Review: Destiny 2 and Curse of Osiris

Destiny 2 Poster Art

The shooter I play, even though I don’t play shooters.

So, my first video game review! And as such, I thought I might start it off with possibly a controversial one. Destiny 2 has been dragged through all sorts of mud since release. Some of this has been deserved, and some maybe not so much. Like any experience, different aspects will impact you differently to other people.

As I have talked about in Blatherings episode 4, Destiny is a game that needs to be played with friends, and I can say that this is why I am still playing Destiny 2 today. It is in fact the only reason I picked up Destiny 2 in the first place. With Christmas sales, I managed to pick up Destiny 2 and the Curse of Osiris expansion for about $50, and I think I can safely say I have happily gotten my moneys worth.

So what is Destiny?

Destiny can be best described as an expensive experiment. I know this will probably sound like a negative, but I don’t mean it to be.  Destiny was envisioned to be what happened when you take a first-person shooter game and make the entire gameworld persistent and accessible always.  Think Halo meets World of Warcraft.  It hadn’t been done, but the potential for a legendary game was already in that sentence.

I saw envisioned, because overall in a lot of ways the mark wasn’t quite hit.  Right now, three and a half years after Destiny’s release, it’s easy to say all the things that have been done better since.  But Destiny was first, and that is always a scary position to be in.

So who can be first?

Bungie, the people behind Marathon (yes, I’m that old) and Halo, broke off with Microsoft and decided to do something new. And everyone wanted it, whatever IT was, because it was being done by Bungie.

Bungie as a company has a well-deserved history for being incredibly innovative. When there was Wolf 3D and Doom on PC, Bungie had the Marathon trilogy on the Mac with deep storylines and even dual wielding weapons. And not just an image of both hands pointing in the same direction like most shooters even today. That in itself would have been a first for the time, but Bungie had independently firing left and right hands as well! I don’t remember this in PC games for another few years.

Marathon Dual Wield
Duel wielding shotguns in Marathon 2

While the Marathon trilogy was my introduction to Bungie, the world as a whole know them as the Halo guys. But even Halo wasn’t originally what people know it as today. Who remembers Halo being revealed by Steve Jobs?

With such a history, and with MMORPG’s taking the world by storm, it’s almost a logical step that Bungie would want to do something like this.  It also makes sense that Activision had faith that Bungie were the developers to pull this off.

Destiny in the news, before it even came out

Years before Destiny came out, it was already front and centre in a number of high profile issues.  Some of these were marketing hype and intended, one in particular was not.  This would be a lawsuit between Activision and Infinity Ward, were details of Destiny and arrangements with Bungie were first revealed to the public.

It was obvious the money being thrown at Bungie to do this, but when news of the ’10 year plan’ came out, consumer hype went into overdrive.

I’m not going to talk about the theories and fan declarations that were going around at the time.  But I will add an excerpt from the document that lays out the entire plan:

Destiny Release Plan
Excerpt from the Activision-Bungie Agreement

Now, people are a tricky thing.  Legal documents are a tricky thing.  Put the two together, and lots of conclusions are drawn.  Now, this agreement has been redrafted before Destiny 2, that much is known.  Road plans and development cycles have shifted with time.

But before Destiny launched no one knew what they were buying, not only from a ‘what’s in the game’ perspective but how they were buying it as well.  The number of people that told me with certainty that Destiny was going to be a one-off purchase of the game and an expansion pass was astounding.  No company can sell 10 years of development for $200 up front and no more.  Even showing them this document they wouldn’t believe Destiny would be multiple games, with multiple purchases.

And then Destiny came out

Like so many others, I picked up Destiny pretty quickly.  I didn’t buy the season pass, because I am not a big shooter fan and I mainly wanted to see what the game was like.

I got it on my PS3, because I still hadn’t bought a PS4 at that time.  I didn’t buy the season pass, because as a general rule I don’t play shooters and didn’t want to spend more than I had too.  I knew that if I enjoyed the game, it would cost me later, but that was future Johns problem.

Turns out I made the right choice.

Thanks to PSNProfiles, I can review my Destiny playing at the time.  In a little over two weeks, between the 11th and 26th of September 2014, I earned 20 of the possible 42 trophies.

