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Destiny 2 (PC) artwork

Destiny 2 (PC) review

"A solid shooter that reminds me of other games but as the best version of all of them."

It took me a while to compile enough thoughts for a proper review, and to find time to actually begin writing because I’ve been far too busy actually playing it. This will come with a minor disclaimer or two. First, I haven’t played the first game. It was on console and I’ve been a PC player since the Xbox 360 days. Secondly, I may mention a lot of other game comparisons and there’s a reason for that. This game feels like it borrows some of the best parts of other games and stitched them together to make something great.

I can’t really comment on the game’s previous story, but I hear from most players that there wasn’t much of one. Somehow I feel that this is hyperbole on their part because you can’t really have a game without a story. Even team shooters like Overwatch shoehorn some lore within their dialog or various external material. All the same, I’ve gathered that a giant alien ball gave a large portion of the Earth population immortality topped with magical powers. Not exaggerating, I have literally heard the word “magic” be used in what seems to be a Sci Fi adventure. The game proper starts off with a full on assault from an enemy faction that only had a tertiary presence in the first game. They win pretty swiftly and kick you off a tower. Your guardian loses their “light” powers and must traverse the first forty-five minutes or so of the game without the ability to resurrect. Of course that is of limited value as checkpoints are still a thing so feel free to die if you don’t quite have a handle on the gunplay.

The campaign is stated to be around six hours long and that’s fairly accurate. It felt incredibly short and it was surprising to learn about this sun-destroying device that the Red Legion created. Funny enough, that’s actually the halfway point and the exact moment where the story becomes less interesting. Before that, you hop between planets to “get the band back together”, essentially. You collect the various class leaders across the system, each with their own unique problems that you solve and get back together to help lead the push against the guys who took everyone’s light. After that, it’s a generic doomsday device that you must disable, and the campaign missions themselves feel a bit padded at times. You’re often assigned to disable something, only for it to not work so you must go destroy something else two more times before the thing actually works. The old school trope of “You cannot thwart stage one” is in full effect here folks, and you’ll likely predict what will happen to the big bad Ghaul himself long before you actually see it.

Weak story aside, the gunplay is some of the best feeling in a first person shooter I’ve had in a while. At first glance the game looks and feels like a less irritating version of Borderlands, a franchise of which I love anyway like a slowly improving problem child. Enemies have large health bars and every hit you land, magical floating numbers pop up signifying your damage. Ultimately these numbers mean very little because max level players can play with level three’s and nobody can really one-shot anything except for the basics. There’s some strange autobalancing coding going on in the background, but it still manages to make sure that anyone can play with their friends regardless of people’s gear level. This includes the fact that max level players will constantly get tokens and can break down lesser gear for yet another type of turn-in token. There’s always a reason to do things and I find that it’s a great mechanic.

The story is mostly just an excuse to get you to maximum level and have access to the tower. After that, the full game unlocks to you which is common MMO fare. It lets you dip your toes in some player-versus-player but after you beat the campaign, every planet and game mode will have a set of challenges and milestones for you to work towards and continually get your item level up, also known as a “Gearscore” if you’re a veteran of WoW. Ultimately this is where the game shines and where I typically have the most fun, because it essentially becomes a first person sandbox. No, there’s not really an open world and there’s not much to explore unless you’re hunting for Lost Sectors, secret sections of the map that typically have yield chests with better loot that will only unlock when you defeat the local miniboss. They’re a lot of fun.

Each planet has this sort of “hub” area that you’ll find a few other players running around in. I figure they’re instanced with a likely player cap because I’ve never seen more than a few at a time. At most I think I saw about seven other people joining in on a public event with me, one of my favorite features of the game. Public Events are not a new concept in recent gaming history. The earliest comparison I can personally think of is Rift (2011), but I think they started dipping into MMO’s a year or so before that. It’s as it sounds, in hub areas these events will trigger down from a five minute timer to allow other people gather and prepare and it will spawn a moderately difficult boss or objective based event. They’re typically too difficult for me to solo but I’m sure other, better players can manage. By completing optional objectives you can help upgrade every event to “heroic”, which yields a lot more experience and a bit more loot. You might have to research or simply take cues from other players and see what you have to do, but if you see people shooting at that ship circling the area or slamming on this random device in the middle of the firefight - That’s probably why.

Those side challenges I mentioned can be a bit fickle sometimes. Sometimes they’ll require you to kill enemies with a certain weapon or a certain way that doesn’t necessarily to cater to my playstyle. One in PvP once wanted me to make a few kills with a subclass I never used and thus had no upgrade points put into. I never got that challenges because, as per the game’s meta, there’s certain gun types or subclasses people just don’t use in certain modes. For example, nobody ever really uses the Hunter’s “Nightstalker” subclass in PvP because it’s a sort of crowd control that’s useful against several clustered enemies. In PvP that almost never happens and it would be too easy for actual players to escape the little orb that the Hunter created.

There’s also a multitude of gun types, all with their varying clip sizes, fire rates, and range capabilities that are more useful in one mode than the other, so this typically encourages you to keep a certain "collection" of things depending on what you’re playing.

