Destiny was, and still is, a great game. It was overly ambitious to begin with, and a little pompous and overblown in its sci-fi tropes, but with each expansion pack it evolved into the epic first-person shooter we’d originally hoped for.
We had one slight issue with it, however. The game still favoured multiplayer action and co-operative play over everything else. While it was possible to do plenty solo, it wasn’t as welcoming to those who prefer single-player first-person shooters and, as such, had limited appeal to gamers who couldn’t invest the time and effort into getting to know others.
Destiny 2 sets that straight. Indeed, we finished the campaign playing entirely on our tod and loved every minute of the 10 or so hours of story. We also played all the side missions, dubbed "adventures", along the way - again without help.
Destiny 2 review: Single-player fun
We did take part in public events - timed occurrences at set points on the maps where anybody in the vicinity can help take down a mega boss or prevent a ritual, that sort of thing - but we didn’t feel the need to chat to anyone during or after. And that suited us down to the ground.
Others will love that, like Destiny 1, community play is rewarded - even more so this time around with clans and clan membership being integrated into the game. But it is testament to this sequel that other types of play are also encouraged and catered for.
Destiny 2 is easier to get into too with, we feel, a more balanced learning curve. Even in the Crucible, we don’t feel like we’re getting blasted in the face by a 10-year-old from Wisconsin every 30 seconds. It’s more like every minute now.
We’re jumping ahead of ourselves somewhat though. We’ll come to the Crucible and other modes of play in a bit. The first thing you encounter in Destiny 2 is the campaign, so we’ll start there.
Destiny 2 review: Storytime
For fans of Destiny 1, the beginning of the sequel will come as a bit of a shock. Everything players have collected, levelled or hoarded for the last couple of years means nothing. While characters make the jump between games, nothing else does - at the beginning at least. Even powers have been sapped from your hero.
That’s because Destiny 2 starts with everything that the Guardians - sort-of space cops like the Green Lanterns but with more colourful uniforms - covet is destroyed within a very short cutscene and a couple of opening missions. The Tower - their base in the first game - is destroyed, the Traveler - their source of power - captured. Your guardian, therefore, loses his or her connection to "the light" and has to start again from the ground up.
Thankfully, that doesn’t really take too long. You are very soon super powerful again, to be honest, and with more loot than ever before. And who doesn’t love loot?
Destiny 2 review: All about the loot
Destiny 2 is happy to dish out weapons, armour, credits and the like willy nilly. There are public events that appear on an all-new map of each area in the game, and they, like adventures and story missions, reward you with a plethora of lovely goodies. Then you get plenty of engrams throughout the game, that you can have decrypted for legendary items, shaders and power-ups. In short, you will very soon be swimming in loot. Lovely stuff.
Characters end up capped at level 20, but you can ensure your armour and weapons keep powering up. And that is important this time around as your overall power is used as a mark of how easily you’ll be able to complete quests. Everything in your inventory, just about, goes towards an overall power rating and this can rise dramatically. Even after you've been level 20 for a while.
As we spent a lot of time completing public events and adventures, aside from the main story, we actually powered-up so much that the campaign was a doddle. It was still great fun though and easily the best thing Bungie has done for years.
Destiny 2 review: Unlocking raids and strikes
Eventually you’ll want to complete the campaign though, or get close to completion, even if you’re having great fun on the myriad of other tasks across the four new worlds in the game. That’s because a fair amount of the game, such as strikes, raids, patrols and challenges, are only unlocked when you reach the penultimate chapters of the story.
That’ll be annoying to some, but at least by the time you get there you’ll be experienced enough, both in game and out, to cope with what Destiny 2 then throws at you.
It takes a while to unlock the Crucible too - the player versus player area of the overall gameplay experience. But yet again, it’s not a place you want to visit without a decent armoury anyway.
All Crucible modes this time offer four versus four action, with several various, traditional game styles. New to Destiny 2 specifically is Countdown, where one team has to place explosives and the other disarm them in a time limit, then swap. It’s fun, frantic and better played on the smaller maps Bungie seems to have focused on for PvP this time.
We like the closer feel of Crucible match-ups in Destiny 2, and the shrinking of the amount of players on the battlefield. It doesn’t make us any better at it, but it feels less intimidating.
Destiny 2 review: Power to the people
It’s especially so if you manage to gain your supercharged power quickly. This is something that comes across from Destiny’s DLC and gives you a brief burst of some incredible superpowers. There are three new ones this year too, with Dawnblade giving Warlocks flaming swords that rain down on enemies, Sentinel basically turning Titans into Captain America with a throwable energy shield, and Arcstrider giving Hunters an energy staff.
They are truly spectacular when activated - albeit for a short time. You can also choose a couple of other, older sub-classes for each class of character too.
There is plenty new about Destiny 2, with its open world settings being bigger than ever before and plenty to do even after the story has been long completed. But Bungie has also ensured it feels familiar in gameplay to the first.
Certainly, the enemies haven’t changed much and exhibit similar traits (indeed, many of them have made the leap mostly untouched). But that’s a good thing. It needed to feel like Destiny to sate the appetites of dyed-in-the-wool fans.
And it does so without putting up barriers to newcomers. That should be applauded.
It is one of the games we’ve played most this year already - not just for this review, but because it’s just so much fun. We love the loot, we love the public events and we’re loving the beta version of guide games, which pair less able players with the more hardcore in order to complete a particularly tricky raid.
In short, Bungie has created a Destiny game for everyone. It could even be the studio's best game since Halo 3. And that’s high praise indeed.