Games Review: Destiny 2: Warmind (PS4, 2018): Better, but not by a lot

Destiny 2‘s first expansion, Curse of Osiris, wasn’t a complete disaster but it sure as hell wasn’t a good move either. Already losing players to battle royale juggernauts of PUBG and Fortnite, Osiris cost the game a lot of momentum after a strong launch. A good chunk of content and activities were placed behind Osiris’ paywall and those who weren’t willing to cough up for the new content were also locked out of Strikes. By the time Bungie began to work on these issues it seemed they’d already lost the battle, but they’re soldiering on anyway with a vow to make it up to the community and take the feedback on board. And so we come to Destiny 2‘s second expansion, Warmind. Can Bungie turn things around and reclaim their throne?

Warmind’s campaign follows Ana Bray, a lost Guardian looking for clues to an event from her past. Ana’s story will take you and Ghost to Mars’ frozen poles as you hunt down an AI called Rasputin, originally put in place to defend the solar system from would-be conquerors, a terrifying weapon of immense power.

As war satelites from the Golden Age tumble out of orbit and crash into the ice, Rasputin is revealed along with an ancient Hive army frozen in the Martian depths. Good news: we know where Rasputin is. Bad news: The Hive has been awakened and they are not morning people. Despite the fact that it might be the shortest campaign of any Destiny expansion, it is nevertheless an example of Destiny 2 at its best — big, exciting, full of impenetrable lore and leads to a wild boss fight against a massive god worm.

While the journey itself is great fun, Bray barely made a dent in my mind. She’s kind of a nothing character. Even Sagira, the chatty, expository AI from Curse of Osiris had a more interesting presence than Ana. As a character, she spends the whole campaign feeling like a void where a personality should be. The same goes for the story of the campaign, which is about as dense and nonsensical as it’s possible to be. I’m willing to give all that a pass however, because I’ve become so inured to any attempt at character, story or world building in the Destiny series that I find myself roleplaying my Guardian as a confused EXO weapons enthusiast in way above her pay grade.

Ghost: “We need to stop the guy with the hyperlaser bafmodad or the universe will explode!”

Ok.

Ghost: “If we don’t, it’ll cause a chain reaction that’ll–”

Let me stop you right there, troubled space brick. I don’t care. I never care. Just tell me who you want me to shoot.

Ghost: “I … well, I mean, everyone?”

Copy that, lil buddy. Let’s roll.

The good news for anyone who feels the same way I do about Destiny 2‘s attempts at narrative engagement is that there’s plenty of new weapons and adventures to embark on that should scratch your power creep itch just right.

Mars is a great new area too, packed with little secrets and hidden areas to explore, regional chests, data devices and more. The collectathon fans will find a lot to like about this new area and I expect to see you all scurrying over every last inch of the place. Mars is also home to a new mode called Escalation Protocol which is a fairly no-frills Horde Mode, but great fun if that’s your bag (and its certainly mine).

There’s also a new raid — the Spire of Stars. The Spire is Warmind’s real standout feature, filled with routes and flanks and puzzles that will keep it interesting every time you run it. All that said, and as much as I like it, I did feel like Spire of Stars is several degrees easier than even some Heroic Strikes. It’s great fun and a wild ride from start to finish, but it doesn’t support match making yet and because of Osiris’ failings not many of my friends play Destiny 2 anymore. Thus rounding up a squad of players around my level took a bit of doing — I’m around 380 and (at the time of writing) there’s just not that many people at that level yet. It was worth the trouble once I did though. Few seem to be getting up that way because, more than at any time I can remember in Destiny‘s history, there’s a level of grind involved in getting your level up that just isn’t fun. Where I was able to use matchmaking to get into Nightfall Strikes took a while. Like 15 minute wait times, on the regular. No kidding. Bungie have a player count problem and, in total honestly, that’s a problem that’s going to harder to fix than any one part of the game itself.

Compared to the meta-destroying serial disasters of Osiris’ launch, the Crucible seems to be in great shape here. Gone are the days of being constantly wrecked by rocket launchers and swordplay and utterly broken weapons which makes me very happy indeed. We’re back to actually aiming and relying on skill. I appreciate the hustle, Bungie, the multiplayer game is better for it.

Elsewhere, the game still feels like it needs work in terms of overall balance. Melee feels underpowered right now, so much so that I removed it from my combat strats entirely. Exotic engrams still have a drop rate that makes them about as common as finding a live dodo in the wild. Heroic Strike rewards and XP aren’t worth the time, effort or ammo expended to complete them — they’re almost unwinnable, feel deeply unfair and most of them end with every other player bailing in frustration, leaving me to solo the remainder. And for what? Garden variety drops? Bungie, you better than that. These are serious balance concerns and you need to get cracking on them. Players are better off logging in once a week for a chat to Xur, because at least he can sell you a unique engram that’s guaranteed to drop an undiscovered weapon. It’s less interesting that actually, y’know, playing the game but at least it isn’t a waste of your time.

Warmind is trying its hardest. It tries to address the misteps of Curse of Osiris and do something about them. But in trying to fix those blunders, it winds up making a whole mess of new ones. The grind is real, Heroic Strikes suck beyond the telling of it, the campaign feels like its over in the blink of an eye and Masterwork Exotics still aren’t there yet. It’s an average update, the kind of thing Bungie should consider the bare minimum of what a Destiny 2 expac should look like going forward. I hate dunking on them because I genuinely like Destiny 2 and I want it to deliver on the promise it held at launch. Whatever groove Bungie were in when they made the original, they seem to have lost it — and they badly need it back.

Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Bungie still knows how to make shooting feel great; Campaign boss fight is cool
Lowlights: Wobbly balance; High grind factor
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Platofrms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on PlayStation 4 Pro with a code provided by the publisher.