OK, bear with me. While the headline of this article may suggest otherwise, obviously, I am aware that Destiny 2 is not actually a Star Wars game. There are many established and official Star Wars games across its expanded universe. Some of them are even good! And as far as I know, Destiny 2 has yet to add lightsabers, Jedi, or any other distinctly Star Wars-ian concepts to the game. The two are distinctly Their Own Thing.
That being said, Star Wars, despite my general disinterest in space adventures, has some very specific and key elements that make it so appealing,. As I played Destiny 2 during Activision’s demo event in Bellevue, Washington last week, many of these factors manifested beautifully, seeding a fondness for the game while reminding me why I loved the movies so much in the first place. In that vein, here’s why Destiny 2 is basically my favorite unofficial Star Wars game.
Devrim Kay, as an NPC quest-giver in only one small section of one planet in the entire game (the European Dead Zone, which comprised much of the demo event), is probably not what you call a primary character in Destiny 2. However, in the scheme of things, this might only support my theory that he is actually a much more attractive Obi Wan Kenobi (who, if you think about it, really didn’t have a lot of screen time in the original Star Wars movies). The perfect jawline, the impeccably-sculpted greying facial hair, the hard edges of his accent: he’s like Sir Alec Guinness, if Sir Alec Guiness were Sean Connery in his prime. I am so here for Hot Space Grandpa.
A quality space adventure has to have a sense of humor. Space is big, empty and boring without a light hearted sense of perspective. I’ve mentioned before that I like the comedy in the dialogue of Destiny 2, particularly the interactions between the Guardian and their Ghost, which remind me of some of the exchanges between C-3P0 and various Star Wars characters, especially Han Solo (a cheekiness that the uptight gold plated robot often mirrored in his interactions with R2D2). Robots are the perfect straight man for a slick space cowboy to run their lines on, and the game pulls it off just as well as the Star Wars films did, imbuing scenes with just a bit of wit artfully garnished over the entire dialogue, a dash of salt on the entire Destiny 2 dish.
Space should feel, for lack of a better word, “big.” Creating a sense of enormity is vital to tapping into what stokes our curiosity and wonder surrounding the universe. Part of this can be achieved through atmosphere and use of scale (which in the game’s early moments shine through as the player character darts through an immense spaceship), but in Destiny 2 this is also enhanced by the game’s MMO-like qualities. The community activity unfolding during public events, where players can join up in cooperative battles on the fly, makes the game feel alive, inhabited and spontaneous, like there are thousands of adventures unfolding with or without you, at all times. That feeling is a part of what made Star Wars so great: the sense that there were characters with wild back stories and personal motivations that you didn’t know, and would never know, anything about, and that entire epics were forming around you whether or not you were a part of it. Maybe the mystery served a purpose; had we known everything about everyone in Star Wars, its exotic worlds may have seemed a whole lot smaller. Destiny 2 takes me back to that place by making me feel like just one tiny speck of dust in a greater whirlwind of dramatic events.
At times sad and sweet, other times broad, commanding and bombastic, the score to Destiny 2 is highly reminiscent of John William’s work on Star Wars, in that each arrangement is deeply emotional and extremely appropriate for each setting and mood. It also adds an air of grandeur that communicates the vastness of space, supporting the game’s imposing sense of scale and immensity. In an era where more and more open world games are reducing the background music to bland, ambient filler, the distinctive themes in the music of Destiny 2 feel daring, but memorable.
The appeal in fantasizing about space lies in wondering what amazing new lifeforms and landscapes exist in the planets and universes beyond ours. The many environments of Star Wars (almost perfect recreations of the Ralph McQuarrie concept art that inspired them) pointed to a Pandora’s box of captivating worlds beyond the scope of our imagination, drawing the audience back in time and time again to see what the films would come up with next. Destiny 2 does a great job of recapturing that visual magic. Whether staring into the giant face of a fierce red planet, precariously teetering above a vast, sweeping ocean, or darting among ferns and giant trees in a dense temperate forest, Destiny 2 feels as rich and diverse as the many ecosystems of space and other planets should. It may not be an exploration game per se, but I look forward to spending more time in its atmosphere nonetheless.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.