IF YOU WANT YOUR NEXT GRENADE MORE QU ICKLY, YOU ’RE GO ING TO HAV E TO WORK FOR I T

EDGE - - SPACE MAGIC -

ABOVE Cru­cible play is now far more de­fined by team­work; the new 4v4 struc­ture means stick­ing to­gether is a smart play.

RIGHT The Ti­tan Sen­tinel sub­class plays up to the shield-fling­ing Cap­tain Amer­ica fan­tasy, but can also ac­cess a de­fen­sive Ward Of Dawn bub­ble

OK, sure, there are times in both Destiny and its se­quel where the ac­tion is any­thing but serene. Raid bosses are fought with teeth firmly clenched. And there are plenty of mo­ments dur­ing Destiny 2’ s story cam­paign – which we have played in its en­tirety – where we find our­selves hun­kered des­per­ately be­hind cover urg­ing our shields to start recharg­ing, or scrab­bling around man­i­cally, our guns empty, hoover­ing up ammo pick­ups like a Roomba gone hay­wire. Yet at its core, Destiny is an un­com­monly re­lax­ing take on hu­man­ity go­ing to war with an end­less con­veyor belt of an­gry alien mon­sters. You play with mus­cle mem­ory and in­stinct, the con­troller melt­ing into your hands as you tear through en­emy fac­tions with your co-op bud­dies. Smith once de­scribed Destiny to us as “the bar I can go to when I get home, where I can wear my py­ja­mas and shoot the shit with my friends”. You’re there no­tion­ally to drink, but it’s a so­cial oc­ca­sion above all. You go to the golf course to hit balls into holes, sure, but you’re re­ally there to hang out and talk.

Con­ver­sa­tion is a key theme for Destiny 2, a driv­ing fac­tor be­hind many of the changes Bungie has made to the game’s me­chan­i­cal tem­plate. Some endgame ac­tiv­i­ties will lock your load­out, for in­stance, pre­vent­ing you from chang­ing your weapons or sub­class af­ter you load into a mis­sion, re­quir­ing that you and your fireteam de­vise a plan be­fore set­ting out. The weekly Night­fall – once the most at­tri­tional ac­tiv­ity in all of Destiny, a rock-hard fight against over­lev­elled bul­let-sponge en­e­mies, that kicked you back to or­bit if your en­tire team died – is now a timed chal­lenge. The limit will vary (Smith gives 13 min­utes as an ex­am­ple), but you’ll need to be ef­fi­cient as well as ef­fec­tive – some­thing which will only be pos­si­ble if a team set­tles on a strat­egy be­fore­hand, then prop­erly ex­e­cutes it. Much of the first Destiny was de­signed around dif­fi­culty as a ques­tion of per­sis­tence; the se­quel pitches it as a mat­ter of plan­ning and skill.

“We’re look­ing at dif­fi­culty as a way to drive con­ver­sa­tions,” Smith tells us. “Do you have the right tools? Are you look­ing into your back­pack to see what you have? You should to­tally have favourites – if you have a favourite hand can­non then awe­some, great, you should use it. But I also think there should be times where you’re like, ‘You’re not the right tool for this job’. So you look at your en­tire golf bag and say, ‘OK, what do I have?’”

The idea is most deeply rooted in the new – and some­what con­tro­ver­sial – way in which weapons are clas­si­fied in Destiny 2. In the pre­vi­ous game, you had pri­mary weapons (ri­fles, hand can­nons and the like); sec­on­daries (snipers, shot­guns, sidearms and the charge-fir­ing fu­sion ri­fles); and heav­ies (rocket launch­ers, ma­chine guns and swords). In the se­quel, heav­ies and most sec­on­daries have been bun­dled to­gether in a sin­gle slot, and are now known as Power weapons. The other two slots are for what used to be called pri­maries: Ki­netic weapons fire stan­dard, bal­lis­tic bul­lets, while the En­ergy vari­ants add el­e­men­tal ef­fects, deal­ing bonus dam­age to en­e­mies with ap­pro­pri­ately coloured shields.

