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Destiny 2 / PlayStation 4

Back to the old grind.
Destiny 2 has been struggling to keep its players invested for a while now. Going into its second expansion, Warmind, the biggest question was whether or not Destiny 2 can entice people to come back to it. This expansion is geared more toward the hardcore players, offering difficult endgame activities and a slower, more demanding level grind to get there. If you aren't interested in those things, though, there's not a lot here besides the same old Destiny 2 activities to draw you in.

Warmind's campaign consists of a handful of missions, and it takes around an hour and a half to complete. If you haven't played Destiny 2 much since Curse of Osiris, it's easy to jump back in; I started at 310 power and did some minimal grinding to keep up with each mission's recommended level. It remains a very welcome change from Destiny's more punishing pace, where skipping a few weeks meant another few weeks of intense grinding just to catch up.

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Like most story-centric activities in Destiny 2, Warmind's campaign does just enough explaining to justify fighting enemies in the first place and leaves you to fill in the rest yourself. That can work really well, but in Warmind, a lot of seemingly important things are packed into a very short amount of time; a buried Golden Age research facility, new information about Rasputin, a crazy-powerful spear, and suddenly a giant worm that you have to kill. It's not that those things aren't connected but rather that there's no time to absorb anything before you're in the final fight, and it's anticlimactic as a result.

Individually, Warmind's different components are actually kind of cool. The Valkyrie spear can take out swarms of enemies in one very satisfying throw, and fighting a huge, serpentine monster is fun just for the spectacle of it. The new ally character, Ana Bray, is almost interesting--she's related to Clovis Bray, a historical figure in Destiny lore, and can speak to Rasputin--but she doesn't have enough time to develop into anything substantial. Though Warmind is an expansion about a hyper-intelligent AI that's been around since the first game, it feels like these are just the building blocks for what could be a compelling story.

For laidback Destiny 2 players, the more accessible activities are a great way to test out the new Exotic weapon changes that launched alongside the expansion. The 1.2.0 update is available even if you don't have Warmind, but it's at least nice to have a reason to try out the Exotic buffs. My personal favorites are the Graviton Lance, which now fires a two-round burst with a heftier and more satisfying explosion on impact, and Riskrunner, which deals more damage when its Arc Conductor buff is active. They actually feel like true Exotics now and as a result are loot worth chasing, so much so that the changes kind of steal Warmind's thunder.

Two of Warmind's story missions are disappointingly repurposed as Strikes, just like in Curse of Osiris. The addition of Nightfall-like modifiers to Heroic Strikes makes them a lot more difficult, at least, but the loot chest reward for completing them doesn't match the challenge--weapons and gear drop at 340 power, which is right about where you'll be when you finish the story. The new cap is 385, leaving a large gap between the "easy" content and the endgame that could have been filled with mid-tier Heroic Strike rewards. As a whole, the mid-level section of the expansion is unfortunately pretty empty of anything to motivate you to keep going forward.

The new destination, the polar ice caps of Mars, is around the size of Io. In addition to new Adventures and Lost Sectors, Mars has new secrets to hunt down in the form of Sleeper Nodes. They're primarily for other quests, but they can be fun to look for and a good excuse to explore. Mars also boasts a new activity, Escalation Protocol. It works kind of like a Public Event in that anyone in the area can join, but it's way harder, throwing waves of high-level Hive at you. As of week one, it's basically impossible to complete it, which makes it a nice accomplishment to chase if you've been wanting more to do in the late game. So far, Escalation Protocol is the most intriguing thing in Warmind--I actually want to level up enough so I can see what happens and what kind of loot I can get.

It certainly feels like Warmind has a slower burn than vanilla Destiny 2 or Curse of Osiris. In order to get the Exotic fusion rifle Sleeper Simulant, for example, you have to complete a time-intensive multi-step quest that involves running both Heroic Strikes and Escalation Protocols. On the hardcore end of things, the challenging new Raid Lair is a big incentive to get your power level up. The grinding alone will likely keep the most dedicated players busy for a bit, and figuring out and implementing a viable strategy once you actually make it to the Raid Lair is, as always, a reward in itself.

However, if you aren't already dedicated to reaching the level cap and completing every late-game activity, Warmind doesn't offer many draws for you; the only reason to do anything is to level up or get new loot, and that can keep you busy for a while this time around. How busy depends on your patience when grinding and your desire to jump through every hoop to get there. That barren middle-tier--when you've beaten the story and need to grind 20 or 30 power levels so you can reach the endgame--is a very easy place to lose steam.
 

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