The more things change…
Players have now received their first hands-on experience of gameplay across a number of modes in Destiny 2’s only scheduled beta. Featuring a story mission, strike, two crucible maps and modes, and a brief glimpse of the game’s new social space, the beta offered a limited look at what players can expect ahead of the game’s full release in early September. While the beta was devoid of certain features such as player progression, character creation, and untethered access to the farm, there is much to be gleaned from the beta on a gameplay front.
When players first fire up the beta, they are met with a simple character selection screen — which will, no doubt, be fleshed out to feature deeper customization options upon the full release — where they are able to select their class. After choosing whether to play as a Titan, Warlock, or Hunter, players are thrust into the very first mission of the game. Homecoming places the guardian directly at the center of a Cabal attack on the Tower and the Traveler.
From the outset, players will notice that the pacing for this opening sequence feels different than any mission available in the original. Cutscenes play after intense gunfights with the Cabal. NPCs like Zavala and Cayde-6 can be seen fighting alongside your guardian rather than waiting at the tower to delve out orders or sell class items. Even though the mission feels distinctly different than anything in the original Destiny (especially vanilla Destiny), it’s also evident how the game evolved between vanilla Destiny, The Taken King, and Rise of Iron.
Outside of the aesthetics and cinematics, the gameplay felt familiar. The original Destiny had one of the best gunplay of any first-person shooter on the market at the time of its release, and the beta showed that the sequel will follow firmly in its predecessor’s footsteps. Even at 30 FPS the gunplay felt smooth and responsive, while new audio gave the weapons an even greater punch when shooting.
At the same time, the familiarity often betrays the player. Longtime players of Destiny enjoyed a sense of pace and rhythm when it came to ability, grenade, and super recharges. However, each of those cool down times has been lengthened, leaving the guardian pressing the button for a grenade only to realize it has yet to recharge. These longer cooldowns rear their ugly heads in the most intense moments of battle, leaving the player without their abilities when they are most needed, and when they would expect to have them.
Changes also come to the weapons system in Destiny 2. Rather than carrying a primary, special, and heavy weapon, guardians now have a kinetic, energy, and power slot. Kinetic weapons are the standard primary weapons such as auto rifles, scout rifles, pulse rifles, etc. Energy weapons are any weapon that does void, solar, or arc damage that is not capable of a one shot kill. The power weapon slot now holds any weapon capable of dealing a one-shot kill, such as shotguns, snipers, rocket launcher, and the all-new grenade launchers. The change makes a lot of sense in PvP, where there is a renewed focus on team play and gun skill. However in PvE, having limited ammo for sniper rifles and shotguns can make taking down bosses or waves of increasingly difficult enemies much harder than in the previous installment.
The gameplay familiarity also made its way into the beta’s two Crucible modes, Control and the all-new Countdown. In nearly every way, Control feels like an improved adaptation of Destiny 1’s most popular game mode. Bungie decreased team sizes from six to four in order to create a more cohesive experience across all modes, and the change makes for a far more frenetic, yet strategic game. Communication about which points and lanes to cover is even more critical given that there are fewer players to defend or attack all three points.
The changes to weapons classifications eliminate the incessant sliding shotgun combos and six active sniper comps that often plagued the original, placing the emphasis back onto solid gunplay in order to achieve eliminations. Damage nerfs to grenades and abilities also keep guardians from spamming grenades and sprinting around the map to deliver one-hit melee kills. Overall, the experience feels far more skill-based than the previous iteration.
Destiny 2’s new social space, The Farm, presents a more grounded image of the world of Destiny. With the tower destroyed by the Cabal’s attack at the beginning of the game, the guardians were forced to retreat to a makeshift base where old-world buildings are converted to serve a more futuristic purpose. A barn serves as a hangar and an old farmhouse hosts a variety of vendors. The social space is a tonal shift from the clean and prestigious Tower of Destiny 1 and shows the dire situation the guardians now find themselves in. Forced to live as nomads and underdog rebels in the wilderness.
The beta shows great promise for Destiny 2’s full release on Sept. 6. Even with a couple months to go before launch, the game overall feels like the polished shooter that Bungie regularly delivered with Destiny 1, with enough changes to the modes present in the beta to keep the experience fresh.