After months of anticipation about Destiny 2, constant “leaks” about it, a console beta, a PC beta, and a full on media blitz about it, we finally have been able to put our hands on the full game. I have spent about 30 hours with it so far. I’m not going to write a full review of the game. That’s not what I do. I do want to give you my impressions with the game so far.
First of all, I want to be clear about something. I am going to be a bit critical of some of the aspects of the game, but overall I am really having a good time with it. It has been a blast, but there are some issues with the game. For the most part, the worst of the gameplay issues are something that I think will be addressed. I’m looking directly at you PvP.
If you compare Destiny 2 to the original, it is a big and positive step forward. There were many moments where I found myself saying, “This is what we should have had in the first Destiny.”
Maybe the biggest example of that is that there is no longer any reason to go to orbit. Ever. You can now open The Director from anywhere and go to any destination you choose. Finished up a patrol and want to head back to The Farm? You don’t have to go to orbit and then to The Farm. You can now just go directly there.
As someone who put in over 1,000 hours in Destiny, this is a very welcome change. I can only guess how many of those hours were spent waiting for loading screens as I went to orbit and then picked my next destination. It was something that I always thought they should have been able to patch to make it more user friendly. I don’t know why they never did.
Destiny players were clamoring for a better campaign in the sequel. Asking for a campaign that was better than the campaign in the first Destiny is a pretty low bar to leap over. That thing was a mess. I would say they easily cleared that bar and raised it considerably.
Bungie put together a much better campaign in this game. The story is coherent, if maybe a bit rushed, and actually makes sense. There were some rumors that we were going to get a massive campaign that would take 20+ hours to complete. It is much shorter than that. I did not exactly rush through it, taking some time to do some of the side activities, but I still completed the campaign in about 10 hours.
Bungie doubled down on the success of The Taken King and Rise of Iron. The story is pushed along by some excellent cinematics. It really shines early on. The lost hope and despair of losing The Tower and The City really shine through in the first 2 missions after the opening Homecoming mission we played in the beta. My only complaint with the early campaign is that maybe they rushed a little too quickly to returning our Guardian’s powers.
Speaking of getting our powers back, they nailed the music throughout the campaign, but I especially noticed it in this mission. It slowly builds as we are getting closer to the point where our light will be restored. I won’t lie. The moment where it happened gave me chills.
Your power gets restored and your Ghost says, “Eyes up Guardian!” Then you go on a rampage using your ultimate over and over to wipe out enemies. It’s a great moment. One of my most memorable in any part of story missions in Destiny 1 or 2, but it could have been even greater if they had given us another couple of missions to struggle without our powers.
I have two other complaints about the campaign. The jokes. Oh my god the jokes. I get it. Cayde was a big hit when they gave him and his personality a chance to shine in The Taken King. It wasn’t just him this time though. Everyone was making jokes. There is the AI Failsafe, which is just one joke after another. Your Ghost is cracking jokes. New NPC’s Hawthorne and Devrim Kay are polishing their standup routines on Earth.
For as grim as the story starts, the constant jokes just do not fit the narrative. Mankind is one the edge of extinction, yet everyone seems to be auditioning for SNL.
And then there was Cayde and his chicken, which just kind of made my eyes roll.
The second complaint is the final battle with Dominus Ghaul. They spend so much time building him up to be this ultimate badass. Then the battle is about as simple as can be. No special mechanics to the fight. Just a straight bullet sponge really, but just when you think the battle is going to change course into something more grand, it is over.
Considering how good some of the boss fights are in the strikes, I think Bungie really dropped the ball here.
Otherwise though, again, the campaign is a huge improvement over the first game. I’m anxious to see how they build on this in future DLC’s.
The new gun mechanic of switching from primary, secondary, and heavy weapons to kinetic, energy, and power weapons works well. Some players still do not like it, but I don’t have a problem with it. You definitely want to use energy weapons versus enemies with shields. If you can match the damage type, even better.
We have already seen Bungie take advantage of this new mechanic in the first Nightfall Strike this week. It has added a new level of strategy to how your fireteam works together. I would imagine we see them do something similar in raids. Raid teams will likely need to make sure they have members equipped with one type of damage for their energy weapon and another type for the their power weapon.
Speaking of loadouts, there is a big change in Destiny 2 for customizing your character abilities. We do not have nearly as many options. For each subclass, you can choose your jump and grenade options. You also can pick 1 of 2 special bonus abilities that each class has. Then there are 8 perks to choose from, but unlike the first game, we are limited in our options. They are grouped into 2 groups of 4. You either pick group A or group B, but you cannot mix perks from group A with perks from group B.
Basically, Bungie drastically dumbed down the character perks and ability selections. This will leave us pretty limited in build choices. I’m not sure if trying to make the game more inviting to casual players was their rationale behind this or not. If it was, I kind of understand that.
Bungie has made it a stated goal to open up the harder content to more players. They want more Guardians to try Nightfalls and raids than they had in the first game. This was the impetus behind in-game clan support and their idea of Guided Games (although neither of these features are set to go live until later this month). I know there were gamers that were frustrated with using LFG sites to find a group for a raid, only to get booted because they did not have the accepted optimal setup.
