Destiny 2 (2017): In-depth Review
First off, let me say that Destiny 2 is a decent sequel. Decent in respect to the storyline that we discussed in our previous podcast. Putting aside the relatively lackluster beta– which showed off the first two story missions and gave access to the Crucible PVP modes– the storyline itself is immersive. For anyone who played Destiny 1, there is a level of nostalgia that immediately takes hold of you. The characters you’ve invested your time in through the years in Destiny 1, now stripped of their home, their light, and their mentors, must fight to take back everything you worked so hard to achieve the first time around. You have a purpose and the Vanguard need you.
The story plays out in about a half-dozen hours or so. Bungie have redesigned the story mission system to make the progression feel a little more open-ended, replacing mission map markers with a patrol-based adventure and quest system that feel slightly more like a linear RPG and less like the Choose Your Own Adventure play style that the first game had, where you were presented with multiple missions per planet that you could choose to play in your preference of order.
Now, adventures are side quests. Quests are story progressions. It’s fairly straightforward and you’re not going to need to stray too far off the beaten path in order to move along at a decent pace in your quest to reclaim your light, defeat Ghaul, restore the Vanguard and rebuild The Tower.
If you never played Destiny 1 however, the nostalgia isn’t going to do it for you. You’re not going to feel the same connection that a Destiny 1 player will. You probably wont understand what losing your light really means, except that you don’t seem to be able to use your supers or throw grenades anymore. It’s going to feel a little hollow, which is likely going to make the story a little less rewarding for you. Not less entertaining, but less meaningful, perhaps.
After the storyline is over though, is when things start to fall apart a little bit.
End Game and Replayability
A few weeks back, we talked about the Leviathan Raid and what our experiences were with it. Calus, the Cabal emperor has come to Earth for… reasons. Presumably to personally eliminate Ghaul and The Red Legion, or perhaps due to the emergency broadcast sent out by the Cabal during The Taken Kingexpansion in Destiny 1. Honestly, I’m not really sure. Either it wasn’t explained at all, or it wasn’t explained well enough to make me realize that it was being explained. I can make assumptions, but that’s about as far as it goes.
The raid itself is challenging. Not due to boss difficulty, but due to the everyone must do their job perfectly mechanic style utilized. Royal Pools requires a constant leap-frogging of player positions, as well as the requirement for everyone to be able to repeatedly kill a yellow-bar enemy with high health and high damage output. There isn’t a boss per se, but there are 9 very evil lamps that need to be destroyed. Pleasure Gardens is again, an encounter that requires a lot of communication. Your relic holders have to watch for patrol paths on the dogs, tell your seed-holders where to go, position themselves to shoot the spores and kill the adds, and then everyone needs to be able to manage their DPS to kill the dogs, all while making sure to not be prematurely spotted. If someone kills their dog too fast, it’s to the detriment of the rest of the group. If someone can’t DPS it enough, it’s to the detriment of the group. If you can’t communicate, someone isn’t paying attention, or you’ve got someone who doesn’t have very good gear, you’re going to have trouble. Technically you can count the dogs as “bosses”, but honestly, I still consider this encounter to be more mechanics-driven and less about fighting. The Gauntlet is where raid parties fall apart. Everyone needs to be able to do every job. Communication is tantamount to success. Time-to-kill is incredibly important and everyone better be decent at platforming. Again, this isn’t a “boss fight” so much as it is a mechanic-driven encounter. Kill some adds, grab an orb, run a track, call out symbols and rows, shoot arrows, rinse, repeat. It’s tedious and it demands perfection. Assuming you get through those three encounters with your group, you’re now at the Calus fight.
While the Calus fight isn’t particularly challenging, it is incredibly buggy. The basic method used by most groups has 3 members of your fireteam stay in the shadow realm, while the other 3 return to the throne room. The shadow realm guardians must kill grenade-throwing psions and raid-wiping projections, while dodging ramps or holes in the floor that can launch them into oblivion. In addition to that, they’re calling out symbols so that the guardians in the throne room can punch the correlating psion and insure that the group inside the shadow realm has a barrier to prevent them from being sucked into the ether. The guardians in the throne room don’t get to just sit around though. They’re killing waves of adds, dodging laser beams and explosive orbs from Calus himself, and trying to mostly just stay alive. Once all the symbols are called and psions are punched/shot, your shadow realm guardians will be tasked with killing a massive amount of floating skulls being spewed out of the mouth of big fat shadow realm floating-head Calus, in order to get a damage buff to actually DPS the boss. The throne room guardians must drop Calus’ overshield in order to return their teammates to the throne room, but they must also delay dropping the shield in order to give the shadow realm guardians the time needed to accrue enough stacks of the DPS buff.
Once all guardians are back in the throne room, it’s a matter of jumping from platform-to-platform as a group, DPSing the boss, and using all of your extremely limited ammo in an attempt to clear the raid. Altogether, it sounds very difficult. In reality, it’s pretty straightforward, but there are a LOT of moving pieces and each one of them has their own slew of potential bugs that can occur. When you add all of that together– communication, fast-killing, add control, mechanics, teamwork– it’s no surprise that such a large percentage of players are still trying to clear the raid. Not all guardians are as lucky as myself and my clan mates.
