Destiny 2 gameplay impressions from deep in the European Dead Zone

destiny 2 gameplay 

PSU was recently invited out to a three-day preview event for Destiny 2, where we were given extensive hands-on time with Bungie’s latest project. While most of what we experienced can’t be discussed yet, we can talk about the starting area on earth called the European Dead Zone – or EDZ for short. Before that though, let’s give you a quick PSA for anyone not closely following Destiny 2 coverage.

If you played any amount of the first Destiny, a lot of what you see and play will be familiar to you. When we say a lot, we mean that virtually everything is the same except for a few new additions/variations. As we said before I can’t dive much into full specifics just yet, but if you were hoping for any dramatic changes from the first game, then Destiny 2 is not what you’ve been waiting for.

However, we still hold firm that the original Destiny is the best feeling and most satisfying shooter – mechanically speaking – that we’ve ever played, and Destiny 2 largely looks and feels exactly the same as its predecessor. As such, if you’ve played a lot of Destiny that may have come as a bit of a disappointment, but if you’re a first-time Destiny player it will be nothing short of a great game for you.

More about Destiny 2 European Dead Zone

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at some specifics about the EDZ. One of the biggest changes in Destiny 2 is that environments have more verticality to them, and the European Dead Zone drops you right into an abandoned town with multistory buildings infested with Fallen and occasional Cabal invading Cabal forces. The vertical emphasis feels completely natural and does well in adding to the need to explore. The EDZ as a whole is deceptively large and makes traveling on foot an almost taxing experience, however, that taxing experience isn’t so bad when the environments are gorgeous and have numerous little distractions along the way.

As you start to navigate the EDZ there are a number of things you will encounter. Familiar returners include treasure chests, collectible plant/element materials, Public Events, and lots and lots of enemies. For those not aware, Public Events are objective based, random instances that players in the open world can complete together for loot or class points (typically fighting waves of enemies). Some new inclusions to the worlds are Scannables, High Value Targets, Lost Sectors, and Adventures. Let’s break them down one at a time.

Scannables technically first appeared in The Taken King expansion but weren’t part of the vanilla game, so we’re counting them as new. All they are are specific objects that you’ll run across in the world that Ghost can scan and spit out a couple lines of dialog for that usually question what it is you’re looking at. They don’t lead you anywhere or give a sort of resolution to anything; they purely function as small, discoverable lore building tools.

High Value Targets are slightly tougher enemies that spawn in specific areas of worlds, typically noted by a yellow health bar. They have some pretty creative names, but there’s no objective to go after them or introduction to their threat or even uniqueness to how they fight. They just appear as you explore, start shooting if you get too close, and generally can be defeated solo without much trouble. When they’re killed a chest appears where they died that gives slightly better loot than standard chests hidden in the world.

 Inside the Lost Sectors

Lost Sectors showed perhaps the most promise to me as something to be excited about, but they fall short of their potential as truly interesting and worthwhile distractions from the core game. Lost Sectors are partially hidden areas that are identified by enemy faction flags or symbols. As you follow them they lead you into secluded areas accessible only by that path. The first couple felt like the start of a quest or adventure that will reward you with a special cutscene or character interaction, but all we ever did was fight through a group of enemies to get to a High Value Target, and then open the chest they’re guarding for random loot.

Perhaps what really is the best addition to Destiny 2 is Adventures. These are side quests with gear recommendation ratings that DO take you on deeper world building adventures, and are a great way to earn better loot solo. These missions are marked by beacons scattered through the area that you can accept at your discretion. When accepted an NPC will chime in on your comms and direct you to what you need to do. Adventure stories are small derivations off the main campaign, and places like the EDZ will repopulate itself with more difficult Adventures the farther you progress in the core game. While none had specialized cutscenes associated with them, that we saw, the writing and dialog was fleshed out and each were genuinely engaging.

The last thing to add (which we’re allowed to share) is how NPCs are handled, at least in the EDZ. Worlds get one NPC that is your main point of contact and serve as merchants which you can exchange gathered materials for specialized Tokens (reputation points) and also buy from a short list of gear/weapons. In the European Dead Zone that main contact is Devrim Kay, a grizzled old sniper perched in the tower of an old cathedral. He helps guide your first few steps in the EDZ and explains most of what we just did above. He is also the key voice in your head during Adventures on the EDZ. Unfortunately for all the talking he does you barely learn anything about him and no real backstory is developed, at least up to the point we made it to in the game (mind you that was roughly 15 hours of playing). It’s nice having an NPC on the world you’re exploring, but it’s still a far cry from what I had hoped would be done.

 Overall, the EDZ was a promising first stop in Destiny 2 and left us wanting more, but not in the right way. We were hopeful for more compelling environmental storytelling and world building with stronger NPC interactions. It started to deliver that, but just as it felt like it was about to we found ourselves transported back in time playing the original Destiny. A game with excellent gameplay, feel, and visuals, but minimal interaction with your character in its exploration outside of “go here and shoot stuff.”

We’ve started towing the line leading into territory that can’t be talked about just yet, so we’ll end there for now. Be sure to check out my full impression of Destiny 2 on September 5th, where we’ll dive into our thoughts on completing over half of Destiny 2’s solo campaign, multiplayer modes, strikes, and much more.