While it was clearly designed to be played with other people, the original Destiny worked just as well as a single-player game. In some ways better. But can the same can be said for Destiny 2 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)? What follows is my assessment of Destiny 2 for people who don’t play well with others.
For those who didn’t play the original,
Destiny 2 is a sci-fi first-person shooter that incorporates elements of role-playing games. During combat, it feels most akin to such shooters as Titanfall 2 and Wolfenstein: The New Order in that its battlefields are made of open sections connected by linear pathways, and you’re armed with such sci-fi accoutrements as rechargeable shields and jet packs. All of which is augmented by some fairly typical action-RPG elements, including an experienced-based progression system, rechargeable special attacks, semi-hidden crates of loot, and enemies who come back to life to repopulate areas you thought you cleared out twenty minutes ago.
What made the original Destiny so much fun — whether you played it on your own or with other people — was that it paired rock solid controls with cool environments, an intriguing hard sci-fi/space opera story that included elements of fantasy (think Star Wars meets Corey J. White’s Killing Gravity), and, most importantly, harrowing firefights that took advantage of the intuitive controls, interesting locales, and clever mix of tropes.
Not surprisingly, Destiny 2 also has all of these elements as well. But it also, unfortunately, has most of the original’s problems as well.
Because Destiny 2 and its predecessor were designed to be played with other people, the world is open to everyone. As you’re running around a battlefield, you’ll undoubtedly see lots of other players as well, players who can jump into the join you in your adventure whether you want them to or not. You can’t even restrict access to just your friends.
Having a constantly connected world…
also means that you can’t pause the game, nor does this have any difficulty options for people who’d like more or less of a challenge. It also means you can’t play if your Internet connection goes down, or the servers are taken offline for maintenance. It may also mean that, in a few years, when you sit down to play the entire Destiny saga in a row, you won’t be able to because the servers for the earlier games won’t be online anymore.
The irony being that Destiny 2, like its predecessor, actually works better as a single-player game. And not just because people refer to you as The Guardian, the lone savior of humanity. No, it’s more because — as we’ve seen in such games as Fallout 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, and others — any game set in a post-apocalyptic world works best when you’re out there on your own, since having other people ruins the stark, foreboding vibe.
Aside from the lack of a true single-player mode, Destiny 2 also doesn’t fix the original’s waypoint issue. Because your on-screen map is two-dimensional, but the game’s world is not, you have to follow the on-screen waypoints. But these waypoints only seem to appear when you’re on the right track; when you’re lost, you need to use a navigational pulse. The problem being that the waypoints generated by the pulse disappear quickly, and using the pulse makes your character lower their weapon, which means you’re vulnerable every time you use the nav pulse.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Destiny 2 also still employ a free form menu navigation system that’s clearly made for mouse and keyboard. Which, admittedly, isn’t impossible to use with a controller, but it is unnecessarily inconvenient.
The menus in Destiny, all versions, also lack an option to turn the music down. You can turn it off, and the music isn’t so loud that it overwhelms the sound effects like it did in the first game, but this still an odd option to omit.
But the oddest issue…
that Destiny 2 carried over from the original is that when you first come upon an enemy, they don’t always notice you right away. Granted, they’re pretty spry once they have, but you can sometimes get the drop on them.
As for what Destiny 2 does do differently from the original, well, it all starts with the story, which is a darker but also more compelling, and really gives your mission more of an imperative. Set after the events of the Rise Of Iron expansion, Destiny 2 begins when some aliens called The Cabal invade Earth and quickly wipe out the last human city. As a Guardian, a defender of Earth and its inhabitants, you have to go on a series of missions that mostly involve killing these jerks, and others, while also finding out why they broke your stuff.
Destiny 2 also adds a new side quest mechanic. Dubbed “Adventures,” these secondary objectives are given out by characters hiding out on the battlefield, ones who can also sell you some cool weapons and armor, though their selection is limited. And while, in many ways, these adventures are just like the side quests in the first game in term of what you do, they’re often more involved than those were.
It also helps that these “Adventures” have to be found through exploration. Unlike in the original, you now have to explore each world so you can find where these quest givers hang out. It also helps that you now have a map, since the worlds are a lot bigger.
Even so, these “Adventures” don’t add so much that Destiny 2 feels like a whole new game. If anything, this is more like Destiny, Too (thank you, thank you…I’ll be here all week). Which is fine, Destiny was a great game, and Destiny 2 is one, uh, too. But if you’re expecting this sequel to add and change that it advances things the way that, say, Mass Effect 2 did — or Gears Of War 2, or Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty, or … — you’ll be disappointed.
But you shouldn’t be.
Because ultimately, like the original, Destiny 2 is a great sci-fi first-person shooter that works well as a single-player experience…assuming you’re willing to put up with the other people running around your game…and the inability to pause when your phone rings…and that you can’t make this harder or easier if you prefer. But while it’s as compelling as the best games in the Halo series and the original Mass Effect trilogy, and a game I’ll easily play multiple times, it’s still not hard to imagine how much better it would be if you could really play it on your own.