Destiny 2 has been out in the wild for a week now, and in amongst all the talk of whether it truly feels like a sequel, I’ve been surprised to see how improved certain aspects are over the original game. I bounced off of Destiny a month or so after launch, for a number of reasons. Primarily, coming at it as a Halo campaign fan/massive lore nerd, Destiny‘s story mode was a complete and utter disaster; “I don’t even have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain,” might not have been such a massive howler, had the game expended literally any amount of effort to tell the player just what was going on. Tying into this was the complete lack of anything else for the single player to do alongside those meagre story missions.

Now sure, Destiny was always billed as a ‘shared world shooter’, so it can reasonably be expected that the primary focus would be on the things you’d be doing as a fireteam. But this was the next big sci-fi universe from Bungie, the creators of some pretty damn epic Halo campaigns, and if you check the back of the box? Well look at that! It says “rich cinematic storytelling” right there! Yet here was Destiny, a new universe set across expansive worlds, carrying an assumed sense of its own mythic weight, which gave you no reason to care, no motivation to explore.

This has all changed in Destiny 2, for the better.

I’m not going to talk about the campaign here, as I’m considering taking a look at that in isolation once I’ve completed it. Just know that it’s the best a story mode has ever been in this franchise (a low bar, to be sure, but it’s good nonetheless!). So let’s take a look at the additional content surrounding that, the rest of the PvE content that you’ll be tackling alongside the Red War, Destiny 2‘s campaign against the invading Cabal Red Legion.

Ooh, you can almost make out Oryx’s flagship.

We all remember patrols in Destiny. Those flavourless, contextless little sidequests that were used to bolster the PvE element of Bungie’s original game; you’d roam around a zone, stop at a flashing green beacon and be greeted with an almost entirely-meaningless one-liner, before being sent off to kill enemies and collect trinkets that suddenly decide to fall out of their heads for some reason. When a counter reached 100%, you were done.

These gave you no insight into Destiny’s world or characters, they were just mindless busywork. Destiny 2 instead gives us Adventures. On a surface level, you can think of these as three or four patrol missions strung together, though this time with full voice-acting throughout, and the odd large-scale setpiece battle that wouldn’t feel too out of place in the campaign. They feel like they fall somewhere between a patrol and a story mission, and they’re far more grounded in the worlds they inhabit than Destiny 1’s patrols ever were; you’ll always understand what you’re doing and why, and you’ll probably learn a bit more about the characters around you and the places in which they’ve made their homes. Whereas Destiny‘s patrols told you nothing about anything, Adventures are not only more engaging to play on a moment-to-moment basis, they also serve to enrich Destiny 2‘s worlds.

[For clarity, Destiny 1-style patrols do eventually return in Bungie’s new game, tied into a sidequest late in the campaign, giving you repeatable, quick content to farm. While Adventures can apparently be reset by talking to each zone’s resident NPC, story missions are one-and-done this time out.]

Another new type of content in Destiny 2 are the Lost Sectors that dot each zone, and you can think of these as mini dungeons; you won’t be descending through the depths of massive cave systems a la Skyrim’s dark places. Typically made up of a few rooms and a final, arena-style boss encounter, Lost Sectors might take you about ten minutes to blast through once you’ve found an entrance (telegraphed by a specific piece of graffiti on a wall or other structure nearby). They’re never too hard to find your way into, and you’ll likely stumble into a fair few if you’re a natural explorer, but they very neatly display how much more love has been poured into Destiny 2‘s worlds this time around. Whereas there was little scope to explore Destiny‘s zones at all, the new zones here are full of little nooks, crannies, caves and underground tunnels to ferret out. The European Dead Zone in particular is the best playspace Destiny has ever offered, with only Oryx’s Dreadnought coming close from the first game.

Public Events may not be something new, but they’ve improved quite a bit in Destiny 2, feeling far larger and more dynamic than they have before. Some will be immediately recognisable, like an event where you’ll be defending a static point against waves of aggressors, but even they mix things up, by, for instance, periodically bombarbing the area with laser-guided missiles fired from an orbiting ship – if nothing else, it certainly adds to the spectacle. A particular favourite of mine is Injection Rig, which sees a huge Cabal mining platform drop from the sky. A dome shield surrounds the rig, and you’ll have to periodically evacuate the dome to survive, all while fighting off fodder Cabal as well as tough, unique yellow bar units. It’s absolutely thrilling, and each Public Event also comes with a Heroic modifier that can be activated in specific ways, making the battle harder and the rewards greater.

The Tower is dead, long live the Farm

Tying all of this together is an actual, honest-to-god map. A map that you actually open and look at, and everything! In the first Destiny, you could only ever see a map of the zone you were loading into as you hovered in orbit, picking mission icons from a map that you could never really place yourself in; it may as well have been an abstract representation of the playspace you were about to shoot your way through. Now, holding a button brings up the local map, showing your current position and heading, as well points of interest such as story missions, Adventures, approximate locations of Lost Sectors and more. This is most helpful for Public Events, as – yes! – not only will your map highlight their locations but also provide a countdown letting you know when they’ll start. No more relying on external services to track Public Events, or hell, even just aimlessly roaming about hoping to stumble upon them!

All of this serves to give a greater array of things for the single player to do, to the point where I’d probably be happy to recommend Destiny 2 to someone who’s just looking for some single player sci-fi FPS fun. Sure, they’d be missing out on the pinnacle of the Destiny experience of running high-level content with a competent group, but there’s an engaging campaign this time around, bolstered by plenty of world-enriching side content in the form of Adventures and Lost Sectors, all of which can be completed entirely on your own. If you’re looking for a fun time in solo PvE, there’s probably at least 20 hours worth of content – meaningful content, this time – here for you.