Destiny 2's Campaigns Are the Weakest Links of an Otherwise Redeemed Shooter

Destiny 2 nails most aspects of what makes a good looter shooter but largely neglects its campaigns.

By Woozie, Posted 20 Oct 2019

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep marks a new era for Bungie. With its newfound independence after ceasing collaboration with Activision, it made a good portion of Destiny 2 free and pushed towards a higher degree of complexity in terms of character customization. Prior to that, it had progressively stepped out of the quagmire that was Year 1, steadily forging an addictive loop of rewarding activities during its second year. But, while the latest expansion and its adjacent free update set the stage for a lively future for the looter shooter, Destiny 2’s campaigns remain a low point for the series.

Even without having prior knowledge of Destiny 2 lore, Shadowkeep’s Eris Morn is an intriguing and almost imposing figure, despite her hunched posture. Donning ritualistic robes and speaking with the voice of someone clearly burdened by their experiences, listening to her every word almost creates a chilling effect. The Moon hides terrible secrets and the first moments of Shadowkeep’s campaign create this mysterious atmosphere of fighting an inscrutable yet potentially devastating threat, even if the enemy I’m actively killing is the all too familiar Hive but wearing a coat of crimson paint. The deeper I delve, however, the more it struggles to maintain its momentum and keep me invested.

Destiny 2 Campaigns, Screenshot, PC, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

That’s because, despite a couple of reveals that have the potential to turn things around, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’s campaign doesn’t really try to do anything particularly special or, at least, to properly contextualize the actions you’re performing. Most of it is a marathon of busywork that, no matter how much Eris says is vital towards defeating the inscrutable opponent, continuously fizzles towards its sudden, unsatisfying finale.

Destiny 2’s campaigns are really plagued by two main issues. On one hand, they’re being held hostage by the structure and layout of their locations, with missions often feeling like bounties-before-bounties. On the other, they refuse to include an adequate amount of lore in missions, relegating it to written entries in the Triumphs menu.

Shadowkeep’s campaign does an alright job of introducing the various locations on the Moon, but it overuses a couple of them to the point of exhaustion, despite its rather short length. I walked the path to the Circle of Bones in the Hellmouth one too many times, as Eris tasked me with plunging further and further into its dark depths for whatever trinket was required next. This occurred in the past with DLC like Curse of Osiris and its Vex simulation, as well. Even instanced missions fail to break away from feeling like incidental tasks set in places meant for something else.

Destiny 2 Campaigns, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, PC, Xbox One, PS4 Screenshot

Because of their structure and lack of distinct mechanics, Destiny 2’s campaigns struggle to stand out, and that’s a shame. Visually, Destiny 2 has things nailed down quite well. Each planet has a theme of its own and, even if I thought the Moon’s dourness was a tad bland and overbearing, there’s no mistaking it for any other place. Yet, regardless of how imposing and recognizable its keep’s Mordor-esque tower looks from the outside, the repeated journeys inside never quite manage to reach the same heights. Indeed, every mission in Shadowkeep feels like busywork that’s meant to prepare you for more busywork. On top of that, there’s not much in the sense of pacing, which makes your progress not feel like part of this coordinated push into the unknown.

Destiny 2 was in its best shape, in regards to its campaign, during its Forsaken expansion. I’ll be the first to admit that chasing its seven campaign bosses still had the taste of repeatable world content. But the way in which they were contextualized, as seven tangible, specialized threats, made each encounter feel different, which is rarely the case in Destiny 2’s campaigns.

But even if Destiny 2 would get entirely handcrafted campaign levels, with more varied objectives, that would still only solve half of its problem. While its outright glorious vistas effortlessly burn themselves into one’s memory, the lore behind locations and factions proves elusive. Instead of learning enough as you go, you’ll inevitably have to dip into the Triumphs menu, external wikis and recap YouTube videos to get the full picture behind the game’s characters and events.

Destiny 2 Campaigns, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Screenshot

While missions aren’t devoid of chatter between your Ghost and whichever NPC happens to be relevant to the story, very little of it reveals important details about the lore. For all her knowledge and experience with the Hive, Eris sounded like your average doomsayer-with-a-dash-of-required-hope during Shadowkeep’s campaign. Her voice acting and delivery were all well done but left out what felt like significant chunks of the picture. But let’s take a step back.

At least to someone jumping straight into Destiny 2, Cayde-6’s death likely shines the brightest light on this issue. The character was presented throughout the Red War as this dashing rogue with a sense of humor as sharp as his aim was precise. He was clearly the most charismatic of the three Vanguard leaders, and yet, the moments leading to his death at the start of Forsaken feel terribly forced. The cutscenes show him doing unnecessarily theatrical pirouettes in excess as if they were insistently screaming “Isn’t this guy cool and important, huh?”.

Destiny 2 Campaigns, Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Screenshot

Within the span of one mission, his death happens fairly unceremoniously, leading to a clichéd bit where you’re ever so dramatically listening to his last words. Don’t get me wrong, the cutscenes were all cool, but the moment was just lacked the necessary punch because of how fleeting a figure Cayde-6 felt throughout the game. The recordings you recover after his death, although showcasing his character, aren’t enough to really make the death feel as major as it should.

I’m obviously not advocating for Destiny 2 to drop lore books. They’re a great source for details on the game’s universe and a good way of taking a break from the grind. However, it would definitely help if, going forward, the game would weave more of its narrative and significant details into its missions. Shadowkeep should have felt much grander, as it sends you to places where your very Light is in danger, yet it doesn’t. It’s just there until you’re set free on the Moon to do your regular endgame activities. Although they deserve praise, Forsaken’s Scorn leaders could also have used slightly more expanded personal stories told through in-game means. And, while they weren’t as good as say Blizzard’s, the cutscenes – which Bungie is no longer shooting for – definitely empowered the drama at the core of past campaigns, as thin as it may have been.

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, Destiny 2 Campaigns, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Screenshot

I realize I’m in the minority here. The people playing Destiny 2 for its plethora of activities, top-notch gunplay and varied loot likely far outweigh those looking for the best narrative experience. But it’s exactly the fact that Destiny 2 executes on its other aspects so well that makes me wish its campaigns would get more love. There are definitely traces that it’s possible, as Forsaken and moments in its other expansions show. But as it stands, Destiny 2 is a shiny, imposing and relatively complex colossus walking with a slight, but nonetheless noticeable limp.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Activision
Developer(s): Bungie
Genres: First-person shooter
Themes: Science-fiction
Release Date: 2019-10-01

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