The Circle Debate: Destiny 2: We’re Going Way, Way Deep Inside

In which Donovan and Jeffrey converse and debate while they play the game – which may take forever.  Warning: Spoilers!

By Jeffrey Mizrahi and Donovan Floyd

Jeffrey: I first jumped into the world of Destiny a little over two years ago. The base game had already been out for a while. Two expansions had come out to a mixed reception yet a more promising one was on its way. I skipped the initial launch after the game’s alpha and beta, which included the first few story missions – and left a sour taste in my mouth. The reason I ended up returning to Destiny is because a deluxe edition, which included all released content, was on sale, and I was in the mood for some mindless quick shooting. After 300 hours with the original game, boy, am I ready for my next adventure.

Within the first five minutes, Destiny 2 tries and succeeds at fixing the core issue of its predecessor. It’s been well documented that Destiny did a bad job at explaining to the player what was going on and why they should care about the game’s overall narrative. Even if you’re a player with just the most cursory knowledge of what happened in the original game, you remember your home base, the Tower, and your in-game mentors, the Vanguards. Most importantly, Bungie knows you know this.

That’s why the game starts off giving you a clear motive centered around those things; the Tower is under attack, the Vanguards need your help. You don’t need to watch hour-long YouTube videos on Destiny lore, or read pages upon pages of fan wikis to actually care about what’s going on in Destiny 2. Due to the poor reception of the original’s story, I honestly thought Bungie was going to ignore all of the auxiliary plot points in an attempt to wipe the slate clean with this sequel. However, that is not the case. A bunch of old side characters reappear, and the game makes tons of references to things that only seasoned players would recognize.

A couple hours in (I’m currently level 12), I’m more engrossed with the narrative this time around than I ever was in my 300 hours of the original, and it’s looking like it will remain that way.

Donovan:  So, I was one of the poor suckers who got caught in the hype for the original game, because I didn’t get a chance to play the alpha or the beta. When it dropped, I quickly got bored with the game because of the repetitive gameplay and seemingly non-existent story. I did hear that the expansions made gave it a better story and just made it a better game in general. But by that time, I was no longer interested. Too little, too late.

Then along comes Destiny 2.

So, my first thoughts upon starting the game were, “Hey, there seems to be a story in this one! Cool, first problem solved.” The biggest difference is that we actually have a tangible bad guy to look at and fight this time. Dominus Ghaul is an upgrade from the super vague-yet-menacing “Darkness” we kept hearing about in the first game. I finally know who I’m fighting and why I’m fighting them. You’d be surprised at the difference it makes in creating an immersive experience for the player.

However, it’s only a step up from having no story at all. The plot so far is nothing more than your average, “bad guy wants world domination” story. The only characters that I find remotely interesting as of yet are, Cayde, Ghost, and Failsafe. I’m only a few hours into the game, though, so I haven’t had a chance yet to really get into the meat of the story. But from what I’ve played, it’s better than nothing.

Jeffrey, what do you think about the characters, since you’re a little bit further along than me?

Jeffrey: Agreed, the story is definitely better than nothing, but I think that’s underselling it a little. While Ghaul is the typical world dominating bad guy, I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing. Destiny 2 follows the “keep it simple stupid” philosophy of storytelling and does it well. After beating the campaign, the game met my expectations of a simple sci-fi action adventure that I can actually follow.

In Destiny, I felt that Cayde-6, Ikora Rey, and Zavala all had tons of untapped potential, and in Destiny 2, I think that potential was fully realized. No longer standing idly around a table, waiting to deliver you your next mission, these three Vanguards are now more involved in both the narrative and gameplay. The meat of the campaign has you rounding up these three guardians and essentially “getting the band back together”. Traveling from planet to planet and actually fighting alongside Zavala, or rescuing Cayde-6 gives the Destiny fan in me goosebumps. I’m a little biased here, but I absolutely love these guys. They feel like longtime buddies whose parents never let them go outside, and now, a few years later, we’re all in the park together playing and having fun. However, looking from an outside perspective, I could easily see how these characters are very one-dimensional. Cayde-6’s the joker, Zavala’s the warrior, and Ikora Rey’s the thinker. There are a few moments they stray away from these molds, but for the most part, all their personalities stay pretty rigid.

