Destiny 2 – Review (PS4)

Destiny was always a passion to me. Sometimes even an obsession, as you can find out in my latest article I’ve written on Medium. Now with Destiny 2 being out, I can safely say, I’m not into it anymore as much as I was with Destiny 1. Lots of things have improved, and a really big part of smaller things were lost in the transition from Destiny to Destiny 2. Let’s take a look at the good things first, shall we?

Different Guardians grouping up to storm against the Red Legion of the Cabal!

Campaign

Fiiiiiirst I really appreciate the new campaign. It mixes things up for Destiny and shows a lot more story, besides our own journey to lose and reclaim the light, with additional reclaiming the city from the cabal. It’s great, very emotional and overall… and here’s the parts I disliked about the campaign: uncreative, lacking in fun missions, still too vague and especially tedious when replaying the story with a second or third character. I’m quite appalled from replaying the campaign again, as I just can’t be bothered to start every single thing all over again. Which is quite amusing when I think about how much more streamlined and easier the game has become for newcomers to the series. For once, why do we get our sparrow only after playing the campaign of Destiny 2? In Destiny we got it in the second or third mission, at the right moment when we started to explore the earth more. Here in Destiny 2, we run off our legs by taking so endlessly long to get to each next mission step.

Devrim Kay is one of many NPCs that are on every planet you can visit in Destiny 2.

Cashed out

Lots of currencies have vanished, being replaced the old glimmer for most parts, legendary shards which come from dismantling legendary gear and silver dust, which is a free to earn microtransaction currency. There’s also silver again, which you can buy for real money just like in Destiny 1, only this time you’re not opening lootboxes, this time you’re opening bright engrams and hope to find a nice new exotic weapon skin, an emote, a nice shader even and alternative a new ship or sparrow to travel the worlds.

What also has changed is the way you are getting gear and leveling up. Well… in the smaller details at least. You still have an overall score that puts your shield and in that sense life up to the attack power of the enemies. It’s called power level and is the definitive score next to your level score, as the levels on go from 1 to 20 and after that each level up will only grant you one bright engram, containing the various cosmetic items I listed above. Again, just like in Destiny 1, you are having your power level as the average of all your three weapon slots and the five armor slots. At the time of writing you’re ending the story around 180 to 200 power level and can from then on finish other world activities, like adventures, which are mini quests and missions, strikes, longer missions with a tunnel like structure, putting you against a big enemy at the end of the strike, and of course the PvP and raid activities.

This is a public event in the European Deadzone, one of many that appear in the world for a few minutes. Offering you great loot once finished.t

Rounding corners, losing personality

About the adventures and open world activities, it’s funny how I didn’t care at all about the adventures anymore, once I got through the campaign of Destiny 2 and started mostly heroic public events, which are timed encounters at specific points on the map. Yet you’ll still be rewarded quests for for finishing off one adventure quest per planet, giving you an individual specific exotic weapon at the end of it. Additionally to the two exotic items, one weapon and one armor piece you’ll get in the campaign itself to help you getting stronger throughout the campaign. So, you might still want to complete those tasks later on once you’re fully bored from the Destiny 2 experience. And yes, bored I am from Destiny 2, which has not only turned down the complexity, but also the smaller things in the game that made me run a specific strike several times, just to get the special Vex gloves for my Warlock or the specific helmet for my hunter. All those strike specific things are gone. What’s not gone are my guardian subclasses. There are still the three main classes, Hunter, Titan and Warlock, and each of them have their three elemental subclasses, Void, Solar and Arc. Granted, those subclasses have seem some reworks, making it way easier to select which flavor of, for example, Solar subclass you want to have.

Although we don’t get new enemy races, even enemies like the cabal turn up with new subtypes like this sword fighter.

Classes in detail

They’re separated in 4 parts. For starters, what does your class ability do? In case of the Hunter, it’s a spin dodge, that either reloads your weapon or recharges your melee attack. The Titan can either build a big wall, hiding him behind a shield that lets no bullets through, but also let’s none of his own through the wall, or a smaller one, which grants him instant reload when kneeling down. The Warlock can cast a rift, a local spell that either constantly heals or empowers you and your teammates when you’re on the spot.

Then you can select out of one of three grenade-types. Currently the shock or impulse nades are the strongest types in the game. Bungie apparently felt the need to buff these, which helps out a lot in some raid encounters later.

As the third thing you can select your jump type from one of three given. The mostly don’t really change between subclasses, but the main classes still have their own style, meaning the Warlock still floats, the Titan boosts in the air and the Hunter has the classic second or even third jump on the air.

