The last thing anyone should expect from a piece written about Destiny (or indeed Destiny 2), authored by yours truly, is objectivity. However, I’m going to make a monumental effort to try and not let my blind fanboyism get in the way as I write about the recent beta of Destiny 2, as not everything in the garden is looking rosy.

I realise that this is a beta, and that Bungie themselves have issued a statement saying that this isn’t the game that will be released, as it’s an older version, but this piece has to be based on the hands on that I have had. The time I’ve spent with the game has been amazing, and there are some truly stand out moments that need to be celebrated, but there are also some dubious design choices that have been made that I can only hope Bungie will change.

Rob Engeln, the beta lead designer, has gone on the record to say:

“The PVE game tuning has changed pretty significantly since the Beta build was deployed.  The nature of a Beta of this scale requires that it’s based off a build of the game that is now months old.  So, in many cases, your feedback is helping us validate changes that were previously made based on internal feedback and playtesting.  For example, we too felt that ammo (especially power ammo) was too scarce in PvE.  In addition to returning the drop rates, we built a system that guarantees power ammo drops for you and your Fireteam from certain enemies, giving power weapons a more reliable and predictable role in your arsenal.  Other areas where we’ve made significant tuning changes include grenade effectiveness in PvE, Boss vitality, and weapon damage against non-player combatants. “

On firing up the beta, we were given the choice of which character we wanted to play. The old familiar characters, Titan, Warlock and Hunter were all present and correct. The choice of race and gender appeared to be randomised, which was a bit of a shame, as we couldn’t get to grips with the new character generator and so couldn’t see what Bungie has planned on that front. On the other hand, it could be that Bungie are just keeping their powder dry and making us wait until release.

The now familiar cutscene of the Cabals attack on the Tower, and the Vanguards ultimately failed defense kicked things off, and as our Guardian flew into the fight, we were dropped into the first mission of the new game, called Homecoming. Working my way through a destroyed Tower, on fire and full of holes, was quite emotional, as I’d spent so many hours walking these corridors, and now to see them full of rampaging Cabal lit a fire in my belly as I prepared to bring the fight to them.

Fighting through, almost corridor to corridor and door to door, eventually we were greeted by Shaxx and offered free rein of his armory. This is where the first Exotic weapon of the game was given, and each class received a different weapon. My Titan receive an exotic auto rifle, that was more like Blaine’s minigun from Predator, the Hunters received a solar hand cannon, and the Warlock received an Arc sub machine gun, a new weapon class for this game.

At this point it’s worth talking about what Bungie have done with the weapons. In an attempt, I assume, to shake things up a bit, the way the weapons are classified and divided up has been changed. Now, each character has a Kinetic weapon that sits where the old primary weapon class was, an Energy class which sits where the secondary weapon weapons were, and a Power class that takes the place of the old heavy weapon slot.

Now, Kinetic does what it says on the tin – it’s purely bullets that are fired, with no Arc, Void or Solar burns possible. These are reserved for the Energy class, and can be any class of weapon. So the Kinetic class could have an auto rifle, or a pulse rifle in it, and the energy class could also have an auto rifle or pulse rifle in it, with an Arc burn or whatever. This is actually good news for me, as I am a massive fan of an auto rifle, so being able to have two equipped sounds like a dream come true. The bad news comes with the Power class, as for some reason sniper rifles, fusion rifles and shotguns are now classed as Power weapons. As are rocket launchers and grenade launchers (another new class, but not one that’s very good to be honest). Can you see where I’m going with this? The default layout for all of the raids in Destiny 1 has been sniper and rocket launcher for doing damage to the bosses. This is now impossible with the way the weapon system has been overhauled, and assuming Bungie still punish you for changing weapons within a class by removing some of your available ammo, then it’s going to make high level activities very difficult indeed. I hope, and wish, for a change of heart from Bungie on this, as the lack of a sniper if you use a rocket launcher did cause issues, even in the restricted confines of the beta.

