Plugged In

Review: ‘Destiny 2’

destiny2review

As a solo player in a multiplayer world, it can often be difficult to find enjoyment in games that, frankly, weren’t created with me in mind.

The original “Destiny” is one such example of this, an online shared-world shooter that served up its best content to players who teamed together while offering only an uninteresting and brief campaign to those seeking a more solitary experience.

The fact that the game was developed by Bungie — a studio which made its name by creating a shooter franchise, “Halo,” that successfully appealed to both solo players and multiplayer fans, alike — made the shortcomings of “Destiny” all the more glaring. I wasn’t looking for a “Halo” clone, but I was hoping for a game I could enjoy without the need to team up with a bunch of random players.

And that’s exactly what Bungie delivered this time around with “Destiny 2.”“Destiny 2” continues to be a multiplayer-focused affair that reserves much of its best content — like the massive end-game Raids — for squads of high-level players. But the additions of a compelling campaign, plenty of optional side missions and some sizable hidden areas to find and explore give solo players — like myself — reason to keep coming back.

Whether you go it alone or with friends, the campaign is a true highlight.

The story opens with the evil Dominus Ghaul and his minions destroying the Tower — the base of operations for Guardians, like yourself — and stealing the Traveler, the source of the Guardians’ Light powers. You’ll spend the next 10 hours or so trying to regain your powers and hopping from planet to planet in order to locate and reunite the most powerful Guardians to join your battle against Ghaul.

Sure, the story may not break any new ground in its originality, but it’s impeccably told through some powerful cutscenes and stellar voice acting, and provides the perfect motivation to drive you forward against some rather overwhelming odds.

While working your way through the campaign, you will also encounter story-based NPCs who are every bit as developed as the main cast. Not only do these characters help to fill in some plot holes, they also dole out side missions, known as Adventures.

These Adventures are relatively short, story-driven missions that connect to the main plot and help add context to the overall campaign. Completing them earns you favor with their respective NPC, and finishing them all grants you a special reward once you reach the Level 20 experience cap.

In addition to leveling up your Guardian, you will also be increasing their Light level by finding and equipping new gear and weapons. And that brings us to what “Destiny 2” does best — loot.

As you play through “Destiny 2” you’re constantly bombarded with loot, those colorful balls that can be found in treasure chests and on the battlefield after you’ve dispatched enemies. Some loot is common, offering only minimal improvement to your currently equipped armor and weapons. Other loot is extremely rare, those pieces that give you a sense of being truly overpowered. But loot is everywhere you look in “Destiny 2,” and the pursuit of obtaining those hard-to-find pieces is nothing short of addictive.

Much like the campaign, the quest for the best loot serves as motivation to keep pushing forward in “Destiny 2.” Knowing that a powerful rifle or legendary piece of armor could be right around the corner kept me playing even after I was ready to log off for the night.

Finding and equipping loot has a practical purpose, too, as that determines your Guardian’s Light level. Light level is used as an indication of mission difficulty during the campaign and as a gateway to accessing the end-game Raids, where you’ll need a Light level of 265 or higher to start. As someone with no real interest in Raids, increasing my Light level was simply a nice bonus for finding sweet loot.

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original “Destiny,” I remember being impressed by how well it handled as a first-person shooter. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the moment-to-moment action in “Destiny 2” is nothing short of outstanding.

I got an unmistakable “Halo” vibe while battling wave after wave of enemies — again, not surprising considering “Destiny 2” comes from the folks that birthed Master Chief. There’s a satisfying mix of strategy and chaos at play during most encounters. I liked how new enemy types were slowly introduced over the course of the campaign and how various factions of enemies, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, were often thrown at me simultaneously to ramp up the difficulty. Outside of a few frustratingly difficult encounters, “Destiny 2” successfully straddled the line between challenging and overwhelming.

Graphically “Destiny 2” far surpasses its predecessor in terms of quality and variety. Whether it’s the level of detail in the environments or the satisfying visual rewards you get from landing headshots, “Destiny 2” is a sight to behold. The audio is equally impressive with a sweeping score and top-notch voice work.

I began my time with “Destiny 2” with some serious reservations, especially considering how let-down I was with the original. But after spending over 20 hours with “Destiny 2,” I can safely say that Bungie has succeeded in creating a game that caters as much to solo players as it does to those looking for a team-based shooter. I would love to see more single-player content added to the game, but if what I’ve experienced so far is all there is, my time with “Destiny 2” has been well spent.

“Destiny 2”
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One ($59.99)
Rating: T for teen
Score: 8.7/10