Destiny 2’s beta is nearly over, so let’s take a look at the good and bad in Bungie’s sequel.
After a few days with Destiny 2, it’s hard to say how representative the beta is to the final game releasing in just six weeks. Seeing balance complaints, developer Bungie quickly pointed out that the beta build many have been enjoying this week is actually several months old. Using earlier beta builds is practice is relatively common because it means developers are using a more optimized version of a build, but it also means the release beta testers are using could have big differences from the most recent internal build.
As for actual gameplay, Destiny 2 is a mixed bag. The game isn’t leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor when it comes to graphic fidelity, but some effects like fire and smoke look sharper, and general lighting seems improved. The first two missions are featured in the beta, and they offer a little more narrative than Destiny fans might be accustomed to, but much of the area design and enemy behavior is familiar territory. Bosses are lumbering sponges, and player attention is divided amongst big heavy hitters and small-but-speedy enemies that chip away at health. General story mission objectives feel eerily (and disappointingly) familiar. Go through winding passages, scan an object, kill a horde of enemies and push on. Of course, the beta only offers a glimpse at Destiny 2’s full offering, so holding out hope for greater objective diversity in the final version of the game isn’t a lost cause.
Weapons in Destiny 2 are also a little bit less varied in the beta compared to the original game’s current form. Destiny 2 is still in beta, of course, so Bungie likely has dozens and dozens of weapons still waiting to be used by players in the full game, but it is odd that so many of the games rifles (and the just-added SMGs) feel resoundingly similar. They look a little different and might even look unique as they fire and make contact with enemies, but the sponge-like reaction enemies have to automatic fire in Destiny 2 makes them a mundane choice. The beta’s hand cannons are still punchy as hell, and they’re more satisfying to use than other primary weapons. Oddly enough, the way Guardians handle the hand cannons, along with their dreadfully slow rate-of-fire, makes them feel more akin to the weight one might expect from a game’s rocket launcher than its pistols.
Perhaps one of the most jarring changes in Destiny 2 is changing shotguns to the heavy purple classification. With decreased ammo drop rates in the beta, it made using my favorite Destiny murder tool an all too rare occasion. Bungie has acknowledged ammo drop rate and weapon type classifications, so there’s a chance we could see a reshuffle of RNG ahead of Destiny 2’s Sept. 6 launch. Many of the changes made to the weapon and gameplay balances appear to cater to Destiny 2’s competitive player-versus-player multiplayer component, The Crucible. PvP is still a joy, but it also doesn’t feel like the place most Destiny fans are spending the bulk of their collective time. If story missions, Strikes and Raids are where players are at home, pushing competitive tuning could alienate core audiences.
The Crucible is one of the few reasons I kept returning to the Destiny 2 beta this weekend. While only two maps are on display with a handful of modes, both casual and competitive playlists are grueling. Those who delved into the original game’s Crucible will feel right at home in the beta with tight corridors, a few wide openings for rifles and just enough first-person platforming to make you fall to your death at least once every other match. Just like the player-versus-enemy beta modes, Crucible ammo is scarce, and a few killstreaks left me without many bullets left to fire. The sense of conservation in competitive multiplayer is likely meant to dissuade spray-and-pray gameplay, but mowing down an enemy team and retreating to a corner because you’re out of primary ammo can be a slog.
The best part of the Destiny 2 beta comes in the form of a Strike. While still a little corridor-driven, there’s a few moments where Destiny 2 takes the leash off players and lets them battle in a bombed out field. Accompanied by a gorgeous skybox, moments in the Strike almost feel like the promise gamers felt ahead of the original game’s release back in 2014. Easily the best part of the Strike happens when massive drills pound the environment around strike teams. It seems like it’s damn near impossible to clear the zone without getting drilled into oblivion a few times.
Ultimately, Destiny 2 feels like a meditation on what made Destiny resonate with so many gamers over the past three years. Despite running at 30fps on consoles, Destiny 2 still feels good to play, and the somewhat improved visuals are a welcomed addition. Still, people who have problems with the original game, even in the post Rise of Iron age, won’t find Bungie has ironed out all of your complaints. Objectives still feel repetitive, and many of its player-versus-enemy encounters devolve into corridor shooting.
The core of Destiny 2, at least what gamers got a sample of in the open beta, is largely the same game that’s been around for years with minor changes that alter the rules of engagement. Those who loved the first game will be right at home in the sequel, but Bungie still hasn’t done enough to fix clunky mechanics it’s been clinging to for years.
If you still haven’t played the Destiny 2 console beta, you might still have time. Bungie has extended the beta on Xbox One and PS4 ’til 6 p.m. PST on July 25, 2017. PC players will have their own beta sometime this August.