The Destiny 2 beta let us sample just about everything Bungie has to offer: the opening story mission, a strike, old and new crucible modes, and each new subclass.  As a Destiny player since the D1 beta, I had high hopes for Destiny 2 and the beta solidified that hype.

Our Light Is Gone and Gear Is Changing With It

Familiar and new at the same time.

The gear and inventory in Destiny 2 is very familiar.  You have three guns, a ghost shell, four pieces of armor, and a class item.  Both weapons and armor are changing, though.  The old primary/special/heavy breakdown of weapons has been replaced with kinetic primary, elemental primary, and power.  I was skeptical about the double primary system but I’ve really taken a liking to it.  Being able to swap from a scout rifle to a hand cannon, my favorite setup so far, as you close the gap is wonderful.  It also cuts down on the frustrating number of sniping campers and shotgun runners in the crucible.

The combining of the old special and heavy weapons into the single power weapon category is, overall, a good thing.  Heavy Purple ammo now feels appropriately special and powerful, especially when you see a shotgun two or three shot a shielded captain in PvE.  Guns still have the same impact, range, and stability stats in addition to a new rounds per minute stat.  Not sure if that’s important enough to warrant space in the UI.

Armor is seeing a similar overhaul as the old stats for strength, intellect, and discipline have been replaced with mobility, resilience, and recovery.  My armor should be what determines my defensive prowess, not my subclass.  Destiny is all about gear, after all.  Ghost shells no longer count towards your Power, a renamed-but-works-the-same version of Light.  For all you fashionistas out there, it looks like shaders will be applied to guns and armor pieces individually.  Destiny 2 will be, at the very least, fabulous.

 

Three New Subclasses To Fight The Red Legion

The new layout is better than the old grid but the clusters are concerning.

Subclasses have undergone a similar level of changes to gear.  It’s unclear if each class will launch with three subclasses, but they remain tied to an element.  Each subclass has a choice of three jump modifiers, three grenades, and two clusters of perks.  It feels like the clusters are meant to make it easier for Bungie to balance and possibly release more clusters in the future but it definitely cuts down on the number of available builds.  I can’t think of the number of small modifications I’ve made to my Destiny builds over time and the new perk cluster system drastically reduces that unless they are going to have a free-for-all “elective” mode like Diablo 3.  Each class also has a choice of two abilities regardless of subclass: Titans can build a barrier either to block incoming fire or to automatically reload when taking cover, Hunters can dodge to instantly reload or recharge their melee ability, and Warlocks can create a swirling boon of health regeneration or ammo reloading.

The new subclasses, one per class, are arguably the biggest selling point of Destiny 2.  As a Titan main I’m particularly fond of the new Sentinel subclass and its Captain America shield that can be used for blocking, smashing, or throwing.  The Arcstrider Hunter subclass felt underwhelming at first until I realized the five or six different combos that could be carried out while in staff/poledancer mode.  Add in the infinite dodge ability and you’ve got room for creativity.  Warlocks can now activate the Dawnblade to rain solar death from above with a fiery sword.  Old subclasses have also seen some changes, like the Striker becoming supercharged for a short time after smashing the ground and Nova Bombs roughly tripling in size while gaining tracking.

 

Homecoming and The Inverted Spire Whet Your PvE Appetite

Suddenly finding other Guardians defending the Tower was pretty damn cool.

The opening story mission where Ghaul and the Red Legion destroy the Tower is about as epic as you’d expect.  It’s hard not to smile while fighting alongside the class leaders in the place we’ve called home for nearly three years.  All of the voice actors we’ve come to know are returning and bringing their A-game.  One person is suspiciously quiet throughout Homecoming, though — you.  Your Guardian doesn’t so much as make a peep throughout the entire mission including when Ghaul practically sentences him/her to death.  Bungie is promising a better, deeper, and more narrative story in Destiny 2 but it’ll be hard to connect with a nameless, voiceless Guardian.  Maybe we’re meant to connect with the NPCs around us that we’ve come to know?  Only time will tell.

A single strike, The Inverted Spire, gave us a chance to test our mettle against tougher foes and I have to say that I’m impressed.  The combination of different fighting arenas, jumping puzzles, and tiered final boss was reminiscent of what Bungie usually reserves for raids.  If strikes are going to have this level of polish, I can’t wait to see what the new raids will look like.

 

The Crucible, Where I Call Home, Is Better Than Ever

Now we get to the good stuff.  I spend the majority of my time in the Crucible and Bungie is giving it the love I hoped they would.  The drop from six- to four-man teams and the new, front-and-center score bug is a dead giveaway that Bungie wants Destiny 2 to be a bonafide eSport.  Everyone can now see the time remaining, score, which subclasses are on each team, who is alive/dead, and even who has their super charged.  Small game feed additions like who cast a super or who loaded power ammo at what location help both players and prospective viewers.  Bungie has even predefined different in-map locations and displayed that in the top left corner of the screen.

As a whole, the Crucible feels more fair.  Most fights are fought in the mid range with two primaries.  If someone has power ammo, you’ll know it in the game feed.  Getting power ammo is more akin to picking up a power weapon in Halo: you feel powerful and are ready to take on anything.  An important change is that only one person at a time can load power ammo.  It’s no longer given to anyone within range of whoever picked it up.  Destiny 2 is taking a page out of the Overwatch playbook and changing to an elimination-style KDA.  Your postgame “efficiency” is really your kills+assists/deaths instead of your straight kill/death ratio.

Both of the available modes were fun in different ways.  Control, my old favorite, plays the same as before with a few key tweaks.  Each team now starts with one zone while the middle zone is neutral.  Games now end at 75 with points scored for each kill and bonus points for zone advantage.  Countdown, the first (only?) new Crucible mode in Destiny 2, is the first clear offense/defense match type.  If you’ve played Search & Destroy in Call of Duty, you know the drill: one team has to plant a bomb in one of two locations while the other team has to defuse it.  A team wipe on either side also signals the end of a round and the first team to six wins.  It’s definitely the more strategic of the two game types and requires communication.  The predefined map location names come in handy big time and the team limit of three revives per 90 second round puts added pressure on each fight.  I don’t see myself solo queuing for a lot of Countdown, but rolling with a full fireteam is a blast.  My one main concern is that there’s no timer once a bomb is planted.  Players have timed it to be roughly 45 seconds, but an on-screen timer feels almost necessary.  It would help both teams know whether to keep defending the bomb or to go all out for the team wipe.  Plus, if Destiny 2 is going to be the spectator sport Bungie is pushing it to be, a timer feels like a no brainer.

 

Final Thoughts

I’m coming for you Ghaul, you son of a bitch.

Bungie has roughly six weeks to put the finishing touches on Destiny 2.  The most common player complaints like ability recharge rate and how PvE tuning has been sacrificed in the name of PvP are things that can be (and may have already been) addressed.  The more intrinsic and baked-in things like how weighty the guns are, how cool the new supers feel, and how crisp the game looks are already where they need to be.  I was already looking forward for Destiny 2 and had it on top of my most anticipated list for 2017 before it was even announced.  After testing it out firsthand, I’ll surely be part of the first wave of Guardians on September 6.

Were you part of the open beta?  Which subclass was your favorite?  How long will you play soccer on The Farm?  Let me know in the comments!

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