I spent the week between Christmas and New Year – you know, that one week of the year when you can eat chocolate for breakfast judgment-free and no-one ever seems to know what day of the week it is – in a Destiny 2 dungeon. It was a dark, dank place, full of traps and secrets and magic crystals that grow and shrink when you hover near them. It wasn't easy with just two of us – there's a reason a fireteam has three spots – but still, we persevered, drunk partly on ill-advised morning Mimosas, and partly – okay, mostly – misplaced self-belief.
I'm going to say something now. Something I've written and deleted and re-written and tweaked repeatedly – uncertainly – because putting it down in words makes me feel hideously disloyal, as though I'm telling tales behind my best friend's back. But, here we go: I hate side quests in Destiny 2.
There. I said it. Sorry, Destiny – sorry, Bungie. If it helps, there's loads I don't hate – the combat, the expansive world, the way I can lose three hours of my life sorting through my vault and walk away still thinking it's a disaster – but we all know Destiny excels, maybe even revels, in obfuscation. It's not that I fear a challenge, I promise. I've completed all of Destiny 1's raids on Hard mode. I 100%-ed the first and second Moments of Triumph (Bane of Skolas was the Bane of Me for a number of dark, frustrating days). But sometimes… well, quite frankly, sometimes I just can't be arsed.
A date with Destiny
That was what was so appealing about our trip to the dungeon during the Christmas break, though. Whereas the missions to obtain (or re-obtain, let's face it) some of the shooter's most cherished weapons can be an unmitigated slog, the questline to reacquaint myself with every Guardian's favorite rocket launcher – the Gjallarhorn – seemed curiously unceremonious.
And honestly? Honestly, I wasn't going to bother, even though I have the Bungie 30th Anniversary Pack (and yes, I appreciate that Bungie's choice to restrict the Gjally's availability this way remains a contentious issue). Because that's where I am now with Destiny's Exotic sidequests; I can't even be bothered to look at them. I can't even be bothered to try.
But my mate, Chris, texted me the walkthrough, and I almost couldn't believe it. Of the ten steps you're tasked to complete, six demand only that you stop for a chat with someone. One requires you to complete a Lost Sector (one of my favorite additions to Destiny 2, incidentally). One makes you reassemble weapon components at a workbench. That leaves just two, and even those aren't all that arduous either, at least not by Destiny 2's standards. No, I don't have to take out 1000 Guardians whilst in the air playing Control. No, I don't have to complete 450,000 finishers in a single life. "All" I had to do was pick up seven – just seven! – drops left by powerful Fallen in the Cosmodrome, and complete the Grasp of Avarice dungeon.
So that's where we were in the heady time-does-not-exist-here expanse between Christmas and New Year. Though a committed Guardian for all of Destiny 1's lifespan, I lost my way with its successor sometime around the Forsaken expansion, and have played in fits and starts ever since. That's the great thing about Destiny, though; it doesn't matter how long you've been away. Not really. There's a complex story, sure, complete with a deep, brow-furrowing lore, and yes, it may take a moment or two to reacquaint yourself with your Warlock's jump after an extended absence. But one thing never changes. One thing is always constant – and constantly spectacular: the gunplay.
Taken Me, I'm Yours
Every weapon in Destiny 2 feels and moves a little differently. Every weapon class is appreciatively distinct. Fighting the Fallen feels as meaty and satisfying now as the day I sampled the first game's beta, stomping through The Devil's Lair, heart pumping in unison to the beats of its (glorious!) accompanying track, Sepik's Prime. None of that has changed. Hopefully, none of that will ever change. I might not know what the hell Shaw Han is banging on about and I'm still not entirely clear why there's a shimmery steed called Starhorse talking – well, neighing – to me, but it's okay. It doesn't matter. Destiny 2's thrilling combat is enough to keep me entertained.
If I hadn't have been tempted back with Bungie's sublime shooting, I feel like the Grasp of Avarice dungeon would've done it, anyway. An unadulterated love letter to its salad days, it celebrates a time when dozens of us huddled around a certain cave in the Cosmodrome's Skywatch to kill the endlessly respawning enemies and bathe in a rich sea of glittering Engrams. Destiny 2's latest dungeon is a fantastical and firmly tongue-in-cheek adventure, drawing upon – and cheekily baiting – its playerbase's keen curiosity and eye for detail. While I am growing a little weary of forking out cash to revisit places and raids I already know well from Destiny 1, taking us back to the loot cave was an inspired choice for those of us who've been here since the start.
Yes, I know firsthand that Destiny 2 can sometimes feel obscenely overwhelming. Yes, I know that its convoluted bounties and currencies and resources can be off-putting at first, especially for beginners. Don't worry about that, though. You don't need fifteen YouTube tutorials to get involved. You can play Destiny 2 anyway you want to – embracing its secrets or disregarding them entirely – and it still offers an immensely good time, whether you're a newcomer, a veteran, or a half-drunk, chocolate-engorged lapsed Guardian like me.
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