STAFF REVIEW of Destiny 2 (Xbox One)


Friday, September 15, 2017.
by Kirby Yablonski

Destiny 2 Box art Reviewing a game like Destiny 2 is no easy task, given that it is considered an open world game that you head online to play. It has lots to do, lots to see, and overall there’s a fair amount of gameplay. As I sit here at my desk wondering how I want to do this review, I thought that it would be important to break it up into a few parts, and that includes the single player campaign, the cooperative experience, end-game experience, and of course the adversarial multiplayer experience (PvP). So, without much more of an introduction, here we go.

SINGLE PLAYER CAMPAIGN

When the original Destiny was released 3 years ago, expectations were high. Activision and Bungie spoke of a MMO like environment where console players could play with each other in an environment not experienced before. There were promises of a 10-year plan, an online infrastructure that allowed for a social experience like that not found in a console game previously, and of course it was Bungie’s first game after departing from Microsoft’s nest and leaving Halo behind. When the game finally hit players hands, although there were some positive aspects to it, the original Destiny was somewhat panned for its lack of a narrative during gameplay, the need to read Grimoire Cards outside the main game to understand much of the story (and lore), and the fact that it just felt like a grind most of the time. Well, the sequel is finally here and we’ve played a lot of it.

As a single player game, Destiny 2 manages to correct much of what was wrong with the original. There is a narrative this time around, and you are not just going from planet to planet completing various missions without any explanation. There is a story to follow and there are numerous cut scenes that allow one to get a sense of why they are doing what they are doing. It is evident that Bungie learned a lesson in this area, and that is you need to give a compelling reason for gamers to want to play through the story, and in Destiny 2 they did just that.

Much has of story’s premise has been discussused, and Destiny 2’s Beta made clear what gamers are to expect. The Red Legion, an elite faction of Cabal warriors, have taken control of the tower, and much of Earth. Their leader, Dominus Ghaul, is looking to take the ‘light’ away from humans, and have the ‘Traveler’ bestow it upon him, as he believes that he, and the Red Legion, are worthier of it than the human race. Given that the game is out already, I am not going to go over the story for two reasons, the first being that if you really want to ruin the plot, you can find it on the internet. The second reason is that I am not going to be that guy that is going to ruin the plot for you. The story is solid, and it really does a good job of telling the tale of Destiny 2. Zavala, Ikora, and of course Cade-6 make a return, along with some new NPC’s to help the story move along. You’ll find yourself watching the cut scenes, learning more about the characters, and wanting to press on. It’s such a vast improvement over the original game and it is much more amazing in terms of its scope.

The main campaign will take anywhere from 8-12 hours depending on how you play. You can rush through the story missions one by one, but you will hit a chapter that requires you to be level 15. You’ll also be opening your characters subclasses (for a total of three) which relate to Solar, Arc and Void elements. So, with this in mind, you will want to make sure you do other tasks on your way through the game to help you level up. Luckily, there is a lot more to do this time around that is meaningful and not just an added task that feels like a grind.

Oh, and a quick tidbit, if you are new to Destiny, you’ll be treated as such, as your dialog during certain points in the game will be vastly different than that of a veteran player who is returning. I played the game about a month ago, as a new player, at a review event, and over the past week and a half, I have been playing on my Xbox One S in my home office where the game recognized I was a returning player, and there are scenes where the dialog is very different.

One thing that is new, and quite enjoyable, is that Bungie has added a new set of tasks called Adventures. These side missions have mini-narratives within them. They help flush out characters and/or parts of the story that take place on the planet you are on. For the veteran players, Adventures are like expanded patrols, but with a story. Not only will you get XP and rewards for completing these adventures, the fact that they are somewhat story based help them become more enjoyable too, and not just a grind to get your level up. Most of them are also multi-sequence, in other words, not just one thing and done. As someone who has played a lot of the first Destiny, I really appreciated the inclusion of these new side-quests in the manner that they were offered.

