How 'Destiny 2' Made Me A Believer In Shared-World Games

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(Photo: Activision)

I finally get it.

When the original Destiny launched in 2014 for last- and current-generation consoles, it received, let's call it mixed reception. The game was set to be the next big thing for the industry, bringing together the juggernauts of Bungie (hot off of Halo) and the Activision publishing house (champions of making Call Of Duty a worldwide sensation). But when it released, something felt off.

Was it an MMO? Was it a shooter? Was Destiny supposed to feel so empty, despite being the long-awaited console debut of a shared-world experience?

The original Destiny has plenty to love. Though the game's content was sparse at release, its major expansions The Taken King and Rise of Iron built upon the base game's solid foundation, making true on some of the promises the team at Bungie made during development. But that was it.

Then the whole shared-world thing took off, and online-only games that required a constant connection came popping up all over, from the third-person survival of The Division to the Saiyan hub world in Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Each franchise and license brought its own flare to the concept, but none could solve the genre's main problem: it still feels extremely lonely here.

After putting hours into a handful of these games over the past two years, I really, really wanted to understand the appeal of this shared-world experience. But I couldn't. Well, until last week.

Destiny 2 takes its concept to heart, amping up every aspect of the original game by drawing from some of the best games in the business -- both of shooters and traditional MMOs. Gone are the days of wandering the desolate wastelands of Destiny or getting lost in the Dark Zone in The Division. In Destiny 2, the world is vibrant and full of hope -- even while an evil warlord threatens the end to the Guardians and wants the Traveler for himself.

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(Photo: Activision)

Colors bounce from every angle of every level, design isn't limited to hallways and corridors and weapons feel fresh and constantly get stronger and more varied. But the shared-world experience is what keeps me playing, even when my friends hop offline and I'm left with just my Titan on the Farm, with more than a handful of random Guardians.

So why did it work this time?

Well, for one, Destiny 2 isn't held back by the development woes of its previous-generation counterparts. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the first game no doubt constricted resources, despite being whole experiences on their own.

With just a simple upgrade, the worlds where other players are feel more populated. They aren't ghosts of other players or NPCs. These are honest to god real players, and you can even run around and play soccer with them.

But the NPCs aren't slouches either, and masterful voice work from Lance Reddick, Nolan North, Nathan Fillion and Claudia Black make each of their characters feel alive, and even when they're just passing out quest rewards it feels personalized. With that, the story itself is easier to follow, hearkening back to the simple tropes that made games like Halo so fun to play and replay over and over again.

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(Photo: Activision)

Even Destiny 2's player-vs-player multiplayer suite doesn't feel tacked on. And while it surely has room to grow and expand (especially in its game types), it still feels like an integral part of the experiences. And sure, it doesn't hurt that progress is consistent across the game, whether you're in a raid, tackling a strike with friends, playing the Crucible or just making your way through the main story.

Games like The Division have pacing issues, and while their gameplay is enough to hook players for the 20 hours it takes to beat the main story, it fails to keep them hooked. Destiny 2 has learned its lesson, and shades of World of Warcraft seem to be making sure that this game is here to stay.

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The game has its issues, as most do, but things like one-time-use shaders and micro transactions are easy to overlook when there's so much to unpack. If you're like me and you were looking for the game that Bungie promised all those years ago, this is it. I'm a believer.

Destiny 2 is now available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A PC version will release on October 24. A copy of the game was provided by Activision.