(Ghost: We have our light back) (Player: What? Impossible!) I was no fan of the original Destiny. In fact, I somewhat despised it. I thought it was sterile, lacking in story and player motivation, and considered it a bog-standard MMO that was doing its level best to masquerade as anything other than a bog-standard MMO. Destiny 2 effectively demonstrates the major difference that can be made when you flesh out your game’s world, inject strong player motivations into proceedings, and display a developer’s passion ahead of a developer’s need to tick boxes and make their publisher lots of money.There’s a heart and soul to Destiny 2 that was deeply, deeply buried in the original Destiny. This time around the story is actually in the game! It’s not relegated to off-site reading material. Characters feel like actual characters, they’re not just there as static plot devices for a non-existent plot. And while the plot itself is not particularly unique or original, it does what it needs to do in order to motivate the player, something sorely missing from its predecessor. A lot of Destiny’s foundation is maintained in Destiny 2 and that’s no bad thing, because the fundamentals were all sound.

Destiny was always the nucleus of a good idea, and Destiny 2 finally takes that idea and realizes its full potential. Like Titanfall 2 before it, Destiny 2 feels like it should be the de-facto start of the series. Players can choose one of three classes: the quick and deadly Hunter, the bulky and powerful Titan, or the magic-wielding Warlock. While there isn’t a huge amount of customization for each class, there’s fun to be had in uncovering subclasses, hidden in chests as randomized loot, which unlock class-specific missions. These classes and subclasses, as with the first game, determine how your grenade behaves, the additional effects of your melee attacks, and a number of other useful abilities including the super ability: a mega-charged attack that can deal huge amounts of damage to anything in the vicinity. As well as the relatively-short story campaign, each of Destiny 2’s planets is filled with extracurricular activities. These range from self-contained adventures, to generic patrol missions which have you killing certain enemies and taking items from them, or going to various locations and scanning them, and of course the always exciting public events, where objectives spawn in the map and any player in the vicinity can join in.

Each public event has a secret “heroic version” of itself, which is unlocked during the regular event by performing certain tasks. For instance if players team up and destroy certain machinery rather than focus on the enemies that they’ve been told to kill they could trigger an event that brings a powerful Boss monster into play, which of course ups the chance of getting rare and exotic loot. Loot of course is the reason to play Destiny 2. This sequel wastes little time trying to get its players towards the end-game, that post-game content that many say is the real reason for playing an MMO, And that is what Destiny is, that’s what it always has been. I don’t know why people argue otherwise. As well as the story campaign taking maybe a few hours to complete if you dawdle, it really takes no time at all for players to hit the level cap of 20.

But again, many would argue that’s when the “real game” begins. Destiny 2 spells it out even clearer than the first game. This is about acquiring power, power for power’s sake.They even renamed the metric for measuring the power to… Power. That’s how much power matters. Your strength isn’t measured in Light anymore, it’s simply measured in Power, a level determined by the gear that the players have equipped and the effect said gear has on their attack and their defense levels. The more you play, the tougher challenges you face, the greater your chance of uncovering precious loot… a decent variety of guns and helmets and boots that you can load up, strap on, and increase that all-important Power rating. It’s a cycle many fans of role-playing games will be familiar with. You get stronger, so you can fight stronger things, so you can get stronger, so you can fight even stronger things.

Done wrong this can be a horrifyingly dreary slog, but thanks to Destiny’s world-building efforts, and exciting gunplay that throws massive bosses and legions of enemies at you, the grind feels less like a chore and something I legitimately want to take part in. Unlike with the first game I care about the characters, I care about the universe, and consequently I care so much more about the game, I care about getting better guns, better helmets, and fighting tougher bosses. While relatively entertaining to play solo, Destiny 2 truly comes to life once you’ve joined two other players as part of a fireteam. Most elements of the game can be tackled cooperatively, though the co-op specific strikes and night-falls are where the real juicy co-op action’s at, pitting teams against whole armies of alien threats, and housing some of the biggest most challenging encounters available. There’s also PVP combat on offer as part of The Crucible, returning from the first game, which is….

