Oh, Bungie.” No other statement could really sum up the epic saga of ups, downs and utter craters that this franchise has been, especially Destiny 2. Within the first few months, Bungie’s highly anticipated sequel – the one meant to provide more content, interesting gameplay features, new stories – was torn apart as one of the worst games of last year. Consumable shaders, a lackluster end-game, barren customization options, a character creator literally copy-pasted from its predecessor, XP throttling, heavy-handed microtransactions, terrible loot – the list goes on. Add Curse of Osiris to that trash heap and Bungie had its work cut out for it. No one really expected Warmind, the latest DLC, to really fix all of the issues in Destiny 2. For the most part, we kind of hoped it avoided the missteps of Curse of Osiris. Hilariously, it does a bit of the former and almost none of the latter.
"By the time any of these events matter, Bungie will probably just do another soft reboot with Destiny 3."
The “story” this time around is simple but when is it not? Ana Bray returns to the Clovis Bray research facility on Mars to commune with Rasputin. The infamous Warmind is known to Destiny 1 veterans but his motives have been mostly shrouded in mystery. His utter absence in Destiny 2‘s Red War was all the more bizarre but hey, his real body is on Mars and it’s up to us to help Bray. You see, an ancient army of the Hive is awakening thanks to the polar ice caps melting in the Hellas Basin. Why are they melting? Something about the Traveler awakening and melting the icecaps with his Light. Or was it because of Rasputin dropping Warsats onto the planet? Anyway, you go from driving off the Hive to Zavala emerging from Rasputin’s chamber and telling you something even worse has awakened.
Cut directly to Zavala explaining that Xol must be stopped but first we must bait him with a shard of the Traveller located in the European Dead Zone. Wait, who’s Xol? Why, the Worm God of the Hive who wants to destroy Rasputin because reasons. He has some herald known as Nokris, who you’ll probably recognize as Oryx’s other son. Or maybe you won’t – it’s not like the DLC does a good job building him as any kind of threat. Anyway, kill them both while enduring some truly terrible dialogue as Zavala, the Vanguard Commander constantly seeking to make contact with Rasputin in Destiny 1, is vehemently against taking its help. Ana Bray exclaimed “Aw, shanks” at some point too. It’s important only because no one at Bungie should look at how this scene played out and think it’s anything worth repeating.
You actually meet said Worm God, who says you’ll “drown in the Deep” before letting you go. Nokris is killed before this and honestly, at this point, you’re better off tuning out the story completely. Why doesn’t the game properly explain who Xol is? Why is Nokris disposed of so quickly with very little backstory? The lore entries about Nokris and Xol are actually pretty good. Why not incorporate these into the gameplay somehow?
"The loot as a whole is…fine but if you’re used to Destiny 2‘s weapons and gear, there’s nothing that will really push the boundaries of expectations."
Also, what is Rasputin’s purpose aside from wanting to protect humanity or something (which, to be honest, it could have done plenty of times instead of being all vague in the past)? What’s his relation to the Traveller or anything else that’s been going on? Why is Ana Bray only appearing now to commune with Rasputin? Why should you care about any of this? You shouldn’t, really, and to its credit, Warmind does an excellent job ensuring you won’t. By the time any of these events matter, Bungie will probably just do another soft reboot with Destiny 3.
Upon finishing the four-or-so story missions, which takes roughly 2 hours, Warmind devolves into post-game Adventures and quests. The Escalation Protocol public events open up and there are 45 Lost Memory Fragments to collect (unless it glitches, in which case you’re out of luck). These will unlock an Exotic Sword called Worldline Zero at 35 Fragments and an Exotic Sparrow at 45 (don’t ask, I don’t know). Completing data retrieval quests for Ana Bray will also grant weapons like an IKELOS hand-cannon and eventually, the Sleeper Simulant.
Seraph Weapons also exist to be collected through receiving various materials, unlocking floating diamonds, getting loot nodes, so on and so forth. The loot as a whole is…fine but if you’re used to Destiny 2‘s weapons and gear, there’s nothing that will really push the boundaries of expectations. The existing Exotics like Graviton Lance and Skyburner’s Oath are definitely better but that was in a free update.
Of course, you’ll notice right off the bat that some activities like Escalation Protocol have a recommended Power level of 370. You should be around 345 or so when the campaign is done. How do you surpass the soft cap? Why, by doing raids, Trials of the Nine and Nightfalls, none of which have matchmaking or an in-game LFG system to this day. Maybe you could grind out the new Heroic Strikes which can range from difficult to exceedingly annoying if the right modifiers don’t fall into place?
