BAM! The enemy’s head snaps back and explodes in a shower of shimmering dust, its decapitated body falling limp to the ground. You have less than a split second to savour your marksmanship, as three, four, five more targets close in, darting in and out of cover and returning a volley of their own energy blasts in an attempt to take you down. BAM! BAM! BAM! More foes fall with each squeeze of the trigger. A few try to flank you as you navigate the hail of enemy fire, and one even gets close enough to land a disorienting blow, but you strike back with a devastating counter that sends them flying. A few more are dispatched with relative ease as you charge through the level, finding your groove. Headshot the sniper on the ledge, grenade to clear out the three grunts ahead, melee to finish off the staggering survivor. A familiar voice on the comm link updates you on your mission as you press on through the enemy waves. A golden emblem flashes on the screen to signal that your super is charged, just in time to be unleashed on the forbidding hordes and their bigger, more powerful leader. They don’t stand a chance. You dash between foes in a flurry of devastating electric blue, your staff crackling and buzzing as you destroy your enemy. The fight is over and you can take a breath, pausing to see what rare loot you may have acquired during your battle. A congratulatory voice drifts over the comm link, and you’re free to move on to the next adventure.
Destiny 2 is a lot of fun. It looks gorgeous and the combat has an almost addictive quality, and the story (so far, at least) is compelling enough, with some really top notch voice performances from its cast. But I feel like it’s meant to be played in a certain way, which limits its appeal to the wider gaming audience and may turn some off altogether. I’ve been playing Destiny 2 for a week, and I wanted to give some early reactions to Bungie’s highly-anticipated sequel.
Destiny 2 makes you feel like a certified badass
It’s no secret that Bungie knows how to do first person shooting very, very well, and this game is no different. There’s a weight and punch to the way the guns shoot that feels natural (not that I’ve ever fired a gun before), and so far the weapon handling hasn’t grown stale. And the headshots – oh my, the headshots. It’s difficult to describe the fist-pumping satisfaction when you pop an enemy’s head clean off – a burst of steam erupts from the spot where their head used to be with a ghastly howl, their body jerks and freezes for a second then slumps to the floor. It’s just fantastic.
The super abilities have been tweaked from the last game; I’m playing as a Hunter and making use of the Arcstrider subclass, whose super involves a staff apparently made of lightning which you can use to vaporise enemies or deal massive damage to bosses. It’s pretty cool and is useful when you need to clear out a big swarm, or when you get impatient with methodically picking people off and just want to buzz through a few grunts. I’ve yet to try out any of the other classes in depth, but the Titan’s Sentinel subclass looks particularly sweet, with the ability to conjure a shield to block attacks or throw around like a death frisbee à la Captain America. I think they’ve balanced the super abilities well, holding them back enough that you don’t feel overpowered, but giving you the chance to unleash hell when you’re fully charged.
There’s a story this time around! It’s not terrible!
The original Destiny was publicly and extensively criticised for its poor attempt at a campaign, but the developers did their best to build a narrative in the later DLC and made use of some impressive voice talent in the process. Since I didn’t play the first Destiny, none of this means very much to me and I’m learning about the characters and lore on the fly, but thankfully it doesn’t matter very much in this game. Bungie essentially hit the reset button, quite literally blowing up most of what was familiar in the first game and making your character and his comrades start from square one. It’s an effective tactic, and helps the story feel fresh, particularly to newcomers like myself.
I’m not going to talk in much detail about the campaign (mainly because I haven’t played enough of it), but I will spare a few lines to sing the praises of the voice cast in Destiny 2. Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres and Lance Reddick are all superb – Fillion as Cayde 6 does a wisecracking space pirate better than anyone, and Torres oozes nobility and class as the stoic Ikora Rey. My favourite, though, is Nolan North, who is just in a class of his own here as your Ghost. He injects so much character into such a potentially forgettable role, and I never get tired of hearing his voice in my ear.
Am I playing this game the right way?
I’m enjoying my time with Destiny 2 so far, and there’s a lot to like for a casual gamer like myself. But I can’t escape the feeling that, by just playing the campaign and avoiding the social elements of the game, I’m not experiencing Destiny the way it’s intended to be. I’m nearly always a solitary gamer and the multiplayer aspects of Destiny don’t really appeal to me; even if they did, I don’t have a group of friends to play online with and share the experience. This isn’t a flaw in the game by any means, it’s just a side effect of the way I like to play video games. Overall I doubt it will significantly affect my opinion of the game, but I think it will make it easier to step away from Destiny when I’m done with the campaign.
I don’t want to say this game is addictive, but…
Bungie has really nailed the feedback loop in terms of levelling up and acquiring new gear. The game feeds you shiny new loot and weapons as you complete missions and random events, and it’s done in a way that keeps you playing that extra bit longer – maybe if I do this next mission, I’ll get a better gun. It doesn’t feel too much like grinding, as you can earn XP (or power, or light, or whatever they call it) doing side missions that have a basic RPG-type structure, but it is repetitive. At the moment that’s not a problem and it doesn’t put me off, but it’s not hard to imagine myself getting bored in the near future. I’m happy to be proven wrong.
This is a very pretty game indeed
I’ll finish with a few screenshots of Destiny 2 looking all sorts of lovely. I may have some more thoughts about it down the line, but for now, just soak in some gorgeous video game visuals.