About 90 minutes into my first playthrough of Destiny 2 (I chose the stately titan class, my favorite from last time) it hits me—there's a lot more to do this time out. A LOT more. See, The Tower, basically the last safe space left on Earth after the mysterious and evil Darkness came to play lo those many years ago, has been destroyed by Ghaul, the nefarious leader of the Cabal faction Red Legion, a Mars-based militant species who lumber like rhinos with jetpacks, look a bit like lizard burn victims and whose violent and aggressive upbringings make them super-good at killing fools. Ghaul is bummed that The Traveler (being that mysterious floating orb that brought technological marvels to Earth in the centuries before our story takes place) didn't choose him for gifts of light like immortality, double jumping to insane heights and the ability to punch monsters to death with flaming fists of ferocity; Ghaul, it seems, punches sans-flames or lasers, and he just ain't having it.
And so it goes; he "cages" The Traveler, effectively stripping Destiny's Guardians of their light and forcing some kind of new tech-lite era wherein you are the only Guardian to reclaim the light (from a shard that fell off The Travler at some point) and you've gotta, like, help your friends because they can only jump once like a buncha suckers.
This journey obviously takes one across the solar system, from the wooded hills and fens of the European Dead Zone to the oceans of Jupiter's moon Titan; from the core of a planetoid called Nessus where an unhinged AI holds court to the somehow grassy plains of Io. For some reason, going these places helps you fight Ghaul, and this is all well and good, but let's just cut to the chase and the thing everyone wants to know: Is Destiny 2 the same nonsensical and painfully short experience as its forebear? The short answer is nope, the long answer is that it's still far from perfect.
As stories go, it doesn't get any more elementary than literal light-versus-dark, but Ghaul is evil enough and the idea that The Tower could fall is jarring if, like me, you spent the last three years hanging around there with your buddies decoding engrams and chatting with your bosses, the Vanguard. For the bulk of Destiny 2, however, the main base (and social hub) is known simply as The Farm and is also a literal farm someplace in Europe. Here you'll do all that good stuff from last time, but at least for the first couple missions, you'll do it without your powers. Oh, there're still guns, but double jumps and lightning-powered laser blasts have been lost. Don't fret, though, because you'll be back to that stuff in no time, and we'll actually hand it to developer Bungie for putting the player in such an uncomfortable position. It makes the resurgence of the Guardian abilities that much more exciting. We also learn there is life beyond the last city, and with new pals like a woman named Hawthorne (and her super-cool hawk pal Louis), we're bound to stick it to Ghaul and his posse.
At this point, I've torn through the narrative campaign like a maniac, partly because it's cool and partly because Bungie heard criticisms from Destiny 1 loud and clear and have opted for cramming waaaaaaaaay more story content into the game and I just couldn't put it down. In addition to the main quest line, new mini-quests known as "adventures" dot the landscapes of the game's locations like enticing bread crumbs. Not only do these flesh out the overall lore and fiction of the Destiny universe without those annoying Grimoire cards that forced us to go online to learn about the world, completion heralds new guns and gear, upgrade points and some pretty fun opportunities to hang with your pals blasting fools.
Patrols return as well, though much later in the game than one might imagine, and they're mercifully shorter to complete rather than being a transparent grinding opportunity. Also returning are factions, though rather than shackle one's Guardian to a single organization, we meet them out in the field and get goodies from each and every one of them by leveling up reputation through collected resources and mini-boss battles that result in tokens themed around a particular area. For example, the sniper Devrim Kay runs the European Dead Zone, or EDZ, and completing challenging events often comes with EDZ tokens; give him a few, he'll give you a cool new gun or gear item. This applies in almost all locations and keeps the pacing tight while adding new and different guns to the mix—with very few duplicates. Staggeringly cool!
Bounties are here replaced by "challenges," three daily things to do that include killing a certain number of a certain type of enemy, finding a hidden loot cache or embracing one of your particular subclasses. Speaking of which, the powers assigned to the new subclasses are rad as hell and include a Captain America-esque shield for the titan, a sword that shoots fire for the warlocks and a lightning staff for the hunters. All are a fun addition, and other than earlier sections, you can still embrace the powers you knew and loved from the first Destiny.
As of this moment, the multiplayer Crucible arena still waits, and other than a few strikes, there's still more to come. Considering leaked details of incoming content and DLC, there's actually a whole lot more on the horizon. For now, though, there should be plenty to keep all us Guardians busy. If you even liked the first game a little, this is worth it. If you never played the first game, this is worth it. If flawless shooting mechanics and weird fantasy elements interwoven into a sci-fi opera of ridiculous heights sounds cool, your spaceship has come in. I'll have more thoughts later, too, but, for now, get out there, Guardian.
-We're playing through Destiny 2 on the PS4...just so y'all know