The Destiny 2 beta went public yesterday for folks on console, but if you pre-ordered the game you’ve had access to it for a while now. Bungie have been hasty to make it clear that the beta is based on an older build of the game. The beta offers an opening mission story mission called Homecoming, a strike called Inverted Spire, and a taste of PVP with two Crucible playlists.
Homecoming seems to be the very first mission in the campaign, or at least the earliest one, and right off the bat it makes all the right moves to actually give the story some stakes, give you an antagonist more visible than “The Darkness” and make use of some of the great characters established in the first game. Homecoming opens with The Tower under attack, the defences have been broken, and the last city on earth is falling.
Your guardian is summoned at speed from where ever else in the galaxy you where, and you rush back to find familiar, safe locations from Destiny in complete ruins, with The Cabal swarming from all sides. Every class Vanguard gets something exciting to do in this mission, finally giving you some direct interaction with some of these characters as you fight alongside them. The mission ends with you coming face to face with the leader of your foes, a lovely chap called Ghaul, who kind of looks like a Grunt from Halo on steroids.
Ghaul beats you up, and all but destroys your ghost, before tossing you off the edge of his ship. The effect he has on you and your little wisecracking companion seems to suggest that we’re going to see a Metroid style power-down at the start of Destiny 2. The beta starts you with a high level and gear to match it, and I would bet that next in the story, you find yourself on a quest to get powered up, retrieve your ghost, and take the fight back to Ghaul and his cronies.
Already, it’s a story much more interesting than the original Destiny’s initial campaign. We have friends, a clear foe, emotional stakes, and a reason to want to shoot someone in the face besides levelling up and loot.
Inverted Spire strike plays a bit more with some of the platforming and gameplay changes that Bungie started to introduce in later expansions to base Destiny. There are teleporting portals that whip you across the stunning landscape at great speed and a great deal of downwards platforming.
The first part of the mission involves disabling a giant drill, which makes for a fun segment of dodging spinning blades to destroy three generators. Later, the giant drill is an environmental hazard and a friend as you fight your way into the crater, dodging the drills and luring enemies into them.
It’s a lot of fun, and the boss at the end of the strike feels epic, on the scale of the final showdown with Crota at the end of The Taken King. There’s a fun conceit of the ground disappearing in different phases of the battle as you plummet deeper into the planet and the battle grows more intense. Sadly, the boss is a bit of a bullet sponge and ammo for your power weapons is thin on the ground in this encounter. However, Bungie have said they’re aware of dodgy power ammo drop rates and will be fixing accordingly.
In terms of skills, weapons and so on, there are a few fundamental changes that have been made. It’s a shame that the beta doesn’t really allow you to choose abilities, level up your class, or play about with equipping armour and weapons, so it makes it a little harder to gauge what’s new and how character development might advance. However, the weapons themselves have undergone a fundamental change that is sure to divide Destiny fans.
Weapon slots are divided between kinetic, energy and power weapons. Kinetic weapons feel like regular primary weapons - hand cannons, auto rifles, pulse rifles and the like. Energy weapons are a hybrid class of non-power weapons with an elemental flavour to them. This means side arms, but also any hand cannon or auto rifle with something solar, void, or arc going on. Power weapons are where your traditional one shot one kill weapons now live, including rocket launchers, grenade launchers, and perhaps most startlingly, sniper rifles, fusion rifles and shotguns too.
In PvP it seems like a good fit, giving battles an interesting ebb and flow where combat gets closer quarters and more hectic as the match runs on and the power ammo starts to spawn. In PvE, it does seem well suited for adding a bit more variety to battle, allowing you to lower a solar foes shields and quickly switch to a vanilla hand cannon to land a few devastating headshots.
However, in situations like The Inverted Spire’s boss encounter, it felt odd to have five shots with a sniper rifle on him, and then have to switch between my SMG and hand cannon to polish off the big bugger, especially with no power ammo to be seen.
The Crucible will feel like home for big fans of Destiny’s PvP. The new Countdown mode is a lot like bomb/defuse modes from other shooters, such as Counterstrike. It feels interesting and the new map Midtown has a few interesting lanes and sights for intense defusing and planting battles.
However, the mode does seem strongly suited for going in with a Fireteam of friends rather than going solo. Control returns, feeling much the same. The new class abilities provide interesting potential in PvP as they do in PvE, many being more focused on buffing and protecting team mates rather than just destroying foes. I think it’ll take the full release to get a better idea of how all these abilities will come into the mix.
Overall, Destiny 2 feels more like a half step from the first game rather than something that rewrites the rule book. It’s still not meeting the promise of the original game when Bungie hyped it into oblivion, but as a fan of the first game, I’m now cautiously optimistic at the thought of stepping back into Destiny’s world come September time.