Good. It’s good! It’s good player-versus-player combat. Destiny 2 looks gorgeous of course, like No Man’s Sky but with art direction. The striking visual designs of the aliens from the first game has been brought over and given some tweaks, though I do wish the enemies had a little bit more diversity to them. Personality-wise, it can be difficult to tell the Cabal apart from the Fallen, the Fallen apart from the Vex, the Vex apart from the Taken. While they all boast a strong, unique visual identity, behaviorally and in terms of lore, they all bear strong similarities to each other and highlight Bungie’s long-running problem of crafting original alien cultures.

Bungie’s always been very good at history and lore, but not so good at effectively showcasing their flavorful work in-game where it matters most. Ultimately, after all these years it’s hard not to feel like we’re still fighting variations of the Covenant and the Flood. That said, the allied characters are given SO much more personality this time around, and there are even elements of humor, humor that works. And it’s this affable streak of charisma that has a subtle, but effective, impact on Destiny 2 and makes me want to keep playing it. Even at its grindiest, even at its most repetitive, Destiny 2 still compels me to keep playing. I am fully entrenched in the acquisition-of-power cycle and that thirsty hunt for newer and better weaponry. It’s just a shame that Activision couldn’t keep its stink off of Destiny 2, a game which has fully embraced micro-transactions and even taken elements from the first game, elements that players enjoyed as part of the basic experience, and held them to ransom.

Shaders are by far the biggest example of this ransoming. In the original Destiny they were a great way for players to look unique on the battle field. You could take a shader, apply it to your equipment, change its color and texture, and look utterly fabulous. This time around shaders are one-use consumables that you can only apply to individual pieces of equipment. Also they’re given to players in sets of three, not sets of four, even though the outfits come in four pieces. This is all psychological manipulation of course, designed to get players to buy Bright Engrams. You get one of these every time you level up past level 20, and they contain cosmetic items as well as game-affecting weapon and equipment mods.

And of course, rather than waiting to level up, players are subtly, insidiously encouraged to purchase Silver, with real-world money, and use that to buy further engrams. While not a deal-breaker, it is a sad shame that the money-grubbing and the sleaze couldn’t be left off the table. It stains what is otherwise a fantastic experience. It’s been a while since I’ve played a game so compelling that I’m thinking about playing it when I’m not playing it. But that’s the situation I’m in with Destiny 2. It’s an addictive damn game, and Bungie has been very good at rewarding players for everything they do. So once again, even at its grindiest, Destiny 2 remains an oddly compelling adventure.

At times in the original Destiny the grind was just too overwhelming. Enemy encounters were inconsistent and unbalanced, certain boss fights were FAR too lengthy, with massive health bars that you chipped away at like you were chopping down a tree with a Swiss Army knife, and you had to go through that routine over and over again, miserable with the knowledge that all your work, all your repetition, all your grind, could lead to some loot that’s absolutely useless. By contrast, the fighting in Destiny 2 is a lot more dynamic. Large-scale marquee battles are fast paced and energetic, not routine mundane slogs anymore, and as for the rewards… ooh-la-la! Which is what I say every time I get one of those spiky Warlock helmets. Actually, I don’t say that. I’m normally too busy doing impressions of Raul Julia from the Street Fighter movie every time my Warlock Stormcaller brings forth the lightning. Destiny 2 is an impressive improvement over the first game, which felt incomplete and in desperate need of some personality.

Destiny 2 shows that Bungie really listened to criticisms and concerns and pulled out all the stops to finally nail this sucker. And this time around I’m ready to stick with it and see it evolve. Despite my feelings towards the first game I’m now on board the Destiny train. And while there’s still plenty of room for improvements, I’ve got to say Bungie put its heart into this one and it definitely shows. It’s just a shame Activision put a bit of its own bloody heart in there as well. Oh I almost forgot to say, the soundtrack is buh-luddy amazing.

As found on Youtube