Destiny 2: beta impressions

Many of you will be playing the beta already; while those itching to play, yet don’t have an early access code, can jump in tomorrow. If you want (another) taste of what to expect, or if you’re just interested to see somebody else’s take on it, stay a while. I’ll throw some words at you.

Despite its runaway success, some people – including me – weren’t very impressed with the first game on release. It was very pretty but underfed, like a sickly swan. It wasn’t really until The Taken King that Destiny found its stride, and finally shook off annoyances such as a shocking lack of content and a confusing levelling system for the upper tiers. The absence of coherent storytelling remained, but that’s something that Bungie have made clear they have taken pains to address; and there are signs that they really have put the effort in. Cayde, just about the only memorable character from the first game, features heavily in the game’s intro; and you meet him briefly during the available mission.

The beta begins with the “Homecoming” opening of the campaign. Ghost by your side, within seconds (after the surprisingly lengthy cutscene intro, that is) it feels instantly familiar, despite everything around you having been laid to waste. Each time you squeeze the trigger of a weapon, it’s very Destiny. Enemies are relatively hardy and satisfying to bring down, spitting numbers out like blood as you hit them. There’s a big question mark over how smooth ranking up will be – the beta makes everybody level 20, levelling the playing field – but the end of Homecoming promises “a world without light”.

There are two PvP modes available, each taking place in a separate map. Control takes place in Endless Vale. This sees you and your team engaged in the familiar task of trying to, er, control marked spots spread over the map. The circle that you need to occupy in order to start claiming one of these spots remains very small, leaving you vulnerable and on edge; you’re purposefully left open to attack from multiple angles. If one team works as a single unit and the other does not, then the players using teamwork will undoubtedly dominate the match. A single attacker stands little chance against a whole team defending a flag and, conversely, a team moving as one to capture an enemy flag against a single defender will have to do something very wrong to fail.

The other mode is Countdown, taking place in the urban map Midtown. Sadly, it has nothing to do with anagrams, maths, or the late Richard Whiteley. New to Destiny, in this mode teams swap between the roles of attackers and defenders with each round. It’s a familiar setup for FPS fans. The attackers need to plant a bomb, and have two points on the map to choose from (any player can set the bomb). The bomb, once set, must be defended or defused. No auto-respawning, but players can be revived.

With small maps and only four players on each team, the beta’s PvP ensures that everybody gets to see plenty of action. However, it also means that things can feel a bit claustrophobic at times, and potentially uncomfortable for those used to maps and modes with plenty of variety in approach and room for manoeuvre. Still fun; but it’ll be interesting to see what the final game offers.

Last but not least we have the three-player strike mission, Inverted Spire. Relatively short and fairly sweet, difficulty is pretty much perfectly judged (presuming all three players stick around to the end, and bearing in mind that you’re instantly level 20). The twenty minutes our first run through took went very quickly. You and your digital chums will be pitted against the Vex and the Cabal, with some smart environmental hazards thrown in for good measure. And those hoops you jump into to send you flying through the air like a first-person Sonic? Niiice.

The Modular Mind boss awaits you at the end of the strike. Very big, very shiny… and very deadly. Naturally, it’ll regularly summon swarms of Vex to frustrate your efforts to chip away at its health bar. Concentrate your fire on the boss whenever possible, make good use of the available cover, revive teammates whenever they need it, and victory shall be yours.

By offering a taste of the campaign, the PvP, and the strikes, the beta has succeeded in making Destiny 2 a sexy proposition. It’s smothered in trademark Bungie smoothness, and indications are that lessons have been learned. It’s not nearly enough to judge how the game as a whole might hold together of course, but the signs are promising.

Okay; you can go play it yourself, now.

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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