Destiny 2 also introduced a bunch of new characters such as Hawthorne, a non-guardian scout who helps you out in the beginning of your adventure, and Sloane, a guardian scout who helps you out in the middle of your adventure, but never fully develops them enough for me to really understand who they are and what their stories are. Hopefully, Bungie expands on them somehow in the future because even with my limited knowledge, I do really like them.

Donovan: I actually kind of like Hawthorne. She adds a fresh perspective as a badass that doesn’t need the light to be one. As for Sloan… I honestly forgot that she was even in the game, so I guess that tells you all you need to know. Going back to mega-bad guy Ghaul, I’m starting to like him as a character a little bit more. Progressing through the game, we get a little bit more of his backstory, and I found it admirable that he decided to wait to be chosen by the traveler rather than just take the light. To me, he has the most developed character in the franchise so far, by far.

Let’s get into the gameplay a little bit. I’m primarily on PC, but I had no trouble at all with adapting to the controls on PS4. The mechanics were rather smooth and familiar if you’ve ever played Halo. My only gripe is that they still have the sniper as a power weapon, which sucks for players like me that love to use snipers, especially in the Crucible. The missions were still a little bit “copy-and-paste”-esque but they did sprinkle in a little bit of tank gameplay, which I had some fun with. Lastly, I never played the strikes or raids since I lost interest in the first game so early, but playing them now, I think they were a wonderful addition. It makes the game more fun. I just hope they add a lot more variety in the strike missions sooner rather than later.

What is your take on the gameplay?

Jeffrey: While I agree Ghaul’s approach of being chosen by the Traveler, rather than using brute force to obtain the Light, may be admirable, I found that whole relationship kind of confusing. I still don’t really understand what the Traveler is. In the Golden Age, did the Traveler give humanity actual technology, or teach them new things? Is it just some magical force that enhances the beings in its aura? How many midichlorians do Guardians have? There were a lot of questions I had left unanswered from Destiny that I was hoping would be answered in Destiny 2, but instead of instead of answers, we got a concise, direct, story about an evil warlord and I’m OK with that.

In terms of raw gameplay, this is Bungie at their absolute best. I can’t think of a single issue I have when it comes to the pure gunplay in Destiny 2. Whether you’re shooting an ice laser or a huge Gatling gun, it just feels perfect. No surprise really, coming from the pioneers of console first-person shooters. Speaking of Halo, there are a few late-game missions that remind me of some of the most epic moments from the series, which is pretty high praise.

Nitpicking a little more, I found it odd they put so many staple guns in the “power” slot, which means you’ll be using them less frequently. However, I do enjoy using the new gun types such as the submachine guns and grenade launchers.

Have you gone through all six strikes yet? Also, what are your thoughts on the new Adventures?

Donovan: I have finished all six strikes, and like I said, they were pretty fun to play. They add a better alternative to grinding the random events in the maps to level up for the next mission. It’s also pretty cool to coordinate with others as I’m usually jumping into the restricted zones alone. The only thing is, the strikes are still pretty repetitive to me. I’d like to see a little more variety with the structure of the missions. The Adventures I haven’t gotten into very much. I’ve spent more time playing the Crucible. The Crucible is what shines brightest to me. Everything’s so well balanced, the gunfights are intense and satisfying when you win one, and the fast-twitch gameplay doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. The few game modes they have are great, but I do wish they added in an FFA mode (future dlc, maybe?). While they’re at it, I hope we see some new maps soon, like the city rooftops that were in the last mission, or the closed corridors of the Almighty.

Maybe if they’re really feeling generous, they can add some more open maps, and make snipers into secondaries… (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, @Bungie).  Well, I can dream, can’t I? Did you get more into the adventures?

Jeffrey: I’d have to disagree with you on the variety of the Strikes, Donovan. The six of these 20-minute long standalone side missions range from fighting your way through huge mining facilities, while jumping over giant drills, to jumping between spaceship to spaceship trying to stop a Cabal arms dealer. The real issue with the Strikes, though, is the inability to choose which one you want to play. Unlike Destiny, Destiny 2 only lets you play Strikes as part of a playlist, each time getting a random one of six, forcing me to either back out and try to search again hoping to get a different Strike, or play the same one twice in a row.