Destiny Trophies
Far from an impressive trophy tally

So all was fun for a little while.  About two weeks.  Then the people I was trying to play with decided to stop playing.  We had done what felt like all of the single player stuff, and timing to get together was tricky.  I tried to go back a month later and grind for all of the story elements of the Destiny cards, but that was half-hearted and I quickly gave up.

From all accounts, Destiny’s two expansions The Taken King and Rise of Iron added a lot to the game, but I can’t say one way or another as I never played them.  I lost interest in the game and didn’t even pay attention when Destiny hit the news for whatever reason.

Destiny Classes
Destiny The Collection

Story-wise, it was a strange affair.  You wake up after being dead.  Yep.  Dead.  If that doesn’t set the tone, nothing will 😀

You have a Ghost assigned to you (when I was playing, Peter Dinklage.  I don’t know what the fuss was about).  Ghosts focus the ‘Light’ that brings you back from the dead, act as a guide, and generally makes the sarcastic plot comments you can’t as a silent protagonist.

You then played the game, living the main parts of the story.  The backstory was obtained through earning Grimoire cards and read through the Bungie website or the Destiny app.

I am intentionally not going to describe the story for two reasons.  One – the way Bungie designed the game, people that just wanted to run around and shoot things could do just that.  Two, this is the Destiny 2 review, so yeah 😀

Followed by Destiny 2

Destiny 2 came out late last year.  I could look up the date, but I won’t.  Mainly because at the time, I really didn’t care.  I thought it was all the same game, and didn’t give it a second thought.  There was a lot of talk around the place of ‘Bungie’s latest apologies for’, but as I wasn’t playing I didn’t worry too much.

And then this guy told me he was playing it.

20180421 Destiny 2 Harls The Blade Selfie Emote
Meet Harls. It's usually his fault.

With the grind of the first Destiny, I already knew it was a game best played with a partner in crime.  And with sales happening, I was thinking it would be a cheap way to take up some of the holidays with a mate.

And so I jumped into Destiny again, this time at a place further along than my previous experience.  The first expansion, the Curse of Osiris, was already out, so I was jumping into what I assumed would be the advanced game.

Playing Destiny 2

So the first part of Destiny 2 is the tutorial.  I say tutorial, really you are dropped straight into it with button prompts when required.

Everything was going well back in the last city.  The Guardians had saved everyone from the previous games, nothing can possibly go wrong.  Then, on cue, everything goes wrong.

The Red Legion, led by Ghaul, attacks the last city and hands everyone their collective butts.  The last city falls, Guardians lose their light, and everything looks really bad for everyone.

Luckily though, you have the last Ghost with a touch of light left.  Not enough to go on a rampage, but enough to get you back on your feet.  You then track down a broken piece of the traveller, that luckily has just enough light to give you back some of your Guardian powers, and you begin the fight to take back the last city.

While cliche, I think this was a great introduction to Destiny 2.  It was just enough information to bring new players up to speed on the key points, and a good way to bring all players back to a collective start point.

Some people have vocally had different thoughts on this, but there you go.  It was an introduction that got you into the game quickly, and that was what was needed.

Destiny 2 Story Mode
You may have been a little late for this one

Then, you started travelling from planet to planet helping our now vulnerable guardian comrades and fighting whatever we need to.  This is where we start levelling up our characters and starting that long, long climb to the good loot.

The Level/Loot Grind

Normally in RPG type games, there is a level progression system in place.  Go up a level, earn new skills, increase some stats and so on.

Destiny 2 also has a progression system, but it works very differently.  Technically there is a traditional character level system, but it’s very basic.  When you level up, you get an upgrade point for your skills and a bright engram, which I will talk about later.

The real levelling you need is your Light, which is directly related to your weapons and armour.  In terms of your character level, the only way this really comes into play is some equipment has a level requirement.  That’s it.  It almost makes character creation pointless.

So you get three character races to choose from – Human, Exo, and Awoken.  What do they do for you?  They change your appearance in the game, and you can only tell what race someone is if they take their helmet off.  You can’t even pick what you look like, only your gender which sets the sounds of your grunts and screams as you play.

The three classes though, now they have an impact on the game.  Each class has three subclasses, each tied to an element in the game.  Each subclass also has slightly different player powers and abilities which does have an impact on your gameplay.

Destiny 2 Gunslinger Solar Hunter Subclass
The Hunter Solar Subclass - the Gunslinger

My issue here is it’s almost – almost – pointless in itself.  Just like you can change between the three subclasses of your character on the fly, you could just as easily have changed between the three classes as well as the subclasses.

