10 Hours With Destiny 2: So Far, So Good

Over the past two days I've played roughly 10 hours of Destiny 2, a video game in which players travel through space, marveling at how things can feel so familiar and yet so new.

In some ways it's just more Destiny. Here we are again, shooting aliens and watching the numbers go up. Yet Destiny 2 has fixed many of its predecessor's shortcomings, both structurally and narratively, and as I play through the main story, I find myself invested in a way I never was before, thanks to fun writing and engaging missions.

Although I'd caution against jumping to conclusions until the game's been out for a while — remember, we didn't really understand Destiny 1 until a few weeks after launch — I've been thrilled by what I've played so far. (Note: Kotaku will run our official review of Destiny 2 after we've checked out the raid, which launches on September 13.)

For starters, there are real stakes. Destiny 2 opens with the destruction of the Tower, our central hub for the past three years, at the hands of a nasty Cabal commander named Ghaul, who drains your main character of his or her powers and sends you flying off a cliff.

In a powerful, humbling sequence afterwards, you stumble around the neighbouring Last City while trying to regain your lost abilities. Soon you'll run into Suraya Hawthorne, a nomadic sniper and member of Destiny 2's excellent cast of new characters, and eventually you'll find yourself roaming through the game's first map, the European Dead Zone.

This is where Destiny 2's unique world structure comes into play, and it's one of the greatest changes Bungie has made. Rather than selecting a mission, zooming back to orbit, and then selecting another mission as you did in the first game, Destiny 2 lets you conduct all of your work from the field.

To access each story mission, you'll have to land at a planet's loadout zone, track the point where that mission starts, and then walk over.

Along the way, you might run into a public event and work with a group of players to take down a Fallen gang that's trying to dig up currency from the land. Or you might decide to go do an optional "adventure" that's sort of like a beefed up version of Destiny 1's patrols, complete with proper stories and multiple phases.

Destiny 2's map is full of potential and possibilities.

This structure makes Destiny 2 feel less like a series of disjointed missions and more like an open-world game, with four massive zones that appear, at least from my limited exploration, to be full of interesting treasure hunts and activities. I haven't yet reached any of Destiny 2's strikes or "Lost Sectors," but I'm stoked to see what else is out there.

Destiny 1 had a tendency to turn every story mission into "fight three waves of enemies." Destiny 2 does better. You're still shooting the same aliens — Fallen, Vex, Cabal, Hive, and even Taken — but this time around, the missions have additional complications.

You might have to hop between platforms above the electric seas of Titan or dig deep into a Vault of Glass-inspired Vex labyrinth while saving a friend on Nessus.

Along the way, you'll listen to amusing conversations and anecdotes from characters both new and old. Particularly enjoyable is Failsafe, an AI with split personalities that range from benevolent to murderous. (She must have been a blast for Bungie to write.) We've come a long way from "I don't have time to explain why I don't have time to explain."

None of these new structural improvements would work if not for the way Destiny 2 feels to play, which, I'm pleased to report, is just as spectacular as Destiny 1. Shooting aliens is just as punchy and satisfying as it ever was. Bungie has curbed the efficacy of shotguns and sniper rifles thanks to a new gear system that groups them with rocket launchers, fusion rifles, grenade launchers, and other limited "power" weapons.

You can't arm yourself with more than one power weapon, so, unlike in the first game, you can't quickly swap from hand cannon to sniper rifle to rocket launcher.

This time, you'll switch between two primary weapons (auto rifles, pulse rifles, scout rifles, hand cannons) and one special one. From what I've seen so far, this system is fine. Ammo is more plentiful than it was in Destiny 2's beta, and your special abilities recharge more quickly, too.

One thing Bungie has never gotten enough credit for is the diversity of Destiny's characters, who are not just white dudes and robots but instead show a wide range of personalities and ethnicities.

Destiny 2 looks incredible. All four maps are full of stunning vistas and beautiful skies, and unsaddled by last-gen hardware, Destiny 2 has some incredible graphical wizardry. The music, composed by a handful of musicians including Bungie veterans Michael Salvatori and C. Paul Johnson, is shockingly good.

There are still lots of little annoyances to complain about, and I have no doubt that I'll find more over time. You still can't dismantle loot while in the vault screen, for example.

Inventory management is still a pain. You'll often see the Ghost icon pop up in the top right corner, indicating that there's something nearby to scan for some good lore details, but the game doesn't do a good job of telling you how to find it, and often it appears in the middle of heavy firefights.

I haven't yet run into anything in Destiny 2 that feels monotonous or grindy, though after three years and 600 hours of Destiny, I'm dreading the thought of this game's version of the exotic sword quest.

I already felt tinges of PTSD after running into Destiny 2's material deposits, having wasted dozens of hours of my life farming for Spinmetal and Spirit Bloom.

But so far, so good. Bungie has made something impressive, and I can't wait to see what else is coming.


Comments

    I'm optimistic abut this game it seems like they've improved a lot. I'm a bit miffed there's no new enemies though, seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. But man I really don't want to fall into the rabbit hole like I did with the original...!!

    I'm hoping this game is good - can anyone draw comparisons to The Division? Or is that too long a bow to draw?
    I'll wait for the PC release - hopefully the lads can get invested and we can sink some serious hours into it.

      I'm hanging out for the PC release too. Morkai#1933 if you need players (once it launches of course)

      Division was like a poor man's Destiny in a boring setting with boring combat.

