Though plagued with problems from launch, Destiny was and is a wildly popular game. It could be frustrating for Guardians to reach that max Light level, but thousands of players would still log in each day to run strikes, compete in the Crucible, and earn the gear necessary to progress their characters. Clearly, Bungie had done something right, even when so much of what Destiny delivered felt wrong for a high-profile, AAA video game.
Those initial missteps, however, only work in Destiny 2's favor, highlighting just how much Bungie has improved with their sophomore effort at blending first-person shooter gameplay with the mechanics more often found in MMORPGs. Destiny 2 only released on consoles this week (the PC edition is out October 24) and already it's better than Destiny 1. Its predecessor may not have set a real high bar, but the ways in which Bungie has improved on Destiny 1 demonstrate that the developers have been paying close attention to players' gripes.
What's most obvious from starting up Destiny 2 is that there's a story here worth telling. Right from the get go, Guardians find the Tower -- a social space which had more or less been home for players in Destiny 1 -- under attack by a new and powerful Cabal faction called the Red Legion. It's the same introductory mission as was featured in Destiny's 2 open beta and it still does a great job of setting up the game's campaign. With the Tower in ruins, the Guardians stripped of all their gear and powers, and the Vanguard leaders scattered throughout the galaxy, Destiny 2 kicks off with some surprisingly high stakes.
Dominus Ghaul, leader of the Red Legion, has come to Earth to steal the Traveler's Light in hopes of giving himself and his armies the very ability that makes Guardians so special -- resurrection. He's a straightforward villain with a clear motivation, striking yet another contrast to Destiny 1's mostly bland villains whose evil plans were never thoroughly explained. Swapping Ghaul in for "the Darkness" gives players a conflict to feel invested in, making it a personal vendetta rather than some all-encompassing fight between the light and the dark.
To wage war again the Red Legion, players' Guardians must seek out new allies and regain their connection to the Light -- something which does happen relatively quick. This fast turnaround does somewhat hurt the narrative, but it's more a function of the game than anything else. After all, it wouldn't be much fun if your Guardian couldn't throw grenades or use their super ability. With the Light returned, Guardians are able to access one of three subclasses: Arcstrider for Hunters, Dawnblade for Warlocks, and Sentinel for Titans. These are basically revamped versions of three of Destiny 1's subclasses and opinions will vary about whether or not the changes are for the better. However, as Guardians progress, their original Destiny subclasses as well as those from The Taken King expansion do become available to unlock.
The new characters from whom players will receive missions and rewards are another great addition, livening up the new destinations with their dialogue and banter with Destiny's more familiar faces. Adding another wrinkle to Destiny 2's world-building, most of these new characters are not themselves Guardians, but regular humans who've managed to survive without any special powers or Light. These characters and their stories help to further expand on what Destiny 1 only ever hinted at, developing the game's world to include elements of a society and culture apart from the Guardians in their Tower. Don't worry, the Vanguard are still around, and even though Cayde-6, Ikora Rey, and Zavala were easily the most developed of Destiny's characters, they are given even more to do and say in Destiny 2.