“I am a Ghost; more importantly, I’m your Ghost. And you are one of the Traveler’s chosen. You are a Guardian. This is your destiny.” —Ghost
Earlier in November, Activision and Bungie made their RPG-shooter, Destiny 2, free of charge for all players with a Battle.net account. Bungie’s project following Halo, Destiny and Destiny 2 is set in a future where humans began colonising the solar system and underwent nearly seven centuries of technological advancement brought on by the arrival of a mysterious entity known as the Traveller. This period became known as the Golden Age, although it was brought to a halt by the Collapse, which annihilated human colonies. Players take on the role of a Guardian, whose powers come from the Traveller’s Light duty is to save the Traveller and answer the threat of other aliens. In the original Destiny, players deal with the Vex, semi-organic androids. By the events of Destiny 2, the Cabal forces of the Red Legion, lead by Dominus Ghaul, assault the Last City and drain the Traveller of its Light. Players retrieve a shard of the Traveller to restore their Light, then travel to Titan to repel the Hive and rescue Commander Zavala, who reveals that the Cabal have a superweapon, The Almighty, that can incinerate suns. The Red Legion was sent to the Milky Way two years earlier, and Ghaul had overthrown the Cabal Emperor, planning to take control and use the Light to consolidate his rule. The player then makes their way to Nessus to find Cayde-6, who will be instrumental in taking back the Last City. Ikora Rey is on Io, and after all of the key individuals are present, the player is sent to destroy the Almighty. Returning to the Last City, players confront Ghaul and defeat him in battle. Ghaul attempts to manifest as an ethereal being, but the Traveller reawakens and kills Ghaul. This is where my time in Destiny 2 ends; after the campaign, Cabal vessels appear under exiled Emperor Calus’ command, and Destiny 2‘s endgame begins. Like The Division, Destiny 2 is ultimately about collecting awesome gear and constantly levelling up one’s power level, similarly to how one can bring their Gear Score in The Division up to its cap.
The core enjoyment I’ve gotten from playing through Destiny 2 was being able to experience a very Halo-like game on the PC: ever since Bungie decided to shift their focus, the iterations of Halo past Halo 2 never made it to PC. Thus, when it was announced that Destiny 2 would be complimentary on PC, my interest was piqued. The game is a hefty 80 GB to download, and I encountered some installation problems, but once Destiny 2 was set up, I was blown away by the environments. Destiny 2 is visually spectacular: during the first mission where I needed to fight off waves of Red Legion in the Last City, the scenery was stunning, and remained very expansive throughout the game’s outdoors segments. From the forests of Earth to the exotic looking environment in Nessus, Bungie has nailed the environments. There are also many dungeon-like sections, as well, during which players must fight in narrow corridors and chambers deep underground, or in the bowels of a Cabal vessel. Destiny 2 itself is very similar to Halo, with the lore, gunplay and story to match: in particular, the Cabal themselves are familiar, resembling the Brutes of Halo. While there is no Master Chief or Halo Array, there is a Guardian with uncommon powers and a sun-destroying superweapon. The scales of the environments and stakes are similarly high, in typical Bungie fashion. Destiny 2 is, in short, a spiritual successor to Halo on the PC platform, albeit one that encourages replay value through collecting powerful gear rather than attempting to unlock various medals in the multiplayer mode, and overall, it’s a rather enjoyable experience.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The download for Destiny 2 was a massive 80 GB and took over two hours to download. I was very surprised to learn that Destiny 2 was, from November 2 to 18, complimentary: Bungie was intended to promote their Forsaken expansion and as incentive for players to get into Foresaken, made the base game free for a period. Despite how busy things were, I decided that with a Triple-A title available, it would be worthwhile to at least pick the game up and give it a spin.
- My gaming desktop is five and a half years old now, and its age is showing somewhat. However, thanks to maintenance, and the fact that I upgraded the GPU a few years ago, it’s managing to hold its own, running Destiny 2 at a very smooth 60 FPS, and I encountered no difficulty in getting through the game. The first mission was breathtaking, seeing the player fight the hordes of Red Legion Cabal in the city with massive capital ships overhead.