Maybe this will eliminate some of that, but I don’t like it right now.
Let’s get to the endgame.
If you were a day one player of the first Destiny, you surely remember how underwhelming the endgame was at launch. Thankfully, there is a lot more to do in this one.
There are a lot of public events, and they now show up on our maps with a timer letting you know when they will happen. I don’t know what my opinion of this is so far. I like it because it means you will almost never have an event where you are the only one participating. The timers bring other players to the site.
On the other hand, there is never that surprise of an event suddenly launching when you were not expecting it. I kind of miss that.
Destiny 2 also introduces Adventures and Lost Sectors. I applaud Bungie for giving us more things to do, but both of these are a little underwhelming for different reasons. If you played Destiny 1, Adventures will feel like little more than 2-3 patrols pieced together back-to-back.
Lost Sectors are something that was pretty well hyped by Bungie and other content creators, and maybe that is why I found them so underwhelming. They are little more than a cave in most cases. Maybe a big cave, but something that you can get through in about 2-3 minutes. That part is fine. I can live with that.
Here is what bothers me about Lost Sectors. When they were introduced to us before launch, they made it seem like these were going to be some big mystery we would have to find in the wild. There is a symbol you will find on rocks, walls, the side of a hill, etc., and they symbolize that a Lost Sector is nearby. Sounds kind of fun, right?
It could have been, except they all show up on your freaking map! You still have to find the entrance, but they are usually not too tough to find.
This was an insanely stupid choice by Bungie. They took all the mystery of Lost Sectors away. We know where all of them are. I just do not understand the thinking behind this decision at all.
The Strikes I have played so far are great. They are still fresh and new, and that certainly plays into my perception of them. Will I feel the same way about them when I have been farming them for the 50th time? Time will tell.
In its first week in the wild, unquestionably the biggest gripe players have had, at least on public forums, is how Destiny 2 handles shaders and sparrows. In the first game, a shader affected all of your armor, and could be equipped and removed at will. In Destiny 2, shaders can be equipped on one single item and are consumable. Once you use them, they are gone. If you switch to a different shader, you don’t get the old one back.
This will create some work for players who want to customize their look the way they want. For me, I honestly could not care less. I’m not one of those players that cares about my character’s appearance, especially in a first person shooter where I will rarely see it. In a 3rd person shooter like The Division or Warframe, it bothers me a little more because I have to look at it all of the time.
People are losing their minds over this shader thing. Not a big deal for me.
Sparrowgate on the other hand does bother me a little bit. You do not get a sparrow in this game until you complete the campaign. At first, I was pretty ticked about this. It does create some extra running around. However, one change in this game is that there are a lot of fast travel points on each map. That helps to alleviate some of the hassle.
There were a few moments where I wish I had a sparrow, but it wasn’t often. Honestly, it happened most when I was completing a few Adventures. After a couple of them, I decided to just ignore the Adventures until I had acquired my sparrow. Then I went back to do the Adventures.
The one thing that makes this decision a little bit of a spur in players’ sides is the promotion that is going on with Pop-Tarts. With packs of Pop-Tarts you can get a promotional code for a sparrow. So was the game designed all along to not give us our sparrows until the endgame, or was it changed before launch to encourage people to go out and buy Pop-Tarts to get a sparrow?
Microtransactions and these sort of promotions are becoming bigger and bigger in games. Are we going to start seeing game design decisions like this to complement marketing promotions? I hope not. I don’t want to see design choices made based on these sort of marketing campaigns.
Lastly, I want to talk about PvP. This was one of my favorite parts of the original Destiny. I hate to say it, but right now the Crucible is a mess. It is fixable, but at launch it is very disappointing.
First, you only have two match types to choose from. There is Casual and Competitive. There are different match types in each of those play groups, but it is disappointing that Bungie did not afford us more choice in what we play. This is something I would bet changes in the future.
The biggest problem right now is that it is taking an awfully long time to get into a match. I, and many others I know, have sat on the loading screen for 10 minutes or longer to get into a single match. The only time the matchmaking has been at all quick for me is if everyone in the group stays for the next match and the system doesn’t need to pair us up with other players.
The extended wait times to get into a match only magnifies the issue of not being able to select any specific game types. Waiting for 10 minutes to get into a match only to find that you will be playing your least favorite game mode on your least favorite map is massively frustrating.
Again, this is something I expect Bungie to get fixed fairly rapidly.
When you do get into a match, the PvP gameplay is excellent. I enjoy all the game modes. I know there are mixed feelings out there about the 4v4 in all the game modes, but I think it works great.
The balance in weapons feels pretty good right now. I’m not getting killed by only Palindromes, Eyaslunas, and Icebreakers. I’m using a variety of weapons myself. All of the weapon types feel viable right now in PvP, from auto rifles to fusions. The only weapon I am not really a fan of are the grenade launchers, but I have seen others make good use of them, especially paired with the Titan’s reloading shield wall.
Overall, despite my gripes I mentioned, I’m having a blast in Destiny 2. I feel like this is the game we should have gotten 3 years ago with the launch of the original Destiny. I am really anxious to see what the first raid is like next week and what the first Trials of Osiris (or whatever it will be called) is like.