The Destiny 2 Beta landed last week allowing veterans and prospective players the opportunity to see what the next instalment will offer and even extended it so they could do a little more work. So I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts as someone who has given weeks of their life to the predecessor.
I managed to get online within about 5 minutes of the launch which was lucky as some of my fireteam were still trying to get on while I started the first mission, Homecoming. There was no way to import your character (which I’m going glad of in many ways) but Bungie gave us the choice of a stock Hunter, Warlock or Titan to get us through the Beta. And so it began.
The opening cinematics from the launch event played before you landed on a battered Tower covered in flames and debris. As you press forward, you face Cabal of the Red Legion destroying a place you once considered home. As you move through, you bump into Cayde, Shaxx, Zavala and Ikora as they show off their badass skills by helping you take out some enemies. You pick up your class specific exotic along the way (whether or not this will be the case at release is anyone’s guess) and continue through the onslaught in a dramatic and thoroughly enjoyable opening mission. I had no issue with playing it three times so each class made it through and hope I will still feel that way when the game is released in September.
My only real criticism of the beta is that there wasn’t a whole lot to do other than the opening mission, The Inverted Spire strike and the two Crucible modes of Control and Countdown. But that’s it. Bungie really aren’t giving too much away at this stage. On the Sunday, Bungie allowed players to have an hour in the new social space called The Farm… but that was pretty much it. I was at least hoping to see more of the social space or maybe a restricted patrol area so we could try and find loot spots or game breaking cheeses but alas, there was none. So let’s focus on what was available. First up, the classes! We still have the Hunter, Warlock and Titan but each has an updated “old” sublclass (which you definitely need to test) along with a brand new subclass and both are pretty enjoyable to use. Each class still has their melee and grenade but they now also have a little extra perk which comes in handy during combat.
The Hunter retains the Golden Gun but now also has the Arcstrider super for the “Arc” Subclass. This is an Arc staff which sounds a little like a light saber and is spun around to create chaos in close quarters. I have to admit I found it similar to Bladedancer in the sense that you zip around but hitting things is actually something that requires a level of directional accuracy. In PvE this is relatively easy if surrounded by baddies but in PvP, I found it tricky to take many people down in one go unless they lined up for me. I’ll be interested to see whether more class perks will be available at release. The Hunter’s new ability of a shadestep that reloads your weapon is so handy, especially in PvP. I can foresee some amazing takedowns which will be at the hands of a Hunter who times the roll perfectly… and it won’t be me.
The Warlock still keeps the Voidwalker subclass with the addition of the Dawnblade within their new “Solar” subclass. A firey sword which allows you to fling down flaming justice upon your enemies. I really enjoyed this subclass and it might actually be my favorite at this stage. I felt that my Warlock was more agile than before although this may be because I hadn’t tinkered too much with the build with the limited options available during the beta. The new perk of the Rift was very handy for healing or weapon damage depending on your choice, although half the time I forgot to use it or would drop it by mistake and hope for the best.
Finally, the Titan Striker subclass returns with additional Fists of Havoc which will be crazy in PvP and is joined by the new “Void” Sentinel subclass transforming you into the purple Captain America. You get to throw the shield once (although I imagine there will be a slot available to have a second throw once levelled) and the rest of the time should be spent dashing and bashing enemies in close quarters. This again is great in overcrowded PvE sections and if you get lucky in PvP, you could easily take out most of an enemy team if the bunch together. The Titan comes with a shield which can either be for full barrier or small cover. Either way, if used at the right time, it could prove very handy in a fight.
As mentioned earlier, an exotic weapon was gifted to each class during the Homecoming mission in order for you to see the latest offerings. The Hunter received the Sunshot Hand Cannon which deals solar damage, handy for taking down Red Legion shields quickly. The Warlock got the Riskrunner Submachine Gun which was pretty fun. While the Titan got the Sweet Business Auto Rifle which was so much like Devotion from Titanfall 2 in its firing but takes so long to load up meaning you’ll be swapping to other weapons instead of reloading. The Hunter and Warlock exotics felt good and powerful as they should do, but the Titan’s has left me feeling a little cold and I’m hoping that it’s just because there are no perks or modifications on the weapon in the beta stage. I could see myself dismantling it for a shard pretty quickly. But one thing I do need to remember is that the weapons system has changed. Gone are the divides between primary, special and heavy. Welcome the new way of Energy, Power and Kinetic weapons. So far, Energy and Kinetic has been a mix of submachine guns, hand cannons, rifles and sidearms with the Energy weapons providing either Solar, Arc or Void damage. The Power weapons offer up the Grenade Launchers, Sniper Rifles, Fusion Rifles and Shotguns, again with the elemental damage and less ammunition as you would previously have encountered with heavy weapons in Destiny 1. Fusion rifles and Shotguns feel very powerful in PvE and are also pretty crazy in PvP which is probably why the ammo drops in the Crucible have been changed up (I will explain shortly). Weapons wise, there was a nice enough variety that you got a feel for what would be available at release but I hope that there will be some stand out guns that will blow my mind when the full game arrives.
As far as amour goes, there wasn’t a whole lot to work with. The new layout shows that Resilience, Mobility and Recovery which were previous on the subclass screen are now the focus of your armour. At first I hadn’t really paid attention as I was too busy jumping straight into the strike and PvP but as soon as I spent a little more time looking around, I realised my error. You still have perks for your amour and weapons and in the previous game, but there are now the options for mods and shaders which have several slots making us think that you’ll be able to customise your character build in some detail. How the mods and shaders will be acquired is unclear at this stage but imagine these could be rewards in Crucible, patrol missions and certain story quests. Either way, I’m interested to see what the new exotics will be and whether building your character this way will be as effective as having weapons and armour with lucky rolls.
