At its core, Destiny 2 is a game about shooting and looting. Admittedly, Bungie’s latest effort does a superb job at this, giving us the opportunity to shoot a variety of aliens in an incredibly satisfying manner, amongst gorgeous surroundings, and in all manner of ways. It’s enshrouded in a compelling and immersive mythos, with a breadcrumb trail of loot rewards to urge us ever onwards. But is it enough? The time has come to finally weigh in, as this is our Destiny 2 (PS4) review.
For those playing catch-up, part one started out with a look at the early game experience of biting into the story, while part two looks at those mid-point levels where additional content starts to open up. Part three, meanwhile, discusses the climb to level cap and what’s available at endgame once that single player campaign is complete. We’ve summarised most of it here, but you might want to read back if you’re on the hunt for further detail. And, if you want a second opinion, our sister site Gamespace has an alternate review available.
Start with a Bang
If you’ve never played the original Destiny, don’t worry; the sequel’s story starts by wiping the slate almost clean. After the briefest of introductions to the plot’s main characters, all our familiar surroundings are destroyed in a barrage of rocket fire and infantry assaults. Even our Guardian’s precious power, the Light infusion that grants death-defying superhuman abilities, is stripped away by the militaristic Red Legion Cabal, led by the power-hungry Ghaul. Thus begins a first-person shooter romp across the solar system, with occasional online play through a ‘shared world’ experience and occasional team content.
Initially, he Guardian’s tale is one of self-discovery. No matter which of the three classes chosen – fist-pounding Titan, spellweaving Warlock or gunslinging Hunter – the path is the same: reclaim that lost power, relearn your abilities, and reunite the Vanguard to bring down Ghaul. Doing so takes a journey across new locations on four planets, through a campaign that’s simple in structure but told very well. Cutscenes are crisp, dialogue is sharp and excellently delivered, and pacing is on point. A major criticism I had with the original has been comprehensively fixed in this new version, resulting in an incredibly satisfying playthrough.
As a backdrop to all the pathos, drama and gun toting action, each location is beautifully rendered, with a unique theme and feel. Our galactic grand tour also serves as a gradual introduction to the various hostile aliens, breaking up the newness and spreading it throughout the campaign - again, no prior knowledge is assumed. The European Dead Zone of Earth plays host to the Red Legion, but also introduces the Fallen as tribal scavengers. On the water world of Titan, vampyric Hive have infested the oil-rig styled superconstruction. Robotic Vex have assimilated most of the icy planetoid called Nessus, and shadowy Taken have opened portals through to the part-terraformed moon of Io.
Graphically, Destiny 2 is beautifully presented on console, although this may be due to a lack of PS3 and Xbox 360 support, with both legacy consoles now firmly in retirement. Locations are rich, intricate and sprawling, although load times are significant as a result. Unfortunately, regardless of platform (including PS4 Pro and Xbox One X), the action seems locked at 30fps on console. It seems that in order to get the best visual fidelity, PC will be the platform of choice later in October.
Although the clear structure can feel a little formulaic, nothing feels tacked on or unnecessary on that journey to level cap. While the story winds its way to an inevitable conclusion, Destiny 2 gradually unlocks repeatable content, making it clear that there’s more to endgame than just running Raids until your brain explodes. An early example is Lost Sectors – small hidden solo-dungeons with a mini-boss at the end and a crate of rewards. So begins the familiar carrot and stick of shooting stuff to get shiny rewards, in the hopes of finding those incremental upgrades.
A mixture of weapons are out there, from automatic rifles, shotguns and sidearms, to more interesting sniper rifles and sub machine guns. Most of these are available as regular kinetic weapons, or slightly more interesting energy weapons that are intended to take down an enemy’s shields. However, the most fun comes from power weapons, with shotguns, swords and even rocket launchers making those boss encounters more delightful. Mixing it up are a small number of vehicles – both in campaign missions and the open world – that can be liberated from their driver and harnessed for additional carnage.
It might be my PC heritage causing conflicts with the Dualshock4 sticks, but I had more fun with the auto rifles and similar variants than single shot sidearms and sniper rifles. Even so, there’s nothing to beat getting up close and personal with a shotgun and just letting it unload, before hitting something super. As I climbed higher up the gear levels, mobs became less of a bullet sponge and more like fodder to be mowed down by my righteous bionic onslaught.
Rocket Fist Punch
Being a Guardian isn’t just about carrying around an arsenal of futuristic weaponry and looking like Ghostbusters decided to hold a Tupperware party, but it’s also about wielding a supernatural power known as the light. How this power manifests depends on the chosen Class (Titan, Warlock and Hunter) and Subclass (which gradually unlock as minor variants while levelling up). As an example, the Titan gets to put up barriers that teammates can take cover behind, punch enemies in the face, and (like everyone else) throw grenades.
It’s the Supercharged ability that really makes a Guardian worth playing though, gaining a brief moment of time to unleash a potent ability and go ham on a whole crowd of opponents. It’s the kind of attack that can clear the floor in a dungeon or empty a chokepoint in PvP, it gets a godly visual effect, and every death creates an Orb of Light that recharges a chunk of the meter and puts you closer to using it again. Once you’ve found a Supercharged ability that clicks with you, there’s nothing you want to do more than find a group and Hulk out.
If combat is such huge fun solo, surely it would be even more fun as a team? Unfortunately, this is where Destiny 2 sticks very close to the playbook of the original, staying firmly on the line of ‘shared world shooter’. You might encounter other players in each zone, and you might even participate in public events with them (even escalating them to Heroic Public events if everyone’s paying attention), but there’s only partial incentive to form lasting bonds. Crucible PvP matches and Strike PvE instances are both accessible with group finders, although more challenging Trials and tougher Nightfall modes (and eventually even Raids) are best faced as a team with voice comms. If you’re happy with the simpler tiers, it can feel pretty lonely for a game with over a million players.
Tight Group Target
And so, this is where Destiny 2 ends up. A wonderfully packaged and presented game about shooting things and looting rewards. A strong campaign running throughout, with perfect pacing and engaging voice acting, backed by a sublime music score that shapes and sculpts the mood without being intrusive. A selection of enjoyable PvP, solo PvE and group PvE content that dovetails nicely with the campaign to gradually introduce endgame without any jolts to the ride. And, above all, a very highly polished experience.
But all that streamlining detracts from the freedom of exploration, and all the soft-touch grouping takes away from the social aspects of online gaming. With the core focus on shooting and very personal looting, there’s little incentive to find better groups or team up in clans, unless it’s to shoot bigger enemies and loot bigger rewards. As MMO veterans, we tend to expect more from our online experience, and I can’t help but feel that Destiny 2 comes up short. Even with the shared world and shared social spaces, there’s little need to be sociable.
Ultimately, though, there’s a huge amount to like in Destiny 2, and it’s an experience that’s certainly worth the price of admission. There’s an incredible amount of content to uncover, and it’s constantly being evolved with updates and planned Season Pass DLC, quelling any fears of buying into an online world that will rapidly become stale. However, while the console versions are all excellent, you might want to hang tight for the PC edition and be rewarded with even better visuals at the end of October.
Yes, it’s about shooting and looting, but Destiny 2 is about much more besides. It might not be ideal for MMO diehards, but it’s a rich and satisfying experience all the same.