      Also waiting for PC version, can't wait!

      It took the good things out of the Division, the great things out of the first Destiny and just made everything a whole lot better. There isn't a new enemy class but there are new different enemies and the ones you've come to know actually behave differently then in past games. Crucible is an insane improvement. Even if you have crappy internet the game provides minimal lag and the 4 v 4 provides for more tactical and focused firefights.

    Is there a more polarising game anywhere than Destiny? Even my own opinion of it is contradictory as all hell; one of (if not) the best handling, most satisfying shooters I've ever played in a pure gameplay sense, yet it's all contained in a dreary lifeless world I have no desire to spend any time in.

    Then the expansions came and slowly but surely improved things according to 'the internet' - I did the whole 'wallet vote' thing here as I refused to pay extra for them to turn the game into what it should already have been at launch. Cutting my own nose off? Sure, but there's hardly a shortage of games so I don't feel like I missed out.

    Now the sequel is here, am I interested? Sure, as I said, I loved the feel of the original and nothing has come close - but general consensus is that whilst it's a big improvement over the original game, the jury is still out on whether it's all that engaging outside of the grindy lootfest. I want to want it, but there's a nagging irritation inside me of having to handover more money that I can't justify when it all feels a little deja-vu/fool me twice - I'll keep reading to see if general/my opinion changes but I'll wait it out and either pick this up later, get Battlefront 2 instead (I stayed away from the first one) or hold out even longer until Anthem is close and see how that stacks up.

    On the flipside, I love that people who've bought it are genuinely enjoying it - not everyone on the internet has a "if I don't like it, I hope it burns/everyone hates it" mentality!

      I felt the same way, still think D1 was a glorified beta. Loving D2 so far, the first hour had more plot and character development then the entire base game and first two expansions! From the few hours I played last night this feels like the game "the internet" kept trying to convince me Destiny was and is miles ahead of the Taken King.

      I know exactly how you feel, i played about 80hrs of the first game until i got annoyed of repeating the same thing over and over, and nothing felt fresh. I never played any of the DLC because i felt the same way about you. I want to get it and play but as you saud "I can't justify when it all feels a little deja-vu/fool me twice". i have a friend who plays it and loves it, but he loved the first one so of course this is going to be better. I have been watching streams a want to get back into it, but i don't want to waste money on the something that i am going to play for about 30 hrs and start saying, but i've done this 1000 times already.

      Sure its an MMO but at least with and MMO like ESO or Guild wars there is a sense of growth as you're character gets stronger and explore new places.

      I know what you mean about a contradictory opinion... I never played the original but I feel like I'm being torn in two different directions when trying to decide if I want this or not. Somehow the more I read about it the more I simultaneously want and don't want it.

      On one hand, it sounds like a great shooter I could really get into and enjoy for a long time. On the other, I get this feeling that it is going to demand the usual (and unreasonably large) time investment that comes with most MMOs for it to really be worth even bothering with in the first place... and any gameplay videos I've watched so far have just left me with a feeling of "been there, done that" which is a little bit odd since, as mentioned, I never played the original.

      I know how you feel, I played through the first game when it launched and while I enjoyed it, it did leave a bad taste in my mouth by the time I stopped.

      It was a great shooter with a lifeless, soulless shell of placeholder content around it. The enemies, vehicles, story and features all felt like they were half finished or ill conceived. Then to top it off they slowly improved the game by charging people through the ass over and over again to keep it up to date, and when I refused to fork over more I was left behind weather I was enjoying the game or not.

      So I kinda hated it by the end, but now I’ve bought the second one (haven’t started yet) and I’m pretty keen to give it a go. I’m sure it will be better than the vanilla Destiny 1 and with a few fixes and a bit more love I expect it to be pretty solid.

    Personally I am still on the fence but will wait until I get to 20 but things I miss... not enough stats and choices on armour and weapons. In a game which wants us to hang around for a long time, having only a finite amount of weapons and armour is a strange choice. EG: Sure I didnt only play Destiny for months to get a scout rifle with firefly but damn when I got one it was a better feeling than any exotic and then when I got another one weeks later with a few other perks all on the same gun, times that feeling by ten. Now is there really any reason to even open a gun/armour screen?

    Likewise the over simplified class system in which you cant mix and match, surely can only exist because of PVP whiners from D1 because its easier to balance a (small) finite amount of choices, well a much small pools of variables.

    I want bounties. Are they even in D2? It was nice when you knew you were going into Crucible for a night to do a quest or something, you could just load up on them, and they forced you out of your comfort zone, use different classes and weapons etc.

    Ultimately the problem D2 has is that D1 was so important to me and for whatever reason became one of my most played games ever, it will take a while of that nagging voice "gah why cant I do this, why they remove that" to go away and like what we have got.

      Destiny 2 is more balanced and less special abilities spam. The skill trees pretty much change the play style for each ability, the 3 weapon load out with the power weapons makes it so you don't have shotgun frenzys every single second of crucible. The special class abilities provide for more tactical and teamwork play, which is by far more fun then just being a one man wrecking ball that can 2 shot with a hand cannon from across the map. I'll take the adventures over doing the same quests 50 times over. This game feels less like a grindfest and more of a package as to having fun with it and dropping it at any time.

    I have noticed when ghost icon is on the screen and you press the youchpad on ps4 to bring out you ghost he tends to loom toward the icon needing to be scanned

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