Destiny was meant to be the next big thing in gaming. Coming from Bungie, creators of Halo, it was conceived as a multi-year goliath that would last for years to come; a game for all time, that gamers would universally love. And then it came out, and well, it wasn’t great. The limited content and other issues meant that for many, including myself, the first game just couldn’t keep its hooks in, even with revamps coming in post-launch content.
That’s probably why Bungie are almost treating Destiny 2 as a soft relaunch for the series. Starting with new characters and a new story, largely devoid of plot elements from the first, Bungie are hoping that this will bring people back in who were turned off by the first game. To give those people as well as diehard Destiny fans a taste of the new game, the game had its first open beta this past weekend, and what it showed off, whilst not perfect, definitely seemed like a step in the right direction for the series.
From the off, the most notable thing to behold in the beta is just how much story content there is. The first game did actually have a story, but it did its best to hide it via forced usage of an online website for lore tidbits, which resulted in the plot feeling unimportant. Here, it is front and centre. The first mission alone, which was included in the beta, had far more story than all of the first game. This attempt at storytelling works quite well here. It already makes you feel far more invested in the plot of the game, and, although the tale of alien-looking bad guys over-running the home of the heroes feels a bit clichéd, it works, possibly because having any story whatsoever in a Destiny game feels great. If the rest of the game contains this level of storytelling, the campaign is going to feel a lot less like an unimportant afterthought.
The core gameplay of Destiny 2 is largely unchanged from the first, with Bungie sticking to the mantra of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Unsurprisingly from a game made by the creators of Halo, guns feel fun to use, with a satisfying hefty feeling behind them, avoiding the problems games with space guns have sometimes where the guns can often feel a bit weak, thanks to an over-abundance of pew-pew style lasers. Also making a return is the class system, with players getting a choice of three classes: Titan, Hunter and Warlock, each of which have different skills and different ways to play. I played as a Warlock for the beta, and had loads of fun with the character, particularly with its super ability where I got to turn into a flame-sword wielding maniac, dealing death and justice to all.
Aside from the campaign mission in the beta, two extra modes were available to try: the Crucible, Destiny’s version of competitive multiplayer (which I didn’t sample, because I can’t stand competitive multiplayer); and a Strike, a co-op mission to be played with friends or strangers. The Strike was quite fun to complete, even with the two strangers that I played with, although I imagine it would be far more enjoyable with friends, particularly due to the people I was playing with refusing to act like we were any kind of team at all.
It did however have some issues that could be ironed out prior to launch. Most notably, the Strike, and indeed the campaign mission as well, were far too platform-based. It’s a first person shooter, not a platformer, meaning its over-reliance on platforming sections is both bizarre and frustrating. In both modes, there were sections that required you to jump over and dodge various fast-moving obstacles, none of which were fun at all, and just served to annoy me. The boss battle in the Strike could also do with some improving, as the boss felt like a bullet sponge, requiring an insane number of bullets to be dumped into him before he fell, which meant that the fight quickly lost a lot of its sense of fun, as the bastard just wouldn’t die.
The beta for Destiny 2 wasn’t perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. Although arguably it could be seen as just Destiny 1.5, it makes important improvements in key areas that might be enough to drag players back in, and get them to commit to embarking upon another multi-year journey. The fact that there is a story now is exciting enough for me, and, as long as the other issues are ironed out before launch, Destiny 2 has the potential to finally live up to the promises of its predecessor.