Destiny 2 Review in Progress, Part 2: The Story and the Strikes

Destiny 2’s story is actually pretty great. The downside is you aren’t involved in the best parts of it.

Having poured the requisite hours into leveling up my Hunter and finding the best gear I could, I was finally able to blast my way through the main single-player campaign, and I was pleased to find I was invested in the plot. At its core, the story of Destiny 2 is simple. An invading force has taken over your home and threatened your very existence, so you fight your way forward, reuniting one by one with your comrades, destroying the enemy’s super weapon, and liberating your city. What makes the simple story effective is its characters and their interactions. Your voiceless Guardian is a missed opportunity (no one seems perturbed by your lack of name or ability to utter a single word), but the rest of the cast has so much fun banter and melodrama that it makes up for the silliness of a silent protagonist in 2017.

(Yes, I know your Ghost – ably voiced by Nolan North – speaks for you, but come on. Silent protagonists were okay on the NES; in a triple-A game in 2017? I don’t buy it.)

The standout, as you might have guessed, is Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6. He consistently brings levity to the proceedings, and any quest with Cayde as a contact is all the better for it. He even finds a tactical use for chickens in combat, which is not a sentence I thought I would be typing about Destiny 2. All the characters you meet are nuanced, and while Cayde may be a little less so, he makes up for it with his humor.

The biggest problem with the plot, like I alluded to up top, is that the most interesting bits seems to happen far from your Guardian. Dominus Ghaul is a fascinating antagonist, driven not by a generic thirst for power but by something approaching the Cabal equivalent of honor. His periodic conversations with the Speaker, whom he has captured at the beginning of the game, give us a glimpse into Ghaul’s inner workings. He could easily take the Traveler’s Light by force, but he doesn’t want to do that. He simply wants to be seen by it. Acknowledgement is his ultimate goal. I would have liked to see so much more of his struggle, but alas, we only get a handful of scenes to flesh him out. Even with so little coverage, Ghaul is still my favorite character in Destiny 2.

As I mentioned in Part 1, this isn’t a story that will win awards, but it’s effective enough, with strong character and voice work, to carry you through.

I did myself a disservice, holding back from advancing the main story in an effort to make sure I experienced everything available to me in the game. It turns out, advancing the main story is the best way to open up the game world, and until you reach a point very near the end of the single-player campaign, much of the best content is simply unavailable to you. Case in point are the strikes.

Shortly after completing the main questline on Io, you can return to the Farm and unlock the ability to join three-Guardian teams for Strike missions against enemy targets. These are some of the most fun I’ve had yet with Destiny 2.

It makes sense to gate strikes off behind most of the main campaign, since it forces everyone who participates to reach a minimum threshold of advancement. Believe me, you’ll need it. Even with two partners, strikes are challenging. Death brings a lengthy wait time for respawning, unless a teammate can get to you first. With all the bullets and energy beams flying around these arenas, it’s not uncommon to find your party wiped out before revival occurs. The strikes I’ve participated in so far have averaged about 30 minutes in length, which is great for when you want to bite into something a bit more meaty than a standalone Adventure side quest, but aren’t prepared to invest hours in something like the Leviathan Raid.

Strikes feel like both a cooperative endeavor and a friendly competition. You won’t know how well you’re doing in comparison to your team until you’re done (or until you die), but striving for most kills is a nice low-stakes personal goal to set.

I also dove a bit into the Crucible, and I’m proud to report that I did not come in last place. Second-to-last, but I’ll take what I can get. A Quick Match will drop you into a fireteam and set you up in a mode automatically, such as Control or Clash. Clash is your standard deathmatch fare, two teams of four shooting each other until one team scores enough points or time runs out. Control is a bit more strategic, requiring your team to hold various points around the map. Countdown mode gives one team a bomb and tasks them with planting it in the enemy’s territory, while the other team attempts to defuse it. Survival is the mode I’m most dreading, personally, because in it, your entire team shares eight lives per round. Once the lives are used up, you lose. I can see myself being six of those eight lives, and I’m already feeling the shame of failure, though I haven’t attempted Survival mode yet.

I think, with a bit more experience, I’ll be able to force myself into the middle of the pack in the Crucible. Given my lack of FPS credentials, that’s probably the best I can hope for.

One quick correction: I was under the impression you would stop gaining ability points to assign to your subclasses once you reached level 20. I’m happy to report I was mistaken. You still gain experience, and when you “level up,” so to speak, you gain an ability point, even after you’ve reached the level cap. In effect, all leveling up does for you is artificially cordon off the more powerful equipment, to prevent you from becoming a god before you’ve put in the time. I kind of wish there was more to leveling than that, but it’s a small complaint.

I didn’t expect to have so much fun with Destiny 2. I’ve sunk dozens of hours in already, and I still have a ways to go before I’m strong enough to take on the Leviathan Raid. Even with the slow progression up to the required 270+ power level, I’m still having a blast. There’s just so much to do, it’s impossible to get bored. It’s a game about grinding for loot that hides the tedium often found in this genre behind cool modes, great graphics, and compelling characters.

Next time: My final thoughts on Destiny 2 (at least until the expansions come…)