Another change for the worse that Bungie have brought in is the time it takes for super abilities and even grenades to ready up. They have been slowed down to a snail’s pace, and with the new super abilities being as awesome as they are, it’s a real shame that we couldn’t see them more often due to the frustratingly slow charge time. Grenades as well suffered from a slow cooldown time, often leaving me hanging with nothing but harsh language when I tried to throw some explodey death. This has to be fixed for the main release in the PvE areas, as it is so frustrating waiting for the thing to charge. A side effect of this in the Crucible is that now there is a lot more emphasis on your gun game, with people being unable to rely on orb chaining and keeping a string of super attacks going. The time to kill seems to have been adjusted now, as if someone begins shooting you in the back, there is a slim chance that you’ll be able to turn and return fire. This may not sound like a big change, but in Destiny 1 it was a death sentence, so being able to take cover is a big improvement.

Where the beta shone though was with the new character abilities. The Titan Sentinel ability is fantastic, turning a humble Guardian into Captain America! The new shield the Sentinel can summon allows you to bash enemies with it, much like the relic in the Vault of Glass, block shots and also throw it with a well timed button press. All while glowing the cool shade of Void purple. The Hunter meanwhile has their Arc blades turned into an Arc staff, equipping them like some kind of refugee from a martial arts film. Spinning an electrically powered staff around, flinging off bursts of Arc energy and generally battering everything in sight into submission is their new super power. Arguably the best ability goes to the Warlocks this time around, with their new Dawn Blade ability. Tapping into the Solar power that Warlocks have always used for self-res this time summons a sword made of fire, which can be used like a sword to hit things with, but when hovering in the air allows the Warlock to rain down fire-y death on unsuspecting enemies below.

The only quibble I had with the Dawn Blade is that the duration seems quite short compared to the other two, but that was maybe just because I was swooping over the battlefield like the Angel of Death, swishing foes into oblivion. In addition to the headline acts, each class also now has a separate ability that is mapped to the B button. The Warlocks can summon a healing halo, or circle that restores health for anyone in it, and the Titan can summon a kind of waist high barrier that they can hide behind and shoot over. The Hunter meanwhile just has the dodge ability as before, with the exception that while Arc Strider is active, they have unlimited dodge energy and become an absolute nightmare to hit.

After working our way through the Cabal ship in the mission that was unlocked for us, we were greeted by Gary, who demonstrated what happens when a Guardian loses access to the Light: namely their Ghost appears to die and the powers that we have wielded so far all disappear. Gary (I know it’s Ghaul, but Gary is just funnier) is able to kick us all across the deck of his ship, and ultimately off the edge into the void. When the Traveller is surrounded by the forcefield – or whatever it is that Gary unleashes – it appears to be game over. Is our Ghost dead? Are we after plummeting hundreds of feet from a spaceship? How will we survive and bounce back from this? Like all good things, the mission is over too soon and leaves more questions than it answers. I for one am dying to find out what happens next.

After the excitement of Homecoming, the attention shifted to the rest of the offerings of the beta. From the familiar orbit screen, we went to the new Director option and were free to choose from two Crucible modes, and a strike. Staying with the PvE for a moment (nothing to do with my allergy to PvP and generally horrible K/D, honest) and the Inverted Spire strike had a lot to recommend it. First off, if you hung around the start area for a while, the Fallen appeared! Except they weren’t labelled as Fallen, but as Resilient. A new faction? A splinter group formed after the Splicers went the way of the Dodo? Something new? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. One weird thing I noticed about these Resilient guys is that they all had only two arms. There was no multi-arm shenanigans for these guys. So is that important? Who knows?

After these guys, it was into the strike proper, and the playable area was very large. The first time I tried it with two friends, it took us 47 minutes to complete. Admittedly, that’s about 15 minutes of actual fighting and advancing, and 32 minutes of poking about trying to jump to places, but still, it’s a good sized strike.

When we first reached the pit with the enormous drill I was blown away by the scale of the place. Progressing through, we eventually reached the boss, and what a boss he turned out to be. In something of a departure for strike bosses, his fight was split into three distinct stages, with each of the elements represented. First up he was channelling Void energy, shooting the place up with a Torch Hammer and generally teleporting about being annoying. Summoning Harpies was just the icing on the cake. When enough damage had been inflicted, he removed the floor so we fell down to a lower level, where he transmuted to solar energy, and we started playing a game of The Floor Is Lava. Which it was. Oh, and just for fun, if at any time the fireteam wiped on the boss fight, the whole fight started again. This led to some choice remarks about the bosses parentage, as you can imagine.

