If you live anywhere near the Bungie headquarters, you may have noticed the sudden appearance of the world’s largest microscope hovering menacingly above the building. This is due to the launch of the Destiny 2 beta and the thousands of Guardians who were temporarily welcomed into a world without light. The initial reaction from players has been mixed as many fans return to the series, walking in with high expectations. After my time with the Destiny 2 beta I remain cautiously optimistic, but I’d be lying if I said my appetite hadn’t been whet for the full release in a few months time.
The Destiny 2 beta goes from zero to full speed almost immediately. After choosing your class and watching the beautifully tragic opening cut scene, you are instantly thrown into the game’s first mission. A ferocious new enemy has assaulted the city in your absence, destroying everything you’ve fought for over the last three years (including your beloved Gjallarhorn). After battling through the tunnels of the tower you eventually find yourself in the plaza, and what was once a social space of dance parties and ball games is now a war zone. I actually felt a sense of loss fighting in such a familiar place, and I found myself spending a lot more time than was required there, trying in vain to push back the unstoppable waves of Cabal.
This guy seems nice
Things go from bad to worse, and at the end of the mission we’re introduced to the “Big-Bad” of Destiny 2, Dominus Ghaul, who promptly steals our light and spartan kicks us off the side of his command ship. This mission (aptly named Homecoming) does a fantastic job at setting the tone for the overall story of Destiny 2, and it seems like the developers have listened to the chief complaint of the first game: the lack of a cohesive and entertaining narrative. This is bolstered by the promise of over 50 cut scenes (compared to 18 in Destiny, 45 if you include the expansions) and the focus on supporting characters within the world. Starting from scratch will be a real kick in the guts to returning players, but clawing back our power in a well written and fully fleshed-out story ought to be one hell of a journey.
After completing the Homecoming mission, the rest of the playable content in the beta became available. Guardians could choose to form a fire team and take on the ‘Inverted Spire’ strike or challenge other players in two different game modes of the Crucible. Compared to the Destiny beta it was a fairly limited offering and a lot of fans felt underwhelmed with the whole experience. I actually appreciated the less is more approach Bungie took this time because it means there will be more for me to discover when I get to play the game for real. That being said, it does feel like you never really get to fully try out some of the more game-changing mechanics in Destiny 2. The most obvious overhaul is in the brand new weapon system, which changes your secondary slot into Elemental weapons, and merges your special and heavy into the Power category. At first, this change felt clumsy and underpowered but I’m excited to see how it feels once we get to build our own load-outs to suit our play style. Bungie has also stated that a lot of the grievances people had with the new system (mainly poor stats and scarcity of ammo) have been addressed and will be vastly improved in the final build of the game.
Another noticeable change was the new (and remixed) super abilities for each class. The new supers are definitely fun, but it almost feels like they’ve stripped out all of the strategic or defensive aspects in favour of purely offensive abilities. Playing as a squishy Hunter, there are countless times where I’ve relied on a Titan’s ‘Ward of Dawn’ to save my bacon, so I’m a little concerned at its absence. I have to admit though, throwing my shield like Captain America (Sentinel Titan) and flying around the map with a flame-sword (Dawnblade Warlock) felt pretty amazing, but I do hope that Bungie also tweaks the subclasses before the final release, because as it stands a lot of it feels severely nerfed.
Now I need three Titans for protection
Along with the renewed focus on story, Destiny 2 promises to host richer and more expansive worlds for you to explore. Despite limited access to the new location of Nessus, what we saw of the environment was absolutely stunning. Contrasting reds and whites seem almost serene until you’re jumped by a pack of angry Vex, ready to crush you for taking a moment to enjoy the view. Strike missions made up the bulk of my time in the original Destiny so I was pleased to see a strong return to form in Destiny 2. The Inverted Spire was suitably chunky and culminated with a multi-phase boss fight at the bottom of a giant milky pit. The supporting characters maintained a fun and relevant commentary throughout the mission, which made it feel like part of the whole narrative, rather than a random, unrelated side quest.
With the tower gone, Guardians felt a mighty need for a new place to dance and harass NPCs, so for a very short time (3-4 am AEST… thanks, Bungie) we were able to access the new social space in Destiny 2, The Farm. Although it was completely empty when my fire team rolled in, it has a much more communal feel than the tower, with bonfires, benches and of course, ball games. I’m really looking forward to seeing this place grow and change alongside my Guardian.
Of course, there was also the Crucible. I’ve never really been very good in Destiny PvP, but I did enjoy my time with the two game modes available in the beta. Returning favourite Control (essentially a twist on classic Domination) has had quite a few changes, with a focus more on playing the objective and a new scoring system. This, along with the overall reduction in team size, makes for much faster and more exciting matches. Countdown is also a lot of fun, as two teams battle to plant a bomb, defuse it or eliminate the enemy. This type of PvP mode is a welcome addition, as it seems more tactical and strategic than an endless procession of mindless deaths. A massive chunk of the end game content in Destiny is based around PvP, so it’s not surprising that Bungie has carried that support and focus into Destiny 2.
New raid boss for Destiny 2 revealed. This drill.
If I had to describe my experience with the Destiny 2 beta with three words and a comma, I would say, “Fresh, but familiar.” Destiny 2 promises to deliver a richer, more cohesive experience in a familiar world, with stunning new visuals and all new mechanics. Although fairly restrictive, the beta gave us all chance to peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of what’s to come. If you did feel a little underwhelmed, remember that Destiny is an organic and growing game, with developers who keep a close eye on player experience and feedback. I for one will be waiting for the full release of Destiny 2 with bated breath.
See you star-side, Guardians.