Wednesday, September 13, 2017

My Date with Destiny - A Week with Destiny 2

I will be honest, I have rewritten this a dozen times over. Every time I go back into the game an issue I once thought was a big deal was dealt with or I went about something differently that made me think a small issue was not as dramatic as I thought. That is when I realized, that is the core of what this game is about...

That is Destiny 2. An ever evolving, ever shifting world where something will be irritating one week and enjoyable the next and vice versa.

Not to say there are not some constants.

This game is just fun to play. The shooting in Destiny is what made such an impact, and without a doubt it has been further refined in this installment. The satisfying sound of your weapon when pulling the trigger, the pop of headshots on enemies, and the destruction that follows your super is seamless and innately satisfying.

One constant I found unchanging is the soundtrack, because from start to finish it is a step above previous releases. Bungie has posted the entire soundtrack for free on their official Youtube page [1], and listening track by track you will hear a myriad of powerful, driven tones complimenting somber, hopeless music. Whether you are browsing inventory in the Tower or fighting waves of Fallen in a Public Event, the track backing your actions compliment the game.

The single player experience feels rushed, but is wonderfully put together. From the fall at the Tower to your rise against Ghaul, the missions are more structured and have many raid elements incorporated into their play like slamming orbs, using vehicles (new potential for Destiny), and acts as preparation for end-game content. While I was hoping to delve into the story of the OG fireteam (Cayde, Zavala, Ikora), it still delivers some powerful moments on its own. New characters are entertaining, but the need to have not two, but three "witty" characters proved irritating. The final fight though...very lacking in impact. I will not spoil anything but it gave very little payoff in both the encounter and end result.

Random improvements also help the experience. The Nightfall is much more challenging and enjoyable instead of a simple "you die you're done" rule from the last installment. Loot feels more plentiful and you will get your fair share of exotics through a multitude of events. Armor looks more unique and impactful, and as much as you may hate the shader system in place, it allows for a piece by piece customization. Weapons are automatically upgraded, and the sheer variety offer a multitude of options to lean toward a close quarters, long range, or all around type of Guardian. Strikes are way better with more interesting boss encounters and better overall engagements including giant drills, laser grid navigation, and fighting towering bosses.

The Crucible feels...slower. I have had a more limited time with it but have found most find this to be a good or bad thing depending on your preferred multiplayer experience. It is now 4v4 in lieu of 6v6 and the TTK (time to kill) is drastically increased. This means if you encounter two players and are all alone...likely you will die. It is much more team dependent, and lone wolfing it will likely result in death. The bad habits people have from D1 like running in and spamming fusion grenades or sliding shotguns into a group of three people does not have the tradeoff it once did. Playing together is rewarding, and playing for yourself results in failure. It is a shift from multi-kill centered chaos to celebrating something as simple as a double kill.

The Quickplay tended to shuffle to Supremacy the most, despite Control and Clash being the more preferred experience for Destiny players. Competitive is fun when you get a team that works together but needs a lot of rework in terms of the solo queued player. If a player quits in Competitive, unlike Quickplay, no player can fill in their spot. That means the one guy who says "screw this" and dips out, has left you at a 3v4 disadvantage which is HUGE in this game. A punishment system and a fixed MMR to avoid queuing against clans will be big, but for now there are some games where the odds are stacked against you.

New Crucible maps are interesting, but fail to capture the magic of the original. Everything feels closer together, more tight quartered and claustrophobic, making snipers feel potentially useless. The Crucible rework feels like it was maybe too much of a change, as I found myself preferring the PvE aspect of weekly rewards in lieu of the PvP promise of loot.

The good things outweigh the bad in Destiny 2. Most of the irritating issues are quick fixes like moving menus, adjusting map icons, and a few tweaks here and there for gameplay. They have fixed these in the past and can fix them now too. The game is fun and I find myself pouring hours into it much like the first installment. As you read this the raid is currently underway and I find myself excited to dive in and figure out the latest challenge as past raids always took a week or two to truly overcome.

So far, one week in, I find myself returning to finish a weekly event and level a new character. There is a lot in store in the coming weeks, and I look to it optimistically.

[1] - Youtube - Bungie - Official Destiny 2 Soundtrack -