It’s a change that has not gone down well with the Destiny com­mu­nity. Play­ers see it as ev­i­dence of Bungie be­ing so des­per­ate to fix long­stand­ing prob­lems in the Cru­cible, the game’s PVP com­po­nent – where shot­guns and snipers have long reigned in­fu­ri­at­ingly, in­stakillingly supreme – at the ex­pense of the PVE game, where it seems as if op­tions have been taken away from play­ers. Smith read­ily ad­mits the change has been at least partly im­ple­mented to make life eas­ier for Bungie’s de­sign teams – “It’s about, as a de­signer, be­ing able to un­der­stand how much power a player is go­ing to be able to bring to bear,” he says – but stresses there are ben­e­fits to play­ers in both modes. The game’s

YOU PLAY WITH MUS­CLE MEM­ORY AND IN­STINCT, THE CON­TROLLER MELT ING INTO YOUR HANDS

beta did not con­tain the fi­nal im­ple­men­ta­tion of how En­ergy weapons work against AI com­bat­ants with el­e­men­tal shields, for in­stance. When the shield is de­pleted, it ex­plodes, nuk­ing any en­e­mies that hap­pen to be nearby.

Yet be­neath the spec­ta­cle lies, once again, the team’s de­sire to make play­ers plan ahead and talk. Smith asks us to pic­ture run­ning the Vault Of Glass, the first (and still best) Destiny raid, us­ing the

Destiny 2 weapon sys­tem. “Imag­ine the con­ver­sa­tion you’re go­ing to have when you’re about to do the Or­a­cle phase,” he says, re­fer­ring to a sec­tion where play­ers must quickly take down a se­ries of ran­domly spawn­ing spheres of light – and will be in­stantly killed if they miss even one be­fore it dis­ap­pears af­ter a few sec­onds – while also deal­ing with waves of high-level en­e­mies. “Who’s bring­ing a sniper ri­fle? Who’s bring­ing a fu­sion ri­fle for the Mino­taurs? You’re now putting those pow­er­ful things in con­flict with a rocket launcher, which is for AOE wave clear­ing and can ef­fec­tively re­place some­thing like a Nova Bomb [a highly dam­ag­ing Su­per move be­long­ing to the War­lock class]. Well, now, Nova Bomb could be more im­por­tant, be­cause not ev­ery­body’s run­ning with a sniper ri­fle and rocket launcher. What this sys­tem does is make player power more pre­dictable, but it also al­lows Su­pers, in a num­ber of ways, to shine even brighter in the game.” Our visit to Bungie co­in­cides with the launch of

Destiny 2’ s beta, and while our vi­sions of a work­force run­ning man­i­cally around a stu­dio on fire fail to come to pass, the game’s first time in the wild adds a com­pli­cat­ing el­e­ment to this story. Nor­mally, we play, and Bungie talks. Yet while we are at the stu­dio, mil­lions of peo­ple around the world are also play­ing the game; form­ing opin­ions on it, dis­cussing it and, be­fore long, com­plain­ing about it to high heaven. Smith quickly took to Twit­ter to as­sure the Destiny com­mu­nity that the beta was based on a months-old build of the game that had un­der­gone ex­ten­sive tun­ing since, but that wasn’t enough.

The new weapon sys­tem was one bone of con­tention. An­other was the length of abil­ity cooldowns, the timers which dic­tate when you get to use the thrilling space magic that is as fun­da­men­tal to Destiny’s en­dur­ing ap­peal as its won­der­ful, over­the-top ar­se­nal, or the un­end­ing thirst for loot the game fos­ters in its most com­mit­ted play­ers.

So, yes, re­lax: base cooldowns are lower in the fi­nal game than they were in the beta. Yet there is a wider, struc­tural change at play here, one born of a very dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy to that which drove the first game’s de­sign. There, cooldowns were mostly re­duced by stats that ran­domly rolled on pieces of ar­mour. They were pas­sive, be­stowed upon you au­to­mat­i­cally by the things you wore. Here, they are ac­tive; if you want your next grenade more quickly, you’re go­ing to have to work for it.

Take, for ex­am­ple, our beloved War­lock. A perk in the Dawn­blade sub­class lets us speed up the recharge rate of our grenade with air­borne kills; an ex­otic chest­piece, ac­quired dur­ing the cam­paign when our char­ac­ter’s level is still in sin­gle fig­ures, makes us hover in place when we aim down our gun­sights in the air. Dis­patch four or five en­e­mies while air­borne and our grenade is ready again. Do­ing so is a risk, of course – there is no cover in the sky, so we are a static tar­get in the line of sight

Game direc­tor Luke Smith

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