Another way to help you level up, and help you earn new gear on your adventure, is the addition of another new feature, Lost Sectors. On each planet you’ll find hidden entrances throughout (usually a cave like or underground environment) that are marked, and once you enter them, you are treated to a large area to explore, lots of enemies to fight, and a special chest to open. Lost Sectors are marked on the map of each planet; however, they are not exactly where the mark on the map is, as you’ll have to look around to find them. Each of the Lost Sectors has a special mini-level boss like experience at the end, and upon defeating them you are given access to open a ‘loot chest’ to collect your rewards. They definitely make for some added gameplay.


Something else that Bungie included in Destiny 2 are scannable items littered throughout the planets you explore. These items are not necessary to find in order to enjoy the game, but in many ways some of them provide more minor back story, or interesting tidbits, to the game’s universe itself. They could have really gone deep with these, almost Grimoire Card deep, but even though they did not some of the stuff you’ll discover, and scan, are pretty cool and you’ll learn even a bit more about the world you are exploring. You’ll either just come across these items or you can use your map to find the general area that they are in.

In terms of how to figure out where to go, and what to do, the storyline is very clear on the missions you must complete, and where to complete them. The Red War missions are identified with a big red logo on the map. In terms of the adventures, you’ll see them via the bright orange logos on the map. Getting around the world of Destiny 2 has been streamlined and improved from the first game. Bungie eluded to this during their reveal, as they said you would not have to go to orbit to navigate your way around the world(s). The new system allows you to use quick travel points that are now in the game, and being able to see each planet and their environments, and travel straight from where you currently are to the new point you want to go is a time saver. It’s simplistic, streamlined, and much easier to use.

Visually, Destiny 2 is a looker indeed. Fans who are returning, and newbies alike, will be impressed with what Bungie has done with the graphics. Sure, it’s Destiny, but you are getting new planets, which means new environments to explore. Enemies from the past games make a return (Fallen, Taken, Hive, and of course Cabal) and you’ll find a lot more detail to them, and even some of them move faster or differently than before (e.g. when a Vandal tries to scurry away they look like a spider speed walking or when a Psion tries to hide you can see their jetpack ignite when they do so). I was fairly amazed with how much actually changed with the in-game enemies and they did a great job adding more details to each race of enemy.

Having played the game almost a month ago on the PS4 Pro, I was wondering what the Xbox One version would look like, and I can honestly say it looks great. With incredible use of lighting, shadow, and special effects, there is a lot to look at. The overall environments are detailed, textures are varied, and everything has a refined look to it. Something that really struck me in the visuals is the fact that there is SO MUCH to explore, from the outside world, the insides of buildings, caves, caverns, and of course hidden areas. Each area of each planet seems to have multiple levels of areas to explore. You feel less guided or bottlenecked in Destiny 2 as there are so many places to find and discover that are off the beaten path. Technically speaking, everything is pretty rock solid, but I did run into some slowdown when a ton of enemies and online players were in one spot (e.g. pubic events) and there was a barrage of explosions, weapons firing and lots of action on screen. This was only an occasional hiccup though.

As for the game’s sound, it is very notable. From the individual sounds of different weapons, enemies who utter their own alien language, to the voice acting in the cut scenes and, of course, the music, it has all been improved upon. There are a lot more cut scenes this time around, and the voice acting is not only well acted, but there is a lot of it. There is also a lot of NPC dialog too, especially during the missions and the adventures you complete. I found the use humor more than before, which was a nice change (hello Failsafe). In terms of the music, it really adds to the gameplay experience. It is evident that there is a lot more music to support the on-screen action and it sounds much more “symphonic” so to speak. You’ll find that not much, if any, seems to repeat, and it really matches what is happening on screen. Skye Lewin, Music Director and Composer at Bungie stated that the goal of the music was to “support the story”, and that wherever the player is doing in the game, the music should support them in terms of what they are doing. One of the goals was to have different music palates of music for different destinations, and even characters. He also said that the game and its music should “…have a musical identity”, and after playing I would say that this goal was met.

