Destiny 2 Review: Once more, with feeling

Destiny 2 is now available, and Stevivor sadly didn’t gain access to the same 30-hour early playthrough that other outlets were privy to. Still, we’ve spent a large portion of the morning pouring over Bungie’s latest.

It’s good, you guys.

A marked improvement over the soulless experience that was the original Destiny (at launch), Destiny 2 emerges from the gates strong and confident. Failures of the past have been acknowledged and corrected, with an emphasis on story, character development and that never-ending quest for sweet, sweet loot. And all it took was your Guardian basically losing everything he or she had.

Destiny 2 features something the original really didn’t: a story. Immediately after booting up, you’re introduced to Ghaul, this title’s big bad. As he tears into everything you know and love, your first mission introduces you to major players, combat, weaponry and movement — Grimoire cards be damned. As you play through Destiny 2‘s story missions, you revisit Ghaul, not only to gain insight into his evil motivations, but to see how you’re impacting his plans. Your character is still the strong but silent type, mirroring Bungie’s past opus, Halo, but this time supporting characters help to flesh out proceedings — and the world — in a satisfying manner. 

Led by Ghaul, the Cabal feel like true nemeses, not cannon fodder (at least in the first handful of missions we’ve played). They’re menacing, dangerous and calculated… and then seem to exit, stage left, almost as your Guardian gains his or her bearings. This new lease on life extends to the Fallen as well; they way they move is now far more feral and animalistic, really helping them to stand out from other enemies you’ll face.

The removal of last-gen platforms has truly energised the franchise. Without that excess baggage, loading screens are all but gone; the Director is speedy, effortlessly shuttling you between PvE and PvP encounters. Mere hours into launch, things appear quite stable — after four hours of continuous play, we only encountered one networking error (Beetle).

One thing’s certain from our current playtime: we’ve barely scratched the surface. Story missions have made up the bulk of our experience, though we’re keen to check out Adventures, Lost Sectors, Public Events, Heroic Public Events, Patrols and Flashpoints. Again, you can tell Bungie’s learned from its mistakes — there’s a wealth of varied content immediately available. I’m itching to jump in.

Update: While Bungie has done a terrific job launching a many-layered product, it’s far from perfect. Most noticeable are changes to the Crucible, now a 4v4 affair. Rather than have Guardians select the PvP mode they’d prefer to play, only two playlists are on offer: Quickplay and Competitive. Quickplay offers on modes like Control and Supremacy, while competitive provides access to Survival and [the one where you set charges]. Each playlist has its own failings.

In both, you’re at the mercy of the playlist itself. Don’t like Supremacy? Too bad, you’re potentially stuck with it if you enter Quickplay. Competitive, in the last week at least, has the nasty habit of pitting a team of 4 (the other team, usually) against a team of 3 (my team, sadly). The fourth spot is never backfilled, and as you’d expect, the team lacking numbers gets crushed. Even if the short-handed team is skilled, sheer numbers, combined with extremely generous Power ammo spawns, will be its undoing.

Back in PvE, refinements found in Destiny’s later DLC drops have been abandoned for the sequel. Cross-class infusion, whereby you can use a high-level Titan helmet to infuse and strengthen the power of a Warlock helmet, has been removed. It’s a strange case; does Bungie intend for players to run three Titans to pursue endgame Power levels?

The Nightfall Strike is challenging on its own, but frustrating design decisions only make things worse. Battling a 10 minute timer, and gaining additional time through the removal of foes, Guardians also have to match their Energy and Power weapons against a rotating set of opponent’s shields. While it’s not that hard to switch between Arc, Solar and Void weapons and skills, it’s very hard to keep up with the rotation – it flashes at the bottom of the screen briefly, and then promptly disappears. If you’ve somehow managed to level up or achieve a Milestone while this happens, you miss out on the notification.

Additionally, Ikora’s Challenges make the humdrum of Public Events a little less tedious; specific actions must be accomplished to gain access to rewards. The problem with the Challenge tracker is that it’s locked behind your Ghost; while you’re meant to open your Ghost to check your progress, that’s largely lost behind Glimmer notifications. It’s tedious.

Clans are a great addition to Destiny 2, theoretically making it easier for players to find other Guardians in order to tackle high-level challenges like Nightfall Strikes and Raids. Clans have their own progression; higher levels lead to better perks. Sadly, individual characters are capped at earning 5,000 Clan XP per week –and the Clan’s first level requires 100,000 XP to achieve. If you’re in a Clan of 100 people, this is easy; it’s wholly unattainable, at least in a speedy fashion, if you’re in a Clan of 6-10. Players, rightfully so, are asking why Bungie didn’t scale level progression according to the number of members in the Clan.

There’s a lot that Bungie gets right with Destiny 2, but like the original, there’s still room for improvement. Still, this iteration is a marked improvement over last – let’s just hope Bungie’s happy to continue to tweak this solid core. Those who’ve been spurned by Destiny only to be won over by rich DLC will feel right at home in Destiny 2. Those who passed on the original title because of its weak launch will find this is a completely different experience, one with Halo‘s DNA interwoven through Destiny‘s addictive core gameplay. It’s definitely worth a try.


8.5 out of 10

The good

  • A marked improvement of the original.
  • Far more content and story.

The bad

  • Clans aren’t balanced based on membership.
  • Changes to Crucible make for less engaging, imbalanced gameplay.

Destiny 2 was reviewed using a retail code on Xbox One, as pre-orderded by the reviewer. A retail code on PS4 was sent by the publisher immediately before release. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.