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Destiny 2’s beta is fine

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Despite its rough start, I enjoyed the first Destiny. I wasn’t a ravenous fan or anything, but I put in a good amount of time. I even managed to beat one of the Raids.

Bungie did a good job improving its online multiplayer shooter after Destiny debuted in 2014 through various updates and expansions. Now, however, the time for iterative improvements are done. It’s time for Destiny 2, and ahead of its September 6 launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (a PC version follows October 24) I spent some time playing the closed beta on Xbox One. This test provides access to the opening story mission, a three-player cooperative Strike, and the team-based multiplayer.

Was it enough to get me excited for the sequel? Eh.

Above: Destiny 2 begins with the destruction of everything players fought to protect in Destiny 1.

An actual story

Let’s start with that story mission, which succeeded in actually feeling telling story (something the first Destiny often struggled with). It quickly set up the premise of the sequel — bad guys blow up your home and take away your powers — while reintroducing characters and bringing in new ones. It was also kind of fun (and a little sad) to see the main hub from the first Destiny surrounded in chaos and fire.

It also managed to introduce some fun elements and switch-ups. Missions in Destiny often only involved walking in a straight line and shooting things, with sequences of waiting for a door to open while fighting off waves of baddies being the only thing breaking up the monotony (although those sections became quickly monotony themselves). So it was nice to actually see a couple platforming sections in the mission, including one that had me running through a turbine.

It was a flashy and exciting start for Destiny 2. If the rest of the game can maintain that level of quality, it’ll be a solid campaign.

But playing this mission also validated some fears I had going in. Destiny 2 does not feel very different from the first Destiny. And in a way, I get that. The mechanics and interface in the first game were never an issue. The shooting always felt satisfying and the menus were easy to navigate.

Above: I don’t like my new staff.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

What’s different

But even beyond that stuff, it’s kind of disappointing how little as changed. You can still only pick between one of three of classes: Hunter, Warlock, or Titan. I went with Hunter, as that’s what I played in the first Destiny. And it felt almost exactly the same. Even the stuff that was new, like a new staff-based super move, didn’t feel very fresh. The staff, which basically lets you use a bunch of powerful melee and short-distance projectile attacks, behaved almost identically to the Hunter’s old Bladedancer shtick.

Each class also has a new class ability that helps give them more of a role in group play. Warlocks can put down a healing circle. Titans can raise a barrier to protect allies. Hunters, meanwhile, can do a dodge roll. It’s not nearly as flashy … or as useful.

Maybe I just got unlucky by picking a Hunter. Maybe that barrel roll is actually more useful than I understand. But it feels like my class got a bit screwed. I’m basically playing exactly the same as I did before, except I can do dumb roll every minute or so. If they aren’t going to add new classes, I wish they at least did more to make the old ones feel different.

I’m also not a big fan of the new weapon class system. In the first Destiny, you had primary, special, and heavy weapons. You could equip one of each. Primary guns were more standard things like pistols or automatic rifles, special guns were more situational tools like sniper rifles and shotguns, and heavy weapons were unique, powerful items like rocket launchers and swords.

In Destiny 2, you instead have kinetic, energy, and power weapons. Kinetic and energy weapons both use the same guns that were in the standard category in the first Destiny. They just use different ammo and are more effective against different kinds of enemies. Power weapons combines the special and heavy categories. This makes it impossible to equip a sniper rifle and a rocket launcher at the same time. Also, since power ammo is the hardest to come by, you won’t be able to use your shotgun or sniper rifle nearly as often as you did in the first Destiny. It makes me feel less versatile.

Above: A cooperative Strike.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

Multiplayer

I enjoyed the new Strike. I was happy to see that the boss actually had mechanics and wasn’t just a bullet sponge, like most bosses in the first Destiny’s Strikes. I was less thrilled with the competitive multiplayer. It felt like the same sort of thing I had grown tired of in console shooters for years, plus it was hard for me to get used to aiming on a controller after I’ve been spending so much time on Overwatch on the PC.

Maybe I’ll enjoy Destiny 2’s multiplayer more when I can play it on a PC too, but I don’t know. It’s just so familiar. It’s the same kind of generic shooter mutliplayer we’ve seen on console games since Halo popularized the idea.

Above: Let’s go, team.

Image Credit: Activision Blizzard

Conclusion

So, yeah, I don’t know. Destiny 2 seems fine. I’m not crazy about some of the changes, and Hunters seem weak compared to the other classes, but content in the beta is high-quality. The story mission is interesting, and the Strike is a great challenge for a small group of friends. Multiplayer didn’t grab me, but maybe I’ll enjoy it more when I can try out more modes in the full game.

But it’s hard to gather much excitement about Destiny 2 from the beta. Part of the problem is that I can’t try out a lot the new things that I want to see. I’m curious if Destiny 2’s open environments will feel more interesting with its new quest systems, but the beta doesn’t let you do any exploring. You just play the story mission and then use a menu to pick the Strike or the competitive multiplayer.

It’s also weird to play a role-playing game like Destiny 2 without any character progression or loot drops. All of that is turned off in the beta.

Destiny 2 could be a very good game. I’m just doubting it’ll be a very exciting one.

The PC Gaming channel is presented by Intel®‘s Game Dev program.

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