COOPERATIVE & END-GAME

Destiny 2 is meant to be a ‘social’ experience, that is, the game is can be played with others online. Sure, the story mode can be played, and enjoyed, by one’s self, but there is a lot to do in Destiny 2 that is best shared with others. That being said, you’ll find that most of your time in a fireteam will be spent playing the game after you’ve beaten the main story, and this is simply known as the End-Game. You’ll finish the story a long way away from the maximum power level of 350, so the End-Game is important to continue levelling your power up.

Exploring the vast world of Destiny 2 is so much better when playing with others. Like the original game, you can only party up into a fireteam of 3 players. For me this is a misstep, as it’s still a small number of people. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should be able to party up to 6, 8 or 10 for the regular stuff, but 3 is pretty damn small. Given that there seems to be the magical number of 4 for PvP (more on that later), why not encourage 4-player fireteams. Regardless, 3 is the number and we will have to live with this at this time.

Being in a fireteam allows one to do things like Strikes, as well as share the duties when doing patrols (basic quests that are not story driven) and joining others in Pubic Events. I am adding public events in the cooperative section of this review because they are best served when completing them with others, either those in your fireteam or random public players.


Public Events, which can be completed during the campaign or anytime during the End-Game, are where you are tasked with a challenge that involves any number of stages. It is boss based and rewards you for your efforts. You can see on your map where these will take place, and how close to they are to activating, and this is Godsend. No more having to rely on 3rd party apps this time around. And given the addition of fast travelling, you don’t have to traverse the whole map to get from one area to the next, so getting to various public events is a breeze. Once you get to a public event you can then go up to the flag marking the spot and “Rally Up” (fills your special attack as well as power weapon ammo) as you wait for the countdown timer to kick off the event. But wait, there is more.

All the public events have a feature where, if you manage to do the extra steps (criteria) during the event, the public event becomes a Heroic Public Event, which not only means it will be tougher, but the rewards should be better. This is a great feature as it adds incentive for you to first find out what you need to do, and of course doing it makes the event more rewarding.

Strikes make a return to Destiny 2. Veterans of Destiny don't need on read this section. These are a total of 5 strikes to play in the Xbox One version and they are all available in the game’s strike playlist. They are basically challenges where you go from point A to point B facing the challenges that lie ahead, all culminating in a final boss battle. You earn gear for your efforts, as well as XP. Should you not be partied up in a fireteam the game matches you up with up to two other players. Destiny 2 allows you to speak to your fireteam in either party mode or a fireteam mode. The latter allows you to speak with strangers you may be partnered up with. It’s basically an in-game chat. The strikes are fairly straight forward as you have some basic platforming aspects, harder enemies, and of course the inevitable boss battle. They are fairly well designed too, and a good way to help grind to get some better gear or weapons.

There are new World Quests to play after you beat the game. There is one World Quest per planet. To open these, you must complete the main story and be level 20. These are one-time quests where you complete various steps to beat it. Once you do you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a weapon quest which, when the requirements are met, will result in a new weapon. As you make your way through the steps you’ll find that they have minimum recommended requirements for power level, but they are not something that locks you out of completing it.

Nightfalls also make their return in Destiny 2, and again, they are a great way to help you acquire higher level gear (Destiny Veterans, feel free to skip this paragraph). You can run them as many times as you want, but you can only earn high level and rare rewards once per week (and for each character if you are running more than one). These challenges involve levels from the strike playlist, but there are added challenges in the form of more enemies, harder bosses, and certain criteria to meet if you want to complete the nightfall challenges. Currently the nightfalls are timed, and you must complete it before the timer runs out. There is no indication if the nightfall will remain timed or not. You can also opt to try to complete the nightfall on “prestige” difficulty (power level 300 or above), which is much harder. All nightfalls require teamwork, memorization, and a lot of good weapons. If you successfully complete the nightfall Zavala will reward you with a legendary engram too.

