With admittedly hundreds of hours logged in the original, I tried out the beta test for Bungie’s latest outing, Destiny 2 last weekend. It’s an interesting subject because there are a number of different angles in which the Beta has been viewed, some negative, some positive.
Bungie announced its awaited sequel as an opportunity for new players to enter the series, attempting to fix some of its perceived flaws. New classes, a new narrative and a new weapon system all attempt to change various aspects of the formula.
The beta opens with the first level of the new game. From a production stand-point, it is certainly a step up. The level showcases what is effectively the same combat while introducing some rudimentary puzzle-platforming elements near the end. These may be an indication of some down-time to pace the story a bit better than in the original. It also introduces players to the game’s villain, Gaul; a Warlord that has used everything his people have learned about the player characters (guardians), to take their powers away, thus making them mortal once more.
Three new sub-classes have been added, following the model of The Taken King expansion. Sub-classes from the original have been completely restructured. While making them more powerful, they have also removed all of the RPG-style variance in how you can set up your character. The classes all had nodes that gave a bonus to three core statistics: agility, recovery and armour (how much damage the character can take).
The classes always had an innate tendency to excel in one of the three; Hunters were the fastest, Warlocks regenerated health more quickly and Titans could withstand the most punishment. Having the ability to move from the intended path in a class was useful in some instances. Removing it, however, makes classes more distinct at the risk of losing some flexibility. Destiny was criticised for being narrow and basic, discarding these extremely malleable choices that held a lot of the game’s complexity does nothing to rectify that criticism.
The new weapon system is intrinsically linked to the revised Crucible mode (Destiny’s player vs. player offering). The original game’s multiplayer was criticised for over-use of special weapons, to the point where they were removed completely and became a pick-up. They were comprised of shotguns, snipers and fusion rifles (a weapon you have to charge up to fire). Special weapons all had potential to kill with one-shot and as such dwarfed the ordinary primaries. The logic behind the changes was to increase the use of these primaries as evasion was a more viable tactic against them. The third slot is now occupied by power weapons. Power weapon ammunition is much more restricted and are made up of shotguns, snipers, fusion rifles, rocket launchers and the newly added grenade launcher.
Crucible has also been altered to be 4v4 only, so all the maps are now designed to the player count which results in more directed combat. Also added is a new HUD which has added information about the opposition’s class and whether they have power ammo or a super charged which can cause devastating amounts of damage. I don’t like the implementation of this because it prevents sneak attacks and removes the advantages of thoughtful play.
What becomes of the multiplayer remains to be seen, but from what I can tell, Bungie have failed to address a major flaw in the original. The same changes are made across both PvP and PvE, meaning weapons are a bit too weak and don’t feel special enough against bosses, but kill too quickly to allow the kind of multiplayer combat Bungie is renowned for. In the original, all the re-balancing of special ammo in Crucible also took effect in PvE resulting in players running out of ammo constantly in boss battles. While I respect the idea of having one consistent rule-set across the entire game, all it succeeds in doing is frustrating players that only want to play one mode.
The maps are also designed in such a way that movement isn’t really incentivised in any meaningful way. This is coupled with a massive reduction in the rate at which abilities can be used meaning Destiny 2 is likely to become a very conservative multiplayer game. Which is fine, if you like that sort of thing.
But with all that said, the true test will be this September. Destiny veterans will be eager to find out how independent each section of the game is and how limited you are in your path of progression. Destiny 2 will live and die based on how much variety it has to keep players coming back.
Destiny 2 launches on September 8th on PS4, XBox One and PC.