Following the Christmas break, I can't stop playing Destiny 2. My love for Bungie's genre-defining shooter has been on and off since the original's arrival in 2014, usually coming and going when friends and colleagues do - and for some time I've been the last one standing on the Eurogamer team.
2020 was an interesting year for the game, with a sense that Bungie struggled to find its feet post-Activision and in making the transition to free-to-play and a seasonal model work, but it's come out the other side in the best shape for years.
The foundation for this is November's Beyond Light expansion, introducing the stunning new setting of Jupiter's moon Europa, which combines vast, frozen wastes with mysterious underground facilities composed of spawning, glossy corridors.
As is the case with Destiny, the best storytelling isn't in the campaign - eerie audio logs from collectables and an excellent, pacy raid is where you'll find the more standout moments - but as a destination, Europa is up there with series highlights Dreadnaught and Dreaming City in terms of sheer mystery and awe, and as a mostly solo player, the focus on open-world patrol spaces in both the campaign and post-game has been a joy.
The expansion is superb, tapping into exactly what I enjoy most about Destiny, but I wasn't fully on board until following month's next-gen update, allowing PS5 and Xbox Series systems to run Destiny at 4K / 60 frames per second (and 120fps in competitive modes).
On paper, it's a simple next-gen upgrade, and for PC players this level of performance is nothing new, but for console owners the leap feels extraordinary, allowing you to take in the game's stunning environmental design and slick combat - which for my money, are still unmatched as far as shooters go - at their best. Even inventory screens loading faster makes a big difference.
The jump has to be seen to be believed, but Digital Foundry does a good job at showing things in action.
Beyond this, there's also a few subtle improvements which help round off some long standing rough edges. As with other games, loading times are diminished on next-gen consoles, but it's something Destiny - a game where you regularly jump from playlist to planet to social hub multiple times in a single session - benefits from more than most.
This, combined with the performance boost, in a strange sense offers the next-gen experience I was looking for from these consoles - not for only playing new things, but the chance for my current favourite games to look, run and load better than ever.
Combined with another new feature which debuted across all platforms, allowing you to grab Bounties from the game's phone app, sidestepping the need to visit certain vendors and their loading screens altogether, is a revelation; for me, Destiny is a game of joyful busywork, where overlapping as many objectives and rewards into a single session as possible becomes a game in itself. Now, knowing you can get so much more done makes even the shortest spell of playtime much more meaningful.
There's still a few things I'd love to see introduced on next-gen consoles - the PS5 version taking advantage of activity cards and DualSense features, for example - but a month after the update, I can't get over much Destiny has improved on and off new hardware.
If, like me, you've been back and forth for some time, it's a great time to return - cross save support allows you to resume on any platform, if you're on Xbox, having every expansion on Game Pass makes it easier than ever to catch up. It's all this, and knowing Destiny's got a year of much-anticipated features ahead - crossplay, transmog and the return of the Vault of Glass among them - means I'm likely back for the long haul. Now to tempt my friends and colleagues to join me.
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