Destiny 2: Beta Impressions

I was in a long standing relationship with Destiny. I think it’s best to get this out the way before I continue. It was a game that I became fairly dependant on during some tougher periods in my life and you can read about that here. And I’m not alone in this.

Destiny originally promised a 10-year plan like all relationships, and it seemed like it was true in the early days, but as time went on there were hidden expenses and a few bumps in the road. The haze of early adoration slowly fell to the wayside and many players fell away as the formula of the weekly/daily grind became stale. So, you decided to call it quits. Took a much needed break.

Now, it seems that enough time has passed. You’re returning to the well once more. Champing at the bit to jump right back into what you considered the peak of your relationship, no longer exhausted from the rigid routine.

Right from the start it’s clear that Destiny 2 wants to break the chains it has to the old formula. The opening scene sees the Tower crumble around you as you flee what little remains of Destiny’s beloved hub world. It sets a precedent that the world you’ve come to expect burns around you. The dire state of the Tower even sees the Guardians that previously barked orders jump headfirst into the fray to help you escape. It’s a nice nod to their ability and a stellar way to open a new game; casting aside the old and preparing for the new. It even holds more weight and character than Destiny’s original launch combined, which admittedly isn’t that much of a stretch.

It’s clear that Destiny 2 has had a considerable facelift. The world’s you explore are just that bit more colourful and jumping right back into the world of Destiny is great. The machinations of where the environment meets the scenery are gorgeous. There’s a serene moment as you’re gliding through the air and your Ghost points out a Vex waterfall. A monstrous flowing white river cascading over the edge of a cliff in the purest shade of white committed to a water texture that it earns the name “Vex Milk”.

Then you have the new enemy designs; they all take an established formula and add that little bit of extra detail that Destiny originally lacked. A key example being the Cabal. Previously, the Cabal were pretty dull, a pale adaptation of Warhammer’s infamous Space Marines without the charisma. Now, the designs of their armour are more prominent, and their shields glow that bit more. Weak areas sparkle with a neon orange and the addition of flamethrowers creates a tried and true trope of shooting the backpack for that oh-so-satisfying burst of flames. Then you have the War Beasts: the Cabal’s new enemy type. As for the Vex, they are still the Vex. A bunch of robots with exposed midriffs and a penchant for destruction.

And just like the enemy types, all the classes have been tweaked too. New abilities have been unlocked and there have been adjustments to how the established classes in Destiny worked. For many players, this means a drastic downturn in the abilities of some classes and most notably the lack of the third sub-class for the established Guardians. The skill trees have been revamped too, but in the beta it was very hard to fully appreciate the scope as you had limited access. One thing is clear, and that is the painstakingly obvious focus on normalising Guardians and how they have had their abilities toned down. As a Hunter, the changes to the golden gun and the improved arc blade super, which is now called the Arc Staff, look impressive but due to the considerably slower super generation, they were rarely seen.

It’s this reduction in the abilities of the Guardians that truly hurts the online play in the beta. During the time, I played both of the new game modes, managing to use my super ability once per game and more often than not, the use of that super would close out a match rather than redeem it. It almost detracts from what made the original Destiny special, as most of the unique builds that players created for their preferred class did not feel as prevalent in the beta.

Deep down, I really hope that Destiny 2’s beta isn’t a true reflection of the final experience. I wasn’t able to rekindle my enthusiasm for the series throughout the weekend and that worries me. When I look back on my time with Destiny, it was clearly the routine of endlessly pursuing better loot and gaining access to the countless exotics weapons and playing with their unique perks – another aspect that also feels horribly toned down in the beta. It seems apt to end on the same analogy we opened with and it’s horribly fitting to compare it to taking a break from a relationship, but unlike the infamous break of Ross and Rachel, I don’t feel like my break from Destiny will have the same neatly packaged ending.

Instead, Destiny 2’s beta feels like that girl you broke it off with fairly early on. Now it’s a few months on and you agree to meet up again, this time you’ve both dialled back on what you thought were the problems only to expose that deep down you never really understood what the attraction was. Maybe you didn’t really have anything to fill that hole at that point in your life, but now you’re a different person. More rounded and appreciative of all that you have around you. Firing from the hip still gives the same feeling of elation, but now you’re in it for more and it just isn’t clear that it’s there on the surface.

What we can take away from the beta is that, at its core, Destiny 2 is very much the same game but improved. Even with toned down abilities and exotic weapons, the excellence of the gunplay still rings true and with the promised fixes and improvements to the core mechanics, many a Guardian will be delighted to return and continue to explore the universe in search of the truth.

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