Also adding to the End-Game experience are weekly rewards that that are set forth by Ikora and Cayde-6 earning you reputation and loot for each. For Ikora, you can complete 5 level challenges for an ‘Ikora Faction Reputation’ package or you can complete what is known as meditations. The latter are opened after completion of the main story and you replay story missions that earn you loot, XP and more 'Ikora Faction Reputation'. In regards to Cayde-6, he has a weekly Milestone that challenges you to complete public events and patrols, and once you hit the magic number you return to Cayde-6 for your reward. Of course there are also Crucible (PvP) challenges, and particularly one called Call to Arms, that when completed gets you what the game calls “powerful gear”.

Finally, as of writing this review, the Leviathan raid was released, which is a crucial part of the Destiny experience. This raid takes you on a ride of more epic proportions against the Cabal, but not too epic in such that the recommended level for completing the raid is 260-280. You’ll team up with up the 5 other guardians, and you’re in for a treat, and lots of loot, as with any raid t in the original Destiny. It will require lots of studying to know how to effectively beat it, and to know where all the loot chests may lie. Team effort is required as you’ll be breaking up into sub teams during the battle all in an effort to take down various sections of the raid one part at a time. Your best bet at learning this, next to just doing it, is to check out the videos on YouTube, Twitch or Mixer and see how others did it, and then take your shot at doing it yourself.

Bungie is implementing a "Guided Games" feature, but as of writing this the mode is in Beta. It is basically a mode that allows gamers to get help with from more advanced players (e.g. clan members) in such things as nightfalls and the raid. Until the mode is in full swing, we won't be saying anything else about this.


Something that also deserves mention in this section is the addition of Clans to Destiny 2. These are specific groups that you can join with others. You can only be in one clan at a time too. You and the people in the clan can earn XP towards the clan 'level' which allows for rewards as you level your clan up, such as increased glimmer during gameplay or a chance for better rewards when playing certain events with clan members. You, or your clan members, can also participate in PvP, Nightfall, The Raid and/or Trials of Nine, and if you are successful when doing so, you and your clan members can claim engrams from Hawthorne (one of the new NPCs). Being in a clan is more than just being in some sort of ‘elite’ gang (at this time), as it allows you to earn rewards and have your gameplay mean something for the group. You can also communicate directly to your clan members when arranging various things to do (e.g. strikes, raid, etc.), which is as simple as going into the clan profile and using the communication tool to get the word out. I for one was worried that clans would be sort of ‘elitist’, but alas, it is not as it is kind of a neat thing to add in the way they did, as you don’t have to be an elite player to be part of a clan and you can enjoy the clan rewards.

ADVERSARIAL MUTLIPLAYER (PvP)

Destiny 2 has changed up its PvP, known as Crucible, making the team smaller in number. In the original Destiny teams were set to 6v6 for the majority of the time, now the Crucible is 4v4. You get a total of 10 maps out of the box, and as of writing this review the internet is abuzz stating that since the Raid was released there has been one more map added for a total of 11 on the Xbox One. In terms of the modes offered, there are three returning modes including Clash (team deathmatch), Control (hold capture points (there are three) to earn points) and Supremacy (kill guardians and capture their crests (in engrams) to earn points while reclaiming fallen allies’ crests). There are two new modes including Countdown (one team must deliver the ‘bomb’ to one of two objectives, set it and have it blow up while the other team defends) and Survival (can only revive teammates a certain number of times, run out of revivals and die, your team loses).

I find that 4v4 can suit some of these modes, and what I discovered when playing is that communication is key especially with less players. When I was at the reveal event in May of this year I interviewed David “Deej” Dague, Bungies Community Manager. He stated that the change in PvP teams is about empowering people to feel like they play a part in the match and have them feel like a part of the team. Where my concern lies in this new 4v4 structure is that the smaller sizes could somewhat fracture PvP players, and even alienate those that only like to come around occasionally, particularly during Iron Banner, as the numbers are now quite limited. Another factor with the smaller teams is that you’ll only be able to play with 3 of your friends (or clan) at one time, whereas the original Destiny allowed for a larger group to gather, allowing you to play with more of your regular friends at once in public matches. For a game that focuses on the fact that it’s an online social experience, people who rarely frequent the PvP mode may feel like they aren’t good enough to run with those that always team together, and they may start to feel the sting of loses when all they want to do is try to have fun in the mode. As well, when you are playing 4v4, and you lose one, 4v3 is a lot different than 6v5, the latter feeling more manageable. I actually do hope that they bring back 6v6 somehow.

