We take a look at the grind for gear in Destiny 2. Does it surpass the original? Does it hold a candle to other online titles?
While comparisons are usually frowned upon when it comes to gaming articles, I must make an exception with Destiny 2. The closest experiences I’ve had are Borderlands 2 and World of Warcraft, which I’ll admit is an odd mix. These two names alone are dropping in comment sections everywhere. Like both titles, Destiny 2 relies on a loot grind, and your enjoyment of it rests on whether you salivated or recoiled when you read that fact. Yet despite that grind, the fun in the game comes from the exploration of the mechanics provided. Many players are curious how this MMO-lite works, as the original had some clumsy design flaws.
The main campaign in D2 whisks you throughout the Milky Way in typical Bungie fashion. Unlike the first, it provides a lot of lore in-game, and a satisfying main villain for you to focus your hatred towards. It also flies by, taking me somewhere around 15 hours to finish. I dilly-dallied a lot, and even replayed many of the missions to help my friends catch up. With this swiftness comes a breakneck introduction to the grind for gear. You’ll more than likely be at Power Level 200 by the end of the campaign, and 300 seems to be the cap. Power Level is comparable to Item Level in WoW: a sum total of how “strong” your gear is. You’ll also have a few Legendary and Exotic pieces under your belt, each with their own modifiers.
These rarer items serve as the one major tarnish in the quest for better gear. Though many tout special effects or powers, hardly any will change your experience. They’ll boost your Power Level, but most of them give very minute perks. Quite a few lend accuracy bonuses, or instant magazine reloads when hit in a certain way. This is the extension of a larger problem. Destiny 2 struggles to let players customize their playstyle, even with its classes.
Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks each have three special subclasses. Each has their own grenade, melee attack, “Class ability,” and Super. Yet in the end, they come down to one playstyle: shooting things. Sure, my Warlock Super is different from my friend’s Hunter Super. I can throw a large Nova Bomb to decimate everything in the area; he can pull out an electric staff and go to town on our foes. But when those are on cooldown, we both stand side-by-side and aim down our sights. We wait for our Grenades to recharge so that we can feel different once again.
Destiny 2 is at its best when it deviates from its own norm, and gives you a tool to change your playstyle. In fact, the funnest moments I’ve had stem from the Dawnblade subclass of Warlock. One “attunement,” or skill tree, within the subclass gives perks when I kill enemies midair. Fall from twenty feet and snipe some Vex on my way down? Nice, my Grenade is now halfway recharged. With such a small reward, a completely new playstyle has its own viable incentives. I find myself soaring and Gliding through the air, picking off random enemies like some sun god. When that’s all over, I use my Super to sprout fiery wings and don a sword of sunlight. It’s insane.
Likewise, Exotics work best when they add to this unique playstyle. Once again, Dawnblade provides a unique example. Early on, I found a piece of Exotic Chest Armor that allowed me to float mid-air when I aimed down my sights. This lets me secure those airy kills I so desired, feeding back into this cool gameplay loop. It also provides an awesome cosmetic effect while doing so (I gain fire wings again). Yes, I’m a sitting duck for oncoming bullets, and have no cover whatsoever. But it’s fun, and is an exhilarating break from the norm: shooting things on the ground.
Destiny 2 is at its best when it deviates from its own norm, and gives you a tool to change your playstyle.
In Destiny 2‘s campaign, you’re introduced to subclasses, loot grinds, and weapon modifiers. It all seems to happen so fast, especially compared to World of Warcraft, where gearing up for a raid can take weeks. Yet this is a ruse to get you to enjoy the grind, and slows down heavily once you hit Level 20. Collecting gear still moves faster than WoW, but much more leisurely than before. It takes patience and nuance: you’ll complete Adventures, Side Quests, and Lost Sectors planetside. Then you’ll experiment with your new items until you find a build you enjoy. The search for loot is much akin to Borderlands 2, especially if you’ve got friends along for the ride.
Before you hit the level cap, D2 gives opportunities to play with Fireteam members and strangers alike. Each of them serve as great ways to begin this loot grind. Public Events dot your map, as enemies plot their devious plans in real time. You and your fellow Guardians can head to the waypoint to join forces, take down some aliens, and grab great gear. Lost Sectors and Adventures also show up, both of which act as a sort of mini-dungeon or sidequest. These unlock as you progress through the story, giving you another excuse to wander through your favorite world.
The solar system feels alive, as Guardians glide and jump in every nook and cranny. Emergent gameplay is abundant in the form of player interaction while exploring. This is unlike the original Destiny, where players waved at each other as they ran to their next mission. In D2, you’re always doing something, whether it’s living a space opera or finding an amazing helmet.
Even without gear that alters your playstyle, those Exotics and Legendaries matter. Power Level is a number, but it’s also a key. Strikes (equal to WoW‘s dungeons) and Nightfall Strikes await after the story. The PvP Crucible is fun for all Guardians, but especially so from Power Level 200 and beyond. Raids begin at Level 260. All are unique, interesting, fun to play, and well worth the gear grind.
Destiny 2 does include an epic quest for loot, should you so desire it. Yet it it flies by in the grand scheme of the game: one week in, and I’m Power Level 250. Most of the items received don’t make a large impact on your playstyle, but those that do will define your entertainment. All in all, yes, Destiny 2 asks you to play various side content over and over until you get the reward you want. But the true reward comes in the game’s mechanics, simply shooting and looting, and the limited ways in which you can customize that style. It will not be everyone’s cup of tea, by any means. Yet for those looking for a wonderful FPS experience with friends that will scratch the itch for a gear-grind, Destiny 2 makes for the perfect comeback story.