- Unlike the Elites of Halo, who are honourable and build elegant, smooth structures, the Cabal are concerned with conquest and power. These massive aliens resemble the Brutes of Halo and are the main antagonists of Destiny 2, and their constructs are similarly utilitarian in nature, standing in contrast with the interiors of Covenant ships. The first mission ends with the player being stripped of their powers and near-death after Ghaul takes from the Traveller its Light. Staggering through the burning city, the player finds themselves out in the wilderness, with Ghost warning them that without the Light, death is permanent.
- The run through the wilderness with an SMG is set to Journey, an incredible song that captures the desperation and hopelessness of the situation now that the Light has gone from the player. It is rare that a song can evoke such a strong positive feeling in players, and universally, the soundtrack is counted as being one of the best in a video game: Michael Salvatori returns from Halo as one of the composers, and the music so incredibly enhances the atmospherics of Destiny 2 that it is difficult to imagine what the game would be like without it.
- While I was doing my hike at Grassi Lakes a week after picking up Destiny 2, the soundtrack came to my mind as I climbed up ice-covered trails along a frozen waterfall up to the lakes, and then again as I scrambled along a rocky hillside. The scope of the topics covered in this blog may imply its owner is quite inactive, but I spend a fair bit of my time with lifting, martial arts and walking around – hikes are reserved as special events primarily because of the fuel prices it takes to get out to the mountains. I believe in balance, and I exercise with the same frequency that I game.
- There are a great many underground, dungeon-like missions in Destiny 2: the opening and closing missions of the game are Destiny 2 at its finest, and the middle missions are very repetitive. By comparison, The Division‘s missions have enough diversity in their environments so that they are a bit more varied: overall, The Division‘s campaign is more fun, but Destiny 2 has more epic environments and music when the game does come through during its beginning and ending.
- Throughout most of Destiny 2, I ran primarily with a burst-fire rifle for my kinetic weapon: because of the way damage is dealt in Division 2, having an automatic rifle meant burning through ammunition very quickly. Ammunition drops very frequently, but I prefer the precise damage that burst-fire rifles deal against enemies: one or two bursts will drop any enemy provided one’s aim is true, and the weapon’s power level is sufficient.
- After a day of hiking, I returned home to prepare some vegetables ahead of a raclette party, then while waiting for the party to start, pushed further in Destiny 2. The occasional public event adds a bit of spice to the game, and it’s fun to join random other players in blasting the open world bosses that show up. Because I had not the time to do a campaign mission, I ended up doing some public events and a side mission prior to raclette.
- Despite a smaller turn out this time around, it was an excellent evening that saw the enjoyment of fondue, sausage, shrimps, raclette-style cheese-mushrooms-peppers-and-potatoes, all the while listening to hilariously bad music while waiting for the food to cook. Once we finished off most of the food, the party shifted downstairs to a card game. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a raclette, and these events are always fun. For the duration of the party, my worries evaporated, and I ate, drank and relaxed as I’d not done so for quite some time.
- Here, I am on an arcology on Titan: the largest of Saturn’s moons, Titan is presented as an ocean world with large platforms in Destiny 2, a far cry from the methane-filled moon seen in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. However, most of the missions happen indoors, and amidst the platforms and machinery of Titan, the arcology proved an impressive space to move through.
- The Hive are the enemy encountered on Titan: these insect-like beings are similar to the Flood, especially in how they alter their environment to have a very organic composition. In Destiny 2, there are no specific weapons that work more effectively against the different alien species, and the Hive, while numerous, do not fight the same way the Flood do. One of the more interesting aspects of Halo was that fighting the Flood required a very specific loadout, and so, when one encountered both Covenant and Flood, it was a matter of constantly switching weapons to remain effective.
- In reality, Nessus is a centaur (a small rocky body with an unstable orbit between the outer planets) only some fifty-seven kilometres across. Destiny 2‘s portrayal of Nessus is a vibrant world with large, geometric constructs attributed to terraforming. It is here that players must rescue Cayde-6, and from a character perspective, the Nessus missions were among the most fun because of Failsafe, a Golden Age AI that sustained damage and as a result, has split personalities.
