I admit it: I was really excited to try out Destiny 2.
(Editor’s note: Jason is a Destiny addict.)
I loved blowing away alien races and other players in the original game and couldn’t wait to see a sequel to one of the best games I’ve ever played. Given the technical issues that plague betas, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to actually play the Destiny 2 beta at launch, but the game ran smoothly throughout. With some play time now under my belt, I’m happy to say I really like what I’ve seen.
Be warned though: In the beta, Bungie only gives you taste of what’s to come in the full game.
You start by choosing from a trio of character classes Destiny fans will remember: Titan, Warlock or Hunter. From there, the game launches into a cutscene where the Cabal enemy forces begin an all-out attack on the Tower — the hub from the original game — and the moonlike alien protector of Earth, the Traveler. At the end of the cutscene, your character lands at the Tower in the middle of a battle, the huge structure already heavily damaged.
Actual gameplay begins in the hall of guardians you may remember from the original game — but now it’s a battleground. You’ll quickly learn you need to blast your way through enemy Cabal to find the vanguards and help civilians escape the Tower.
As I started to fight my way through the Tower, it was clear I wasn’t playing a game from 2014. Much richer atmospheric effects, better explosion animations and more realistic graphics set the stage. There’s a moment when you land on the Cabal command ship, rain whipping across the screen while giant spheres filled with Cabal are flung to targets unknown — I was completely blown away.
Bungie has somehow made the best part of Destiny — shooting guns — even meatier and more satisfying. Each class gets to sample a different exotic weapon as part of the story, which helps Destiny 2’s gunplay right off the bat:
- The Titan gets an auto rifle called Sweet Business, a sort of minigun with rotating barrels that fires a barrage of bullets at your enemies.
- The Warlock’s submachine gun, Riskrunner, channels arc energy damage into your shots with devastating effect.
- The Hunter has a hand cannon called Sunshot that fires bullets infused with flame, causing enemies to explode when they die.
All three exotics felt unique, which is why I loved the guns from the original game.
All characters are equipped with a sampling of burst rifles, scout rifles and other weapon types you’ll remember from the original. But you also get to try the grenade launcher — new in Destiny 2 — and with its characteristic ka-chunk sound as you fire, it’s great for wiping out groups of enemies without feeling too overpowered.
Once you finish the initial story mission (the only one included in the beta), you go to orbit in your personal ship, where you can open the Director, the new navigational system for Destiny 2. In the public beta, you can only play a couple of multiplayer variants on new Destiny 2 maps or a strike mission called The Inverted Spire. Without going too much into it or spoiling anything, I’ll just say the Inverted Spire is a huge, expansive strike that’s challenging and loads of fun.
One thing that surprised me about Destiny 2 was the lack of new character archetypes. Instead, Bungie decided to add an extra subclass for each class. As a Warlock in the original game, you could play as a Voidwalker, Sunsinger or Stormcaller, each with different skills and super attacks (like tossing out a miniature black hole to tear foes apart). Now you get an additional subclass for each class.
The beta only lets you choose between two subclasses for each class — one you’ll remember from the original and one that’s new to Destiny 2:
- The Warlock gets Voidwalker, a subclass from the original, but you also get to rain fire from the sky with the new Dawnblade subclass.
- For the Hunter you get the Gunslinger you remember, but also get to try out the new energy blade-wielding Arcstrider.
- Likewise, the Titan lets you play as the classic Striker with the familiar Fist of Havok super ability, but you also get to try the new shield-wielding Sentinel.
I loved each of the new subclasses, but have to say I’m leaning towards the Titan Sentinel as my main when the game comes out this fall. You get powerful melee attacks, you can hit a button to guard and you can even fling your shield at enemies a la Captain America. All of the new subclasses come with new moves and abilities, which may take time to master, but will undoubtedly become crucial once we start getting into late-game content like the much-beloved raids, which Bungie has said will return.
Playing through the story mission with each class, I really enjoyed the updated graphics, weather effects and new weapon types. Though it feels pretty similar to the original as far as the action is concerned, it’s more vibrant, and with new skills to master with each subclass and new maps for the (slightly tweaked) Crucible competitive multiplayer, it should keep me busy for a while.
Bungie has promised Destiny 2 will give us a more fleshed-out story than the original — that won’t be too difficult, but if the initial storyline in this beta is any indication, it’s on the right track. It didn’t demand I go look up plot points online, it gave me clear objectives, and I even got to glimpse the believably evil boss I’ll inevitably have to battle in the end.
For me personally, Destiny 2 already feels like a worthwhile sequel, even though it’s a sort of rehash of the much-loved, much-hated original. Here’s hoping Bungie lives up to its promises of providing deeper storytelling and more activities beyond playing the same Strikes over and over and over again.
The full version of the game comes out September 6.