Reviews September 14, 2017

Destiny 2

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Reviewed By: Andre Thomas
System: Xbox One (Also on PS4)
Genre: FPS
Rated: T
Players: 1-8 Online
Cost: $59.99
Release Date: 09/05/2017
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bungie

Our head editor, Kenneth Seward, Jr., wrote something profound at the start of his review of Absolver. He said that we should be reasonable when it comes to our expectations of highly sought-after titles. An obvious, yet astute sentiment; gamers routinely fail in this regard. He went on to hint at the fact that some of our excitement come by way of insincere information.

I have admittedly given this franchise a rough time. Bungie set a high bar each time it showed the game off at E3 or otherwise. Yet, it wasn’t long after Destiny’s launch that a large portion of us were let down. The consensus was that the story was underwhelming at best. And while the gunplay/competitive options were fun, the absence of certain elements hurt the experience. I won’t get into what was what, you can read my review of the first game for that. These points were brought up to offer a comparison. Destiny 2 is the game we should have gotten back in 2014!  

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Expansions and such slowly molded the original title into a better game. The sequel starts out in better footing. For one there is a plot. Like a real one. Our world that we have fought so hard to protect is now being decimated by Cabal elites called The Red Legion. Lead by Emperor Dominus Ghaul – a powerful enemy who feels that the Light bestowed to the Guardians from the Traveler belongs to him – this rogue faction attacks the Last City. Things quickly go from bad to holy hell. Not long after that, the connection between the Guardians and the Traveler are cut and the player is tossed from Ghaul’s ship like the trash he believes us to be. Yeah…it’s safe to say that the antagonists are playing ZERO GAMES with earth this time around.

The major news out about Destiny 2 announcement was how all of our work from the previous two years of Destiny would be essentially erased. The character itself and stories about them will carry on in game, but all powers, armor and weapons earned would be scraped for this title. If you are anybody like myself who spent way more time in this game then I probably should have, this was some of the most heartbreaking news you’ve ever received. Well…in relation to this series (not like, in real life or anything). Personally, it felt like a cash grab from Bungie and Activision. A way to get us to buy an entirely new game instead of just releasing an expansion to the original. I needed far more than “they’ve taken your powers and now you must earn them back” as an answer because that would be too convenient of a reason for a sequel. That isn’t the case though. I mean for one, Ghaul is easily the most striking villain we’ve ever faced. He isn’t just a large boss positioned at the end of a mission or raid. Some thought went into his motives. Ghaul actually thinks that he is the good guy in all of this, which in turn makes him more interesting.  

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The same thing goes with our leaders/the Vanguard (Commander Zavala, Cayde-6 and so on).  With the new focus being on developing a cohesive plot, players are able to learn a lot about the characters we met two years ago. Really, most of the NPCs we meet is a joy to be around no matter what their demeanor is. This is because they are no longer just people with missions; my attachment to them grew exponentially through the conversations with my character, which continued well beyond the completion of the story.

Who knew adding simple things like cutscenes and background information could significantly improve the game’s base experience? Probably the same people who decided to include quality of life adjustments. Trivial things, like not having to beam back to your ship floating in space before selecting a mission or guided games – the ability for clans to grab a solo player to join in raids – makes Destiny 2 way more enjoyable. What I found the most intriguing though, was how the environments were better designed this time around. In the original title, we landed on a planet and essentially just drove or ran straight until we hit our destination and started a mission. It was, hands down, the most disappointing part of the last game for me. I was excited to explore Destiny’s worlds after seeing footage telling me I could reach a mountain way off in the background (remember the "it’s all playable terrain" video?). Not possible with the final product. This has been addressed in Destiny 2…somewhat.

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The environments in Destiny 2 aren’t tremendously bigger. That said, by adding different levels of depth, things feel spaced out. For example, on Titan we are fighting on what seems to be a battle worn rig that has been overtaken by enemies. It may not be the longest going straight forward, but there is so much to this level above and underground. Between these areas are small towns with NPCs who can give missions that shed light on what’s been going on. Hidden amongst them are dungeons called “Lost Sectors”. These places, once found, provide unqiue boss encounters and rare items to loot. All of these things help to keep things from feeling one dimensional. Where going off the beaten path might lead to something grand as opposed to an arbitrary “out of zone” death.

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We got a decent story and better environments. Great. The moment to moment gameplay and eventual grind is where it’s at though. Bungie knows how to make a shooting weapons at colorful enemies entertaining. Also, the 4v4 competitive modes are a blast (no pun intended). When it comes to the grind, it isn’t as grindy as before. In that I mean, the difference between me falling in love with this game and growing tired of the last one had to with how our character progressed. If you played through the first Destiny, you remember hitting max level and having your light level solely determined by collected armor. It’s the same case here but more streamlined; it is far easier to gain legendary to exotic engrams through battle now.

I have conversed with some Destiny fans and there are mixed emotions about the change. If you love the grind of an RPG title and repetitive gameplay, then you had no problem with the original because you fought for days to earn what you are wearing. It was an achievement. On the other side, mainly for the people who spend the majority of their days working/taking care of families, that set up didn’t give you a way to catch up with your friends who had more time to play.

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You will notice that there are far more drops in this case then in its predecessor. That doesn’t guarantee that these drops will be better than what you already have, especially once you have reached level 20, but that at least gives you better chances than before. Also, the random stat rolls on rare items is gone (thank God!). This means that if you and your friend both get a rare weapon, you won’t have to worry about getting stuck with the weaker version. On top of that, everything in your inventory adds to your light, whether they are equipped or not. And lastly, your faction rewards you earn give great engrams and they grow with you as you play. So even if you are extremely committed to the game or just able to play casually, you should be able to reasonably keep up with your more dedicated friends.

Before I close out, I have to talk about this incredible soundtrack. I haven’t played a game with composed music as epic as this since the original Halo series. Every single orchestrated sound in the game sets the stage for each encounter in game. From the moment we begin fighting the Red Legion, the music gives you an adrenaline rush that helps push through some of the game’s most difficult points. This is what really puts the icing on the cake for this title and sold me as a gamer.

Without question, Destiny 2 is worth the money. There is so much more to do in the base game, so many little and big changes that it couldn’t have been an expansion. I mean, it could have been. What I’m saying is, I didn’t feel robbed playing this installment as opposed to another Taken King. The short campaign is entertaining, the side missions and Lost Sectors are great, and the competitive modes are better than ever. As it stands, I’ll continue to hunt down rare armor with my friends on console until the monster version comes out on PC. What…you know it’s going to be better on PC, at least visually.

Gameplay: 10
Destiny 2 is much better than Destiny, at the base level. Here’s hoping it continues to be great!

Graphics: 9
It looks better than the first game.

Sound: 10
Decent dialogue, great explosions, fantastic music.

Replay Value: 9
The grind for better loot isn’t so bad this time around. Competitive players will certainly enjoy the PvP modes.

Final Score:

9.5