- Cycling between a shamelessly cheerful and apathetic personality, Failsafe’s dialogues were very entertaining, bringing to mind GLaDOS of Portal 2. Fighting the Vex here was straightforward for the most part, although I am rather less fond of the missions that involve jumping onto electrified platforms high in the air, where any mistake will involve falling to the surface and necessitate a long ascent back up.
- Upon returning to Earth, players must return into the dark forest and recover a second shard, which returns the Gunslinger ability. Up until now, I’d been running the Arcstrider, which gave access to an electric staff that dealt massive melee damage. As a Gunslinger, I have access to a flaming revolver that dealt up to ten times more damage per shot than any of my other weapons.
- Io is the next destination in the campaign after one retrieves the Gunslinger ability: it is a barren world set under a majestic sky dominated by Jupiter. The real Io is a volcanic moon whose geological activity is a result of tidal forces between Jupiter and its other moons. As a result, the moon has many active volcanoes that can spew sulfur plumes 500 kilometres high. Post terraforming in Destiny 2, Io is more hospitable and is home to several mines.
- Here, I run with an exotic pulse rifle with void properties. This burst-fire weapon proved surprisingly fun to use against the Taken, and on critical kills, could create explosions that damaged or destroyed nearby Taken, as well. Unlike The Division, exotic items in Destiny 2 can be acquired prior to hitting the level cap: I picked up exotic body armour as well as a reward for one of the campaign missions. The approach Destiny 2 takes with exotic items means that as one levels up and acquire more powerful items, the exotics picked up earlier become less viable.
- The European Dead Zone in Destiny 2 has some of the most beautiful landscapes out of anywhere in the game, and originally, I planned to uninstall Destiny 2 once I’d finished the campaign so that I could recoup the 80 GB of disk space that Destiny 2 requires. However, landscapes such as these offer a compelling case to at least go back and finish off some of the adventures that I’d skipped out on – I only completed adventures in order to get new gear and raise my level up to the point where I could continue with the campaign missions, but it would be nice to revisit some of Destiny 2‘s more picturesque locations again.
- Upon returning to the EDZ at level fifteen, Destiny 2‘s campaign really kicks into high gear, and it is this part of the game that truly shines. The mission opens with players being granted a Drake tank that handles similarly to Halo‘s Scorpion MBT, differing in that the Drake has an ordinance launcher as opposed to a coaxial machine gun. It was superbly satisfying to blast enemy infantry and tanks alike in this mission, and the mission distinctly feels like the opening stages of Halo 2‘s Metropolis mission.
- After moving through the tunnels of Earth, players return back into the open, where a Cabal ship is docked. Using the Drake’s main cannons, I blast the shields and couplings, keeping the vessel grounded to end the mission. The next phase is to board the ship and fight one’s way to the bridge to eliminate the ship’s commander, before taking a smaller vessel and make for the Almighty.
- Compared to The Division, Destiny 2‘s menu UI was not quite as intuitive for me, especially when it came to skill and inventory management. Despite this, I managed to get by okay, scrapping old weapons and equipping items that worked with my playstyle. Here, in the bowels of the Cabal ship, I use a marksman rifle to engage distant enemies. The marksman rifles and burst-fire rifles are my preferred weapons of choice, providing enough firepower to deal with enemies at most ranges. There are weapons that use special ammunition, as well, but ammunition scarcity means that equipping these weapons would limit players to one primary weapon should they run out.
- For my part, even if the shotguns and sniper rifles are powerful, I did not tend to equip them. One of the challenges I had in Destiny 2 early on was simply knowing where to go. I recall that in my first mission into the salt mines, I entered the wrong building and tunnels. By this point in the campaign, however, navigation was not of a particular concern: using the Ghost and the waypoints provided was sufficient to get through most places without becoming lost.
- The heavy weapons of Destiny 2 use a special kind of ammunition and can deal massive damage against bosses. While comparatively rarer to come by, special ammunition still is fairly common, and I make extensive use of belt-fed grenade launchers to make short work of groups of Phalanxes (when there are too many of them to focus on shooting the centre of their shields). At one point, I wielded a sword that could defeat any non-boss opponent in one shot. Like the energy sword of Halo, the swords are constrained by ammunition, but they still act as standard melee weapons when depleted.
