I’ll start by confessing to having not played the first Destiny game. The original was, unfortunately, not released on pc, where up until recently I did all my online gaming. Even when the price dropped, there seemed little point investing in it without multiplayer access. And no, I don’t consider myself a member of the “pc gaming master race”. I just preferred not to have to pay an additional subscription to either Sony or Microsoft to play games that I’d already paid for, so bought any games with multi-player for pc. However, I was feeling rich recently and so bought a year of PS Plus subscription, mainly to play online PSVR titles. It seemed a waste then not to pick up this next Destiny instalment.
So, Destiny 2. For those not familiar with the franchise, both titles are MMO FPSs which incorporate some RPG elements in terms of gear with stat customisation and talent trees, unlocked by levelling up. While many good things were said of the FPS and multiplayer modes in the original game, the element that attracted the most criticism was the storyline. When asked about the storyline in the original title most would answer,” What storyline?” as the campaign mode was mainly viewed as just an extended tutorial to lead into the grind of endgame. So has that been fixed in the sequel? Well, there seems to be some conflicting opinions here. While all fans and critics agree that the storyline is much improved over the original title that isn’t exactly high praise, considering the notorious lack of it. Some critics have voiced the opinion that the storyline in Destiny 2 does its job but only barely, whereas others are praising it as a deep and engaging story which perfectly suits it genre and the Destiny franchise. So which is correct and why the differing opinions?
Well, on playing through the campaign mode, myself, this strikes me as the sort of game that gives you as much storyline as you choose to reach for. If you play only the campaign missions and skip any optional missions that pop up and then just grind the public events to gear up, the storyline will feel rather simple and direct. Planet invaded with the survivors left scattered and scrabbling to reform to hit back against a powerful opponent. However, there are also story based optional missions which delve more deeply into the narrative and give the NPCs more time to shine. While the campaign’s main storyline does a decent job of drawing you through the single player missions, it’s the optional adventure missions that add the bells and whistles and those can be skipped. So, there is more storyline available for those who are willing look. That being said, there are some gaps in the narrative. The big bad of the title is rather cliché and doesn’t really have much depth beyond a hunger for power and destruction and need to be recognised. Yes, they do give a little bit of backstory as to why he turned into the psychopath he did, but it doesn’t really go deep enough to make his actions feel meaningful or particularly relatable.
There is also the fact that the player character doesn’t say a single word throughout the whole campaign, which leaves the player character feeling like a non-entity. Yes, this is a FPS and not an RPG and I was hardly expecting dialogue choices such as in The Witcher series or Dragon Age, but it seems a waste to go the trouble of writing a fully fleshed out story and having such well written NPCs, I really love Cayde-6, and then leave the most important character, the player character, completely mute and with zero personality. It just seems a missed opportunity and leaves you feeling not quite part of the narrative experience as a whole. However, despite a few holes in the story, the campaign missions are well worth completing, and there are some great boss battles to enjoy as you progress through the missions which set you up well for the multiplayer content to follow.
Once the campaign is complete, a number of additional optional missions are unlocked as well as strikes, raids and challenges. If gearing up for raiding is your primary concern then grinding gear through the public events is the quickest route but certainly not the most interesting. If you have time on your hands then the adventure and planet missions will add more to the story and allow you to further explore Destiny 2’s stunning environments, many of which did have me stop mid mission to admire a beautiful vista. Each of the new worlds have their own character and colour palette and are all quite beautiful in their own way. Even the initially drab looking Titan area, a rig base over an endless sea has some stunning vistas to be discovered.
The gameplay and mechanics feel as polished as you would expect from a developer as experienced in FPSs as Bungie are, and the game is a joy to play and experience. There is a decent selection of upgradable weapons and armour and enough for each player to find the set up perfect for their own preferred style of play. I, myself, prefer the sniping style to charging in guns blazing and I found plenty of progressive weapon drops to feed that play style. There are also the three classes of guardian to choose from when you create your character, Titan, Hunter or Warlock each of which match different play styles. The Titan is the bruiser/tank whereas the Warlock is the glass cannon of the group that can deliver some power hits but take less of a pounding. The hunter seems to be the less preferred class of the game, and seems to be somewhere in the middle of the other two classes, specialising in speed and agility. This seems to be the class which players are labelling as underpowered this title, but it may also just be that it’s a harder class to master.
At the start of the game, the character creation options for your guardian feel disappointingly limited. There are three races to choose from, which is perfectly acceptable, but many of the face options presented are so grotesque that only a couple of the options are actually viable, which leaves a distinct lack of choice, and there doesn’t seem to be an option to manually edit individual features. The hair and skin shade options are good and you can also add face tattoos, but the lack of face options remains a disappointment and will limit the amount of individuality you can build into your avatar. However, there are plenty of creative options when it comes to gearing your character up. The titan class favours heavy armour which does have a more utilitarian feel, but the hunter and warlock classes have some great fashion options, when it comes to armour and weapons. You can also customise your gear with shaders, but these are reliant on in game drops or the cash shop, and aren’t reusable. With the quick turn-around you’ll experience in gear drops, early and even post-game, you may just find yourself hanging onto your shaders for that perfect set, which could be a long while in coming.
Overall, I think Bungie have done themselves proud with this one. They’ve managed to combine the enjoyable and polished FPS gameplay of its predecessor with an engaging single player campaign. As a new player, myself, I can confirm that it is newbie friendly with accessible but not intrusive tutorial instructions built into the single player campaign. If you like FPSs or if you enjoyed the first Destiny or the Halo games then you’ll enjoy this one too. If, however, you didn’t enjoy the first outing in the series then Destiny 2 doesn’t have a lot of additional content to win you over, outside of its much improved single player campaign.
For a MMO FPS Destiny 2 is certainly right up there at the top of the class. The developer’s experience in the genre shines through and while there are a few niggles, mainly contained to the narrative, the game is still a joy to play. It just remains to be seen how fast new content will be added but already we’ve seen the addition of factions to the game in the last update, but, as this was already a feature of the previous game, many players see this as more of a feature not completed in time for the launch deadline rather than real updated content. At least it shows that the development team aren’t off sunning themselves on a beach somewhere. Here’s hoping to some DLC updates in the not too distant future to keep the game going.