Destiny 2 hands-on: sequel opens up world of first-person shooter

The greatest strength of Destiny – a game where even its biggest fans often struggle to explain why they continue playing for thousands of hours – is its core compulsion loop. Wandering around the Moon, shooting aliens in the head, picking up glowing engrams, harvesting helium filaments and completing patrols has proved immensely satisfying in a way that few other titles have managed.

So it’s not surprising that the sequel doubles down on those elements, retooling the entire game to put that shooting-aliens-in-the-head experience front and centre.

Last week, I spent two days playing a near-complete version of Destiny 2, and while I will have to wait until closer to the game’s release to discuss much of what I saw – particularly the game’s story missions, briefly previewed in the open beta earlier this month – the core of Destiny 2 is already there for all to see, in the form of the European Dead Zone (EDZ), the first of four all-new areas in the game.

Right from the off, it’s clear that Destiny 2 is about places first, and the experiences that happen in them branch off from there. Whatever you intend to do in the EDZ, when you first arrive, you are deposited at one of a number of fast-travel points. You can launch into a wide variety of activities by, well, just heading over to them and doing them. There are patrols (randomly generated micro-quests carried over from the previous game), “lost sectors” (small areas filled with enemies and a boss, hiding loot), high-value targets (random tough aliens who appear, run through the area then scarper) and public events (even tougher projects that’ll require several of you to band together to, say, destroy some alien miners or take out a tank), all present in the same basic way they were in the first game’s patrol mode.



A flag heralding an upcoming public event waves in the EDZ. Photograph: Bungie

But you’ll also be starting almost everything else from the ground as well, from story missions and NPC interactions to a whole new type of content, “adventures” – short, voice-acted missions which take place at a tangent to the main story, letting you explore the areas in greater detail and find out more about the characters you meet along the way.

One adventure in the EDZ, for instance, sees you helping Devrim Kay, a stiff-upper-lip sniper who hangs out in an abandoned church, and Suriyah Hawthorne, the resistance leader of new social space the Farm, by placing a radio beacon on top of a hill just outside town. In a previous game, it would have been a full story mission, with its set-piece fights, banter between characters and substantial rewards for completion, but here it sits aside from the critical path for the player to attempt or not as they see fit.

As the pieces slot together, it becomes obvious what’s happened: Destiny is now an open-world game. Series like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed long ago realised there’s no point in building a sprawling, detailed and fun world and forcing the player to navigate menus to do anything in them. Now Destiny’s cottoned on too.



A lost sector is marked in the EDZ. For the unobservant, they’re also on the in-game map. Photograph: Bungie

There are downsides to the approach, even just in the EDZ itself. For one thing, the area is really very large. That’s great if you’re looking to get lost exploring, but annoying if you want to be on the other side of the map in a hurry. Unlockable fast travel points help a bit, but even then the walking can be uncomfortably far.

Worse, the Sparrow – the hoverbike you could summon in the first game to get around at speed – is now reserved for players who’ve hit the level cap, as an endgame reward. Unless you ambush an enemy with a vehicle, now a more frequent sight than previously, you’ll be walking.

Similarly, if you do just want to do a certain mission or adventure, sometimes it’d be nice to be able to drop straight in and start it, particularly since there’s a slight loading pause when you choose to begin anyway.

But those problems are minor compared to the seamlessness with which you can get straight into the game. Less cruft than ever before is standing between you and shooting aliens in the head, and that’s perfect for Destiny.

  • Destiny 2 is released 6 September for PS4 and Xbox One and 24 October for PC.


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