- The fight on the Almighty was a stunner of a mission: set in the punishing atmosphere around the sun, it’s a gripping mission that sees the player fight their way across the weapon to destabilise it and set it up for destruction, in a mission mirroring Halo‘s The Maw. The vastness of the level is apparent, and when Destiny 2 is at its best, its missions are more memorable than those of The Division‘s.
- While revolvers, known in-game as hand cannons, are incredibly powerful and can one-shot common enemies with a well-placed round to the head (or weak spot), I often find myself fighting hordes of enemies. Curiosity, however, leads me to continue wielding them, and they are quite effective, although for longer range combat, the scout rifles tend to be more effective.
- The last time I played a game involving stopping a superweapon capable of incredible destruction would have been Halo CE: Bungie is fond of their superweapons, and the Almighty is a Cabal weapon that uses magnetic fields to destablises the forces holding a star together, causing gravity to exceed the thermal pressure of a star. The resultant explosion is powerful enough to level an entire star system, and the Cabal are said to have destroyed numerous systems in this way.
- Notably, the Almighty is a weapon the Cabal have constructed with their own technology, standing in contrast with the Covenant, who only aim to use the Halo array. Once players destroy the cooling system on the Almighty, the weapon destablises and destroys itself. The threat of total solar annihilation is gone, and now, players turn their attention to Ghaul, the remaining loose end in Destiny 2.
- Returning to Earth, players fight through the Last City in a bid to stop Ghaul. Once Destiny 2 picks up, its campaign does not hold back in terms of entertainment value, and more so than any other part of the game, save the opening, I was totally engrossed in this final mission, to the point of finishing it in a very short time span. The final mission uses the same song that was heard during the escape from the war beasts in Destiny 2‘s earlier sections, likely meant to signify the beginning of the end and the notion of cycles.
- For folks looking to pick up Destiny 2, I’m not sure whether or not it will be free again; the opportunity to pick up the game on Battle.net ended on November 18. Players looking to get Destiny 2 now will also need to buy the Forsaken expansion, which raises the level cap and brings new items to the table for players to unlock. On the whole, since I got the game for free, I’ve got no complaints about it; it was quite entertaining, although at present, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll have the time to continue playing for new gear the same way I did for The Division, and so, I’ve got no plans to buy the Forsaken expansion.
- The final fight with Ghual is titanic and fun: it’s no different than squaring off against the Zerstörers in Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, in that sure aim and liberal application of the Guardian’s powers will make short work of Ghaul who, for all of his bluster and showboating, is still mortal. With Destiny 2 in the books, the question of what I’m doing now is likely to be raised. First and foremost, I will be writing about The World in Colours now that the ninth episode is out, and then turn my focus to Battlefield V, which I decided to buy.
It has been quite some time since I’ve played a Bungie game on PC, with Halo 2 PC being the last Bungie title I’ve completely experienced the campaign of. Like The Division, having proper gear makes a significant difference in one’s performance, and players will find themselves swapping out gear constantly as they level up. Because Destiny 2 is a shooter at its core, having good weapons make all of the difference: players have access to one kinetic weapon, one energy weapon and one power weapon. This is reminiscent of Halo, where kinetic weapons dealt more damage against unshielded opponents and energy weapons were effective for stripping away shields. Power weapons are excellent for boss fights and dealing with large groups of enemies. For the most part, weapons have manageable recoil, and my go-to weapons were the burst-fire weapons, which handle in a manner not unlike that of the Battle Rifle. Short bursts of fire were more than sufficient for dealing with enemies, and interspersed with the appropriate use of one’s super ability and power weapons, Destiny 2‘s campaign was rather fun. For many players, the real fun begins here: advancing one’s power level by completing end-game activities and acquiring increasingly awesome gear. However, as much as I’ve enjoyed Destiny 2‘s campaign, I believe that my journey ends here for the present; the prospect of spending hours acquiring items is admittedly a daunting one. Having said this, I am very glad that Activision and Bungie did make Destiny 2 free: I never expected to have a chance to go through Bungie’s newest shooter, which is likely the closest I’ll come to playing a contemporary Halo-like game in the PC for the foreseeable future.