So far I’ve only talked about challenges and public events. I’ve found it hard to talk about what and first because there’s a lot to the game to chew through between the various updates the game will inevitably have. Of this writing, the game’s first expansion has already been announced for the fifth of December which will likely bring a whole new set of milestones, strikes, missions and most importantly, loot.

I’ll try to get through some of the fun stuff you can get a hold of at the endgame which mercifully doesn’t take long to get to.

Strikes are basically just dungeons from other fantasy based MMO’s. There’s not a lot to say about them, they’re ten to twenty minute encounters with a variety of bosses and mechanics you need to figure out. My least favorite so far is this Fallen boss who will constantly disappear after just a few hits and spawn these electrified robots that will limit your movement and now allow you to jump at all (and there’s a LOT of jumping in this game). They’ll also constantly damage you because of course they will. It reminds me of a survival game to be honest.

There’s the Crucible, Destiny’s name for PvP combat. It’s run of the mill PvP with your usual zone controls, team deathmatch and even a mode that’s reminiscent of Call of Duty’s “kill confirmed” mode where you only get points by picking up a sigil from a fallen enemy; Or else let their allies pick them up and get denied the score. I enjoy it and I can sometimes get rewards from it even by losing. I’m currently working on an exotic weapon quest where you have to dismantle rare or better scout rifles, which the crucible rewarded me with one just for losing. So hey, progress!

There’s also something called “Nightfalls”, which remind me of “Heroic dungeons” from World of Warcraft, but are actually more comparable to Starcraft 2′s mutator mode in their Co-Op. Every week it changes, typically with some kind of timer mechanic to make sure your team is at their most optimal. On our first week, in addition to the timer, all of our skills recharges what seemed to be five times faster. So the mutations are not always there to hurt us.

Naturally it gives much better loot than their more basic versions and can be incredibly intense. Myself and two buddies from my gaming community managed to kill the boss of one with a mere four seconds left on the timer. Our first ever Nightfall, to boot.

I alluded earlier to the fact that there’s tokens you get from a variety of activities. This mostly gives incentive for high level players to continue playing, as you can turn these tokens in to a variety of faction leaders for engrams (a fancy word for “loot boxes”) that typically level with you so they’re usually good to grind out.

And yes, there is a grind here to a certain degree. There’s a sort of soft cap to gear levels, I found it a crawl to get past the 260-265 hump but then slingshot past it on the game’s second week with a new rollout of milestones that wanted me to play several crucible games, complete five challenges out in the world, and a few other things. Each of them gave me 269′s and 271′s and helped me gear up a bit. At a certain point it becomes advantageous to roll multiple characters so you can do all of this more than once, padding the gameplay and turning it into a grind.

There is a bit of fatigue once you hit that soft cap I will admit but it’s typically relieved by playing with friends. This goes with any multiplayer game, true enough. As mentioned I can continue playing missions with newer players, hunt for public events, or toss my scrub ass into the unforgiving ring of failure that is Crucible and I’ll always get something for my trouble. There’s never not anything to do.

All this time I’ve actually forgotten to talk about how really damn pretty the game is, to boot. Most of my settings are on maximum with the sole exception of my textures, which have to be medium as to not stress my unfortunately low about of VRAM. I’ve had people smarter than me try to explain why exceeding it matters but regardless, the game is still one of the best looking things in my entire library.

There’s a lot of chatter about microtransactions in the industry lately. Yes, they are present here in the form of “Bright” engrams, which can be acquired in two ways. Obviously you can buy “Silver” which acts as a separate currency for Bright engrams. The other way is, as a level 20 you will get one per "level up" as you continue to play. The flow of such is pretty slow and I typically only get one or two a day (If I’m actively playing my main Hunter) as opposed to dropping ten dollars and getting five immediately. They typically contain cosmetics, some more practical than others like faster speederbikes that will help you traverse stretches of land on planets with a bit more ease. They’re the primary source of the shinier “shaders”, or armor dyes. You can get shaders out of basic chests and other loot boxes but shaders do have “rarity” like any gear does and I don’t think I’ve gotten some of the better looking ones through more basic means. Still, the microtransaction craze does speak to a seedier part of the industry and I will admit the “It’s just cosmetic!” argument doesn’t quite hold up, but I’ll leave that for the individual to decide. I’ve already purchased some silver twice now, but that’s my prerogative. I’ll just say that the game never, not once, beats me over the head with “BUY SOME OF THIS AND YOUR LIFE WILL BE MORE COMPLETE”. They better not, after I spent the full hundred dollars to begin with.

In conclusion, the game feels like the most refined collection of a dozen games I could name, like the world’s cleanest zombie. Borderlands, The Division, World of Warcraft, Rift. The gameplay constantly reminds me of other games but is the absolute best version of all of them. The gunplay will keep me coming back as I do occasionally itch for an ironsight shooter but all the current ones I have are boring or have dead communities with long matchmaking. A large portion of my gaming community is playing so I can typically play at my own pace, or get others to join me if I feel like I want my objectives to go a little quicker than usual. There’s plenty to do and it’s all up to me to figure out what I want to prioritize when I log in. For a game with this much in it, it can only improve with more content.


Zydrate's avatar
Community review by Zydrate (November 03, 2017)

Zydrate is most active on Steam and Tumblr.

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