Lastly there are now only two types of paths you can select within your subclass. The difference is way smaller now, but still distinctive enough to make one path better than the other, depending on the situation, as for example the Hunter nightstalker subclass has either a path that lets him shoot a single but long lasting, enemy tethering arrow, or the second path which lets him shoot multiple arrows in a certain time limit.

The main difference between classes is now, that there is only a universal timer for when you can throw the next grenade again, use the next melee attack again or when your super is recharged again. Not like in Destiny 1, where different armor specs can help you speed up the recharge progress, in Destiny 2 the only thing armor can influence is the behaviour of weapons, and the three types that were previously selected in the subclass tree system. Movement, Resilience and recovery are now influenced by the percs of your armor and for the most part I’m very okay with this.

Destiny 2 is for the first time also available on PC, showing great performance and also widescreen monitor support.

the price of balance

Bungie had a really strong problem with balancing the experience, especially in the PvP modes. Different armor and especially exotics were taking things almost out of control and made things unfun for other players. Everything is now smoothed out, just like the variety of weapons that can drop. Which is exactly one. You can only get one iteration of weapon now per type. There are of course lots of new things like grenade launchers and … oh no, that’s actually it. The grenade launcher type is the only new type of weapon in the game. Sadly the machine guns had to be replaced for them it seems.

Bungie made it clear, that weapons and random percs are now a thing of the past. That’s another step towards an easier to control and balance PvP experience. Sadly it also makes way less fun playing certain abilities, as a duplicate drop of the same weapon truly means, it is a duplicate, with maybe only a different power level to it. There’s no more grind to the weapons like the OP hand cannon or the god roll pulse rifle. It feels like there’s way less guns now available, thanks to that change, although I estimate at least the same amount if not more different names of guns.What’s also new, is the fact that weapons are now not anymore primary, special and heavy weapons, they’re now kinetic, energy and power weapons. Completely different, like… heavily… different.

What the deal with this is now is the fact that what you used to know as primary weapons are now duplicated into weapons with elemental damage and weapons without. Weapons without elemental damage are your first slot now and the same archetype like for example hand cannone, auto rifle and so on, can also be an energy weapon, if they happen to have an elemental damage mod in them. What’s left are those special and heavy weapons which are now summarized into the power weapon slot. They do elemental damage as energy weapons do, but they are way stronger and especially in PvP the ammunition for them is only given out at specific points on the map after a specific time period. Those power weapons are rocket launchers, swords and also the new grenade launcher weapons, but they are also now shotguns, sniper rifles and fusion rifles, in yet another attempt to get a hold on the special weapon spam we hated oh so much in Destiny 1.

I think that it’s a shame, but every guardian I know has seemingly adapted really quickly. For me, it’s another step to a less powerful feeling guardian. Like Bungie stripped away some great weapons and put them in a spot which made them even more rare in use. That works for PvP just fine, but in PvE, especially in raids, I do miss some good sniping and rocket launcher harmony on the battlefield against the big guys.

The big bad, Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion and willing to become a guardian himself, by using the travelers light!

Even the raid is not left out

But oh well, let’s talk about the raid while we’re at it. I just happened to have finished the complete raid once this week and ever, after trying it out several times. There’s a new design idea behind this which splits the raid up into 4 different rooms and challenges, being connected with a great hall in the center that requires you to do a little mini game, catching staffs and encountering foes to open the path ahead to the next big raid encounter. I quite like that part. You can also use a trick at the bottom entrance that enables you to freely transfer through the raid background, outside of the main halls but the inner maintenance and support halls that keep the raid going.

The loot from the raid has become way more rare now again and the most important thing you can collect are tokens, which you can use to exchange them with definitive raid loot drops, which will sadly not increase your power level by much as they are about 7 power level points lower than your current average.

The encounters themself are also really strange. The Leviathan raid is a made for people that have to give clear and focused announcements, where teamwork is everything. Yet so far, in the current only, main or normal mode, it’s only the Calus final boss fight that is the typical raid encounter. All others are more challenges for strength, dexterity and team work, but not too difficult to get them right after a few times of trying out strats and after just getting the basic idea. Everyone should be easily ready to successfully raid when having a competent enough group with them that can explain, lay out the main focus of each encounter and when you as the player, can easily work together as a team.

At least to me it felt like that, some players might be that skilled, but I consider myself to be more casual than a pro Destiny player, so I doubt that there are many people struggling when the basic group is of enough competence. Overall, compared to the other Destiny raids, we had quite a good time playing through the Leviathan raid. Take it as you see fit, but to me the change is rather welcoming for now. As long as the prestige version of the raid offers a bigger challenge and greater rewards.

