After smashing through Destiny 2's bombastic opening mission and the rest of its surprisingly lengthy -- and well done -- prologue, we were thrown into the sequel's first free roam map: the European Dead Zone. It was here that for a fair few minutes, things started to feel all too familiar. We were shooting the same enemies, completing the same kinds of objectives, and picking up the same types of loot. We were basically playing the original Destiny, but this time, it was wearing a slightly different skin.
And then, it all began to open up. The European Dead Zone feels far more alive than any open location from the first Destiny. There are public events happening every five minutes or so, and there are enemies to be found in almost every corner. Take the time to explore Earth's old ruins, and it becomes increasingly clear that Bungie's vision for Destiny as a whole is now better realised than it ever has been.
Based on the 15 or so hours that we've put into Destiny 2 thus far, we're of the opinion that this is indeed the bigger and better sequel that many have been hoping for. At this point it's a bit of a cliche to say that Destiny 2 is the game that the original Destiny should have been to begin with, but honestly, that may be an accurate description. In contrast to the state in which its predecessor launched, Destiny 2 absolutely feels like a follow-up from a developer that's learned a lot of important lessons over the last few years.
Indeed, it's the structure of the game that marks the biggest improvement here. Where the first Destiny felt disjointed in its attempt to try and meld open world exploration with co-op activities and a muddled campaign, its successor is a much more cohesive experience in which everything stems from the title's four free roam areas. When you're done poking around these large maps and you're ready for something a little more focused, you just hit up the navigation menu and jump to your next activity, with or without friends.
In many ways, the sequel is streamlined. It takes almost all of the quality of life enhancements that Destiny received over the years and applies them right from the start. The loot system and the overall grind of powering up your Guardian have never been simpler, and thinking back to how the original game launched, Destiny 2 is in a different league.
And rightly so. After three years of tweaking and tinkering with its predecessor, you'd hope Bungie would nail it first time with Destiny 2, and right now, we think that it probably has done. That said, we do have a few concerns at the time of writing.
For one, we're not too keen on all of this new microtransaction stuff. Destiny had microtransactions as well, but you never had to give them a second look unless you wanted to splash some real life cash on customising your Guardian. In Destiny 2, things are undoubtedly a little more shady. If you haven't already heard, you can now spend money on bright engrams, which are essentially loot boxes, and these engrams can contain weapon and armour mods that provide in-game advantages.
Now, we need to note that you're also given a bright engram for free every time that you level up past the game's soft level cap of 20, but that doesn't change the fact that you can hit up the storefront and potentially get your hands on gear that enhances your character. Do you have to do it? Not at all. Is it disheartening to see such a system present in a fully priced retail title that has a season pass? Absolutely.
And then there are the shaders. In Destiny, you collected shaders as loot, and equipping them coloured your guardian's armour in specific ways. Wearing a rare shader was a mark of pride for some, but in Destiny 2, shaders are single-use items that can only be applied to one piece of gear at a time. And guess what? They can be found in bright engrams. Rubbish.
Ultimately, it's a huge shame that the aforementioned issues are present, because outside of all that sh*te, we've had a great time with Destiny 2. Gameplay-wise -- when it comes to shooting aliens in the head -- the release is almost identical to its fantastically tight predecessor, but the actual game that surrounds it is so much better. Heck, this one even has a story -- a reasonably good, coherent story. Unless the endgame grind turns out to be a massive pain the arse, Destiny 2 is looking like a very successful follow-up to one of the PlayStation 4's best shooters.
We've thoroughly enjoyed the time that we've put into Destiny 2 so far, and if all goes to plan, we'll have a full review for you in the near future. But what are your thoughts on Bungie's latest? Brag about how many evil aliens you've blown away in the comments section below.