When it comes to serialized media, be it film, comics or video games, rarely does someone say with conviction that “the sequel was better.” The expectations are always too high. A good sequel not only has to embody the best of its predecessor, but also be new and original enough to stand on its own. Destiny 2’s gameplay premiere event didn’t completely assure me that it would surpass the original game, but it’s off to a great start.
It’s an effort borne from Bungie’s vast experience in creating strong sequels. Much like the games in the original Halo Trilogy, Destiny 2 borrows the most iconic elements of its predecessor, but tries to up the ante. The new game still has the same solid gunplay and excellent controls that defined the original, for instance, but gives more control over their Guardian’s loadout — letting them equip multiple weapons of the same type simultaneously. Fighting through waves of enemies still charges a super move, but now each character type has a new, more powerful attack that spawns an ephemeral sword, shield or staff for high-powered melee attacks.
Somehow, these minor changes to the original Destiny paradigm make the new game feel like a larger epic. The the new super moves made me feel ridiculously powerful, and the strong narrative of the demo missions I played did a better job of making my character feel like the hero than any mission I remember from my time with the original game. On their own, Destiny 2’s gameplay tweaks wouldn’t be enough to warrant a full sequel — but the world they’re wrapped in seem to push the experience beyond the purview of a regular update.
The universe just feels larger. The game’s opening mission, for instance, violates the safety of the original game’s Tower hub area, putting it under attack from a new threat and spreading Destiny’s heroes to the far reaches of the solar system. This sets the sequel’s narrative to unfold across four new planets: Titan, Io, Nessus and a new area on Earth. These new maps feel grand in scale, each with their own personality, architecture and breathtaking vistas. This new, spread out universe has the potential to feel more alive.
And that’s the crux of everything we experienced at Bungie’s Destiny 2 gameplay premiere: potential. The game, its characters and the world it’s building bleeds with it. From the PC-version of the game’s excellent keyboard and mouse control implementation (not to mention the gorgeous, ultra high frame rate graphics) and the improved matchmaking and clan management tools, to the deeper narrative the game’s campaign missions tease — Destiny 2 has the building blocks it needs to surpass the original. All Bungie needs to do is stick the landing.