Thursday, November 16, 2017

Better Narrative, Lower Playability: Destiny 2 Evolves While Fixing What Wasn't Broken To Begin With!

The Good: Graphics, Story/concept
The Bad: Forced multiplayer experience, New shader concept and weapons mods lower the playability
The Basics: The saga of Destiny continues with Destiny 2, which elevates the Cabal, adds new planets and makes it harder to make weapons and armor work efficiently.

I came to Destiny (reviewed here!) comparatively late. Despite that, it did not take me particularly long to get into Destiny and enjoy the worlds, weapons, and adversaries of the game. As rumors swirled about the content of the first sequel to expand the Destiny universe, I was apprehensive. The early release presentations hyped up how Destiny 2 would increase the community aspect of the game. The community aspects, which forced a player to play with others after initially featuring a story that players could play entirely on their own.

I loathed the forced community aspect of Destiny. Of course, by the time I got to Destiny, most of the players were seasoned, arrogant and bored with trying to shepherd newer players through the climactic story adventures that required full six-person fireteams. So, the idea that Destiny 2 would increase and highlight that was not a big selling point for me. Despite the hype of one of the aspects that did not thrill me from the first incarnation of Destiny, I eagerly bought Destiny 2 only a day or two after its official release and I've been playing it for the past two months.

I got Destiny 2 for the Playstation 4 (reviewed here!) and daily play of the new game has illustrated to me that the creative forces behind Destiny created a far more problematic game with Destiny 2, despite there being a stronger narrative for the video game.


At its core, Destiny 2 is a first-person shooter game in a science fiction warfare setting. The game is broken into three essential modes: Story, Co-operative missions, and player vs. player combat.

The story mode is a single-player experience that has the player portraying a Guardian, one of the last surviving people in the solar system tasked with protecting the remaining human population. The player makes a journey from The Last City on the Traveler to ruined sections of Earth before the player progresses out to Io, Titan, Nessus and then later to the Leviathan, a new massive ship out near the edge of Earth's solar system. As in Destiny, in Destiny 2, the player fights little rogue aliens (The Fallen), massive armored warriors (the Cabal), mindless alien robot drones (the Vex), a race of killer humanoid insects (the Hive) and a sinister race invading the solar system that absorbs entities from all those races and makes them into shadow warriors (The Taken). In the main story mode, the player has to flee The Last City, which comes under attack by the Cabal's elite Red Legion. In a wounded state, the player slowly recovers their light and rescues the leaders of the Guardians from the planets they have scattered to before confronting the leader of the Red Legion to try to rescue the Traveler and The Speaker.

The multiplayer mode allows players to team up to do specific missions that involve bigger bosses than one player could reasonably handle. Players work together to perform complicated story missions that cannot be done by one player and do mini-strikes that allow them to work together in variations of other story adventures. There is also a very basic combat experience where the team of players combats enemies in an arena setting as part of the expanded training.

As with the original, Destiny 2 begins as a single-player game that has the single player moving through the worlds at their own pace, explore aspects of the setting that interest them and accomplish goals in their own desired order. But Destiny 2 includes major events that cannot possible done on one's own. The Leviathan, for example, is a raid that requires multiple players to unlock the puzzle portion that opens the doors that allows the player to progress. There is no possible way to complete the Leviathan Raid without multiple players and completing that raid unlocks several significant things, like the ability for a player to pledge to a Faction.

Finally, there is the player vs. player mode. In the Crucible (player vs. player mode), players either join a randomly assigned team or assemble a team of like-minded murderers and they go out to fight in various settings against other players. The Player Vs. Player modes range from games where the players must collect fallen baubles when they kill ("Supremacy") or take and hold control points around flags ("Control") to free-for-all combat between players. For Destiny 2, there are two new Crucible games - one which involves a four-person team either setting explosives and guarding them (with the opposing team attempting to disarm them) and another one where the players have only a few, shared, lives that they have to preserve before their entire team is irrevocably wiped out.

At the end of virtually every mission or round of combat, players are awarded points, artifacts, and/or weapons and armor to level up their character.


Destiny 2 has a more focused story than the original Destiny. After years of the Guardians re-establishing themselves and protecting Earth's solar system, the Cabal, under the leadership of Dominus Ghaul attacks the Traveler. Ghaul and his Consul abduct The Speaker and enslave the Traveler to tap it for Light. Destroying the power center of the Guardians, the Guardians are forced into retreat while Ghaul interrogates the Speaker.

The Guardian, having lost their Light, crashes down to the abandoned portions of Earth where they slowly begin to regroup. The human survivors of the Last City struggle without a hierarchy and the Guardian (the player) has to protect the humans, rebuild an infrastructure and head out to other planets in the solar system to find the leaders of the Guardians. With their leaders restored and shards of the Light giving them power again, the Guardian has to stop the massive device draining The Traveler before confronting and killing Ghaul!