Moving onto gameplay, I already said that I enjoyed the opening mission. It was smooth and exciting with some dramatic moments and of course, some occasional humour. You couldn’t party up for the opening but at one stage you would join other single players who were at the same event before moving on alone. The heroic acts you perform don’t account for a whole lot once your light is striped away and we are left to wonder what will happen next. So moving away from that, let’s discuss the strike. The first time I jumped in with the fireteam we landed on Nessus and immediately were faced with what looked like a war between the Fallen, Cabal and Vex! We joined in, died a few times but got to have a pretty good look at the new and improved enemies. Essentially, you think they are the same as before, but they do have some tricks up their sleeves to throw you off which was actually quite a nice feeling after a couple of years of facing the same baddies over and over again. As we moved through the impressive landscape taking on various waves of enemies, we took on War Beasts at dig sites and dodged a giant rotating drill that was tearing up the landscape before taking on the big boss. As fights go, the final boss wasn’t the most challenging we Guardians have faced. It was a case of just keep shooting and take out adds while trying to stay alive. It was enjoyable, but not mind blowing as there wasn’t really a mechanic to figure out or trip you up and the only challenge was trying not to run out of ammo or remember that you might be using your new subclass which you haven’t had a lot of practise with yet. Either way, I hope that higher level versions of the strikes will bring in the challenges we have grown accustomed to in the higher level playlists in Destiny 1.
So how about the Crucible then? Well now the teams are 4v4 and we know there are some changes with new maps, a new game mode and updates to old favorites. I’m still not sure how I feel about the change to the fireteam numbers as everything else still has a max team of 3… so just seems odd to have a 4 instead of 3 or 6… but I guess Bungie know best to break up big groups to make playing an awkward case of ‘I’ll drop out of this one’ or ‘I suppose I can go do something else while you do Nightfall’. First stop is Control. With smaller numbers, the need to neutralise the point has been removed and you only need one person on the point. Although it stated ‘low intensity, it feels faster and more tactical with reduced numbers and the Endless Vale map had some nooks and crannies for cover but was relatively open to attacks from both sides. The other change is to the ammo. Instead of the heavy ammo drops, you get your Power weapon drops but only one person can pick it up so you will have to be quick when the Crucible bounties/quests for Power weapon kills come up. I enjoyed running shotgun and when I did pick up the Power ammo I was dropping in and hoping for the best getting a couple of kills before being taking down. 2v1 feels brutal. Whether that’s down to the lack of Resilience my amour loadout had or me just being rubbish I’m not really sure but it felt like I went down fast and it happened more times than I’d like to admit.
As for Countdown, I really enjoyed this mode. Essentially Search & Destroy, you have to eliminate the enemy team or successfully set/stop the charge at one of the two designated spots on the map. The map itself was Midtown, another addition to the line-up for PvP and the two points had lines of site from all sides. As a full group of 4 communicating with one another, we were wiping out the enemy team quite quickly making it feel like a solid, tactical round much like the Trials of Osiris. I certainly enjoyed this mode so I will be interested to see how it fairs on other maps and as a competitive mode. As these were the only two modes available and there was no map variety, you essentially will play PvP during the beta unless you fancy running the Strike over and over. However, with a full fireteam, you could certainly start getting back into the swing of things and I didn’t notice too many issues with matchmaking or lag at this stage which made a nice change.
The new social space was only available for a limited time and I only got to spend about 10 minutes at The Farm as I missed the memo! Still, I hopped on my ship and got down into the European Dead Zone to see where we would be calling home this time around. The Farm is a large space, with dilapidated buildings housing makeshift workshops, decrypting stations and vaults. It’s nice and green with a lovely backdrop which provides a little bit of calm after all of the fire, debris and violence of the opening sequence. Whether we will be able to come straight to The Farm or work to build it, it’s unclear at this stage and at the time of the beta, there were no vendors, Vanguard or Faction folks around to but it did give us an idea of where they may reside if they return. I spent a little while running around, exploring before heading to where a large group of people were congregated and to my surprise, there was a football pitch with two goals and a large football for players to have a game and try and score! It’s nice to see that Bungie get that the ball games in the Tower would definitely be missed. So, after joining in for a moment, I decided to set up camp and just watch the game play out from a ledge… I could certainly call this place home. I really look forward to seeing if the vendors end up where I think they will and I think we’ll be getting a team together for the Destiny football league…. Clan, ASSEMBLE!
Overall, the Destiny 2 beta gave us a taste of things to come but didn’t give a whole lot away. I would have loved a little more content just to keep me coming back to the beta as while I don’t mind Crucible, it’s not what I’m most looking forward to about the game. I’m not disappointed in the beta, but I don’t feel fulfilled and it hasn’t left me wanting more as such…. I just want the game to be out already so me and the guys can get stuck in. The game looks pretty, I like how the new ships look, I am intrigued about the new weapons and armour including the mods, I loved the opening mission and am ready to see what happens in the story. We have invested weeks of our lives in the first game and I already know Destiny 2 will do the same. While some may not be happy that it’s still essentially Destiny with a bit of a revamp… Call of Duty and Fifa are essentially the same every year, yet people still buy it to do the same thing over and over again. So damn you Bungie for making a sequel that I will inevitably get my moneys worth out of due to the weeks of playtime I will put in. Now hurry up and release it already! I’ll see you guys in orbit!