Now I don’t say this as something I think the game should change.  Having three different characters as three different classes makes sense, as different characters have the different abilities on offer.  But Bungie seems to have a mixed metaphor in terms of design choices.  Each character is unique and contained as an individual experience, except you share all of the glimmer (money), bright and inventory items of your master account between them.

It’s a small niggle though, but a niggle nonetheless.

The real levelling you need is your Light, which is directly related to your weapons and armour.  In terms of your character level, the only way this really comes into play is some equipment has a level requirement.

The higher your light, the more powerful your weapons and armour, and by extension the more powerful you are.  That makes the loot drops the bigger part of the game’s customisation, in a lot of ways.

Destiny 2 Master Rahool
Master Rahool will 'decrypt' your loot drops and let you know what you got

Because the equipment is really the only customisation to the game, that does make Destiny a race to the best gear rather than how to build your character like other games.

Again this is a double-edged sword.  Want the cool looking Iron Banner gear?  Get good at blowing away other players in player vs player combat.  Want the special raid gear that makes future raids easier?  Master the prestige raids and get the bonus.

What you don’t have to do is spend a heap of time throwing points in a skill tree only to find forty hours later you should have done something else.  This makes Destiny accessible to people that just want to jump in and play, but frustratingly close to so much more for others that want more depth to the character creation system.

So what do you do in Destiny 2?

So at its heart, Destiny 2 is a shooter.  So you travel around the solar system shooting various enemies.  There are a few things to keep you interested though.

Public Events

Public events happen all the time and are just what they sound like.  As you explore the planet your on, activities will happen that everyone on the map can join in with, not just the people you may be playing with.

These are great fun, and the best way to grab experience and engrams, especially early on.

And like so many things in Destiny, there are secrets to the public events.  If you do a certain objective depending on the activity, you unlock a Heroic event with tougher enemies, but greater rewards.

Destiny 2 Heroic Event
A Public Event just got Upgraded. Cabal Drilling event? Shoot down the Thresher!

Patrols

Patrols are little mini-missions littered around the planet.  Sometimes you just have to go to a spot and look around, sometimes you just have to shoot everyone you see.

My preferred missions are the salvage missions – a combination of shoot everything and find stuff.

These are unlocked during the story missions maybe halfway through?  But give you something else to do while playing.  For some quick planet tokens and XP, start up a salvage or combat mission on a public event and kill two birds with one stone.  Literally.

Destiny 2 Patrols
Patrol beacons are scattered around the planet, so they are optional

Ikora’s Challenges

These are what Harls and I spent a lot of time doing.  Every day, there are three different challenges on each planet, and most have you collecting resources or killing a certain number of enemies.

These are really straightforward, and reward you with tokens from the planet that you can spend to buy things.

As a lasting way of keeping your interest, especially by yourself, these really aren’t great.  But to waste some time and run around exploring they are a lot of fun, and good time killers while waiting for some other people to jump on.

Destiny 2 Ikoras Challenges
Ikora's Challenges on the right hand side

Ikora’s Meditations / Cayde’s Treasure Chests

I definitely do one of these more than the other, but I need to do some more meditations going forward.

Ikora’s Meditations are replaying some of the missions from the initial single player story.  I think there are more to them than just stories though.  One mission in particular, ‘1AU’, I seem to have triggered two different endings.  So these seem to be twofold in nature.  One, earn currency to buy things from Ikora.  Two, have a chance to replay missions with possibly secret/hidden story elements.  It’s this discovery that makes me want to play more of them.

Destiny 2 Ikora
This weeks Meditation missions

Cayde’s treasure chests are a very different activity.  Each week, Cayde manages to lose a bunch of supply caches on a different planet, and you can buy maps to go and find them.

This leads to exploring the map and looking in all sorts of different areas for paths you would not normally think of looking for.

Apart from being a bit of fun, it also teaches you how to start looking for other secrets scattered throughout Destiny.

Destiny 2 Cayde's Treasure Hunt
An example of Cayde's Treasure Hunt. The caches are marked by the spade symbols.

Strikes / Heroic Strikes / Nightfall / Prestige Nightfall

Until recently, this has probably been my main activity in the game.