But at least you get better gear each time you try, right? …
Tokens, tokens and more tokens
The big downfall of the raid is the token reward system. Each encounter awards you tokens, and gear directly dropping is pretty rare. It happens, but it’s pretty damned rare. Like most of the reputation-based rewards players will undoubtedly have encountered up to this point, you’re able to turn in your tokens to a vendor to receive a related reward. The problem is that the vendor who provides those rewards doesn’t exist until you actually beat the raid. That’s right… You’re screwed until you actually beat the raid. Once you finally do beat the raid though, you can rest easy knowing that the gear you’ll be getting is as-good or worse than what you probably already have, with the exception of the Sins of the Past raid rocket launcher, which may remind Destiny 1 players of the Hunger of Crota. As far as rocket launchers go, this one isn’t entirely unique. There are other rocket launchers out there with high velocity and cluster bombs, but this one looks cool at the same time.
The auto rifle is a slightly shittier version of the Vanguard’s Origin Story. The Hand Cannon is basically just The Old News, but prettier. The Conspirator scout rifle is a full-auto version of the Seven Six Five. So on and so on… The raid armor, while cool looking, doesn’t offer any perks or abilities that aren’t already offered by every other piece of armor you’ve looted up to this point, and aesthetics only go so far.
The token reward system carries over into essentially every other aspect of the game as well. Crucible offers tokens to turn in to Lord Shaxx for legendary engrams that are often lower than your current light level. The Nightfall and Strikes offer Vanguard tokens that you can turn in to Zavala. Meditations give tokens for Ikora. Public events and patrols give tokens for the planet their located on.
The only real exception cases are with the weekly Milestones, which guarantee a “Powerful Gear” engram. Powerful gear often rolls at your light, or higher, which allows you to progress your way up to 305 light (the current cap). Once you’re there though, there really isn’t any incentive to play anymore.
I think the real problem with the game is that, in an effort to reduce the “grind”, it’s been eliminated. All weapons and ammo drop with the exact same perks every time and there is no mystery or excitement anymore. Once you’ve seen a gun, or a piece of armor, you know that it will be the exact same
thing the next time you see it and once you’ve seen them all, you have no reason to keep trying. Subclasses have been locked into specific configurations, which prevents you from developing your character in unique and creative ways. You want that Titan that can melee for days and throw a million grenades instead of getting a super off? Too bad. That choice was already made for you before you even knew it.
Strikes don’t allow for a hard-mode version, which quickly makes the reward not worth the effort. Crucible forces you into a randomized playlist of PvP modes, which prevents you from playing your favorite type. The Nightfall exchanges the challenging and difficult fights, requiring teamwork and strategy from Destiny 1 for a timed system in Destiny 2, which often reduces them down to hurry up and run past stuff, or who can repeatedly kill the most anomalies for extra time, instead of really having to work together with your fireteam to conquer it… and once you realize that the rewards you’ll be receiving are the exact same things you can get from doing literally any other thing in the game, there isn’t really a reason to do it.
The addition of the factions back into the game gave a small amount of hope that we would have something to actually grind for, but as it turns out, it was a limited one-week-only event that, again, awarded us with fairly mediocre gear that was primarily only aesthetics. The gear offered no new or exciting perks, and since we couldn’t actually see what faction was in the lead at any given time, it felt like we were doing events and grinding, without really knowing why we were doing it.
Too much of the game is being force-fed to us. Too much of the content has been reduced down with the mindset that we should play it in a specific way or not at all. Too many choices have been removed.
Is it really even a sequel?
Now, this is an argument that spurs a lot of debate amongst fans of the series… is Destiny 2 really even a sequel? Sure, the story continues where the last game left off and the play style is similar enough to feel comfortable moving from Destiny 1 to Destiny 2, but the content is far too lacking to really feel like a sequel to me.
Some people argue that Destiny 2 should be considered a sequel to Destiny 1 prior to any of the expansions being released. They argue that it’s unfair to compare vanilla Destiny 2 with Year 3 Destiny 1, because Destiny 1 had multiple expansions and three years worth of additional content added into it. I argue however, that all of the content that was in Destiny 1 by the end of Year 3, including Crota’s Bane, Prison of Elders, The Taken King, Wrath of the Machine, Rise of Iron and Age of Triumph was Destiny 1. All of it together, was Destiny 1. We were supposed to get a sequel to Destiny 1, not a sequel to half of Destiny 1.
Destiny 2 feels more like a reboot than a sequel. Much of the features, functionality and repeatability of Destiny is gone. Some cool new things have been added, but it doesn’t really make up for the lack of stuff to do.
Don’t get me wrong though, Destiny 2 was amazingly fun to play through the storyline. Working your way up to 305 light, conquering the raid for the first time, working toward goals with your clan, finding all that gear for the first time… It’s everything that made me love the first Destiny game, in a brand new package with updated graphics. Sadly, once you hit the endgame, it really is the end of the game.