From former 6v6 in Destiny 1, Destiny 2 only puts 2 four guardian big teams against each other.

The surprise challenge of Destiny 2

What’s funny is the change of the nightfalls. The strikes that you can take every week with a new challenge and one fixed strike out of the selection. Sidenote: strikes are sadly only available in a playlist this time around, no fixed locations on any of the planets give you a chance to play a specific strike, but then again, with the strike specific loot missing, there’s no real difference between what strike you’ll play in the end. Anyway, the nightfall has a power level of 240 now, which takes you some time to get to the minimum requirement after finishing the campaign. It’s a nice stepping stone onwards to the higher level loot. And it’s also the current most difficult thing to play in Destiny 2. Funny how that role switched places from the raids to the weekly nightfall strike, but there you go. I guess since everyone can simple waltz through the normal versions of the strikes and it used to be, that not everyone was able to see the raid, making the raid a little easier to get through is the idea of how to get everyone to see how great the design of Destiny 2’s worlds is.

I’m fine with that idea, really, especially since the raid also serves more of a great world to explore than just a tunnel system of boss encounters, which, I quite loved in the past, but also were going to be stale after a while. Now you can also open a path that sets you behind the scenes and offers you additional loot for you and your group. An interesting system, after each boss encounter you can get a key that’s only useable for a specific chest in the backdrop of the Leviathan ship. So in order to get all loot possible for your time, you also have to work your way through the tunnel system inside the Leviathan.

While the orbit is yet again a transition between planets and other places, you don’t have to go back again into orbit for every transition to another place. Also, while loading, the game doesn’t take you out of the menue anymore.

The small things that count

Now, let’s talk about more negative things as I get to close up my review very soon. Things that also also missing from the first game are reusable shaders. This time they’re consumeables to color your armor and, finally also, your weapons. Another hole to put your glimmer in in case you have too much. At least you have a way higher cap now at 100.000 glimmer, rather than the 20.000 glimmer max you could have in Destiny 1. Then you will also have no more ammo synths to replenish your ammunition. Something I have quite a problem with and also I don’t. Let me explain: while there is rarely the need for using ammo synths, especially in Strikes and the Leviathan raid I’d rather just use a heavy ammo synth to get my best weapon restocked, rather than running around and hoping for enemies to drop the ammo for me. Luckily, in most cases you will find enough ammo around and before boss fights, so it’s actually quite rare, at least for me, to go into the final encounters with little to no ammo.

Still, I want those packs back again.

And while we’re at it, Xûr, out trusty exotic vendor, is also robbed of most of his goods. He still has one weapon and one armor piece per class on offer from friday to sunday. Instead of strange coins he now takes legendary shards, which you produce automatically by dismantling legendary armor pieces and legendary weapons. It’s not too difficult to get enough material together per week to buy one of each of Xûrs items. But, that also is it again with Xûr. He used to sell heavy ammo synths, upgrades for sparrows to make blue level sparrows legendary and other material which was used to reroll percs on exotics. Since rolls don’t exist anymore and everything cosmetic, including shaders and sparrows is exclusively locked behind those bright engrams, Xur literally has nothing else to offer, what a missed chance. I would have given him at least some cool shaders which you can only buy from him once per week or something. As an exotic parts vendor he’s more or less unexited. Sure, the argument still holds up that those who can’t afford to spent too much time with the game because they’re for example busy parents and only have a few hours in the week to play, Xur still is a blessing.

Trying to conclude the complete experience

So, overall, Destiny 2 is a very streamlined, casualized version of Destiny 1 with more improvements for the general audience while sadly also losing some of its charme it had. Luckily Bungie took the chance to clean up the mess they have created with their various currencies and also got rid off most of their variety, especially with gun varieties. Since enemies are mostly reused and the new cabal kind is still overall almost the same with the exception of 2 minor changes (new hounds and sword-swinging big enemies) it surely feels as if this is the restart button for a new generation of Guardians that maybe never tried Destiny 1 before. With the PC release coming up very soon an even wider audience will see the Destiny universe for the first time.

To me, it still holds true to what Bungie has said recently in an interview: it’s relaxing to shoot aliens in space. While I may have way less incentives to play Destiny 2 these days compared to Destiny, I still like to hang out with friends on reset day to play some PvP matches, talk and raid for some hours in the week. In fact, I am quite glad that I don’t need to play as often anymore as I was required to in order to level up as fast as possible to not miss the chance to play with high level friends. I bet this release season I will still come back multiple times to hang out with friends, but also I’m looking forward to be able to play way more games than just Destiny.