Already, Destiny 2 understands its fate, its purpose, its desti… you know

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Enlarge / Our first flight to the planet of Nessus—and the first of many we plan to undertake, now that Destiny 2‘s retail edition has left us with such strong pre-review impressions.

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The first time I reviewed a brand-new Destiny game, I gathered less than a week of impressions. Some online-shooter fans may have needed more time with a game of that caliber and scope to determine whether it was up to snuff. I did not.

After beating Destiny‘s too-short campaign back in 2014, I found myself dissatisfied with the lack of post-campaign content. The worlds felt tiny. The AI wasn’t up to par. The game didn’t deliver any long-term “economic” systems like crafting or trading, and its mix of confusing currencies never paid off. Destiny‘s time-tested, Halo-styled shooting mechanics made a good first impression, but nothing about its characters, missions, or worlds made me want to hang around and keep shooting its and rumors dribbled out of the company’s Bellevue, Washington headquarters to all-but-confirm what the game’s launch state hinted at: major shake-ups and content deletions forced Bungie to stitch together something after so much development time. The end result looked like an overambitious hodgepodge.

Finally, we can tell you about visiting pretty much all of <em>Destiny 2</em>'s star system (at least, for now, before it assumedly expands via paid DLC).
Enlarge / Finally, we can tell you about visiting pretty much all of Destiny 2‘s star system (at least, for now, before it assumedly expands via paid DLC).

This week’s Destiny 2, on the other hand, begins with something profound: a clear sense of self. In other words, Destiny 2 better understands its fate on day one. Its purpose. Its desti… Ahem.

Destiny 2 may never become an MMO-grade adventure full of crafting, trading, or major guild-styled interfaces for masses of people to interact within. It also may never become an exploratory epic full of, say, procedurally generated content or multiplayer space-flight journeys through the dark recesses of a faraway galaxy. And it may never compare to the random-weapon, stylized goofiness of other co-op shooters like the Borderlands series.

The first Destiny hinted at these kinds of comparison points, but the sequel, even after only 15 hours of pre-release play, pushes such loose threads away. Instead, it strolls in with swagger and confidence about its narrow, specific focus: you’re a hero who lost everything. Now you have to build yourself back up to “space hero” status, and you get to do this with a sense of purpose—along with fun, gun-driven combat that feels great whether it’s with friends or strangers.

Pre-review caveats

My 15-hour “pre-review” period took place at an event space near Bungie’s Bellevue, Washington headquarters. In order to simulate the experience of hopping onto live, launch-day servers full of other real-life players, dozens of critics connected to each other’s D2 sessions in a local network environment. If you’re wondering how well Bungie simulated a launch-day network environment, well…

I’m not making this up: the first evening’s testing session was delayed over an hour due to network connectivity issues. After this hitch, the following two days of play went off without any noticeable interruption. In either case, we know better than to predict exactly how the game’s launch connectivity will turn out, which is part of why this is considered a “pre-review.”

Additionally, I only spent 1.5 hours playing the game’s multiplayer “Citadel” modes, and I wasn’t allowed to beat the campaign. Once I’d reached a point that Bungie estimated as the “two-thirds” mark (roughly nine hours in), I was told to ignore any further main-plot missions and instead explore all of the other open content on the game’s four major planets.

I went into the event wondering what I’d get out of a decidedly limited amount of access, but I left eager to write up my experiences. For the most part, I was satisfied and excited about what I played and what appears to be waiting for me when I jump back into the retail version. (Bungie isn’t giving anybody special treatment with early D2 access; when it launches for press, it also launches for everyone else.) I knew after 15 hours what I’d always think about Destiny 1. But I cannot say the same about Destiny 2—and that might be the biggest compliment I can pay it.

Them’s the terms for this “pre-review.” Now, on with the show.

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