The grind continues.
Once the glamor of Destiny 2: Warmind’s short but well-told story campaign wears off returning to the power level grind feels less fulfilling than ever before. While there’s a lot more power to chase this means you won’t be accessing a decent chunk of the content in the immediate future. When the most enticing new activity, the Escalation Protocol horde mode, is locked behind a 370 recommended power level, you may find yourself wondering what new content there is to enjoy in the meantime.
That two-hour campaign is at least intriguing in that it fleshes out the lore of the universe in some interesting ways and introduces us to the compelling (but underused) Ana Bray. I was excited to learn more about her via the adventures as her storyline connects with the Warmind construct known as Rasputin, which has been at the core of the Destiny storyline since the original campaign. Throughout the main story and adventures we’re treated to a public space with plenty of secrets to uncover, and afterwards there’s the new Escalation Protocol that pits Guardians against wave after wave of enemies for Legendary rewards. There are also new multiplayer maps in the Crucible and a raid lair on the way this Friday.
That shiny new Escalation Protocol event you’re excited to tackle has a recommended light level of 370
This is all on top of the game-wide update with Season 3 that revamped the vendors and the progression loop, and amps many of the exotics up to 11. All of this should be positive! However, Destiny 2 is all about getting powered up for the next big encounter, and there’s an excessive amount of powering up to do here. That shiny new Escalation Protocol event you’re excited to tackle has a recommended light level of 370, and to get there you need to dive back into old content, be it completing Flashpoints in old locations, the old Raid, or collecting your powerful clan engram for the week. I’ve managed to struggle my way through the first wave of enemies, defeating the boss, but being soft capped at 350 for the time being I’ve yet to receive any reward as it requires completing the first three tiers. For the longevity of this expansion that’s good: I have a reason to keep playing and grinding toward the new light level cap, I have a reason to hop back into old activities, and I’m even looking forward to the reset to climb a little higher on the power level ladder next week. However, getting a new DLC pack and not being able to experience all it has to offer immediately is a bit frustrating, since there’s not all that much here and there’s no clear path to progress that isn’t simply returning to the same treadmill to chase a new carrot.
Sadly, Warmind also ops to recycle campaign missions as Strikes
For example, a heroic strike completed while you’re five levels below the recommended power level should reward you with gear that incrementally levels your character for rising out of that challenge victorious. Instead you’re rewarded with items that are completely useless in your climb to be ready for the hardest encounters offered, be it the upcoming Raid lair or the more immediate Escalation Protocol. To put it another way, the current leveling system is baffling because the lack of greater rewards disincentivizes taking on some bigger challenges. Sadly, Warmind also ops to recycle campaign missions as Strikes, with the only unique Strike experience being offered as a PlayStation exclusive. Seeing this is the second expansion to be modeled this way, it seems this will be the theme moving forward for Destiny 2, which is disappointing.
The most positive changes, like the exotic reworks, come as part of the free Season 3 patch rather than the Warmind DLC bundle, but they help to make Warmind much more enjoyable. When you pair Sweet Business with Actium War Rig on a Titan you can fire a ridiculous amount of bullets and do a ton of DPS to anything in their path. Graviton Lance kills create explosions that generate smaller heat seeking bombs that seek out other enemies who may be hiding. Add a few more kills into the mix and it can become quite a spectacle of destruction. Though the loot will be below your power level, Heroic Strikes have new loot to chase that adds random modifiers, giving a new level of challenge if you’re looking for a fight. The exotic changes and strike specific loot have Destiny 2 slowly starting to feel like Destiny again.
The most positive changes, like the exotic reworks, come as part of the free Season 3 patch rather than the Warmind DLC bundle
On the PVP (AKA Crucible) side, there have also been positive changes with Season 3, but besides the new maps which I’ve only seen one of after a day of play, little has changed about the Time to Kill and Team Shooting issue the community has been agonizing over lately. The new Valor and Glory ranking which rewards you for playing both casual and competitive PVP is a great incentive to hop in and play with a team, at least. Valor will rank up as you play the casual mode, but if you’re looking for the coveted Legendary Pulse Redrix Claymore you’ll have to tackle the competitive side of things. That side of the coin is called Glory and your wins and losses affect your ranking here. Hit the rank of Fabled and the coveted Claymore will be yours.
Still, if you’ve been waiting for a big new addition before you jump back into Destiny 2, the team at Bungie has a long road ahead of them to win back your trust. If you’re looking for a compelling campaign you’ll be through this one in about two and a half hours if you’re taking it slow, making it hard to justify coming back for on its own. Then, to access the Escalation Protocol event, it looks like the average player is going to need a Fireteam and a little bit of legwork over the next few weeks to enjoy it, which is a huge investment for some. In the meantime we have Hellas Basin to explore and its secrets to uncover, but thus far that’s felt thin.
When it’s all said and done Warmind left me feeling mixed.
When it’s all said and done Warmind left me feeling mixed. It’s hard to be overly excited about, but alongside the Season 3 update it has made a lot of positive changes and hints at how Bungie plans to handle its sandbox making exotics exciting to use, compelling story pieces and vendors who are more than a glorified slot machines. The only way to move forward is by earning your place at the Escalation Protocol table via grinding in the Raid or weekly activities. But that leaves you with only a short campaign, old content to replay, and a handful of new PVP maps to play in the meantime.
The biggest problem is that Destiny 2 has lost its intrigue in the loot pool. There are no unique perks on the Legendary armor so it all feels the same. Each Legendary weapon of the same archetype feels the same, too. Exotics like Graviton Lance are incredibly fun, but seeing as it’s a campaign reward, chances are you already have acquired it. With the reward not feeling like it’s worth the battle, why even bother in the first place?
This review is still in progress until I can experience Warmind’s new raid, which launches this Friday, and dive into Escalation Protocol, but if I had to score it now I’d give it 6/10. Check back soon for the final review.