In a world of Darkness, facing a new foe shines a bright light
PUBLISHER ACTIVISION DEVELOPER BUNGIE FORMAT XBOX ONE ETA 6 SEPTEMBER 2017
The world is falling apart. Your one refuge from the encroaching Darkness has been compromised. Your Tower has fallen. Your sanctuary is ripped apart, the remnants of humanity’s final shelter buckled under the artillery of a new enemy: a Cabal splinter more violent, more aggressive than any that have come before.
You have a new enemy. A new face that has come to weaken your grasp on the Traveller’s light – the Traveller that seemed to form the crux of all the mystical mechanics of the first game. “Do not look at me, creature,” says Dominus Ghaul as he enters your home, the social space where you’ve made friends, organised Raids, decrypted countless engrams. “You are weak, undisciplined, cowering behind walls. You are not brave, you’ve merely forgotten the fear of death. Allow me to reacquaint you.”
This is Destiny 2’ s mission statement. It wants to remind you that warding off waves of the engulfing Dark shouldn’t be easy, that you’ve become complacent with all your Exotic gear and your supernatural powers. Destiny 2 has come to shake things up, rework the formula that’s kept us coming back for years, forcibly make you re-examine how you use weapons, how you use powers, and how you work with a team.
The biggest change to Destiny 2 is the weapons: they’re the centrifugal part of the game. But it seems in Destiny 2, Bungie has built the weapon setup around PvP rather than PvE – snipers and shotguns have been relegated to the Power slot (formerly known as Heavy) and this has fundamentally altered the way The Crucible works, and made PvE harder too.
World of pain
When you’re running through the world tackling the Fallen, the Vex, the Cabal, the Hive and whoever else is baying for your blood, you’ll notice there’s a lot less Power ammo knocking around, forcing you to rely on your two new Primary weapons a lot more. Hot-swapping from a kinetic damage submachine gun to an elemental hand cannon to tackle the new enemy variants works surprisingly well, and negates Destiny’s old ‘shoot it enough and it’ll die’ problem… you have to apply a bit more thought this time around, play a dynamic game of rock-paper-scissors to ensure you can actually make it through the newly difficult Strikes and story missions.
Destiny 2 has upped its game with bosses, too – in the beta, you’re introduced to Protheon, who seems to be exacting revenge for the first game’s first Raid boss, Atheon. There was a cheese to push Atheon off the arena in vanilla Destiny, and now Protheon is intent on pushing you out of the arena in the Inverted Spire Strike. It’s a very Bungie way of nodding to Destiny’s legacy and we hope to see more of this in the final build. That, mixed with how damn tough the new three-stage fight is, sets a promising precedent for how Destiny 2 will deal with Strikes.
Weapons in PvP, alongside the new rebalanced 4v4 setup, make the
“Destiny 2 reworks the formula that’s kept us coming back for years”
Crucible a much more tactical place to lay down fire: running and gunning will get you nowhere now. You need to think carefully about how you use your characters subclass abilities – Warlocks are now effectively Bards; support class characters that can grant offensive or healing boons. Hunters are as agile as ever, but feel weakened in comparison to their supporting and tanking siblings. Titans with their cover wall can help set up entrenched defensive positions, meaning that in a little quartet of fighters (with just one class of each!) there are myriad different team setups that you’ll need to experiment with in order to come out on top.
The time to kill has also been noticeably elongated; trading kills in Destiny 2 is far less likely than in the first game, and we feel that’s to the sequel’s benefit. It’s a big change to the Crucible – and a big change for Bungie – but we’re keen to see how the meta matures in Destiny 2, and if it’ll be a smoother evolution than Destiny’s original gimmick-ridden meta.
Back in the single player, the way Destiny 2 throws you into the Homecoming story mission in the beta makes an intentional point of force feeding you narrative. The mission sees you interact with the Vanguard leader of each faction – the Warlock’s Ikora Ray, the Hunter’s Cayde-6 and the Titan’s Zavala all have their part to play in the mission, and there’s some beautiful poetic irony in how you see all three in action here, but will have to recover their scattered factions later in the game.
While Destiny 2 is trying much harder to make the narrative aspect of the game more appealing, we still find parts of the story grating: Nolan North’s vocal work as your Ghost continues to be impressive, but some of the script for his lines tries too hard to be funny, which contrasts harshly against the apocalyptic nature of Destiny 2’ s doom-y setup.
At least having the Vanguard scattered across the solar system means that we get to see more of what Bungie excels at: world-building. The beta showed off a few maps, and they continue to make the Xbox One hum with bold colours, intelligent semi-open zones and a perfect mix of corridors and combat arenas.
The enemy AI remains as impressive as it ever has been in a Bungie game, and some new specialist-type enemies mixed in with aggressive, feral robo-dogs make for some wonderful encounters. The gunplay, naturally, complements the AI design perfectly – every enemy has a weak point, every gunshot feels impactful and every enemy that falls to your trigger finger makes you feel like the world’s smoothest, coolest gunslinger. It’s the Destiny power fantasy we’ve all come to love over the last three years, but more so, and you can’t argue with the satisfaction every single gunshot elicits in you.
Returning Destiny players are going to find little to complain about in the second game. Bungie even seems to be addressing the complaints about how often the game was patched from the beta – in the time it was live, we already saw the developer fix a myriad of bugs and balance issues… and that’s just for the beta. It sets a positive precedent for the final build of the game, a promise that Bungie will be keeping its ear to the ground, listening to the clamour of unhappy players should bugs and balance situations arise.
Destiny 2 is a remarkably familiar experience, something that works to the game’s detriment and benefit: if you were craving something ostensibly new from the sequel, you’ll be disappointed. If you were looking for more of the same, with a couple of fundamental changes to how the core of the shooting experience works, you’re in luck. Destiny has always been a divisive game, and it looks like with Destiny 2, that reputation is set to become even more intense. Eyes up, Guardian.
“The enemy AI remains as impressive as it ever has been in a Bungie game”
The new Strike bosses seem to be much tricker and more complex than the first game’s bullet sponges.
The awesome natural structures might remind you of old Halo games.