May 27, 2018
Tech

Destiny 2: Warmind review: Everything old is new(ish) again

Enlarge / Oh, hi Mars!

Destiny 2s Warmind expansion ought to look familiar. Its the solid follow-up to a thoroughly disappointing first expansionjust as House of Wolves was to The Dark Below for the first Destiny. It also brings players back to Mars, another original Destiny location, and revives the story of the titular Warmind A.I. that has run in the series background for years.

Said story sees the big robot brain under assault by a magic space worm. He calls for the aid of Ana Bray, a superpowered space zombie that has begun to remember her first life during Earth's golden age. Its a pretty compelling backdrop, especially for anybody who, like me, pored over the first games wikis and Grimoire Card lore. Even if youre not hip to Destinys mostly hidden backstory, Warmind brings the series best kind of science-fantasy absurdity to the forefront.

Sadly, as with most of the plot in developer Bungies loot shooter, the setup is a lot less interesting in practice than on paper. Warminds two-ish-hour single-player campaign gives us exactly one monologue from Bray explaining the situation. Guardians (a.k.a., the space zombies) arent supposed to investigate their pasts, though the why of that directive is never really addressed. The regulation comes off like an overly convenient excuse to pit Bray against another speaking character from the main game, Zavala, who doesnt trust the old Earth war machine. That mistrust is a bit odd, given that Destiny 2 is narratively and mechanically about collecting otherworldly weapons.

Meet the new gear, same as the old gear

Plot aside, Warmind offers a fairly fun clutch of missions in the Destiny 2 mold. You move through new zones killing things with what is still possibly the most rhythmic action to be found in current first-person shooters. Like the previous DLC, Curse of Osiris, some of these missions are recycled as three-person Strikes once you best the micro-campaign.

The upshot is that these story missions are more involved than standing in a room, holding the square button, and practicing headshots on incoming enemies. At least there are still some of those “classic” Destiny moments sprinkled in between. The downside is that the new Strikes feel like repeats right off the bat.

Strikes aside, there are plenty of other elements that feel like echoes of past expansions this time around. “New” exotic gear like the Eternal Warrior helmet and Sleeper Simulant fusion rifle come straight out of the first Destiny and its expansions. On one hand, getting loot I already owned and played with for three years isnt as exciting a reward as an entirely new toy when unwrapping exotic loot drops. On the other hand, I did really miss my Suros Regime.

  • Escalation Protocol is awfully reminiscent of a bigger, slightly harder Court of Oryx.
  • Ana Bray is a great basis for a character that doesn't get enough screentime.
  • The new Raid Lair is tough, but the scenery sure is familiar.
  • Escalation Protocol is not meant for solo play. At least not yet.
  • With new expansions come new exotics… And a lot of familiar ones.
  • Ranked PVP adds long-term progression to the Crucible, although it's technically not part of Warmind.
  • Mars has a number of intriguing tidbits to search for.
  • Cosmetics, and even exclusive gear, can be earned by progressing in the Crucible.
  • The new zone's public events will look awfully familiar.
  • Reworked exotic weapons are another great addition that coincides with Warmind.
  • I wish this spectacle felt a little more meaningful.

The high-end gear is just a bit more fun across the board, too. Alongside the Warmind expansion came a free update that, among other things, made most exotic weapons feel that much more exotic. My personal favorite change is to the Graviton Lance, which now operates better at range and spawns virulent, heat-seeking dark-energy explosions with every kill.

These weapon buffs are just the thing to spice up yet more rerun content, like the public events in the new Mars zone. I was instantly disappointed when, after unlocking the frigid open area, the first thing I found was the same Cabal Injection Rig activity from the base game. Meanwhile, fans of the original Destiny will recognize the one new public event as a slightly modified version of Warsat defense.

Escalate those protocols

Theres also a high-level activity called Escalation Protocol that feels like a wider, more open version of The Taken Kings Court of Oryx. In both, you and nearby strangers team up to kill waves of enemies and a boss that rotates weekly.

This doesnt require the coordination of a Raid, nor the variety of a Strike, but it does provide a slightly greater sense of scale than the average public event. Hive Thralls swarm in greater numbers here than elsewhere in Destiny 2. Dealing with them, plus their much larger Knight escorts, while also completing some very light objectives, is not a one-person job (until someone finds a juicy exploitas Destiny players tend to do). It is still inconvenient that I cant take a full fireteam of six into patrol areas, though, a fact to which Escalation Protocols sheer chaos draws even more attention.

I could level a similar complaint at Destiny 2's player-versus-player suite, the Crucible. The newly weirded-up exotics have spiced it up so much so that Id almost say constantly staying with your three teammates and hosing anyone foolish enough to round a corner isnt the only viable tactic. The problem is that Bungie gave us a taste of classic, six-on-six multiplayer for a limited time earlier this year. While the Crucible definitely feels more interestingless squashed flat for the sake of balanceit still slows down in spots.

Warminds accompanying free update does finally add ranked matches to Destiny, though. So even if youre bored with loot from an entire console generation ago, there are new guns and cosmetics to unlock at certain ranks. The strange caveat is that none of these tweaksnot even the set of new mapsrequires Warmind. All the DLC nets you is the use of those new maps in private matches. This is a good thing when it comes to keeping the player base unified, but it does make Warmind itself a little less valuable.

And thats the critical pickle Im in. Warmind all by itself feels like another quality shot of Destiny 2. Its got a new patrol zone, more loot, and a story thats comprehensible (even if it doesnt pay off on its promising premise). Its added high-level content (Escalation Protocol and a new Raid Lair) wont grab headlines, but it does add more spokes to the fundamentally satisfying wheel. Thats still one hell of a step up from Curse of Osiris, which felt more like a demo than a complete product.

Yet the things Im most excited about in Destiny 2 these days arent part of Warmind at all. Theyre expansion-adjacent intangibles: a balance philosophy of “make all the guns good” instead of “make the good ones as weak as everything else” is one giant leap in the right direction. Ranked Crucibles reward structure adds genuine progression to the player-vs-player combat (and heres hoping six-player teams dont remain a temporary feature). Im more excited about the direction of Destiny 2 than I have been since… before Destiny 2 was released.

Warmind alone isnt nearly enough to keep me on the Destiny 2 train until this years big expansion, but it was a decent excuse to see how the foundation of the game is changing. You could do worse than indulging in a bit more of the familiar Destiny 2 before some hopefully big changes on the horizon.

The good:

  • Good excuse to check out smart, coinciding balance changes.
  • New Strikes, loot, and zone feel meaningful, if not familiar.
  • Getting classic loot drops can be nice.

The bad:

  • The most exciting changes came in a free update, not Warmind itself
  • Story wastes a long-running piece of Destiny lore on a short, bland tale.
  • Getting classic loot drops can be disappointing.

The ugly:

  • Getting an old piece of loot from the first game that isnt your favorite auto rifle.

Verdict: Destiny 2: Warmind is more of the same built on a shifting foundation. Try it if youre curious about the direction the game is going.

Original Article

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