Strikes are missions, generally from the single-player game, that have their own version of Ikora’s challenges as well.  The main difference is that these are done for Zavala’s Vanguard faction, so completion can give you engrams and such, but mainly currency to purchase things from Zavala.

Heroic strikes are the same thing but at a higher difficulty rating.  These give you a higher chance of better loot drops.

Destiny 2 Fireteam Travelling
You do not want to do the Nightfall by yourself

The nightfall mission changes each week, and is always the same mission for that week.

Finishing the nightfall gives you the chance to win specific items, such as this week the Arms Dealer strike gives you the chance to win an exotic sparrow or speeder bike.

The prestige nightfall is a little different though.  While it is harder than the normal nightfall, you are actually trying to beat your high score in each one.

You can also make the Prestige Nightfall harder or easier by changing the score multiplier in the game – higher multiplier, harder enemies.  The catch is if your fireteam all dies at the same time, you are booted from the mission.

Destiny 2 Nightfall
Because you will be facing guys like this

For every 20,000 points, you acquire you get a better chance of getting rare and exotic items.  Score over 60,000 and you can get a special emblem that gives you a halo effect to show all players what you have done, as well as more tokens and such in subsequent runs.

The Crucible / Trials of the Nine / Iron Banner

So this is the player vs player events, and what a lot of people concentrate on in Destiny 2.

As this is probably my least favourite activity in gaming, I don’t have much experience with these.  I have tried Competitive and Quickplay Crucible because there is a challenge (milestone) to get you to which rewards you with an engram, but I haven’t done too much since.

You will randomly be dropped into one of three game modes.  Clash is your basic team deathmatch, just shoot the other team as much as possible.  Control has you capturing set locations and trying to control them longer than the other team.  Finally, Supremacy has you collecting gems from the players you kill, highest score wins.

Destiny 2 The Crucible
The Crucible match selection screen

The Leviathan Raid / Eater of Worlds

The big raid.  The one that everything has you working up to.  There are prestige versions, but I am not up to those yet.

What makes it such a big event?  Well, it has some of the hardest enemies in the game coming for you.  It is also a giant puzzle waiting to be explored.  Not just secrets and hidden things, of which there are plenty, but challenges you must work out how to beat.  Just pure gunplay will not help you here.

Apart from wanting to be maxed out to give yourself the best chance, the other big obstacle for the leviathan raid is the numbers.  You really want to be doing these with a minimum of six players, as a lot of the challenges require this many players to work together to get through efficiently.

Destiny 2 Raid Entrance
Just go inside and shoot Emperor Calus. No big deal. You will be fine.
Destiny 2 Calus Throne Room
Oh that's what can happen. That goblet is bigger than one of us.

But when everything works, it works so well.  Making your way through the Emperor’s finest the first time is a harrowing experience, but with your team standing with you a great time.

I can honestly say that making it through the Leviathan raid that first time was an amazing experience.  Now I have finished it a couple more times, and I am more interested in learning the secrets of the Leviathan more than anything else.

Well, except to start doing them as prestige runs 🙂

Destiny 2 Leviathan Complete
I have never been so happy to see a mission complete screen

The Clans

Clans to my understanding have been upgraded a lot from the original Destiny.  All I can tell you is Harls found a clan to play with, and I followed suit.  There was the benefit of getting extra high-level engrams each week as members of the clan completed things like the nightfalls, crucible and leviathans, but it became more.

As I have already said, I don’t multiplayer.  My friends’ list was blocked off for a long time.

Then I joined the Cosmic Voids.  I met a couple of people at first, people that wanted to be a third in a strike or the like to finish off some challenges.  Occasionally I would drop into Harls fireteam and he would already be playing with another clan member.

Then when I finally had time, I got to do my first leviathan raid.  The team knew that I hadn’t done a raid before, and that was fine.  They just talked me through all the different sections and were very patient.

But more than that.  They were fun to listen to and talk with.  Just a diverse group of people talking garbage and enjoying themselves.  It had been years since I had heard this kind of conversation online.

So I started participating a bit more in the clans’ Discord channel and even added a couple of people to my friends’ list.  Now, this might sound like normal behaviour for most but remember I describe my online social habits as hermit-like.

Destiny 2 Clan Finish
Clan Cosmic Void celebrating the raid finish

And that is really what Destiny 2 is all about.  Joining up with people and everyone just having a great time doing what they want to do.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD