The first expansion for Destiny 2 was a major disappointment. Can Warmind fare better?
It's no big secret that Destiny 2 has struggled to keep its player base happy; a position Bungie finds itself in after it managed to continually anger fans with weird priorities and a pretty bland first expansion (Curse of Osiris, our review of which you can find here). We already know that the sci-fi shooter is due a much-needed resurrection this autumn via a more fleshed-out expansion but, before that, Warmind is the latest major content drop for Bungie's game. Is this second expansion sufficient to lure old players back into the fold as well as keep those who still play hooked on this ridiculously ambitious game though?
One disappointment in Curse of Osiris was that the story felt strangely cut off, almost existing in a vacuum and completely separate from the main game world of Destiny 2, and Warmind comes across as constructed in exactly the same way, which is definitely a shame. Both stories involve legendary characters who we've only heard talk of before, however, our actual encounters with them ended up feeling unsatisfactory. We're sympathetic to the fact that these expansions don't necessarily need to complete the main adventure nor answer any questions that remain, but considering how Destiny 2 ended with a cliffhanger it feels strange that neither of the two expansions released thus far have attempted to provide any sort of continuation. We want answers and, because of that, we found the lack of clarification a touch frustrating.
The story of Warmind is centred around Rasputin and its activities on Mars, as something has been awakened and the almighty AI is in danger. It will be up to you to travel there, shoot things, grab some new loot, and hopefully defeat the threat and celebrate your victory with a cheeky little dance. It's a typical Destiny storyline that feels just as paper-thin as we've come to expect, but the most important thing in this series has never been the story itself, rather the mythical world and the things that you spend time with after you've watched all of the cutscenes play. Despite that, we think the story should have lasted at least twice as long as it did here.
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Warmind contains a handful of assignments and takes just over two hours to complete, although after that it opens up slightly. There are a number of different avenues to follow (and grind) to get some exclusive new loot, and there's actually more endgame content here than we got with the basic game and the previous expansion. Bungie has also changed how quickly you can reach the new maximum level (385 power level), and when the campaign is completed you've still got some way to go to be completely ready for the most difficult activities.
The new location you can visit is on Mars, and everyone who played the first game has of course already been there. It's an entirely new destination in Destiny 2 though, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun to explore. The surface is big and there are plenty of secrets to find for those who want to be kept busy, but unfortunately we're basically fighting the same enemies we met last year, and while there are a few new variants they act as the exception rather than the rule. However, as usual, the production values are top notch, as everything from the Martian sand that flows in the wind to the new music to plays in the background is a pleasure to experience. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Bungie's art and design team is one of the very best in the business.
However, the content is not on par with the packaging; not even close. There are two things that save Warmind from being a total disaster in our opinion, these being the new raid activity - Spire of Stars - and the new Escalation Protocol event. The former is difficult, so hard in fact that it sometimes feels like it's utterly impossible. Perhaps our power level isn't high enough yet, but that also gave us the motivation we needed to grind to an extent that we haven't seen since the main game launched last year.
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The Escalation Protocol on the other hand sends eager enemies your way in different waves that increase in difficulty, with the seventh wave being a grand finale that offers up a mighty boss to take down. It's a fun activity reminiscent of the Court of Oryx and Archon's Forge from the first Destiny, where collaboration is required to achieve the best results. At least that's the case for now as it's going to take a while for players to get to the required level.
The second part of the expansion that adds to the fun (and helps save it from being as poor as Curse of Osiris) is the new raid activity, Spire of Stars. We're going to keep it brief and not spoil anything here but we will say that it offers plenty of wholesome fun for players to engage with. Spire of Stars is probably the hardest activity Bungie has ever created and it's really a challenge that will test your patience and your team's ability to cooperate.
Warmind is actually an improvement over the last expansion despite the fact that they feel quite similar. Of course, these expansions were in development in parallel with the main game and changing focus mid-way to address feedback was likely not a simple task. Warmind does provide much of what we have asked for, namely secrets, more challenging end-game activities, and changes to progression, however, the expansion also comes complete with a painfully dull story and a shallow pool of content. It's a while until September, and it's highly doubtful Warmind will last until then...
6 / 10
Spectacular design, Full of secrets to uncover, Sweet end-game grind.
Lacklustre narrative, Far too brief, Recycled content, Feels separate from the rest of the game world.