Destiny 2 – Review (PS4)
Eyes up, Guardian.
Bungie’s space-faring sequel has been out on consoles for nearly a month, and will be coming to PC shortly. No, we’re not talking about a new Halo. Gamers and Guardians have been talking and theorizing about Destiny 2 since the Destiny Beta. Now that it’s here, the game is full of content, updates, and new ideas that required a longer look than a typical review. So, we at Handsome Phantom decided to delay publishing a review until we had a chance to try out the various components of Destiny 2. You know, for posterity.
We’ll be organizing the review around activities in the game, followed as always by a recommendation. Let’s get to it!
Destiny 2’s campaign opens with an acknowledgement of veterans from the original game. Illustrated still shots recreate important moments from the first game: beating the campaign, defeating Atheon in the Vault of Glass, defeating the Taken King, etc. Bungie includes the names of your fireteam as well. For myself and Handsome Phantom’s Brandon Duncan and Dustin Furman, it was a reminder of our gaming triumphs together. We beat the raids as a team, and Destiny reminded us of the trials and fun of the universe we were coming back to. As far as opening moments of a game, I’ve rarely seen one go this personal.
The campaign is fine. Small tidbits of lore catch players up to all the events occurring in the Universe. The plot tries to raise high stakes by taking away your powers and scattering all your friends to the winds. For me, I never felt the stakes get high. I knew that the post-game was going to be spent running errands for these NPCs and grinding end game content. Handsome Phantom’s Dustin Furman described it like a Marvel movie: everything feels polished, intentional, and cool, but you always know that everything is going to turn out alright. There’s even a post credits scene setting up future stories.
After finishing the main campaign, it felt good to be back. I was ready to gear up and take on the raid. However, there was a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction, chiefly with the lack of content concerning the greater universe of Destiny. “Gimme more lore,” I said.
Well Bungie answered my complaint pretty quickly, and in a way I remain almost happy with. Going on patrol, free roaming one of the regions unlocked on four of the solar systems planets and moons, was a much more entertaining experience than Destiny 1. Players have several activities to do planet side: patrols, public events, planet quests, adventures, and lost sectors. Patrols will feel familiar to fans of Destiny 1. The NPCs send you a quick mission to go to a place and either kill some things or scan some things. It’s pretty straight forward and is one of the more untouched systems from Destiny 1.
Public events have changed slightly. They seem to be easier to complete on one’s own. If a specific objective is accomplished (this changes for each public event) the event will turn into a Heroic Public Event. The objective changes and the rewards go up. This system seems to reward gamers for being leveled up, as many heroic events can be beaten in a couple minutes versus the four or five the normal event might take. They’re fun, but they are precious few in number. I hope Bungie realizes there aren’t enough to keep interest in completing them.
Planet quests and adventures were activities I tackled after the main campaign, though some can be done during. These relatively short but challenging quests are where Bungie starts to explore the world and the factions. While I still had many questions after completing these, I felt like a had a firmer grasp of what was going on. Bungie is setting up a lot of mysteries, and I hope they follow through as content and expansions for Destiny 2 are released. The planet quests on Titan, Earth, and Nessus also lead to unlocking the Rat King, the Mida Multi-Tool, and the Sturm/Drang. These exotic weapons have a lot of fun perks, and one of them in particular is getting flak for being overpowered in PVP.
Lost sectors are mini-dungeons with bosses and a loot chest at the end. By themselves they lack substance but, when used in conjunction with another activity, can be a fun and short dive into combat. All of these planet-based events reward tokens for that planet’s NPC vendor. Every planet has a unique set of armor shaders and armor aesthetic. These can be cool if you want your guardian to stand out from the crowd, and make leveling and upgrading gear feel more satisfying. By the time you reach the endgame however, this mechanic may feel like it loses its usefulness rather too quickly.
Strikes and Nightfalls
In Destiny 1, strikes acted as epilogues to finishing a planet’s missions. Strikes are now set apart as their own form of gameplay, accessible through their own menu. Strikes in Destiny 2 have certainly evolved. They have raid-like mechanics requiring you to activate platforms or move objectives. They still only take fifteen minutes or so to complete. The most useful aspect of strikes is learning to do the Nightfall, which is now timed.
Nightfalls are simply harder versions of the strikes with modifiers attached to increase difficulty. Grinding gamers will do several for weekly rewards. Bungie doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but the timed aspect does add a frantic level to the mission that can be very stressful or very fun. The second Nightfall I did with the guys at Handsome Phantom was completed with only fifteen seconds left on the clock. Rewards are generally worth the fifteen minutes or so that Destiny requires for the activity. Players looking for a challenge can activate “prestige mode,” which further increases the difficulty of completion.
