So, like, the Cabal. The guys who didn’t do much in the first game, I mean. No, not the Vex. The other ones. Oh, me too, I also want more Vex. I know, the sequel should totally have been about the Vex. But it’s about the Cabal, and it is what it is, and maybe we’ll get a Vex expansion instead (Bungie, pls). Anyway, this Cabal boss
Gary Dominus Ghaul trashes the Tower, and starts sucking stuff out of the Traveler, and you lose your space-magics, but then you get them back, and now you have to save the universe. Again.
Without the prissy austerity and esoteric, techno-metaphysical expository pretensions about… whatever Destiny was actually about, the sequel’s narrative is a much more coherent series of plot points that, while perhaps mostly generic and kind of uninteresting from one to the next, manages to conclude with some ingenuity, a convenient (and provocative!) setup for the inevitable sequel-sequel, and an otherwise compelling start to everything else in the game. And besides Cayde-6, retro sci-fi hoverbikes, and its best in show FPS mechanics, “everything else” is, much like its predecessor, the real reason to play Destiny 2.
I’ve clocked almost 80 hours now playing the game, and finished the campaign in the first 10 or so. The other time has been spent hanging out in the Strike playlist, completing side missions and public events, accumulating loots, dancing in inappropriate situations, and trying to finish the raid. And failing. But we got so close (SO CLOSE, YOU GUYS). There’s so much to keep me busy that, even now, I’m finding things for the first time.
Much like Bungie’s, uh, other franchise, Destiny 2 features some astounding, uniquely distinctive environment design, every location a supporting character in the game’s post-utopian conceits, and invested with some drama and intrigue of its own. The vivid colour palette and delirious, idiosyncratic angles of the Vex machine world Nessus make this one my personal favourite, but obviously I do have a thing for the Vex. And with zero concessions to the then obligatory last-gen versions of the first game, the sequel is able to properly realise the opportunity and grandeur of its universe, presenting an extravagant theatre that consistently amazes.
It’s ostensibly a lot more of the same, but Destiny 2 has dumped the pointlessly complicated economy from the first game – bye-bye, resource materials and strange coins and motes of light and and a million types of shards and what even is Ascendent energy anyway, we won’t miss you – and the sometimes incomprehensible “infusion” upgrade system for gear has been much simplified. No matter whether you prefer solo, co-op, or multiplayer content, every activity in the game will dispense tokens that you swap with vendors to boost your reputation, and you get nice things when you level up. Each location now includes an in-game map (with incoming and current public events on it!), and you can fast travel from one destination to another on the same planet without first dropping back to orbit, praise the Traveler. Despite the conspicuous and questionable absence of a new character class, the new sub-classes introduced for the Titan, Warlock, and Hunter provide some innovation and diversity for returning Guardians, and the sub-classes imported from Destiny have been remixed to feel a bit different. It’s accessible, it’s engaging, and it’s got Lindsey’s chicken dance from Arrested Development as an available emote.
It’s also very much a lot more of the same, though, because Destiny 2 is still a relentless grind in which you kill things to get things to kill things to get things to kill things to get things and oh, it’s already midnight and I should go to bed so I can start over in the morning. And it’s got the same things in it too – most of the enemies you’ll encounter are the same enemies you’ve encountered before, with only maybe five or six new types that are more like variations of existing units than something entirely new, and even some of the exotic gear is copy-pasted from its predecessor. The comfort of familiarity is one thing, I suppose, but so is the imminent contempt.