Destiny 2 beta: Welcome back, Guardians

Bungie’s anticipated follow-up to Destiny, Destiny 2, finished its open beta on July 25. Thousands of players logged in to get their first taste of what’s to come in early September. The beta featured the opening campaign mission, Homecoming, as well as a strike mission and limited Crucible action.

One of the glaring issues with Bungie’s first entry was the lack of a compelling campaign. Many players, including myself, were left disappointed and slightly confused as to the type of story that Destiny was trying to convey. It wasn’t until after Bungie released various downloadable content did the overall story begin to finally take shape. However by then, the Destiny community had already begun to fall off a bit. If the sequel’s campaign is even remotely like Homecoming, Bungie has answered many of its players’ prayers and will deliver on their initial promise of providing a hardcore first-person shooter with fantastic storytelling.

Homecoming opened up with the Tower being assaulted by the Cabal. Players may remember the Cabal as the main enemy you face on the red planet Mars from the first game. While the Cabal didn’t necessarily play a very important role in Destiny, it appears that they will be the main baddies in the sequel. The Cabal Red Legion, led by Dominus Ghaul, is hell-bent on stealing the Traveler from the humans, because they feel they should be the rightful owners of its power.

As you make your way through the burning rumble of what remains of The Last City, Earth, the Red Legion is seen off into the distance preparing to take the Traveler away. Once the mission completes, Ghaul appears and does the typical bad guy routine of having a monologue explaining his intentions, then promptly kicks you off the side of the Tower. The level of desperation and loss of hope right at the beginning is a shot to the gut, but firmly cements the tone for what the rest of the game is sure to bring. I’m extremely excited to see how the Guardians regroup after this preemptive strike on their home, and how they plan on regaining the Traveler and their stolen powers.

The Inverted Spire Strike was a nice addition to the beta. I didn’t participate in many strikes in the first game, but the beta’s strike is a good indication that I plan to change that. Guardians begin by battling against waves of Cabal and Vex as you make your way deeper into the planet. Possibly my favorite part of the entire beta came about halfway through the strike. Players come across a giant drill and you must make your way on the sides of a rocky mountain, trying to avoid the drill. Honestly, I died probably seven times to that damn drill, but they were the most enjoyable deaths I’ve experienced in a game. Not only are you trying to avoid the drill, but various enemies are also trying to kill you. Once you’ve survived the deadly machine, the strike boss appears as Protheon, Modular Mind. Protheon is a giant Vex that can be a handful, because it summons an army of Vex to accompany it in battle. After shooting off pieces of its body, the giant Vex will eventually die and you’ll receive a piece of armor and weapon.

The class system is essentially the same with some slight improvements. Players will still choose between three classes: Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Having played exclusively as a Titan in Destiny, I kicked off the beta as a Titan. The Titan is mainly a meat shield, as they possess increased defense over the other two classes, but deals out an adequate amount of damage. Players can choose to either have a bubble shield as their super attack, meant to protect yourself and fellow teammates from damage, or a Captain America-esque shield. Just like Marvel’s Hallmark hero, you can throw the shield at enemies from afar, or get in close to wreck havoc. Titans can also create a mini wall to crouch behind for added protection.

After completing Homecoming with a Titan, I went back and tried my hand with a Hunter. Hunters are the most agile of the trio, as they have a dodge move instead of the Titan wall to evade incoming projectiles. While I preferred being a Titan, and I plan on selecting the Titan class when Destiny 2 releases, I did like the exotic handgun for Hunters. It’s similar to the Boltok Pistol in Gears of War where it’s a one shot handgun and seems to deal out roughly the same amount of damage as the Gears of War counterpart. Instead of the jet pack that Titans and Warlocks have equipped, Hunters have a standard double jump to reach higher heights. Unfortunately, I was unable to use the fire pistol super attack, I did use the super attack that gives Hunters a long staff to deal solid melee damage.

Final time I went through the campaign mission was as a Warlock. Ultimately, I thought the Warlock class was the most inferior of the three. Warlocks have a jet pack, but it’s a weird suspension jet pack like you’re floating. Seems that makes you an easy target for enemies that can actually hit their shot unlike the Stormtroopers from Star Wars. One thing that was interesting was the Warlock’s ability to create either a healing circle or an empowerment circle to give extra damage to anyone that’s in it. The heavy weapon you use is a sniper rifle, and unless there are far bigger maps than this mission, which I fully expect, it was borderline useless in Homecoming.

My time in the Crucible was short-lived, but I still got the jist of it. The game mode was a defuse and set charges, similar to Demolition in Call of Duty. If you are attacking, there are specific points on the map that you must set a charge on to detonate, and the same goes for defense but to protect. The attacking team can outright win the round if they eliminate the opposing team without having set a charge. The Crucible rounds are now a four-on-four affair, as opposed to the previous six-on-six matches from Destiny 1. Other than the change in team size, Crucible seems to be a typical online experience that you would have in any first-person shooter.

Final thoughts

Bungie’s beta for Destiny 2 did everything that it set out to do. It presented a clear change for the better regarding the campaign, increased the customization of the three classes but still kept much from the first game and reinforced the value of completing strike missions. If Bungie is good at one thing, it’s listening to its fan base. The latter half of Destiny 1’s life showed a completely new experience that vanilla Destiny did not when it released, and it seems that has seeped over into the sequel. The developer is focused on providing players an amazing experience in Destiny 2 and if this beta is any indication of the future, I think everyone is in for a treat.

Destiny 2 releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 6, 2017, while the PC version will release on October 24, 2017.

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