Anyhow, once we beat the solar phase, he removed the floor again and we fell into the final area, a small platform surrounded by what appeared to be Vex “milk”. I’ve read some disturbing things on the internet about the Vex, one theory goes that the Vex are the milky fluid that leaks out when you shoot them, and that the machine bodies they inhabit are only transportation. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is we were knee deep in Vex trying to take this boss down, while he became empowered with Arc energy. And he also gained some short of flash grenade, that when it hit you blinded you for a few seconds.

Once he was down, it was back to orbit for tea and medals, but the strike left a lasting impression on me. If this is the level of game that Bungie is bringing this time around, it appears that Destiny 2 is going to be one to watch. The story telling on the two PvE missions was next level compared to Destiny 1, with a concerted effort made by Bungie to flesh out the universe they have created. In doing so, they have made a compelling narrative already.

And so we move to the murky world of PvP. Bungie brought two modes to the beta, one was Control which we are all familiar with, capturing and defending flags to score points and win the game. The other was a new mode called Countdown. This seems to be a mix of Counter Strike and Battlefield’s Rush mode – all about either planting a charge, or stopping the enemy from doing so and defusing it if they do. This mode was certainly fast and furious, and required strong team play, as lone wolfing it lead to some upsetting deaths as I rounded a corner into the barrels of the entire enemy team. So, three people defending, one arming/defusing, and the stage is set for a great back and forth tussle. The game is won by the first to score 6 points, and the majority of the games went 6-5 or 6-4, with the advantage swinging first one way and then the other.

I can see a lot of eSports potential for this mode, and with the new 4v4 teams it should seal its popularity. I’m torn on the whole 4v4 thing, on the Control map in particular it seemed like it was hard to find an enemy to shoot sometimes, and I’m not convinced that reducing the number of players is a good move. Which two members of my regular fireteam are no longer required, unless we fancy a raid?

The time to charge the Super was also an issue on the PvP side of things – if we weren’t getting orbs it wasn’t uncommon to finish a match without the Super having charged even once. The only time I did manage to get my Warlock charged, whizzing about as a fire-filled death machine was awesome fun, raining fire down on the B flag from high in the air was amazing. Grenades also are very slow to charge, so you need to be sure you’re going to hit something before throwing one out. Again, this all has time to change, and it seems that armour may play a part in this, as the gear that was handed out at the end of the activities had different specs, such as mobility, recovery and so on. Maybe these will be key to getting the charge speed up. Who knows? That’s the thing with a beta, it asks more questions than it answers. Add to this the possibility of mods being applied to weapons, and the personalisation looks like it will be a very large step forward.

Lastly for the beta, for a limited time only, Bungie opened up the new social space, The Farm. Last night it was just a shell, with none of the NPCs that you have come to expect. We did find the areas for Dead Orbit, and for Eververse, which is a bit weird as Bungie were making a thing about how our Silver and Silver Dust would expire at the end of Destiny 1. What’s Tess going to be accepting as payment this time around, I wonder?

There is a functioning 5-a-Side pitch built into the social space now, with a football and proper goals. When it was 20-a-Side, things got a little crowded, but I can see this is going to be a fun addition. The social space is a good size too, with little nooks and crannies to explore, platforms and cables to balance along and sealed off doors and invisible walls galore to stop the curious from going where they shouldn’t. There were beautiful views out over the sea and the countryside, with what appeared to be a shard of the Traveller off in the distance. Is this how we get our light back? Dammit Bungie – curious minds want to know!

All in all, I think we can say the beta was a success. There’s stuff to change, which Bungie assure us they are on, and the supers and grenade cool-downs are way too long, but there’s time to tweak and I’m confident Bungie will do us proud. I’m super stoked to play Destiny 2 when it finally arrives, how about you guys? Did it convert you? If you never played Destiny before, do you think it will draw you in? Let us know in the comments.

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5 years ago

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A BabyRed Yoshi
A BabyRed Yoshi
5 years ago

I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen in the beta, it looks like more of the same