The McMaster Files

Destiny 2 Nails It

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #96. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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A repository for games and ennui.

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Destiny 2 surprised me. Not that I didn’t expect a well-designed game, or that it would lack production value. No, as always, Bungie has done a top-notch job in offering a slick experience for their fans. All of these have been, for them, a given in recent years.

What surprised me is that Destiny 2 is, for someone who didn’t play beyond vanilla Destiny, a completely different experience. From the get-go, Destiny 2 has refined every part of the original Destiny formula into something better than what came before. Many videogame sequels give players what they want – more and faster – but the overall feeling of this game isn’t just that. It feels honed and perfected in an expert way. This isn’t particularly surprising if you consider the developer.

One standout story from the making of the Halo franchise was just how much time the team at Bungie spent studying data gathered from their multiplayer servers. The team would break down the movement and combat statistics of thousands upon thousands of players in order to streamline and ultimately fine-tune the multiplayer maps, so they could better understand what players do and do not enjoy. This approach is the difference between Bungie and other developers.

So, what’s different, other than “everything?”

There are many interesting new features and systems, but a few things stand out. The areas that you play in are noticeably larger and more interesting than the original. The ruined, somewhat ominous feeling of the EDZ (European Dead Zone), the crystal blue waves of Titan (sadly, I couldn’t find Unk) and the haunting firma of Io go quite a way towards setting the game’s grand, yet somewhat melancholy tones. The EDZ, one would imagine, is full of of rot and the sickly sweet process of decay. Nature has begun to reclaim it. The worlds you explore are already lost. This is the end for mankind. The only thing keeping us alive is the Traveler, and it’s not doing very well.

More than once, while play through the story missions, did I comment to my friends, “Sometimes, I really miss Halo,” and felt the itch to return to I. But there’s no real need, because Destiny 2 fills that void nicely.

The lore for Destiny is convoluted and a bit of a mystery, but the storyline to Destiny 2 is fairly straightforward and enjoyable. The Cabal, a warlike race of aliens, has come to our solar system to harness the power of the Traveler. Everywhere they go, when they conquer, they destroy everything and move on. The guardians are all powered by the Traveler, so when it gets manipulated by the Red Legion (the specific enemy faction of the Cabal) the guardians lose their power. You find a piece of the Traveler and your power returns, making you the last hope for our species. No pressure.

I say all of that to comment on the campaign, which can be played single or co-op with friends, and is a highlight. Each of the missions have cool trappings and interesting design, and the overall campaign wraps up in a very satisfying way. More than once, while play through the story missions, did I comment to my friends, “Sometimes, I really miss Halo,” and felt the itch to return to I. But there’s no real need, because Destiny 2 fills that void nicely.

After the campaign is over, there’s still stuff to do. Constant public events and quick access to PvP or Strikes (the games dungeons) remain a quick and enjoyable distraction, but there are plenty of missions and side-quests to do that take you well beyond your initial adventures. A new activity is never more than a few menus away.

Destiny 2, like the original, is also an MMO with all the MMO stuff, though it is well hidden. There’s certainly a loot chase and higher level activities for those who want to engage in the grind or partake in raids. Your weapons and equipment have something they call a “Light Level” and it’s used to judge whether you have good enough equipment to participate in some of the tougher challenges. There are ways to increase your light level, but to get above a certain point you have to grind. However, it’s not an impossible task. At a casual play level, I’ve reached above raid gear in less than a month’s time. The higher level content might require a bit more dedication, but the bar for entry is not quite as time-detrimental as has been in other MMO designs. Destiny 2 rewards you for what time you put in, but doesn’t make it a requirement.

I went in to Destiny 2 with a bit of trepidation because it was a gift from a friend. I had prepared myself to play a little, and if it was bad, just to play long enough to not seem like a complete ingrate. A month later, I’ve spent a good bit more time than originally expected and am looking forward to attempting to complete the raid. Sometimes a developer just nails it.

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Jason McMaster is a writer and editor with a lifelong passion for games. When he isn’t working on Unwinnable, he’s either on his PC or playing a board game. Follow him on Twitter @mcmaster

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