Crucible and Trials of the Nine
In Destiny 1, I spent the least amount of time in Crucible. After Bungie “questified” the Taken King PVP mode, I played it much more. I enjoyed it, but it never held my attention. In Destiny 2 I’ve had more fun playing Crucible than almost any other PVP experience. Crucible is fun, but still a little unbalanced in terms of weapons. A short list of guns seems to appear in every match. They aren’t unbeatable loadouts, but it can cause a little saltiness when you keep seeing Mida Multi-Tool come up in your kill feed.
Trials of the Nine has replaced Trials of Osiris as the weekend-long competitive multiplayer. My fireteam won its first match here and lost the next three, and I think that’s pretty indicative of the matchmaking in that mode. I do well in crucible. I usually land in one of the top two spots on my team, and I haven’t ever felt dominated in Destiny 2. Trials is a whole different story. I recommend playing the mode and trying to win one game. It unlocks a social space with heavy lore ramifications, as well as popping a trophy. A lot of gamers will know pretty quickly whether or not this is something they want to try, and it can be fun with the right group.
The Leviathan Raid
The Leviathan Raid acts as an epilogue to the main story, and a telling of what may come. I loved this raid. It has a short cut scene at the beginning and a few voice overs throughout and at the end. I really don’t want to spoil the fun for players who have yet to play.
The visuals for the raid are unique from what we’ve seen so far. The insect gunk of the Hive and the Fallen trash-chic is nowhere to be seen amongst this gilded ship, save for a section called the Underbelly. This optional, massive area is where gamers will find the exotic chests which require some teamwork and know-how to unlock.
The gameplay feels like a spiritual successor to previous raids. Veterans of King’s Fall, Vault of Glass, Crota’s End, and even Prison of Elders will find some familiar elements. The raid also operates off a hub system that gamers return to in between encounters. At first, I thought this would ruin the pacing, but its combat-heavy nature proved to be cathartic after the clock-work like puzzles of the raid encounters. Fans of previous raids will probably enjoy Leviathan. I certainly do.
Remember that Raids are supposed to be hard. Learning the encounters takes time and patience, but bringing down the boss is an incredible feeling of triumph that rarely pops up in any game.
As of writing, Destiny 2’s first timed-event has just ended. Faction Rally brought back the Dead Orbit, Future War Cult, and New Monarchy NPCs to offer cosmetic rewards and new weapons for worthy guardians. Mostly you do the same activities as before, receive a currency, and trade it in for rewards. The rewards are appealing, and the cosmetic effects (especially the New Monarchy shaders) helped me get my characters looking cool as heck.
It was a simple, fun event, but not game changing. I would love to see Destiny take on the same model as Overwatch with major events every few months to draw players back into the game. Cosmetic rewards will probably be enough to tempt me back, but new, engaging game modes will help keep Destiny 2 alive between expansions.
Destiny 2 is fun. It has an incredible soundtrack. Bungie has modified classes to make players more aggressive and more diverse. Weapons are now divided into kinetic, energy, and power. In practical terms, this allowed me to use a sword in the raid or not feel forced into using a specific loadout. A larger cast of characters makes each world feel alive, and the end game content is well done.
That being said, I can see these activities getting old very quickly, and I’m not sure what’s going to keep me playing Destiny 2. The base game is good enough that I will buy the expansion when it comes out. But until then, timed-events, a relatively easy Platinum Trophy, and the replayibility of the raid will be enough.
I recommend this game very strongly to veterans of Destiny 1. It felt good to step back into this world, and things have definitely improved overall since the Taken King. For new players to the franchise; this may be a community you want to join. Interacting with good gamers through the raid or the Trials of the Nine has been one of my favorite parts of the game. The universe Bungie has been building the last three years is interesting and engaging. I think it’ll be an easy adjustment for new players thanks to Bungie’s improved gameplay and accessible campaign.
As always, let us know what you think! If you’ve played Destiny 2, what are your favorite activities? What do you want to see going forward? If you haven’t played it yet, what’s holding you back? Will Peter Dinklage ever return? What the heck is going on in the Reef? WHERE MY BOY VARRICKS AT? Let Handsome Phantom know your thoughts and you could get a shout out on Adventure Mode!
Author: Kevin Lukacs
Kevin enjoys writing plays, short stories, comedy, history, and of course opinion pieces and listicles about video games. His dad could totally beat up your dad. You can find him in DC getting his M.A. in history, should you ever feel the need to fight about weebs and whether or not Knights of the Old Republic is the best game ever made.