Being a completely new player to Destiny 2 in general I was very interested to try jumping into “New Light” – the recently minted free to play version of Bungie’s shoot’n’loot game. The game starts you off playing through the Cosmodrome again in what seems like close to a 1:1 version of the opening mission from the original Destiny (which I did play). This lets you set up your starting character quickly and also gets you acquainted with the basics while (I’m guessing here) avoiding any need for an expansive narrative… something that was a bit of a negative in the original game.
After that you are deposited into the game’s hub area and prompted to visit characters dotted around the area for tutorials and an introductory quest to get you up to speed on key aspects of play. It’s interesting how this is set up – the game artificially boosts your character to a high enough level in the beginning to have access to most of the content and there isn’t anything to stop you from jumping in and mixing it up with Destiny veterans. It’s a nice touch. Any areas, quests, missions, etc that are tied to paid DLC (Forsaken and Shadowkeep) are clearly labelled too.
But where’s the campaign? Turns out that’s hidden away with one of the characters (Amanda Holliday, in the hanger) and could be entirely missed as the game doesn’t clearly communicate what this actually is as they are labelled “Legacy Content”. For players wanting to dive into that part of the game first it may be frustrating to find that you’ve been distracted by the other opening tutorials and side quests before reaching this. The original campaign (The Red War) has a great opening that upends the first game’s story leaving you and key characters in much more vulnerable position. New players to the series are still going to spend time wondering “Who? What? Where?” with the setting and characters but the game thankfully avoids the overly ambitious plot exposition of the original game and it feels far easier to ride with the story flow this time around. Still much more to play through though to see how it all ends up.
One thing I’ve not been unhappy about in the past is how the shooting feels in Bungie’s games and Destiny 2 still holds that high standard. Guns are usually big, loud and the impact they have on enemies is immediate. There looks to be a generous amount of aim assist in there too which makes it easier for everyone to pull off some mean head shots and grenade throws. The variety of weapons you come across with their own perks and quirks feel great in action and it’s easy to become attached to guns that fit your play style. I’ve been playing the Titan class so far (there’s also the Hunter and Warlock) and finding it a nice fit right now with its focus on guns and melee. And since the classes are now fully upgraded out of the box you can try out the subclasses to see what works for you.
The MMO-like aspects of Destiny are still present and whether you are playing solo or with friends it’s still easy to run into other squads playing their own games. Being able to join in and assist them in defending a location or taking down a boss is rewarding both in gaining loot and also in adding some random elements to maps that you are going to be visiting often. It’s a neat seeing other players going about their own tasks on planets even while you’re on campaign missions. For players keen on the grind there are plenty of avenues to earn more loot. It’s very easy to get caught up in one area shooting away and building up your character.
Visually the game is spot on with some striking environments. You can still see that Halo ancestry in there with the alien architecture and the expansive sci-fi vistas but there’s an impressive variety which might be due to the amount of content here but it’s helped the campaign so far with far less retreading on areas. Even when a couple of missions are on the same map the path traveled is different enough to make it feel new. I don’t know if there’s much difference in the size of the maps but the variety really does a great job of making them feel bigger. The soundtrack is suitably epic with a lot of great tunes that really do set the perfect tone for the game. At times when the music stops I do really miss it. Bungie’s own Destiny 2 music playlist can be found here on YouTube to listen for yourself. It runs for over two hours so they’ve certainly not cut corners on that front.
There are a couple of gripes so far. The load screens continue to be a bugbear and can sometimes drag on for way longer than you might like. This is not a game you can load quickly for a blast. There’s also been a few bugs in my play so far where the game has crashed – if you’re in the middle of a quest, mission, etc means you have to start over. I do worry though that with the campaign shoved to the side like it is will result in that aspect of the game being neglected when it could be what brings players (like me) back. The difficulty of the campaign also seems a little low as well. Maybe it wasn’t balanced enough to factor in everyone’s new boosted characters?
So far though this does feel like an improved game over Destiny and I’m enjoying the campaign a lot. If this is what the first game was to be I think much of my disappointment back then could have been curtailed. Getting access to a free campaign like this is something I really can’t complain about it one bit. I’ve yet to dive too deeply into multiplayer but if the (now) boosted characters mean getting to end game content from the start then it’s also a great sight better as I gave up on the grind. Rookie players who jump into PvP may find they receive a fair few thumpings from experienced players before they get the hang of it. I’ll probably end up sticking with PvE for the time being judging from my early experience!
Will it be for everyone? It might depend on what you are expecting to get from Destiny 2 but in the very least you can download it for free and see for yourself and for what you receive that’s already a great deal.