The Crucible in Destiny 2, is weird for the most part. I don’t understand why Bungie chose to change the team sizes to a 4 vs. 4 (compared to Destiny’s 3 vs. 3, or 6 vs. 6.) It causes a lot of awkward situations with your fireteam members because most of the games activities, such as Strikes, Patrols, and Adventures, limit your team to three people or less. So if you’re patrolling with two others and decide to play Crucible, you have to either look for a fourth, or play with a random player. Then when you want to go back to Strikes or Adventures, you need to ditch that one guy. I still enjoy the smaller matches, but don’t see why Bungie couldn’t have kept in all the other modes they had in Destiny.

Onto the Adventures. I originally thought they were reskinned Patrol missions, which were boring and repetitive, but after playing through a couple, I’m realizing they’re so much more. While definitely not the best avenue to acquire high level gear, Adventures are essentially a string of small tasks that take place while patrolling a planet. They’re not as big as strikes, not as inconsequential as Patrol missions, and actually all contain interesting stories that help strengthen the game’s overall narrative. For example, there’s an Adventure which has you track down transmissions coming from an exiled Cabal emperor, that really acts as an introduction to the Raid.

The Raid. Destiny’s premiere end game content for the tried and true Guardians. The Raid tasks a fireteam of six Guardians to essentially go on a LONG mission that will test your puzzle solving, cooperation, and gunplay skills. Compared to the original game’s four Raids before it, I think Destiny 2’s offering, The Leviathan, is easily the series worst. The amount of bugs, glitches, and unfair AI really had me question how Bungie let this past testing. For example, there’s this one part of the Raid that spawns a group of enemies that hide behind cover before shooting out a force push that knocks you off the platform you’re on. However, a good amount of the time, these enemies don’t go behind cover and give you literally no time to kill them between their spawn to the time they knock you off the map, causing the whole team to begin that encounter anew. It took me over a dozen hours to beat the boss alone, and I do not see myself returning to the Leviathan until Bungie does some heaving tweaking.

So I’m grinding pretty hard right now trying to hit a power level of 300, but how about you Donovan? How much have you played so far, and how much post-game content do you see yourself diving into?

Donovan: I see what you mean about the variety of the strikes, but ultimately, I’m still not convinced. To me, each strike, like every other mission, is the same “shoot the hordes of bad guys” formula with slight variations. They just haven’t done enough yet to make me want more.

As for what I’ve played, well, I’ve beaten the main story mode, quicker than I thought, actually. Afterwards, I finished the strike missions, but that’s really it. I wanted to do the Leviathan raid, but with all the bad feedback it’s been getting, I don’t want to play such a long mission that I know to be broken. I do like the game as a whole, though, so when the expansions come out, I’ll be jumping on those. Bungie has already proven they’re able to redeem themselves with their post-release content for the first game, so I hope they can really bring it with this round of DLC. Somethings I hope for are: greater variety in mission mechanics, more Crucible game modes and maps, and some more background for Cayde-6, Ikora Rey, and Zavala–two whole games and we still no nothing about them, it ends now.

What do you think about the game as a whole and what do you want to see in the expansions?

Jeffrey: As a whole, Destiny 2 is one of my favorite games of the year, as well as one of my all time favorites in general. The issues only come when you start picking the game apart. As you can see from this article, the online community is all over the place. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the community has “turned” on Destiny 2, but it is clear people are upset. The main cause of this is due lack of meaningful end game content and how Bungie has taken away features from the original game that many fans expected would be in the sequel (e.g., private matches, heroic strikes.) I think it’s odd that they’re not present, and would like to see them here, but honestly, their omission does not hinder my overall enjoyment all that much.

Looking towards the future, we know the next DLC will be called “The Curse of Osiris” and will take the player to Mercury on a search for the legendary Osiris. Osiris is a Warlock and Ikora Rey’s teacher, so I’m sure we will learn more about her very soon, Donovan. After that, the only thing we know about DLC 2 is that it will have something to do with a Warmind, which are planet wide strategic defense systems. And if the post credits scene is any indication, I have a feeling we’ll get a Taken King sized DLC next September that has us taking on the Darkness head on.

And there you have it! Destiny 2, an amazing game with minor flaws that may or may not detract from you’re experience. Hopefully over the next few weeks and months we see Bungie release some patches to make it the perfect experience the game is truly capable of being.




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