Destiny came up short in many departments following its 2014 launch, including exploration. Exploring Earth, Venus, Mars and the Moon was supposed to be exciting, but ended up being a chore. The open areas of each planet were flat, plain and lacked exciting activities to participate in. They were pretty but didn’t have substance to keep players entertained outside of mindless busywork. This is something Bungie is directly addressing with Destiny 2.
Hardcore Gamer was invited out to Bellevue, Washington to check out Earth’s new open area, the European Dead Zone (EDZ). Replacing the Cosmodrome, the EDZ may look fantastic, but does it provide enough meaningful content to keep players invested?
The European Dead Zone is a dramatic change from the Cosmodrome. While the Cosmodrome was mostly fields dotted with wrecked planes and boats, the EDZ is a quaint European village overtaken by a lush forest. With more verticality and unique architecture, the EDZ gives off a strong first impression.
On paper, the EDZ appears to be the largest open area Destiny has ever seen, but its scale can be deceptive. Using the brand new in-game map (accessed by holding down the Touchpad on PS4), it looks far bigger than the Cosmodrome. Looking closer, however, reveals that large sections of the map are taken up by long, winding roads. Take those away, and the EDZ may not be as big as it’s made out to be.
Still, the EDZ is a gorgeous area to explore, and more visually impressive than the vast majority of Destiny’s worlds with only Venus giving the EDZ a run for its money. While its size may be a bit deceptive, what matters more is if there’s enough content to make exploration worthwhile.
In Destiny, players would drop into the world and be the sole occupants in the world, asides from the infinitely respawning enemies. Destiny 2 changes this by adding NPCs to the open areas. In the EDZ that character is Devrim Kay, a suave sniper who resides in an abandoned church.
As the EDZ’s NPC, Devrim provides relevant info and commentary while playing on Earth, and serves as the area’s vendor for purchasing new weapons and armor. He also serves as the area’s Faction Leader and will reward players with Legendary Engrams after earning enough Reputation with him. Reputation is earned through exploring and participating in activities throughout the area. Doing so will grant players area-specific tokens and materials that can then be traded into Devrim for Reputation. Once the bar is full, and you’re level 20, Devrim will give players the engram. Once collected, he Reputation Bar will reset, giving players the chance to earn additional Legendary Engrams.
Having faction leaders like Devrim is a step forward for Destiny’s open areas. He’s a strong personality, and it is good to listen to other characters that aren’t Nolan North’s-voiced Ghost. The inclusion of NPCs, however, still don’t provide players with everything they need, as you’ll still need to travel back to social spaces to decrypt engrams and access your vault. A more seamless experience that incorporated social spaces into the open area would have been much preferred.
The dreaded public events from Destiny have gone from being the most boring things to do in the original game, to bring some of the most exciting activities in Destiny 2. Easier to find and participate in, players can now locate and fast travel to them via the in-game map. There’s no more need to use a third-party website anymore.
What makes Public Events so exciting is that, if the right triggers are activated, players will kick-off a Heroic Public Event. This changes the objective from something simple like capturing a location or killing off all enemies, into something more challenging.
For example, when tackling a Cabal Extraction Site, players will come face-to-face with a Cabal Thresher, an air vehicle that rains missiles down on attacking Guardians. Destroy it, and players will go face-to-face with a Cabal Valus. In another example, when fighting a Fighting a Fallen Spider Walker defending shields protecting three Scorch Cannons, successfully taking down those shields will summon two additional Spider Walkers.
It’s surprisingly fun figuring out how to trigger the Heroic Public Events, and the rewards are well worth the effort. Whether you lose, win a basic Public Event, or triumph in a Heroic Public Event, Destiny 2 always makes sure to reward you.
Of all the things players can do in the open area, Adventures are the most story-driven. Presented on the map as an orange banner with a white sword, these activities task Guardians with following a series of objectives. Structurally, Adventures most resemble the mission design of missions from the original; get an objective, go clear out a wave of enemies, listen to Ghost speculate a bit, and battle a boss.
For example, in the EDZ, one Adventure features the Taken taking up residence deep in the forest. At first, the mission is simply about pushing forward and clearing away all hostiles. Following some speculation by Ghost about why the Taken are here, players face off against a Taken Cabal boss who remains shielded as long as grunts are running about. Take care of them, and the boss becomes vulnerable until more grunts spawn.
Adventures are quite lengthy and consume a lot of time, but player’s enjoyment will hinge on how much they enjoy these activities. If you thought some of the missions in Destiny could get repetitive, then Adventures may not be for you.
Light exploration comes to Destiny 2 thanks to Lost Sectors. These sectors are marked on various trees, boulders, walls, and other surfaces across the EDZ with the entrances hidden nearby. Once inside the sector, players will be faced with an elite unit and their entourage.
Successfully killing the elite unit will reward players with a key, which can then be used to open the sector’s treasure chest. Filled with valuable loot, there’s always a good reason to go poking around Lost Sectors.
It’s great that open areas finally have a good reason to explore, but finding Lost Sectors can be a bit too easy to find. They’re clearly marked in the world and are even marked on the in-game map. Once the marker is found, the entrance is, typically, right around the corner. Light exploration is a step-up from Destiny’s lack of exploration, but there should be more challenging Lost Sectors that require some sleuthing to find.
Oh, patrols return in Destiny 2. The blinking green beacons are littered throughout the EDZ, and the missions they dole out haven’t changed from the first game. Kill a certain amount of enemies to collect materials, kill a captain, scan an area, etc. Patrols are still meaningless busy work, but you do get some rewards for completing them.
The European Dead Zone is the most impressive open area Destiny has ever had. It’s expansive, beautiful to travel through, and filled with entertaining activities like Public Events and Adventures. Unfortunately, Patrols remain basic, and Devrim Kay doesn’t entirely solve the traveling back and forth between open areas and social space problem. Still, the EDZ is a massive improvement over what came before, and hopefully, the rest of the open areas can deliver a similar experience to the EDZ.
Destiny 2 is out September 6 on PS4 and Xbox One, and October 21 on PC.