Written by Andrew Busch // Edited by Drew Beyer // Image from Bungie
From July 21st to 25th Bungie hosted an open beta for Destiny 2, allowing everyone to go hands on with one of 2017’s most anticipated games. While I had a good time playing through the brief campaign mission, the vanguard strike, and some of the multiplayer, when everything was said and done I was not totally blown away. I even found myself wondering if I was just playing another add-on for the original Destiny.
In the beta’s campaign mission, you help to defend an area outside of the tower alongside the Titan Vanguard, Zavala, and even fight your way through a Cabal ship. The dilapidated ruins of what once was the small city outside of the tower feels familiar and so do the popping sounds of Cabal helmets when you land a final headshot. We’ve done this before and faced the same enemy countless times. In fact, if it wasn’t for a fresh stretch of combat in a street of abandoned shops with their half-functioning neon signs I probably would have thought that the mission was a copy-paste from the first Destiny game. Even the new story arc of losing the traveler and its power to the Cabal feels a bit one-dimensional at the moment.
But even though I was disappointed by the initial mission I discovered a few small changes to mechanics and even new additions that alleviated some of the deja vu I was feeling. For example, the overhauled equipment system allows for more flexibility and freedom in how you play Destiny 2 through new combinations of weaponry. Now nobody can tell you not to rock two assault rifles or keep you from equipping a sidearm in both your primary and secondary slots! At the same time, fusion rifles and sniper rifles have both graduated to power weapon status so you won’t always be forced to choose between high range and high damage options. And while it was exciting to see these changes to the arsenal, a couple new mechanics like clambering when jumping to a ledge and the dodge ability are more important. These small improvements provided some much-needed updates to the original game by enhancing your character’s fluid mobility in and out of combat.
The multiplayer also is more intimate and perhaps more manageable than Destiny with matches limited to 4v4. Keeping matches to eight players allows for plenty of chaos while keeping the maps small enough to ensure the pace of combat is not too slow. The two game modes in the beta, Control and Countdown, heavily emphasize teamwork. Control is basically Domination. The more objectives your team owns the more points your kills are worth. Countdown resembles Search and Destroy with single elimination and planting explosives. Both of these game modes create an improved multiplayer experience through the focus on small team objectives facilitating more cooperation and even some camaraderie.
However, the most disappointing part of the beta was the strike “The Inverted Spire.” Initially I was really impressed with the level design; the strike begins with you soaring through the air on man-cannons, fighting through a still functioning mining site, and finally ends with you fighting the boss, Protheon, across three different maps. What is especially exciting about the Protheon strike is that each time you take his health down a bar the floor drops out and you fall to a completely different map. But regardless of the creative design, the enemies in this strike are sparse and the AI feels stupider than ever. At large areas in the map where you would expect a couple dozen baddies you run into some tiny skirmishes. For example, at one section you run through a field of mining craters and there are about five vex and five Cabal battling it out on an area that is about the size of a football field. Protheon also might be big in stature but he is one of the easier strikes in Destiny. Defeating him feels less like a triumph and more like a sigh of relief after completing a chore.
Even though I was continually delighted by small surprises in Destiny 2’s beta, nothing I experienced felt like a giant leap forward. I realize that the beta is just a taste of the new directions Bungie is taking the series. But will there be enough new content to please die-hard fans? I am definitely excited at the prospect of playing another Destiny game, but right now Bungie feels at risk of relying too much on the tropes of they’ve already established instead of pushing the second title beyond them.
Check out this gallery of awesome guardian concept art: