the centre of Destiny 2. Every firearm and gear piece comes with
“Headshots pierce enemy helmets like pins applied to shaken-up Co la cans”
an associated Light level counting towards an overall total. While it makes optimising your Guardian easy (just wield whatever has the biggest number), it also reduces your sense of ownership. We love our Warlock’s golden angel wings, but the difference in Light pushes us to substitute them for drab cotton overalls. This also means you rarely bond with a specific weapon since you’ll only swap it out soon. It might be you can modify them into usefulness late-game, but we certainly haven’t found any option to do so. Light is a single, power-orientated stat rendering others almost redundant, and disincentivises you picking based on elements like form and functionality.
The absolute Ghaul
Commendably, Destiny 2 is honest about all of this. You’re not under the illusion you’re saving the world skirmish by skirmish, or incrementally raising a persistent meter – just running on a hamster wheel of ever-increasing personal gain. And Bungie greases that wheel, playing the role of party planner as you grab from a groaning table of snack bowls. Take daily challenges, like defeating 75 Fallen and earning currency to spend with vendors, which gives you impetus to log in regularly. Milestones, meanwhile, accessed by holding L2/LT in the menu, help organise what could easily have seemed an overwhelming number of activities into a list of personalised recommendations. ‘Not played The Crucible yet?’, it’ll ask. ‘Complete two matches. There’s a rare weapon in it for you.’
Once you’ve rinsed the campaign, Lost Sectors, and adventures, you’re left with the enjoyably endless pursuit of Light and currency, and it’s here the well-shaped shooter gives way to an MMO grind. It’s an incredibly addictive but far more acquired taste. Repeating Strikes, chasing challenges, raiding, and partaking in public events form the makeup of the endgame. Generally, it’s all about earning chips to ‘cash-in’. Cayde-6, Ikora, and Zavala are your three vendors in the Farm, the multiplayer hub replacing Destiny’s Tower, and whom you’ll visit most. Give them enough tokens and they’ll hand you an Engram, which is basically a loot box containing rare weapons, gear, emotes, ships, and dyes. Repeat the process and eventually you’ll get the one you want. For us, Destiny 2 loses some of its drive and direction by this point, but reach it and you’ll already have 20 hours of entertainment under your belt easily.
And that’s even without The Crucible, where loot earned continues to the main game and Light level advantages are disabled to make for an even playing field. Reducing the player count to 4v4 adds coherence, as do HUD improvements alerting you when power ammo respawns or super abilities reset, but it also doesn’t feel essential. Modes are standard FPS fare, and there are just six similarly sized stages. That’s not to say it’s an afterthought. The Crucible is certainly worth the occasional dip, and even losses don’t feel like wasted time since you’re always earning rewards.
Destiny 2 is meant to last years. This is month one, and questions abound. Will it pull you back long after you’ve hit the level cap? What weapon imbalances will reveal themselves in The Crucible? Just how big are the new Raids? No-one can say yet. What we can say, however, is how much fun we’re currently having. The campaign entertains, classes are a blast, and settings are spectacular. Whether you’re experienced in min-maxing Light levels, or you go in fresh looking to shield-smash an 8ft Centurion in the face, you’ve got a date with Destiny 2.
You won’t see this grenade launcher coming. Mainly because its explosives have a brief blinding effect. As before, you can customise your Ghost with paint jobs. This fetching camo comes with an increased radar to identify far-off loot. Regardless of the species you choose, whether brightly coloured Awoken, robotic Exo, or human fleshbag, all attire choices fit perfectly. For fans of scientific misuse, try the black hole rifle. Every third shot rips a hole in the space-time continuum to deal extra damage.
There’s no friendly fire, and so little opportunity for griefing. The worst someone can do is dance in your face.
Vex bellies need targeting, while numerous charging Hive call for shotgun blasts or submachine gun sprays.
Vehicles help you cross locations. Unlock a Sparrow in an Engram and you can spawn it on demand.