Warmind Review - Mind Unblown
If there was ever a list of games that failed to meet expectations, Destiny 2 would be somewhere near the top. After dining out on the Halo series for much of the last decade, Bungie’s current magnum opus seems to redefine the meaning of disappointment. Its latest example, Destiny 2’s Warmind expansion, is a perfect example of how little twenty bucks gets you from an alleged top-tier studio.
Warmind takes the Vanguard back to Mars in search of Rasputin - the titular weaponized AI, and a regular staple of Golden Age lore from the original series. It’s always been regarded as a bit of an eccentric loose cannon, but recent events on Mars threaten to unsettle that precarious balance. Frozen Hive have awoken on the red planet, unleashing the power of an old god beneath the surface. By teaming up with rogue guardian Ana Bray, who herself is on an adventure of discovery, we might just discover what’s going on beneath the surface.
However, this expansion isn’t just about new story. Warmind also includes 2 new-ish strikes (there’s a third, but it’s a PS4 exclusive), a new raid, new Crucible PvP maps, and new Escalation Protocol open world events. There’s also tweaks to weapons and armour (exotics feel more exotic), and a scattering of secrets and collectibles to find in the open world.
So why the lingering sense of disappointment? As MMO veterans know, it’s all about getting value from our games. Warmind’s campaign is visually beautiful but painfully short, weighing in at under two hours. That’s also long enough to level up to 30 and grind gear to 340 Light, and all without breaking a sweat. From there on out it’s back on the hamster wheel, ready to experience a broken progression system made from recycled content, and without any reason to keep logging back in.
Instead of making a return to the red dust-bowl from the original game, Warmind instead plots a course to the frozen ice-cap near Hellas Basin. It’s there that we meet Anastasia Bray, a renegade guardian who’s broken a long-standing covenant by digging into her own past. This pursuit has brought her to the Braytech Futurescape; a remote research facility into powerful and complex AI, and home of the Warmind Rasputin.
As such, the story is less of an adventure romp, but more of a lore update from some of the mysteries surrounding Destiny. It’s a tribute to long-standing fans, but that doesn’t make the unfolding missions hard to understand. If anything, the plot beats are relatively predictable, even if they’re presented in a beautiful and cutscene-heavy way.
It’s a very quick jaunt across (and beneath) the basin. The story campaign and levelling experience are closely linked, so you can expect to hit the new cap of 30 and around 340 Light gear-wise before finishing the final mission. Warmind’s campaign is also astonishingly short, clocking in at around 2 hours. I’ve had longer-lasting cinema experiences, and with a more gripping story thrown in.
With the story over (for now), Warmind’s focus snaps back to what Destiny is known for - loot and shoot gear grinds. Unfortunately, it’s also where the new repeatable content lets the experience down. PC players only get two of the three new 3-player Strikes, which themselves are rehashed campaign missions with the difficulty bumped up.
Not only that, but the gear grind gripes are back. Climbing from that base 340-ish mark to the new 385 Light cap can be a slog, especially if you’ve got your eyes fixed on that new raid. It’s a brick wall that Bungie itself is looking into smoothing out, but these aspects could and should have been caught before launch. As it is, the expansion risks burning out instead of staying the course.
And then there’s the new Escalation Protocol. These open-world hordemode events bring waves after wave of frosty Hive, and offer rewards at particular points. But they’re also tough as heck, requiring gear at or near Light cap to complete. With them parked in an open-world space, that’s rarely going to happen. It feels like a wasted opportunity - on one hand, Bungie offered a new type of content; but on the other, it’s almost pointless unless you’re nearly at the end of endgame anyway.
There are some nice quality-of-life improvements in Destiny 2: Warmind, such as the exotic boost I mentioned earlier. However, one of the more interesting is an update that finally allows all four active emotes to be replaced. While it’s great to be able to run strikes with my favourites active (‘Selfie’ being a top pick), the cynic in me can’t help but think it’s another way for Bungie to boost Eververse item shop sales.
Ultimately though, these small touches aren’t enough to prevent Bungie’s latest update from falling short. An MMORPG, or even open-world-but-not-really-massive RPG like Destiny 2, needs to take care of the basics: deliver a compelling story, provide a relatively smooth levelling experience, and give plenty of reasons to log in regularly. In all three metrics, Warmind misses the mark.
For those of us that paid for the Deluxe or Expansion Pass editions, Warmind is the second DLC installment alongside Curse of Osiris, so that sting of disappointment might be met with more of a shrug than a wince. For everyone else, the $20 price tag seems high for a brief campaign followed by a brick wall grind. It might be worth waiting to see what comes around in September, and if the third update will finally break the mold.
One thing’s for certain, though: never expect too much from Bungie. With Warmind, my mind remains unblown.
Final Score: 6/10
- Fantastic new zone
- Exotics are exotic again
- New Crucible maps (although these don’t need the expansion)
- Short campaign
- Broken progression system
- Repetitive and recycled content
- Escalation Protocols are a missed opportunity