There are two areas of crucible to join: Quickplay and Competitive. Bungie states that Quickplay has less emphasis on skill and more on connection. It’s the “fastest route to a game”. In terms of Competitive, the matchmaking will take longer, but the servers will try to find players who match your skill and have a good connection at the same time. It is said to make the “quality of [your] gameplay experience worth the wait”. Now, after playing both modes, I didn’t find too much difference in terms of players and you will find skilled guardians in either area, so be prepared for any quality of players in the match.

The levels in the Crucible look great, and are very much equal with the rest of the game. Bungie has developed some nice maps, with some being more open and multi-faceted with many routes while others felt simpler and more direct. The action can get frantic now and then too, as some modes lean towards 4v4 more than others (e.g. supremacy vs. control). Like I said earlier, I am not a huge fan of the 4v4 change, but I can say that when you are in a group that is communicating and strategizing on the fly while playing, the feeling is great, and almost empowering, as you pull off multiple wins. I experienced this one night when completing Shaxx’s “Call to Arms” milestone with three other friends. However, as someone who also went in as a single player now and then, during the review process, I felt out of place as other players didn’t want to chat, and they focused on themselves rather than a team. Even as a single player in the original Destiny crucible, I can’t really say I felt this way as much as I did during Destiny 2, and it is definitely worth noting.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There has been a lot of chatter on the internet about the Eververse vendor in Destiny 2. The main complaint is that it costs real money to buy shaders and other items for your Guardian. Now you can indeed grind for most of these, as you earn bright engrams after you ‘level up’ each time when you are the maximum light level of 20, and you also can get random drops. In my honest opinion, the need to purchase Silver to buy items at the Eververse vendor is strictly discretionary, you can do it or not. The key here is you don’t have to, as you can still grind it out. So, I find this a moot point. As for the current issue of “shader-gate”, the previous method of shaders being permanent and interchangeable was great, and the new method may seem like a small step backwards, but in the end you don’t have to buy them as you can earn them through your bright engrams and random drops.

Given that I am reviewing the game on the Xbox One, I have to honestly admit that I am not happy with how Sony has once again locked up exclusive gear and content for at least a year at a time. Xbox owners pay the same price for the game, but yet Activision and Bungie have a ‘deal’ with Sony to provide exclusive content for PS4 players. I could understand 30 or 60 days of exclusive content, but for one year at the minimum is just wrong, and kind of a slap in the face of Xbox One gamers, given it was Xbox One gamers who supported Bungie and their Halo series on the Xbox platform. It’s my hope that this process ends soon and that all Destiny fans, be it on the PS4 or Xbox One, have the same game for the same price…..period. Ok, enough about that.

Destiny 2 is an evolution of the first game as it rights many of the missteps of the original; however, it is not a game that has gone out and made radical changes and added new and innovative things to make it a brand new experience. What it has done is taken what was there and fine-tuned it to make the core Destiny experience a better one than its predecessor. It has made necessary changes to allow for a meaningful experience when playing through the single player campaign as you watch the story play out in front of you. This was extremely lacking during most of the first game. Bungie has also provided things to do after you finish the main campaign, and help you along the grind for your power to hit the maximum level. In terms of the End-Game, there is lots of opportunity for players to get better gear, find those legendary and/or exotic weapons and armor, and get themselves the loot they have always wanted. That being said, one of the main concerns about Destiny 2 that the group of gamers I play with regularly has, and something that is worth noting, is that although there is a lot to do, the content may not be a daily affair. Given what you can do to level up during the End-Game, there doesn’t seem like there may be enough content to run something EVERY day. So, take this into consideration. In the end Destiny 2 is a very solid game that is so much better than the first, and with that being said, it will be interesting to see where the journey takes gamers from here.




Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.2 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10

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