Destiny 2 hands on and impressions: Endlessly fun with high GOTY potential
War never changes...until it does, every, single, time.
Aside from the odd content-injection via an expansion pack, vanilla Destiny was plagued by repetitiveness. Once the campaign was felled, you'd grind the same strike missions and public events over and over, using the same old strategies to bitch slap the same old bosses down. Bungie's marketing team promised we'd all “become legend”. What I became was bored *cough* after putting in 51 days playtime *cough*.
Thankfully, after spending two days playing through Destiny 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC), I can confirm this sequel solves the problem of repeats. No battle in its many overworlds will ever play out the same way. The promise of truly emergent firefights has finally been realised. Allow me to tell you how.
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But first, let's get the kinderguardians among you up to speed with Destiny's key features. Public Events are time-scripted challenges which regularly pop up in specific areas of an overworld (and in Destiny 2 the map is much more helpful in telling you how long until one commences, or how long you have until an active one ends). The objectives for any Public Event is rigidly templated, though in Destiny 2 these will cycle in each area. Achieve the objective within the allotted time limit, get a decent reward. Simple.
Below is an example of me thrashing my way through one of the new public events in the European Dead Zone, the first overworld you unlock in the game. The objective here is to disrupt a Cabal mining platform that's protected by relentlessly spawning footsoldiers. It's also viciously defended by orbital laser beams which paint the ground in an ominous red before they Hammer of Dawn your arse into the ground. Tested that theory, for science. Can confirm it ruins your day.
Destiny 2 also shakes up Public Events by layering in Heroic Events. Every Public Event has an optional bonus objective, and if you trigger it then you get an extra hard version of the event with way more enemies coming in, and sometimes optional bonus objectives, or named bosses that you have to kill for sweet, sweet loot. Below is a different take on the same Public Event, but due to us wiping out the lower tier enemies faster, thanks to my unfair use of a stolen Cabal tank, we manage to attract some nastier foes. The first is a yellow-bar War Hound (who quickly becomes the bane of my existence) and then a unique enemy named Excavation Valus. Thus begins a much more chaotic and challenging Heroic Event which leads to greater rewards.
The last Destiny 2 feature you need to know about are Adventures. It'd be incredibly unfair to compare these to the Patrols of the first game (beacon-initiated affairs that had you slogging through busywork of little significance). I undertook a dozen or so of these new Adventures, and they were all substantial, 10-to-15-minute-long missions with multiple step narratives and dialogue, plus they all involved new places and new mechanics. The below example had me acquiring a means to replicate Fallen speech, and then using my new linguistic skills to talk shit to the Red Legion and lure them into a trap. Top trolling.
Now that you know about Public Events, Heroic Events, and Adventures, here's their best feature: they all mix together to make a delicious cocktail of chaos. Even if you were quite happy playing with your mates in a three-person fireteam, Destiny always had a habit of seamlessly blending your online experience with other guardians. Usually that meant you had one or two extra randos helping you out in a public event, and then they'd phase out when they transition to another sector of the world. Bungie has taken that concept and run much, much further with it.
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Simple Public Events now morph whenever somebody across the other side of the world triggers and Adventure. I had moments when ridiculously high-tier enemies would travel through whatever I was doing to reach whatever scripted destination they needed to be at for somebody else's Adventure. Sometimes this resulted in an arse-kicking for me, other times the aggressive AI of the journeying enemies would start a massive blood feud with the enemies currently trying to kill me. I'll never forget one moment when I had my butt saved by a Vex Hydra, a shielded weapons platform of epic power, which rolled through a position I was trying (and failing) to defend from encroaching Cabal death squads. I'm not sure what player caused that to happen, but I could have kissed them at that point.
As my 16-hour playthrough continued, I witnessed a huge degree of variation, thanks to this superb interweaving of content. Sometimes a roving band of randomly generated Pikes or Tanks would transform an old mission into some emergent new shit-storm. In other instances, the dynamic of a pre-trodden mission would change simply because the overworld now supports a greater player count than before.
Destiny's weakness was that it ran out of structured, scripted content too soon, and the leftovers we had to chew on were predictable and bland. The power of Destiny 2 is that all of the content in its overworld is tossed into one gigantic grinder. Nobody can rightly predict what will be spat out the other end, but you can guarantee it'll be flavour country. Personally, I have my passport ready, and my bags packed. I can see myself living in said country for a very, very long time.