Friday, November 3, 2017

Destiny 2 PC Review

Destiny 2 is the sequel to Bungie’s 2014 “Shared World Shooter”, Destiny. What the hell is a shared world shooter, you ask? It’s basically Halo meets Diablo. Destiny takes all the little perks you got from pickups in Halo game, like different kinds of grenades, jetpacks, and energy swords, and makes classes, talent trees, and gear out of them. Destiny is a shooter with something for everyone. It has a story-driven campaign, competitive multiplayer, cooperative multiplayer, and open-world exploration. There’s a lot to Destiny 2. I’ve mostly played the Hunter class, I’ve barely touched PVP, and the raid just launched on PC, so I haven’t done that either.

Destiny 2 is all about hitting the reset button on the series. Yes, already. The story revolves around the destruction of the Tower and the imprisonment of the Traveler by Dominus Ghaul, the leader of the Cabal faction, The Red Legion. Everyone’s gear is gone, everyone’s light is stolen, and everyone has to start over from scratch, so it fits in perfectly with what Bungie wanted to do with the game. They wanted to give everyone a fresh start and make big changes to the way a lot of things worked in the game.

Destiny 1’s campaign paled in comparison to Bungie’s Halo games. Destiny 2’s campaign actually has a complete story, memorable characters with good voice acting, large scale battles, and even some vehicles. There’s nothing quite like Halo 2’s Scarab battle, but the tank missions are a big step up from anything in Destiny 1. You’re not just going somewhere and hitting a switch and killing some aliens anymore. Story missions have more varied objectives, bosses, and some pretty cool cutscenes tying it all together. I wouldn’t recommend buying Destiny 2 just for the campaign, but it is pretty good. It feels much more like a big budget FPS campaign than Destiny 1’s.

It’s a shame that you can’t redo the story missions on different difficulties, like in Destiny 1 and Halo, because that was always a lot of fun. The whole Normal, Heroic, Legendary thing is gone, and now, you can only redo story missions in the form of “Meditations”. These Mediations are just weekly quests to redo specific missions for rep rewards. Last week I only got 3, but this week I got 6. I’d like to just be able to do them whenever I want, without starting a new character.

As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock each zone for open-world gameplay. Each zone is full of monsters to kill, treasure chests to loot, and places to explore. Quests and Adventures supplement the main story, explain what the aliens are doing in these places, and give you a bit of backstory on the zones. Patrols are MMORPG style quests that have you doing stuff like, killing a bunch of aliens for specific drops. Public Events are timed events that appear throughout the zone, which will have a boss or waves of enemies that everyone can take part in killing. At the end of a Public Event, a big chest with loot appears for everyone who took part in the event. Each zone also has “Challenges” that have you doing certain tasks, like killing 75 enemies of a certain type, or looting a chest at the end of a cave, for even more rewards. All these activities take place in the same zones the story missions and strikes take place in, so each zone feels like a huge, interconnected, FPS playground.

Destiny 2’s shooting hasn’t changed much from the first game, it’s still a game that's just fun to run around and shoot aliens in. There have been a lot of tweaks to the 3 classes, talent trees, the UI, and gear, though. All 3 classes have had their talent trees redone, and all 3 got a new spec. You can unlock your second and third specs through class quests. I got items to start the quests from Public Events. These class quests are fully voice acted, and really give you a feel for what these specs and your class are all about. The ones I did for my Hunter had me going into a dark forest and hearing Hunter NPCs, like Cayde-6 and Hawthorne, talk about Hunter things. It wasn’t as elaborate as the Artifact Weapon quests in WoW or anything, but they were pretty cool.

The way you upgrade gear has changed a bit. There is still infusion, which lets you feed gear to other gear, to raise its power level, but gear no longer gains talent points to spend, like in Destiny 1. Now, each piece of gear only has a few talents and they’re all unlocked from the start, so they don’t require leveling. One of the new things they added to customize gear is the mods. Mods let you change one talent from maybe better health recovery to shorter grenade cooldown, or change the damage type of a weapon.

Gear vendors have been completely reworked. You used to be able to just buy stuff from NPCs, if you had a certain amount of reputation or tokens in Destiny 1. In Destiny 2, all the vendors have their own reputation, which is not like the old reps, since they’re infinite now. Now, you fill a bar with token and material turn-ins, once you fill the rep bar, you get a bundle with random stuff from the things that NPC has. These bundles always have a piece of gear, money, and maybe some armor shaders or mods. You can’t outright buy stuff anymore, but the new rep system is much better than the usual rep grinds.

The UI got a pretty big upgrade with a much needed map, in-game clan system, and in-game text chat exclusive to the PC version. The map can be pulled up at any time, has icons that tell you where all the different activities are, and lets you fast travel between landing zones. That’s another welcome addition. You can now land in a few different places in each zone, and can fast travel between them without having to go back into orbit. The map even has timers for public events, so you know if they're in progress, or about to start.

Text chat is a welcome addition, but it’s so well hidden, that not many people seem to know it even exists. You have to press T to pull the chat log up, otherwise, all you see it a tiny notification on the bottom right corner of your screen when someone types something. Nothing ever tells you to press T to chat. I only found out about it, because I saw it while changing keybinds. I bet a lot of people are wondering what that little white square thing is. The game is also lacking public chat channels for each zone and clan chat. These are things that are standard in online games, like Diablo, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft. And did I mention that whispers from strangers are turned off by default? You can’t even ask for help from someone right by you if they haven’t changed their settings. They sure have made it hard to communicate and group up in this online multiplayer game!

Destiny’s version of dungeons, the Strikes, have also gotten a big upgrade from the original game’s. Destiny 2’s strikes have much more interesting obstacles and bosses. Destiny 2’s strikes actually test more than your shooting skills, with things like platforming, and bosses with attacks that require you to do more than just take cover and kill adds. There’s definitely still a lot of killing adds and taking cover, but it just feels like they’re not afraid to ask a little more of the players now.

The influence from other sci-fi series in Destiny’s aesthetic is obvious, but it does look cool. A lot of the gear has vaguely Mandalorian and Stormtrooper looks, which I like, and the Cabal look like something straight out of Warhammer 40,000. The graphics are amazing. As usual in Bungie games, the skyboxes are beautiful and full of all sorts of details. I think the environment designs are the real star of the show, though. They just look so natural. It’s not so much that the graphics look realistic, it’s more that the layout looks natural. The way the vegetation has grown over the buildings, the water has eroded the ground, and the placement of puddles, rocks, plants, and trees all just make sense. The attention to detail is pretty remarkable.

The music in Destiny 2 is beautiful. It actually sounds more like a swords and sorcery RPG soundtrack than a sci-fi FPS soundtrack, but it fits incredibly well with the starting over theme of the game. There are still a few faster paced techno tunes, but a lot of it is orchestrated music with violins, horns, and chanting choirs, like something you might expect to hear in Skyrim or Lord of the Rings.

If you like Halo and loot, this game is for you. I love Bungie’s Halo games, WoW, and Diablo, so this game is right up my alley. It really sucks that the in-game chat is so limited, though. I really hope they add in more features, like the ones you find in Blizzard’s games.