We’re edging closer and closer to the game-packed Fall season, and you know what that means, right? Yup, you got it – it’s time for betas! Betas are really a marketing tool somewhat similar to how demos used to work at this point, allowing players to get a taste of the newest and hottest games before they’re readily available, but I can’t complain. Thanks to our good friends at Activision I got to give the Destiny 2 Beta a spin. Who could complain about that? Let’s take a look.
The beta includes a smattering of both PvE and PvP content, with the focus seemingly on the latter. After running through an initial intro area, you’re given a ship and the option to choose what to do as in the first game. Said intro area is interesting, since it went for a more scripted approach than the areas from the first game; you could see characters running around, fighting enemies, and sometimes they’d actually acknowledge your existence. Plot wasn’t a strong point of the first Destiny, though some efforts were made in expansions to try and staple some story onto the game after the fact, and having it seemingly take front and center here does a lot to distinguish Destiny 2.
Along with this, there’s a PvE instanced Strike to take on with a few randomly chosen party members called the Inverted Spire. As Strikes go it wasn’t terrible, though I’d have liked to play something that felt a little more different from the original game. I did enjoy the final battle with a giant robotic Vex enemy, though, and I think it’ll be even more fun once I’m playing with friends instead of randos.
As for PvP, well, I’m not exactly an aficionado when it comes to multiplayer console FPS action, so I admit that I was meat for more practiced players throughout. Most of my experience in the beta took place in a point-capture map featuring a fair amount of cover to dodge behind and a couple vertical segments to climb around; it certainly seemed nice, though it’s hard to say whether the map was especially great when I spent a fair amount of it decomposing! The other mode available in the beta is Countdown, where teams compete to plant or defuse a bomb. It’s somewhat similar to Counter-Strike, though death is a bit less immediate than in that game…well, for other players. Not for me. Theoretically it’s nice.
When we’re talking about the gameplay itself, though, Destiny 2 doesn’t feel especially different from the original game. You’re still running around, blasting enemies Halo-style, with extended pauses when you run across a bullet-sponge boss. As looter-shooters go, it’s not bad, though I tend to find Borderlands’ more lethal combat a little more to my taste; I think this might change when I’ve got mouse aim available in Destiny 2’s PC port, though. The way ammo and weapons are handled is a bit different, and that might be the single most basic change to how gunplay works; rather than having a primary, secondary and heavy weapon, characters now carry a kinetic, energy and power weapon, with ammo classes changed to match. At least in the beta, this made primary weapons feel a little less like peashooters, so in my mind it’s a good change.
Other than that, part of me wants to say that the game’s aim assist is a little more generous as I was having a much easier time taking out Cabal, but that may or may not actually be the case, given the opponents available are Cabal which are big and thus easy to hit. Meanwhile, the high-level gear offered in the beta’s PvE modes certainly felt nice to use, for what that’s worth, and running around mowing things down with the nice, shiny SMG my character came with was pretty enjoyable. Outside of guns, the Destiny series remains a strict adherent to the modern paradigm of using cooldowns to keep you from having too much fun at once, so all your really great moves – grenades, powerful melee strikes and new class abilities like a dodge for hunters and a playable rift for warlocks – all have a sizable wait time before they can be reused. This encourages a slower, more methodical playstyle in PvE, while the relatively lower TTK PvP allows for more aggressive play.
Naturally there have been some class changes; in particular, the Bladedancer class for the Hunter has been replaced with the Arcstrider, which uses a powerful lightning staff rather than dual blades. Functionally, the staff felt about the same to use, though I appreciated the fancy animations. Meanwhile, the new Warlock class, the Dawnblade, can summon a fancy sun sword to chop enemies apart with and the new Titan, the Sentinel, is basically a shield-throwing Captain America knockoff. I was especially fond of the latter, and it might influence me to play Titan when the game comes out in full.
As mentioned, there’s now a new cooldown-based special ability available to each class which helps differentiate them a bit more. Hunters, for instance, can dodge, which can be modified to reload your gun or recharge your melee attack; Titans have a shield they can produce to keep themselves and their allies safe; Warlocks can lay down rifts that heal or buff allies. It’s a nice touch and certainly helps to make each class feel different from the others.
Anyway, all things considered, the Destiny 2 Beta felt decent enough for what it is…and what it is appears to be more Destiny. I never had much of a problem with the actual gunplay in Destiny, so the lack of sweeping changes on this front isn’t a huge deal to me. What will be more important in my mind is the changes made to all the other aspects of the game; in particular, the Grimoire Card system used for world-building was a hilariously bad choice, one that I’m glad was reversed for the sequel. A few more solid decisions like that and we might have a winner on our hands! I’m feeling hopeful for September.