Review: Destiny 2 (PS4)
Posted on September 11, 2017
We don’t usually review the latest and greatest games, but Destiny 2 is something I’ve jumped on straight away since its release last week, so I thought I’d fill you in on my thoughts. As the name suggests, it’s a sequel of a game (Destiny) that came out about three years ago, and that history is part of what makes Destiny 2 interesting and worth talking about.
We’ve talked previously about Halo at Game Truck parties, and this is relevant because Destiny was the first game produced by Bungie, the developers of Halo, after they left the franchise. Expectations were high, buoyed by a vigorous marketing campaign that promised that Destiny would change video game culture by bringing a Massive Multiplayer Online experience (like World of Warcraft) to shooters in an expansive world. The company claimed that it would be the biggest new IP in gaming history. Lots of people fell in with these high expectations and ended up being bitterly disappointed, leaving Destiny to be rated as the most disappointing game of 2014.
With Destiny 2 we all seem bit more measured. For those unfamiliar with video games generally, it might look like many other shooters of the Halo pedigree: a first-person perspective, science-fiction world, lots of special effects with lightning and fire, and lots of on-screen action. There is something that commands attention about this franchise though: last Saturday one ten-year old player in the truck told me proudly that he had Destiny 2 at home already and we shared some experiences of the game. So what is it that is so compelling about the Destiny concept?
Well, it’s a good package, for one. In my experience kids tend to be drawn in by the high production values and spectacular trailers of a game like Destiny and sometimes they will be engaged even when the inherent value or playability of the game is somewhat in question. Destiny looks like a very well-made film and this just appeals to kids’ aesthetic sensibilities. (Mine too, a bit, maybe.)
The game also has a strong focus on world-building: the story revolves around a kind of magical technology-endowing planet called the Traveller, which visits humanity and provides all kinds of bounties such as starship technology and the ability for particular individuals (the Guardians who you play in the game) with special abilities, immortality, and a ‘ghost’ companion. Destiny 2 has a much stronger story than the first one, and this story is played out in a well-designed and enjoyable single-player campaign. But this is not the real drawcard of the game.
The most compelling thing about Destiny and its sequel is the opportunity for various kinds of social experience within the game world. Even if you play it as a single player, you will encounter other players in the world that may spontaneously appear and help you with a mission or the many kinds of emergent ‘public events’ that pop up. You might go further and form a ‘fire team’ with your friends to complete the campaign or any of the many other designed experiences such as Strikes, Nightfalls, or Raids. If you’re of a more competitive streak you might like to play in the Crucible, the Player-vs-Player (PvP) component of the game which is reminiscent of traditional competitive multiplayer in games like Call of Duty. Whatever you feel like doing and whatever your preference for multiplayer style (mine is co-operative), there are many ways of playing Destiny with your friends.
This is what is so compelling about games like this. I have a friend who recently moved to New Zealand; another who lives in Brisbane; and many others that I rarely see face-to-face because life is busy for everyone. But we often get together to play Destiny 2 now (instead of Overwatch) while we catch up. The game itself is almost a parallel activity: mostly we are chatting, catching up and checking in on each other: sharing news, telling stories, and just connecting in the ways that friends always have in the parlour, coffee shop, pub or on the phone.
So perhaps surprisingly, the most compelling thing about Destiny (and many games) is not the game itself but the kind of social experience it affords. This is exactly what we see in the Game Truck, every time we have a party, but the experience is offline and face-to-face, whereas Destiny does this as an online-only experience in the game world. For this reason it unfortunately doesn’t work very well in the Truck as we have no online connection, for a number of reasons. But this kind of social experience is what we can do with split screen Minecraft, Sonic Racing, and Trials Fusion. Ultimately, whether online or offline, video games have an exceptional ability to bring people together , whether in the truck or over the internet.
One thing’s for sure: I’ll be playing Destiny 2 with my friends for a while yet.
– Chad Habel