Press Start: 'Destiny 2' is cooperative shooting bliss
There are few games so fun and addicting that I'd be willing to spend literally two-thirds of my weekend playing them, but that's exactly what I did with "Destiny 2" last week.
A few friends and I gathered in my home Friday night and played straight through to early Sunday morning, stopping only for a few hours of sleep and to eat. As I've written about before, playing the original "Destiny" together was a bonding experience for us all, and the sequel is no exception.
"Destiny 2" is a giant step forward for the franchise. The multiplayer is more intimate, the cooperative gameplay modes more enthralling, and the story is actually good. It might not be the quantum leap of progress between the original "Destiny" and its first major expansion, "The Taken King," but "Destiny 2" is the franchise at its best with only some minor annoyances holding it back.
The plot in "Destiny 2" is personal. After main antagonist Ghaul steals everyone's Light, the special element that gives every guardian his or her powers, you play a unique sequence accented by an amazing soundtrack that really nails the severity of the situation. I didn't want to beat the story just because I had to, but because I needed revenge on Ghaul.
Characters that were mere background decoration in "Destiny" are given more life and personality in the sequel, and new lovable characters are introduced (Hawthorne and her trusty falcon, I'm looking at you). Numerous cut-scenes help explain the plot, and a greater quantity of longer missions makes "Destiny 2's" story the franchise's most significant yet.
The game also features side quests and adventures that flesh out the world a bit more and provide a distraction from the main story. There also are some truly jaw-dropping moments in the narrative near its conclusion that I won't spoil here.
"Destiny 2" is only a fraction as much fun solo as it is playing with friends, which is its one major drawback. Everything about the game from missions to competitive multiplayer to clans encourages rounding up some buddies and playing together. Fortunately, I have several friends who already love the game, and I've met several more while playing.
The game's many cooperative modes have been improved, and new ones have been added. It's easier than ever to grab a couple of friends, fly to a planet and join a public event to earn some loot. The ability to trigger heroic public events to earn even better gear makes them all the more enticing.
Strikes, which are longer and more challenging missions than the story provides, return, as do nightfalls, which are amplified strikes. This week's Nightfall featured a countdown timer that could be increased only by killing opponents, adding a new and much welcome layer of difficulty.
A new feature is lost sectors, which are hidden areas on each planet featuring a boss to fight and loot to grab. They're a nice addition to the already large roster of cooperative activities to enjoy.
The ultimate cooperative mode, however, is the raid, which hadn't gone live at the time of this writing. I have faith it will be a challenging experience that will push teams' abilities and coordination to the max.
Competitive multiplayer is my least-favorite part about almost any video game, but I still found myself loving the new Crucible—"Destiny 2's" player-versus-player component.
Instead of the six-versus-six matches of the original "Destiny," the sequel features two teams of four duking it out. The result is more intimate, less chaotic bouts, which I welcome. My buddies and I had a blast being able to communicate relatively easily between the four of us to shut down our opponents.
But it's not just regular crucibles that features four-on-four matches. The highly competitive game mode Trials of Osiris will soon return as the newly dubbed Trials of the Nine. In "Destiny," these were three-versus-three matches. Adding two extra players to the mix could entirely change the mode's feel, but I won't know until the feature goes live this weekend.
"Destiny 2" does a lot to help make the "grind" for better gear more tolerable.
For instance, in the original "Destiny," players had to equip themselves with their best gear when decrypting engrams in hopes of getting more powerful weapons or armor. If players decrypted engrams while wearing low-level stuff, their new gear also would be low, which made the whole process tedious. In "Destiny 2," engrams decrypt the level of the the gear whether a player is wearing it or not.
Another change is player subclasses. They used to take forever to upgrade in "Destiny," but "Destiny 2" makes the process relatively quick and painless. Expect most fans to run multiple characters because of how easy it is to max them out.
One major cosmetic change is shaders, which change the color of armor, ships and other things. In the original "Destiny," shaders could be equipped and swapped out at no cost, but "Destiny 2" made shaders finite.
I like being able to customize my character's appearance, and limited shaders make this more annoying than it needs to be. Several other fans agree. But if "Destiny 2" proves anything, it's that developer Bungie listens and responds to fans. With player feedback, the game will only improve from here.
"Destiny 2" is the franchise at its best. With an engaging story, more cooperative activities and better competitive play, "Destiny" has never felt tighter, more satisfying or more addicting. Streamlined processes simplify some of the game's more nuanced components, making it more user friendly than ever.
Final score: 9.5/10
"Destiny 2" was reviewed on the Xbox One with a retail copy provided by the publisher, Activision.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.