Hands on with Destiny 2

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited out to Bungie to play Destiny 2. It was two days filled with playing the Campaign, battling it out in Crucible (PvP), partnering up in co-op Strikes, and discovering new and exciting things to do on each of the destinations in the game. In essence I was able to play the finalized game that will be shipping to stores on September 6th, but Bungie didn?t allow the press to finish the Campaign. They were reticent to say exactly how far I was from the ending, but if I had to guess I was probably two or three missions away from opening up the post-game content. It?s obvious they are holding some surprises close to their chests and don?t want details of the last encounters or the game?s ending to leak out ahead of the release. I can?t say I blame them, especially if something crazy and epic happens ? it would be hard to contain the excitement.

Although I was able to spend extensive time playing Destiny 2, many of the details and specifics will have to wait until the game releases. Bungie wants the players and loyal fans to have their own sense of discovery and rightfully don?t want all of the surprises spoiled ahead of time. For that reason, the gaming press has been instructed to only touch on specific aspects of the game, and really only dive into detail on one location: the European Dead Zone (EDZ). This is the first location you?ll encounter after the game?s dramatic opening stage, where you must survive the Tower?s destruction by the Red Legion, a faction of the Cabal focused on capturing The Traveler and using its Light to conquer the galaxy. Fans have already played the first level in the public beta, so I?ll get right to the new stuff!

Welcome to the EDZ

After your Guardian and Ghost have been stripped of their Light and kicked off a ship to their presumed deaths, you?ll wake up as a very different person. I?m not allowed to elaborate on the Campaign?s story, but suffice to say that you?ll slowly make your way through various areas and eventually reach The Farm, a social space where you?ll eventually be able to turn in engrams, purchase weapons and armor, and talk to various NPCs.

Once you?ve completed a few missions, and regained some of your powers, you?ll be able to explore the EDZ to your heart?s content. One of the first people you?ll meet is Devrim Kay, a sniper who is defending an abandoned church from the Fallen in a small town. He?ll give you the lowdown on the area and later on will assign Adventures to complete. These will be placed on your Destination Map, similar to how missions were put on the map in the original game. Each one will have a suggested Power Level that your Guardian should be at to successfully complete. Once you?ve completed some of them, more will be doled out. These Adventures are fully voiced missions that can take a decent amount of time to complete, and they are varied in nature.

Unlike the first game, you are free to explore the world as you see fit almost immediately. If you recall, to progress in Destiny you?d have to fly up to space and select which mission you?d want to play from the map and then fly back down to the planet so the mission could begin. Here you?re free to simply wander around the environment at your leisure. If you want to take on an Adventure, simply walk up to the special icon in the world and begin! This small tweak from the original game makes the worlds seem way more cohesive and natural. Plus the annoying load times have been shortened or eliminated altogether, which is a massive improvement.

Environment & Music Impressions

Speaking of improvements, I must mention how exquisite the game looks and sounds. Obviously if you had a chance to play the beta you?ll have noticed some of the enhancements, but really the game has seen a complete overhaul from top to bottom. Each enemy model has been revamped, both in the way they look and in their animations. I freaked out the first time I saw the Vandals run around on all fours like a wolf! Headshots deliver new animated sequences as well, with certain Fallen enemies? spirits appearing to float above their dead bodies and worms coming out of Hive adversaries when you melee them in the face.

We were playing on PlayStation 4 Pro systems at the event, and it?s obvious the game is taking full advantage of the extra horsepower. The visuals are crisp and the lighting is simply gorgeous. There are lens flares and lighting effects all over the place, which really adds to the beauty of the game. As always, the skyboxes are fantastic to look at and I found myself slowly looking around the environment on more than one occasion, despite the time crunch.

As for the new areas to explore, again I can really only comment on the EDZ, which of course is on Earth. When compared to the original game, Destiny 2?s worlds are so much better realized. They are full of areas to explore and little nooks and crannies to check out. The opening area of the EDZ is a small town that is in shambles. The European buildings have holes in rooftops and some walls have collapsed. Vines and other plant life have begun overtaking sections of the abandoned town, and in many ways the area reminded me of something straight out of The Last of Us. It also seems like the planets might be a bit bigger than what we saw in the original, but I?m not 100% certain of that since I had limited time and wanted to get through as much of the Campaign as possible. Suffice to say, the EDZ is a beautiful area, with sprawling forests, abandoned buildings, and caves to discover. Given that the area is still on Earth I was worried it might be too similar to Old Russia from the first game, but luckily the area looks very different and feels fresh.

Bungie has always featured fantastic music in its games, and it?s no different this go-round. In fact, I?d say Destiny 2 is their best soundtrack to date. The way the score masterfully transitions from a tranquil, almost fantastical melody to a fast-paced ?shit?s really about to go down? frenetic beat is astonishing. It?s obvious the team worked tirelessly to match the audio perfectly to the mood on-screen and it works amazingly well. I never thought they could top the music from prior installments, but here I am in awe of the variety of music heard throughout the game, which managed to perfectly set the mood in every instance. The sound design on the weapons is also incredible, with each one sounding unique from the others. You almost feel the impact of the grenades; they?re so loud and booming! The voice acting, as expected, is Bungie at the top of their game.

