The original Destiny was less a video game and more of a social phenomenon.
Despite being given an almost universal review of “meh” by critics, the first game should not have become the worldwide blockbuster franchise that it is today.
Yet it did become a billion dollar franchise, played by millions around the world and loved by both audiences and eventually, those very same critics who doubted it.
Why? While Destiny’s flaws were many its foundations were utterly rock solid. It was an online first-person shooter that was phenomenally satisfying to play both alone and with your friends. It let you customise your character and contained an irresistible hook in the form of an infinite hunt for loot, whether that was more powerful weapons or better-looking equipment.
It wasn’t without its problems. The game’s original plot was confusing, and at times frankly boring. The worlds which you explored didn’t contain enough activities for you to do, and eventually players would find themselves ‘grinding’ (playing activities over and over again) in order to gain the best gear that the game had to offer.
There were glimmers of hope. Destiny’s Strikes and Raids (essentially large plot-driven dungeons with a boss at the end) were superb, and when played with a team of people it elevated the game to another level.
As time went on, it became clear though that Destiny’s strongest asset, above all was its developers, Bungie.
Bungie listened to its community intently and by Destiny’s third major expansion, The Taken King, it felt like an altogether different game, the game that Destiny was always meant to be.
Destiny 2 then had to be even better. It had to show that Bungie had learned from the past and that from this hard reset, it had created something that felt progressive and yet contained those same rock solid foundations.
We’re happy to report that after spending two weeks playing through the game’s entire storyline, numerous strikes and online multiplayer, Destiny 2 is better in almost every conceivable way.
For starters there’s the plot. Destiny 2 sees players both new and old lose everything they had built up in the first game thanks to its new villain, an alien known as Dominus Ghaul.
He and his army, known as the Red Legion, have invaded the last city on Earth and taken the vast alien that stands watch over the city (known only as The Traveller) hostage.
The Traveller is the source of all your abilities as a Guardian, it allows you to be resurrected when you die, it lets you wield magical powers and accomplish superhuman feats. Without it you are nothing.
It is from this daunting position that you are required to start, eventually building up your strength and power until you can finally face Ghaul and prevent him from stealing the Traveller’s power and using it himself.
It’s a fantastic premise and while it’s not exactly original, Bungie have utterly nailed the tone. Learning from the first game’s almost complete inability to poke fun at itself Destiny 2 isn’t just emotionally powerful it’s also enormous fun.
The quality of the writing is superb. Ghaul isn’t just some giant ‘space rhino’, he’s a villain with a fantastic back story which in turn adds real weight to the terrible things he does.
Supporting you are a team of returning characters, all of whom are now given the screen time and the scripts that they deserved. Nathan Fillion’s Cayde-6 steals many of the best lines as a wise-cracking sharpshooting robot, while Lance Reddick’s Commander Zavala has finally been given a dry sense of humour to go with his gloriously overbearing sense of dread.
The reason this matters so much is that for millions of people these are characters that they have interacted with on a weekly basis for the last three years so to see them now so full of life is a wonderful thing.
Then there’s the game world itself. Destiny 2 consists of four huge open-world maps set across four planets and moons within our Solar System. There’s Earth, Nessus, Titan and IO.
Each one contains numerous hidden tunnel networks, caves, half-destroyed buildings, spaceships and alien ruins and all of them look absolutely stunning.
There’s the rusting overgrown beauty of Earth’s European Dead Zone which features an abandoned town and its surrounding countryside to the alien ocean world of Titan which sees you exploring the remains of a vast city that was built on silts. This is truly the stuff of Dan Dare.
Almost as important as the maps themselves are the activities that you can do within them. Once you’d finished the storyline the original Destiny could at times feel like a playground with no purpose. There simply wasn’t enough to do.
Destiny 2 solves this problem and then some. Once you’ve finished the game there are scores of hidden dungeons to explore, scripted Quests to complete with full voice-acting and mini-tasks called Adventures.
Each planet now has a new character that serves as your point of call for all of these activities. They’re not just mindless humans who simply dish out jobs either, they’re wonderfully unique. On Earth you’ll find the ‘Gentleman Sniper’ Devrim Kay who makes his debut as Destiny’s (and Bungie’s) first gay character.
Meanwhile on Nessus you’ll report into Failsafe, an ancient artificial intelligence who after hundreds of years of being marooned on a tiny moon filled with murderous aliens has developed something of a hilarious split personality.
It is these characters, combined with Destiny 2′s almost exhausting amount of playable content that now makes the game truly feel alive.
Finally, underpinning all of this content is Destiny’s online capabilities. You are never alone in Destiny, every world is filled with other human beings. Every single part of the game can be played with someone else, whether that’s a group of friends or just someone you bumped into inside the game itself.
Destiny has always been built around teamwork, and it’s this sense of camaraderie that has helped it garner the enviable reputation of having one of the friendliest online communities of any video game. Sure human’s can still be mean to each other, but with Destiny it’s one of the few places where you can start playing, get stuck and find yourself being helped along by a person you’ve never met.
Some of our best experiences inside Destiny 2 have been when we’ve inadvertently teamed up with complete strangers and overcome a part of the game together.
As a testament to this community Bungie have actually introduced a new feature called ‘Guided Games’ that lets single players be helped along through some of Destiny 2′s most challenging content by teams of players that already know each other and simply want to help.
It’s early days, and there’s every chance it might not work but the fact that Bungie were even able to consider it says a lot about the people who play this game.
Destiny 2 then continues to show it has a cultural reach that extends far beyond the traditional audiences for video games. As a testament to this Destiny fans range from the professional boxer Anthony Joshua to even Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson.
Despite this huge pressure from fans, Destiny 2 stands tall under the weight. Bungie have now hit their stride and the result of this is a game that truly delivers on the ambitious promise that was first made back in 2014.
Who Should Play Destiny 2?
Destiny 2 is everything we’d hoped for and more. If you love fun, action-packed space opera then Destiny 2 is for you. It’s incredibly fun to play, addictive and thanks to the vast range of activities on offer it can be equally enjoyed in either short bursts after work or for hours on end at the weekends.
Who Shouldn’t Play Destiny 2?
If you don’t like first-person shooters then clearly Destiny isn’t going to be something you’ll enjoy. Failing that, we’re struggling to think of another reason why you wouldn’t want to play it. In fact, we can’t.
Destiny 2 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and will be available on PC on 24 October.