Destiny 2 Beta Be Good…

Destiny 2, arguably one of the most hotly anticipated games of decade, will release in early September. Thankfully for all the enthusiasts (and some who just wanted to see what all the fuss was about) we had the opportunity to play the Beta last week and get a small taste of what Bungie has in store.

Destiny itself already has a large and somewhat loyal fanbase, but this could easily never have been the case. While everyone seems to be overly willing to forget the rocky start this first person shooter had, I am not. Much like the infamous No Man’s Sky, Destiny failed to deliver as advertised. Smooth cinematics and “not actual game footage” trailers riding on the company’s previous Halo success did much to over hype the game which promised to be a first person World of Warcraft crossed with Call of Duty, set in a post apocalyptic traversable open world, spanning the solar system whilst feeling like Halo.

Now I sure as hell don’t want to be a buzz kill. I play Destiny regularly and I think it is a truly magnificant game. It does feel like WoW (Team Raiding). It does feel like CoD (PvP match types). It does feel like Halo (Inertia, and graphics combined). But it didn’t at the start, and even now some of the promises made have just been hidden away, deleted and archived in the “let’s just hope they forget about this” box at the back of Bungie HQ. These build my worries for Destiny 2.

So when I sat down to play the Beta I asked myself; what has Bungie done to make me feel like taking the same risk I took buying Destiny, with their second instalment? Do they make up for their past mistakes and deliver on their promises?

“Destiny 2 starts in the middle of the action, giving us entertaining cutscenes with characters we know and have grown to love at the centre of the fold”

The first thing that jumped out at me when I started playing was the quality of the story line. Unlike the first game, Destiny 2 actually starts with one. Originally, Destiny seemed like a hodgepodge of plodding missions and a disappointing “stranger” plot with no ending that just frustrated the fanbase. Alternatively, Destiny 2 starts in the middle of the action, giving us entertaining cutscenes with characters we know and have grown to love at the centre of the fold. NPCs which we used to yell at for giving us rubbish items now have personalities, histories and futures. We are no longer just an animated dead body. We have a home, friends and family, and they’re being threatened.

Bungie came to learn the importance of these elements throughout Destiny’s first instalment, and as a result of that have started stronger this time around.

Enter the Villain.

In Destiny 2, the antagonists were so alien that they were hard to personify, and difficult to see as threatening as they were too far-fetched. It is hard to feel involved in a situation you cannot identify with. Dominus Ghaul, however, is much more real. He is a being of flesh and blood; just another cabal, albeit a big one.

The weapons and powers you will use to attempt to bring down this intimidating character have stayed true to the nature of the original, with a small shake up to what combination they can be equipped and how often. The kit is more user friendly, and the addition of “shaders” which allow you to customise your pieces of gear individually, allow a greater sense of individuality, which will give me something to do when I finish a raid at 2am and don’t have the stamina to shoot another bad guy in the face.

PvP still has lag issues with players from different continents, which I found most pronounced while playing with my Australian comrades. However, true to their promises, their matchmaking system does seem to have sped up the waiting time, and I don’t find myself hanging in orbit pondering the meaning of life on quite such a regular basis.

“The Vex boss put up a good fight and stayed true to form, making the player adapt and use specific techniques to bring him down in a frantic and fast paced setting.”

The one strike mission on the Beta provides a few brilliant panoramic views, and introduced some native fauna on the centaur-class planet of Nessus (which is incidentally a real planet). The Vex boss put up a good fight and stayed true to form, making the player adapt and use specific techniques to bring him down in a frantic and fast paced setting. It accomplished the not insignificant feat of feeling both modern and traditional simultaneously. Also FYI, for any acrophobics in the house, you might want to keep a spare pair of undies near by for this bit… I’ll say no more.

While all of this is well and good, I was most intrigued to see what “The Farm” – Destiny 2’s first social space was going to look like. It hadn’t really occurred to me that you could make any improvements to an area which is essentially a housing complex for non-playable characters, and as such my expectations were set pretty low. It feels sort of strange to be writing this up stating that the most “boring” bit of the game was actually the most fun for me, but it really was.

There have been so many games in the past ten years that have shown such a huge shift between how players feel and what developers think they want. Destiny 2’s social space, while a small and seemingly insignificant part of the game, has given me high hopes for the direction the franchise will take in the future. As much as it was a surprise to me, football dominated the social space experience, playing like an unofficial ten year old’s five aside match where even the goalies rush the ball. There are plenty of trees and hidey holes at the back, allowing for “HUD off hide and seek”, a game that is almost becoming as infamous as Call of Duty’s “Mike Myers” amongst the player base. Jumping into glitches became Destiny’s unexpected mini-game, and the developers have embraced this, creating a guardian size climbing frame ripe for aerial acrobatics (queue hunter dance emote while traversing a tight rope between buildings).

All in all, I can safely say that Destiny 2 will not be a disappointment and the Beta solidified my decision to pre-order. Is it going to be a masterpiece? I can’t say, but I sure as hell am looking forward to being able to answer that question for you in September.