Lost Sectors

New to Destiny 2 are Lost Sectors, which are basically small additional quests you can take on. Spread throughout the environment are icons that will be painted or etched into the landscape. If you come across one of these, that means you?re close to a Lost Sector, so you?ll want to pay close attention to your surroundings. These usually are located in a nearby cave or inside a building. From here you?ll explore an uncharted place on the map and eventually make your way to an enemy boss.

They usually aren?t anything too exotic – usually a more powerful Captain or something along those lines. If you manage to defeat it, you?ll be rewarded with a special treasure chest that can give you some nice gear and Glimmer. Speaking of Glimmer, there doesn?t appear to be a limit this time around ? at one point I had around 85,000. You?ll be spending it on a lot of stuff in Destiny 2, none of which I?m allowed to write about?yet.

Destination Map

When Lost Sectors were first announced, I was really excited that Destiny 2 would have more exploration aspects to it. However, I can?t help but be slightly disappointed that these Lost Sectors are already marked on your Destination Map from the start. Granted, they don?t specifically show the entrances to these areas, but they are usually within a few paces of the icon on the map, which is unfortunate as I think it would have been more fun to discover these on my own. As you complete the Lost Sectors, the icons gray out on the map to show you?ve already done them. It?s unknown at this time if they come back on a weekly basis, or if once they?re done, they?re done.

Also marked on the Destination Map are special regional treasure chests. These icons will show the approximate location of where to find hidden treasure chests. This reminds me slightly of the Golden Chests in the original Destiny, except now the game shows you pretty much where they are. Again, I?m not entirely sure why this had to be so blatantly telegraphed to the player, as it certainly takes some of the fun out of discovering these on your own.

New to Destiny 2 is the ability to pull up the map anytime you like and see where you are in the world. As you discover Landing Zones, they will be placed on the map so you can fast travel to those locations with a press of a button. You can also place a waypoint on specific items on the map, like Adventures and Public Events so you can easily navigate your way to them. It appears that you can?t put a waypoint on empty space or even on treasure chest icons, which seems odd since most games these days allow it.

Public Events

It shouldn?t be a surprise that Public Events are back in Destiny 2. These are specific enemy encounters that will have players fighting waves of aliens. There are different objectives offered up, like defending an area for so long, or killing a boss within a time limit. There are a few new tweaks for the sequel, all of which make Public Events more exciting than ever.

First up, Public Events show up in your Destination Map. That?s right! No more having to use a third party site to try and figure out when or where a Public Event is going to pop. They show up on the map, complete with a countdown showing how long until they begin. Now that you can fast travel to various locations on the map, getting to the Public Events is easier than ever before.

There are different types of Public Events now. If you just start an encounter and defeat it like normal, you?ll still get experience and rewards. However, the really cool addition in Destiny 2 is that each Public Event has a Heroic mode baked in. The thing is, to activate the Heroic Public Event requires you or your team to do something specific to unlock it. The game doesn?t tell you what must be done, so it?s going to be up to the community to figure these secrets out. In our play sessions last week, many of us figured out how to activate a few of these. Some remain a mystery, but we?re sure fans will be eager to share their findings. Rewards for successfully completing a Heroic Public Event are magnified, and you?ll earn a ton of experience for your character as well. Basically Public Events seem more relevant than ever before, and as long as the rewards continue to be good, I think more people will want to take part in them than ever before.

Patrols & Flashpoints

Anyone who has played the original Destiny will be familiar with Patrols and the various activities surrounding the green beacons. As I mentioned earlier, you don?t need to ?patrol? to explore the various worlds. In fact, you won?t actually be able to pick up Patrol missions until you complete a specific story mission in the game, which will unlock that feature. Once you do, they play out pretty much exactly like the first game. You can go around to the beacons, accept the missions (which appear to be exactly the same as before) and collect rewards.

The real change comes with the Flashpoints. At some point in the game a certain someone activates these Flashpoints, which will take place on a different planet every week. Basically that zone will be crazier than normal with more enemy activity. There will be a special quest involved for that area as well. For example, maybe you?ll need to complete a certain number of Public Events to get a reward for that week. This seems like a great way to get the gaming public to check out a specific destination for the week, which increases the amount of participation in those zones. Plus more loot is always good, right?


There?s so much more about Destiny 2 that I?ve experienced, but can?t reveal just yet. Suffice to say there are surprises that fans are going to be overjoyed with, and there are some really cool reveals yet to come. As I mentioned at the start, I haven?t seen the ending missions or the post-game content, which makes September 6 even more exciting. Many story elements were left up in the air and I?m curious to see how things shake out. I?m pumped to see the post-game content and of course learn about the Raid. Suffice to say, Bungie has packed Destiny 2 with plenty of content that should provide players with weeks of enjoyment. While some of the gameplay mechanics and loops will seem familiar to those with hundreds of hours invested in the original Destiny, there are enough tweaks to the formula to keep even the most jaded entertained. It?s going to be a long two weeks until launch!

Disclaimer: Activision provided travel and access to the Destiny 2 Preview Event.