My most anticipated game of the year is finally out, once more I can become a guardian, fighting off the hordes of enemies that dare to disturb the peace and wreak havoc. I can once again grind for better gear, shake my controller in frustration when I die from what I call ‘bullsh*t’ reasons and smile gleefully at the drop of an exotic engram.

Destiny 2 takes the original formula and expands on it, making a game that’s bigger and better than its predecessor. Set one year after the events of the last expansion for the first game, the Red Legion launch an assault on the Last City with the hopes of draining the light from the guardians and capturing the Traveler. Dominus Ghaul is the military commander responsible for the attack and serves as the campaign’s main antagonist.

The Cabal conquer the city and imprison the Traveler, removing any light from all guardians including yourself. Thus begins the road to recovery and redemption, what I like about the opening scenes is the display of vulnerability from your character and others as they proceed without the light.

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Each mission serves as a key stepping stone in the story, everything is being done for a reason with no wasted scenes or battles. That being said, after the final mission concluded I felt the want for more, like the campaign was taken away too soon for me. Sixteen missions isn’t a low number by any means but I guess that’s the power of a captivating and enthralling story that it will leave you still hungry.

Gameplay wise your facing more or less the same experience as the first game. It’s a relatively fast-paced shooter with jump mechanics and abilities. The weapons feel powerful, jumping and gliding feel invigorating and the abilities just feel epic. A technical success in what a science fiction shooter can be, no matter how you decide to take down your enemies it always feels satisfying, particularly when extinguishing a large group of foes with your super ability and see how many orbs you generate.

The story provides missions across many planets but these aren’t the only way to experience the game, you can freely explore each planet in the game and seek out whatever activity it is you want. Fancy a little challenge with the opportunity of guaranteed loot at the end? Then Lost Sectors are for you, small dungeons in which a horde of enemies including one boss protect their cache, obtain the key by defeating the boss and claim your prize. Perhaps you want a more social experience, then keep an eye out on the map for when the next public event is arriving, head on over to deal with an objective with other players. If you want to up the ante, simply trigger the heroic version of that event for a higher challenge, higher reward trade-off.

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Patrols are available across each world and typically provide one objective out of a possible many, either kill a certain amount of enemies, assassinate a high value target, collect a number of items etc. Adventures are larger than patrols, but smaller than missions and feature several goals to conquer before completion. Aside from all that you could simply just want to seek out the plentiful regional chests or dive into the lore of Destiny by investigating numerous items scattered around.

Strikes are much larger and more challenging dungeon type experiences to jump into, with a boss at the end and a loot chest once its defeated. These are accessible from the director (the fancy word for the universe map) and you must enter the strike playlist to play. The weekly Nightfall takes one of the strikes and provides a greater challenge with modifiers that change each week, the rewards from the Nightfall can vary from the mediocre to the high end gear.

That brings me to one of the most challenging types of missions I have ever encountered in a game, The Leviathan Raid. Very much like the original game, raids are the toughest of the toughest things to do in game. They require a high level of skill, teamwork and perseverance. Six players band together as they seek to acquire glory and awesome weapons and gear. Raids feature numerous puzzles, challenges and bosses to beat, each having their own strategies on how to overcome.

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If facing against players rather than alongside is how you roll then the Crucible offers that for you. Currently there are two playlists to enter, quick-play and competitive, both offering four versus four combat among a variety of game modes and maps. The Crucible is my favourite PVP team based mode I have played in any game. Playing alone is good, with another player is better but with a full fireteam is best. Working together, coming up with and executing sound strategies and learning each map, mode, weapons, abilities and enemies is where it gets great. It can certainly be anyone’s game if you learn all the before-mentioned things, you can then pre-determine what the enemy is going to do next and defeat them. As of writing you currently cannot choose which specific game mode you wish to play, which certainly works against the idea of having an experience you can tailor for yourself.

Before you decide to take a plunge and dive in, it’s important to know about the levelling system and the potential grind ahead of you. Normal level goes from 1-20 meanwhile Power which replaces Light Level goes into the 300’s. Once 260 power is reached, it becomes very difficult to obtain new gear that improves your level, being restricted to the weekly reset milestones or grinding whichever activities possible with the hopes of gaining better exotic items.

The weekly reset milestones offer powerful gear upon completion, these milestones include completing the raid, the nightfall, the flashpoint, earning clan XP and playing crucible games. Not only that, but clan engrams can be earned upon the clan either playing a crucible game, besting the nightfall, conquering the raid or obtaining a 7-win ticket in Trials of the Nine. For the more casual player this may certainly be enough, but for the hardcore these could be completed fast, forcing you to either wait till the next reset or keep grinding other activities.

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Destiny 2’s universe is stunning, every planet has their own unique look with every bit of detail thought of and accounted for. The ocean covered moon Titan has no proper landmass, instead features huge oil rig type structures built on it, you can watch as the huge waves crash against each one. Nessus is a planet that’s under a conversion process by the Vex and contains land mass and weather more akin to a desert, bright, dry and vast.

Breath-taking views are plentiful, every cutscene has been meticulously crafted to show expression and life in the characters and world. Numerous times I was taken aback by just how beautiful the scenery and backdrops are, more importantly in the earlier missions in which destruction was abundant, it really reinforced the idea that your life has been torn apart, everything is falling or crashing down around you.

Bungie have once again put a lot of thought and care into the soundtrack of their game. It’s the M.O. of Bungie to have an emotive, stunning score that’s planted not only into the games cutscenes, but in the background music too. The music would always make me feel more invested in what I was doing. Sound plays an important factor in the gameplay being so satisfying, the noise emitted from each weapon makes you feel like a running and gunning space cowboy, which rocks! The only downside from a sound standpoint for me is the lack of a voice for your character which I feel would have just cemented that connection between myself and my Titan.

STORY: 9/10
VISUALS: 9/10
SOUND: 9.5/10
GAMEPLAY: 8.5/10
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 9/10

A game of the year contender for many reasons. Its wealth of content that provides hours and hours of content to play through, allowing you to experience the game in a number of ways, campaign, crucible, world activities, strikes and raids. The Red War campaign offers an insight into what guardians are without their light and shows the resolve needed to come back from such despair. Raids are one of the most difficult things to complete in any game ever, but are also one of the most rewarding. If you can forgive the end-game grind, this is a must play title this year, fantastic to play on your own or with others.

OVERALL: 9/10 – EXCELLENCE

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

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