"The levels still look like expensive movie sets, funneling players down hallways and skipping enemies to reach the next unskippable objective that requires defending a point."
Well, sure but despite requiring 350 Power, they don’t really drop 350 Power level loot. You’re probably noticing a pattern where completing Flashpoints and grinding out Milestones is your only means for getting high level gear. You would mostly be correct but accessing loot nodes is also a decent, albeit tedious way to do so. I can appreciate a grind but when you’re doing the same boring objectives again and again with almost no variety or dynamism just so you have a chance at other activities with the same boring objectives, it’s not a fun grind. And no, it’s not a good substitute for solo end-game activities.
Progression woes aside, there’s just nothing here that really changes up the Destiny experience at all. The boss fight with Xol was decent, if only because he’s a giant worm, but given the lore behind him, there was so much more Bungie could have done. The Valkyrie makes for a cool weapon but it’s essentially Rise of Iron’s axe meets House of Wolves’ Scorch Cannon. The Hive do get some variety thanks to the addition of snipers and sword and shield Knights but it’s nothing game-changing. For the most part, they’re frozen now. Hearing Ghost say “I’ve never encountered Hive like this!” is all the more laughable after the fact.
The Adventures and missions themselves are little more than “Go here, scan this, defend that”. You’ll recall this being an issue in Curse of Osiris as well. What happened to the days of running from unkillable enemies, sneaking into a funeral and platforming up to a tower in The Taken King? Once again, Destiny 2‘s art direction and music are top notch – even if the endless sands of Mars can get monotonous, the sheer attention to detail in Rasputin’s chambers and Xol’s underground tunnels is great. Granted, a number of assets are reused, from the enemies like Cabal, Taken and Hive to the general terrain of Mars.
The levels still look like expensive movie sets, funneling players down hallways and skipping enemies to reach the next unskippable objective that requires defending a point. I guess being able to look around for Lost Fragments introduces some variety but having to revisit the same areas again and again for Adventures, or seeing the last two story missions recycled as Strikes, just makes me wonder about the glacial rate that Bungie produces content. When it does produce content, it’s mostly recycled or barely tweaked with a number of cutscenes that have average voice acting and terrible dialogue.
"Whether you’re a fanatic or not is irrelevant – the question is whether you really, really want to play Destiny 2 content with a few new bells and whistles for a handful of hours."
It’s not all bad news. Escalation Protocol presents a neat little pseudo-Horde mode experience. On top of defeating Hive, additional objectives like shutting down shadow-rifts and defeating bosses are necessary. The Valkyrie can be unlocked at key points to turn the tide and coupled with the currently challenging enemies, Escalation Protocol is probably the best part of the DLC (even if that’s a fairly low bar to clear). For an end-game activity, it would have been great if Bungie allowed groups of six players to actually form a fireteam and tackle it head-on. In this day and age though, you’re limited to three players. Better hope that there are some randoms in the region. You also better hope they’re willing to cooperate with you while being leveled enough. What happens when the game’s player base drops again and there’s no one around?
I know many will criticize my not waiting for the raid lair to go live (which it isn’t, as of the time of this review) and trying it but that’s a six person activity. As a solo player, the tools for forming groups should be in-game by now if matchmaking isn’t going to be introduced. For now, take this as a review of the new region, campaign and post-campaign activities (i.e. the rest of the content).
As a whole, Destiny 2‘s Warmind is a mish-mash of pathetic and bare-bones acceptable. In an age where free updates for games like Warframe, Fortnite: Battle Royale, Path of Exile and Monster Hunter World are constantly engaging players, Warmind feels like the relic of a bygone age. Overpriced and forgettable plot-wise, Warmind is meant for those who want to grind out some more Destiny 2 without thinking too much. Whether you’re a fanatic or not is irrelevant – the question is whether you really, really want to play Destiny 2 content with a few new bells and whistles for a handful of hours. If the answer is “Yes”, then give Warmind a look purely for its post-campaign content. Even then, don’t be surprised if you tire of the lacklustre missons fairly quickly.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Decent amount of post-story activities to complete. Escalation Protocol is challenging as a pseduo-Horde experience. Not nearly as lacklustre or braindead story-wise like Curse of Osiris. Strong art direction and music.
Repetitive mission objectives throughout the experience. Terrible dialogue and plotlines that seemingly cut out details in-between. Story missions reused as Strikes. Progression issues will affect solo players who don't raid. Short campaign. Reused enemies with little variation.