Game Progression

The main story of Destiny 2 has pretty reasonable progression. The player starts on a map and, while they might explore almost any part of it, there is a pretty linear sense of movement throughout the story. When a player encounters a story node along their current plotline, they begin a well-contained mission, like entering a phantom realm to recover shards of the Light or restoring a communication's device from salvaged parts from a downed colony ship on an outer moon.

The game progression is one of the clear areas where Destiny 2 devolves from its original story. Destiny had a clear, simple, and enduring method of upgrading armor and weapons. In Destiny, one could get shaders, which changed the coloring of one's mismatched armor. It was nice; the player got a cohesive look out of random things they picked up around the many worlds they visited. In a similar fashion, Destiny had a very linear sensibility for upgrading the weapons and the armor, for the attributes and powers they had.

Destiny 2 is a massive step back on that front. First, the shaders are used on each individual piece of armor (helmet, breastplate, gauntlets, leggings, and cloak) and when one upgrades out of the current piece they may have customized, they lose that shader. While this might allow greater customization, it makes creating a look for one's character harder (one must get several copies of the same shader and equip each piece of armor). And once one gets rid of lower-powered armor which the player had shaded the way they liked, they might lose that shader entirely and not be able to get it back. That's annoying, as is not having an overall shader that endures on the character.

The weapons and armor upgrades in Destiny 2 are done with "Mods." Mods are the exact opposite of intuitive; they are supposed to add power and attributes to weapons or armor - equipping to make an otherwise mundane weapon a Solar, Arc or Void weapon, equipping a piece of armor to give the player attributes when equipping a certain type of weapon. These mods, in addition to having the incredibly annoying tendency to reduce the power of certain artifacts (it sucks to finally get an Exotic piece of armor, attempt to equip it with something that should make it more powerful and watch the defensive capacity of the armor actually go down!). As with the shaders, equipping any weapon or armor piece with a Mod becomes problematic in that the lower powered items one equips with them and then later outgrows loses the mod. The upgrade and enhancement process for the weapons and armor in Destiny 2 is needlessly complicated and a dramatic step back from the simple elegance and efficiency of the original game.


The effects in Destiny 2 are homogeneously amazing. The visuals for the environments look fantastic and the animation is usually clean and flows exceptionally well. Destiny 2 is remarkably glitch-free on the visual effects and it creates an impressive setting that looks great. The fires throughout the Last City, for example, look amazing!

As an older player, it is worth noting that while the speed of the graphics are good and the rendering of adversaries is excellent, the scope, scale and lighting are frequently problematic. To see and, usually, to aim, I almost constantly had to engage the scope on whatever weapon I was using. This has the unfortunate consequence of removing the radar, which informs players where the enemies and goals are! That said, Destiny 2 has superior directional information. Enemies in Destiny 2 can shoot players from a decent distance, outside the effective radar range; the on-screen graphics that indicate where a player is being hit from attacks are excellent.

Arguably the most impressive effect in Destiny 2 is the quality of the voice acting. Bungie employed genre favorite actors like Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Lance Reddick, Lennie James and Bill Nighy to voice non-player characters who pop up during the movie portions of the game. The actors create distinctive characters for the Ghost and the leaders of the surviving factions within the Last City, making for an exciting sense of flow and continuity through the different story elements.


Destiny 2 has three different styles of character a player may create - Titan (essentially brute soldiers), Hunters (more mobile and precise operatives, like bounty hunters) and Warlocks (essentially magic-users) - that each have different strengths, capabilities and forms of attack. As a result, players may play through the story portion of the game multiple times and have very different experiences with each run through. Going back through the game, for example, reminded me of one of the irksome aspects of the environment that allows multiple people to be playing in the same spot at the same time; when one is playing their own personal mission and when other players are playing around you, they might might poach your kills to make your goals more difficult to achieve. In areas where there are very few enemies, the game gets bogged down by several people all trying to kill the same enemies to accomplish their goals!

The player vs. player portion of the game changes with each and every attempt. That said, the new player vs. player event that seems like the Trials Of Osiris for Destiny 2 is problematic in that there are not enough players on the platform actually playing to give players access to that new style of game.


Destiny 2 foreshadows well how the Destiny franchise will continue to expand. This expansion fleshed out the Cabal and made them a lethal enemy to the last of humanity. Perhaps the next expansion will find the Vex traveling through time to undo humanity and make the player into a time traveler or the Taken will possess the leaders of the Guardians and the player will have to find a central controlling power source for the Taken to free all those who are under their influence from them. But the creators of Destiny 2 illustrate the dangers of tweaking a system that was well-made in the first place. Destiny 2 is less player friendly and compelling than the original. While the idea of the Light being corrupted and the Traveler being menaced is an interesting one, players quickly overcome the complications that creates and end up in a world that is partially familiar, somewhat annoying. The result is a game that is quicker to get through and harder to want to stick with afterwards than the original Destiny.

For other game reviews, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Wars Battlefront
Injustice: Gods Among Us Ultimate Edition
Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham


For other video game reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by visiting my Software Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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