Destiny 2 makes a compelling case against sleep (Our review)

It’s a challenge to review a game like Destiny 2 at this point.  After all the predecessor had a shaky start launching with the laughable bloated budget, dodgy voice acting (that we actually loved), and head-scratching storyline that left gamers originally confused about the pomp surrounding the game’s debut.  We conquered black gardens, moon wizards, and 4th dimensional traipsing robots apparently as a Terminator-esque zombie unaware of what the hell was happening.  But incrementally increasing light levels, an unhealthy obsession with loot grinding and gun worship, and Bungie’s trusty tightly designed gameplay kept us playing long into Destiny’s growing pains.  Several DLCs later that introduced raids and coherent storylines convinced us that Bungie was on to something.  Destiny was a stunning game even though it didn’t seem that way at launch.
So now two weeks since the debut of Destiny 2 we feel like it’s unfair to judge it yet.  We fully anticipate Bungie to continue to refine mechanics, add new gameplay through subsequent DLCs, and convincingly make the case that gamers should stick around for the weekly resets for the next several months or couple of years.  Still, with that in mind, we feel comfortable to say that Destiny 2 already is an incredible game with only potential to get better down the road.
Ghaul is an easy guy to hate in Destiny 2
Let’s get this out of the way quickly though, the game isn’t a significant evolution from the last game.  You have the same character classes, same abilities (mostly), same types of guns (for the most part) and same enemy types (disappointingly). Rather it’s a combination of small but significant tweaks that result in a much more appealing game than Destiny was this far into it’s launch.  Destiny 1 got better with age, Destiny 2 seems to learn from D1’s mistakes and is basically standing on its shoulders from the start.  In Destiny 1, you spent precious minutes in loading screens between missions and social spaces as you shifted through the orbit status to select your next destination.  In D2, you skip this step.  In D1, exotic weapons required you to use them for a while to unlock its perks.  In D2, Bungie realized winning the exotic is enough of a test and perks are unlocked from the start.  In D1, end game content required players to find teams through 3rd party sites.  D2 introduces clans with a reward structure and guided games to bring this mechanic into the game.  Most importantly, D2’s story actually makes sense.
That’s right, Destiny 2 packs a pretty good narrative which essentially serves as filler until you get to the endgame content.  The Traveler giant orb remains lifeless hovering over Earth but a galaxy conquering Cabal force known as the Red Legion have appeared to mine the the Traveler’s light turning its leader, Ghaul, into a god.  Ghaul arrives with a bang in the introduction (the same level from the beta several months ago) destroying the safe haven of Earth’s guardians, The Tower, and absorbing the Light for himself removing all special and life saving abilities of the good guys scattering survivors into the recesses of the universe to stay alive.  You barely escape with your life and spend several days wandering Earth looking for help until you eventually find part of the Traveler strong enough to rekindle your life.  From there, you mount a one-person uprising to reestablish the guardian’s stronghold, infiltrate Ghaul’s dominion, and destroy the creature before he blows up your sun before leaving your galaxy behind.  It’s simultaneously crazy and beautiful especially in the later levels as you take on Ghaul on the hull of his star destroying ship dangerously close to the sun.  And this is just the intro to the game.
Much like Destiny 1, Bungie is challenging gamers to stick around for its ambitious additional or endgame content, much of which unlocks after the completion of the main storyline.  Sure, there’s player vs. player (PvP) deathmatch or competitive matches that FPS gamers have loved for decades, but that’s not why we play.  For the record, it’s perfectly capable and rewarding for gamers who seek out those experiences. For us, it’s about the player vs. everything (PvE) world that allows us to team up with 3-6 other gamers to take on many of the game’s additional challenges.  Again, there are 6 strikes at launch that send 3 guardians on a 30 min quest to invade some area and take on some boss.  There are harder (aka Nightfall) strikes that recycle weekly that add additional challenges to a strike with greater rewards.  And, most importantly, there’s a raid.
The new player abilities, especially the Titan’s, is small but another great addition to the proven formula
Raids are, in my opinion, the reason to play Destiny.  These complex experiences pit 6 gamers into a multi-hour gauntlet with a variety of challenges that are unlike anything we’ve ever played.  Raids demand coordinated teams of skilled players to take on some of the most difficult sequences we’ve seen, but the experience of pulling off a successful raid is one of the most satisfying moments you’ll have playing a game.  Destiny 1 started with the infamous Vault of Glass raid (our favorite) and introduced 3 more in later months and years that were all fantastic (yes, even Temple of Crota was good).  Destiny 2 launched with the Leviathan raid that continues the tradition sending gamers to an enormous Cabal ship full of obtuse puzzles and challenging encounters, again, introducing all new mechanics that require gamers to communicate and play exceedingly well to survive.
We’ve said it before but Destiny seems to exist in a different genre than any other game.  We fully expect gaming sites to run articles of upcoming new games and reviews along with weekly or perhaps daily articles about Destiny 2 for some time.  There’s news about games and there’s news about Destiny.  Destiny 1 introduced the shared open world shooter (MMO really) to console players and, so far, no one has been able to compete (sorry The Division).
Nolan North is a bust but Bungie knows they’ve got a good thing with Nathan Fillion who is front and center this time
In an earnings report from Activision in 2015, they announced that players spend an average of 100 hours playing Destiny 1 and that game was considered severely flawed by many gamers, especially at launch.  Destiny 2 seems to have resolved many of the concerns and is offering an extremely promising experience at launch.  We can’t wait to see where Bungie goes next with this one.

What works

It’s arguably the best cooperative shooter experience you can have on a console.  The worlds are pretty, the music is again stunning, and the gameplay is as polished as ever.

What doesn’t work

Not much but we will be among the few that say we miss the Dinkelbot.  Nolan North is overplayed in our opinion and we miss the uniqueness of Peter Dinklage’s voiced Ghost at our side throughout the game.  Maybe one day Bungie will revisit this idea, but we kind of doubt it.
Sunshot, can you please be in every game I play from now on?

Overall: Buy it

For me, it doesn’t get much better than this.  It can be a grind to very casual gamers out there but, let’s be honest, if you’re reading articles on game sites, you’re not a casual gamer.  Now if only I could convince my body to operate on 4 hours of sleep a night so I could level up for the prestige raid.B