Opinion: Yes, Destiny 2 Is Worth Checking Out If You Hated The First Game
It would be an understatement to say that I did not like Destiny upon its release in 2014. Years later I still maintain that it's a bad game. Not even a mediocre one. Straight up bad, with its environments composed of endless, barren plains with enemies surging toward you horde-style, its constant grind with diminishing returns, and let's not forget the awful, non-existent attempt at storytelling culminating with a character saying "I don't have time to explain what I don't have time to explain." Admittedly, expansion packs like The Taken King and Rise Of Iron helped fixed a lot of those problems by inserting mini-campaigns into the game and filling out what was essentially a clunky proof of concept with the kind of content that should have been there in the first place, but it still felt like a bandaid on a broken bone, as none of Destiny's locations or activities were as interesting or satisfying as its gunplay.
So, as is the case for many people no doubt, I was skeptical when Destiny 2 was announced. I was even more skeptical when trailers for the game had this weird tone clash of tragedy and comedy that mixed about as well as oil and water. And you better believe I was super-duper-there's-no-way-this-is-gonna-be-good-sketpical when I played the beta and discovered what I had already expected: Destiny 2 was, well, more Destiny. However, in spite of all of this, I gave the full release a fair shake, pouring about 40 hours of my time into it so far and, I have to say, I kind of love this game.
It's weird. Destiny 2 doesn't do anything amazing right out of the gate. The intro, where you watch The Last City fall to the Red Legion, is a very on-the-rails kind of experience that feels like another version of The Taken King's opening. The first few quests, requiring you to fetch items or kill a bunch of enemies, aren't great either. However, at the one and a half to two hour mark, something fascinating happens: Destiny 2 dramatically changes while still essentially being wrapped inside the confines of the design of the original game. The campaign, which can be played as single-player or co-op, isn't amazing on its own. It's not going to turn anyone's heads but it feels like one of the weaker Halo campaigns, complete with vehicle sections, intense firefights, and poorly articulated space politics, and it works because not only is it entertaining enough but it also, FINALLY, forces Destiny to tell a complete story for someone who knows nothing about this universe and it doesn't require them to go online to read a glorified encyclopedia.
I finally got to know who Ikora, Cayde, and Zavala are beyond "Oh, these characters are voiced by people from The Wire and Firefly." They have arcs and personalities and great dialogue writing that's up front and center constantly. And even the writing that's not great, like the villain, Gaul, basically being Bane, is still functional. You can derive meaning from it without having to leave the game to do so. It might be weird to shower praise on a game for having competent writing and story structure but when you look at what came before, especially in regards to vanilla Destiny, it's appreciated.
Another major, appreciated change is the constant influx of new weapons and gear. The original Destiny, as well as its expansion packs, were miserly as hell when it came to rewarding you with weapons and gear that felt worthwhile. Destiny 2 borders on overcompensating for that. With its handy Milestones systems and challenges, the game is constantly throwing gear your way, and not weak stuff either. We're talking powerful weapons and armor that I've been constantly cycling through. I'm getting to the point now where the amount of high-powered gear flowing in is slowing down slightly because of how high the light level of my character is, but it doesn't feel like a grind. I've gone through so many weapons at this point, it actually feels nice to stick to a weapon for longer than an hour or two. I've found myself becoming deeply entrenched in Destiny's world, laying out different weapon sets for Crucible matches and quests, formulating strategies, and hunting down the Adventures, essentially side missions that reward you with gear, on every planet. There's a wealth of content everywhere and, this is the key part, most of it is worth seeking out.
However, I think the biggest change I appreciate is that Destiny 2's environments actually live up to the fantastical and wondrous universe that the original game suggested but never showed. While so much of first Destiny was split between barren wastelands on the moon and Mars, the sequel's environments are varied and often breathtaking (Just look at the gallery Andrew Reiner put together if you don't believe me). I loved exploring the caverns of Nessus, the mountains of Earth, and the incredibly intricate, survival-horror tinged rig on Titan.
As someone who bounced off hard of the original game, in spite of being someone who's usually gaga for bold and rough experiments, I'm falling hard for Destiny 2. Whether it's just roaming around the various planets, listening to the incredible score, or helping my fellow Guardians take on Public Events or going off on my own adventures, Destiny 2 is a constantly immersive experience. The jump in quality between these two games might not match the difference between Titanfall and its sequel or Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, but it's a stellar experience and one that comes closer to realizing the weird FPS/MMO dream hybrid the original game was trying so hard to be. Despite my ardent skepticism, Destiny 2 is shaping up to be one of my favorite games of the year and one that I urge folks to check out even if the original game rubbed you the wrong way. Come join me, fellow croweaters, in popping off satisfying headshots and dancing on farmhouses beneath a full moon.
For more on Destiny 2, check out our official review.