Review in Progress (PS4): Part 3
It’s now three weeks since Destiny 2 launched on consoles and, for most players, endgame has now arrived. The Campaign has been completed, all subclasses have been unlocked, and all content is now available. Until the first DLC episode arrives, this is our likely playlist of features for the next few months.
In my previous instalment of this Review-in-Progress, I talked about the mid-level experience. Throughout the latter half and all the way to cap, there’s a gradual introduction of repeatable content, neatly avoiding a bewildering onslaught as soon as you reach 20. In terms of getting players on that endgame grind, Destiny 2 does a superb job of easing us in gently.
With my final peek at Destiny 2 before wrapping things up with a concluding score next week, I’ll be taking a closer look at that transition, and touching on the Campaign’s grand finale (no spoilers!). I’ll be also looking at Strikes, Patrols, and all the other content that awaits us once endgame is reached.
Last week, I bleated about how Destiny 2’s story felt repetitive and formulaic, as if it was being painted by numbers. However, after wrapping up the single player Campaign, it feels like I spoke too soon. You see, while the tale that Bungie have told is simple and straightforward, it’s the way in which it’s told that makes Destiny 2 special. Let me try to explain, in as spoiler-free a manner as possible.
At its core, Destiny 2 is a tale of overcoming a monster. Except, it’s also a tale of rags to riches – squandering power, losing it, and regaining it. There’s also an element of Voyage and Return: heading out to distant locations, discovering crucial information, and returning with the experience. All of these overlap, becoming dominant or subservient dependant on the point in the story, or (more importantly) the characters involved.
Where Destiny 2 comes into its own, however, is how those characters are handled. How each of the Vanguard come to terms, separately, with the loss of their powers, and yet still find the courage inside them for one final push. It’s evoked through careful dialogue and on-point voice acting, tuned so that you can almost hear the stoic Zavala’s voice break during one of the cutscenes.
Accompanying this are some grand set-piece levels, with perfect pacing and an on-point musical score, that managed to make me feel every inch the Guardian Hero. Every step felt like a triumph, every enemy defeated like a small victory against Ghaul himself. Yes, the mid-point felt like a bit of a drudge, but it was necessary to make the peaks so potent and powerful.
In the end, the Campaign taken whole is a satisfying single-player experience, with all the top-quality voice acting and scripting that you’d expect from a studio such as Bungie to bring those characters to life. Even Ghaul, for all his swagger as a persistent nemesis, has his moments of caution and doubt to temper the brutal, seemingly unstoppable ambition. And that’s just one strand of the overall Destiny 2 experience.
Endgame Conveyor Belt
Like easing into a hot bath, Destiny 2 does an excellent job of gradually introducing endgame content. Strikes are unlocked at a particular point in the story (roughly around level 12 to 14 depending on progress), while patrols come in slightly later. Once the story wraps up, further content unlocks such as challenges (doing particular combinations of activities on a planet) and flashpoints (doing a combination of Public Events on a particular planet). It’s all very… digestible.
It’s a tough call to decide if I like Strikes or Public Events more, because they’re both similar in terms of content (both PVE experiences). On the one hand, Public Events spawn regularly, offer great loot, and have hidden heroic modes that can be triggered if you know the right trick. On the other, Strikes require a team of three players to delve into a particular instance, fight your way through, and kill a boss at the end. Both scratch that MMO itch, but Public Events feel a little more predictable than the random Strike playlist.
Either way, it’s something I needed to get used to, as Destiny 2’s endgame is based around a Diablo-esque gear grind. After reaching Light level (roughly equivalent to a gear score) of roughly 200-ish, my next milestone was to reach 230 and unlock the weekly Nightfall mode Strike challenge, which essentially adds further difficulty for even greater rewards. From there, it’s a climb up to 260 for the Leviathan raid, and an eventual cap at around 300. Good thing we’ve got a handy guide on how to get over the hump.
Yes, the Patrols are still there from the original game, providing an easy way of sprinting around each map and earning reputation with the relevant faction. They’re also slightly more viable once that campaign is finished and you’ve hit level 20, as I discovered when I finally got a sparrow and could start rushing around the zones. But, compared to Fast Travel and the Public events, there’s little motivation for me to do them.
If Strikes get Nightfall modes and Public Events get Flashpoints, the Crucible PvP gets Trials of the Nine – a particular mode that works a little like Hearthstone’s Arena, and requires 260 Light Level to enter. While it’s still on my to-do list for now, Trials might have to wait until the PC version launches before I dig into them.
And that, roughly speaking, is where I find myself at the moment. The gear grind is alluringly addictive, and I constantly feel tempted to log on and burn away a few hours collecting engrams and upgrading gear. Then again, the PC version is only a month away, and I’d have to do it all over again. When you consider that I’m looking to switch to the new platform permanently when it launches, it makes sense to save my grinding appetite for now.
Next week, I’ll be summing up my thoughts about Destiny 2 on PlayStation 4. But, in the meantime, share your own thoughts in the comments.