An in-depth look at the Destiny 2 beta

tixfeatures Xbox One

So, the Destiny 2 beta has come to a close, and over the last week, Guardians around the world got their first glimpse of what to expect come September 6.

Starting on July 18 for PS4, hitting the Xbox One on July 19, and becoming available to all (except PC) on July 21, the Destiny 2 beta offered players the opportunity to play through the Homecoming mission, the new Inverted Spire strike, and two modes in the Crucible.

As many of you know, I have put a lot of time into Destiny. I played the original beta, jumped in on day one, and played almost daily for the last two and a half years. I’ve peeked into every corner of Destiny, from the story, the four raids, Crucible, Prison of Elders, and much more. So, it’s safe to say that I was going into the beta with a degree of expectation.

Obviously, the beta was just that, a beta, and thankfully it appeared as thought Bungie learned from their previous mistake, and only made one story mission, one strike, and two Crucible modes available, instead of what in reality was about a third of the actual original game in the Destiny beta. As a primarily PvE player, I was a little apprehensive with the emphasis on PvP, however understood that it was more important to test network strain.

Getting started

When loading the beta for the first time, you are greeted with a familiar screen, and are given the choice of one of three classes to choose from. Naturally the choices were Hunter, Titan, or Warlock, so I hovered over my favourite class, and made my choice. Suddenly, the release trailer is playing and you’re in. There were no customisation options, and your race and gender were assigned at random, so it was a nice quick entry into the action.

After the initial cutscene, which after the release trailer footage shows you and your ghost approaching the burning Tower, you knew you were headed into danger. Seeing the Tower, a social space I had visited so many times over the last 2 and a half years, up in flames was sight to behold. As you appear in the depths of the Tower, you are instantly taken aback with the graphical overhaul. Everything is dripping in colour and the environment was rich with atmosphere. You were immediately aware of the urgency of getting out into the Tower, and do what you can to save it.

Without going into too many details, seeing Shaxx, Cayde-6, Zavala and Ikora actually taking part in the mission, was a wonderful addition, considering that we had only really seen them previous, stood around the war table in the Vanguard room. As an “veteran” Destiny player, knowing the parts they played in the Golden Age, through the Battle of the Six Flags, and beyond, it was great to see them get their hands dirty.

Overall, the mission was a fun intro into the beta, and for me, really whet my appetite for what is hopefully to come when Destiny 2 releases.

The Strike

The second activity available, the Inverted Spire strike, takes you to one of the brand new planets, Nessus. An alien place, which reminded me of the planets from the No Man’s Sky trailer, full of colour and what appears to be plenty of places to explore.

The strike itself wasn’t too different to those we’ve all experienced before, but there were a few extra elements to make it more varied. The two that really stand out were the cutters section, and the main boss fight. The cutters section had you trying to get through the Cabal mining area, dodging a bloody huge cutting blade whilst also mowing down the enemy. The second area which felt new was the actual boss battle. Split into three distinct phases, Protheon keeps you on your toes constantly. Between spawning Vex minions, to burning floors, the final battle forces you to keep moving, and ensures that you use your new abilities throughout.

Oh, yeh, there are new sub-classes… I’ll come back to that later…

Once you’re done with the strike, it’s then into the real beta, the Crucible.

The Crucible

The first thing you notice is that there are now two playlists for Crucible, Quick Play and Competitive. On the surface, they appear to be two different modes, however it has been confirmed (with much controversy) that both will use skilled-based match making. The general Destiny community isn’t too impressed with this decision, as currently there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference going into either playlists. However, since then, it has been stated that the game modes available in each playlist will differ, hence the definition.

In the beta, Quick Play was just the ever familiar Control mode, but since changing the general team sizes from six to four, the pace felt slower. I’m not sure if this was due to class changes, team sizes, or the map we were on, but you never felt overwhelmed or alone. One change to Control, however, is that each team spawns in control of either point A or C, forcing the fight to the, usually, central point B. This makes initial plays unfold much quicker, and with the reduced team size, it feels a much more even fight.

Competitive was playing host to a brand new mode, Countdown, which if you’ve ever played Search and Destroy in Call of Duty, you should be familiar. Starting the game with a set four revives, it’s up to you and your team of four to either setup a detonation point, or defuse said point. As the game goes on, the enemy will either try to diffuse your bomb, or protect their own (each round it flips), so it’s an either kill or be killed situation. If you feel it necessary, you can use the four revives (we couldn’t work out if it was per round, or whole match) to bring up a downed ally, should it be tactically viable.

Personally, I’m not a fan of PvP modes in general, however with a solid team of friends, I had an absolute blast. Along with the previous changes, Bungie have also done away with traditional “K/D”, and replaced it with “Efficiency”. Also, in a similar vein to the other Blizzard shooter, Overwatch, you no longer “kill” an enemy, but “defeat” them. This has also combined kills and assists into a single “defeat” score. As an average player, who often plays with much better Guardians, this now allows me to feel as though I’m making a difference. Instead of me popping three shots into an enemy, and have someone else finish them off with a fourth, with the credit going to them, we now both get credit for the kill.

Getting Social

Finally, on Sunday July 23, Bungie opened up a brand new social space for us to explore for an hour, The Farm.

After the destruction of the Tower, the Guardians needed a new place to relax, pick up bounties, and get new gear. Set in a beautiful forest, on the edge of a serene lake, The Farm is the perfect sanctuary in the post-Tower world of Destiny 2.

Sitting at the waters edge, you could see what appears to be other settlements in the distance. Now, purely as a personal hope, I really would love to be able to leave the Farm on foot, and make my way around the new spaces. However, if the patrol areas of the original Destiny are anything to go by, I really shouldn’t get my hopes up. Running around the new space, and bouncing off invisible walls, as I tried to explore further, gave an indication that we could go further, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Loot

Of course, what is Destiny without loot, and the small pickings we were able to collect in the beta showed the new weapon types perfectly. In Destiny 2, weapon loadouts have changed quite significantly. Instead of Primary, Secondary, and Heavy, we now have Kinetic, Energy, and Power.

For Kinetic and Energy, the same weapon types are used, but with an elemental damage type for the Energy weapons. So, for example, you could have an Auto Rifle in both slots, but one with standard, Kinetic damage, and one with an elemental damage. The main architypes for these particular weapons are those that used to be just primary weapons in Destiny; auto rifles, pulse rifles, scout rifles, etc. But, what’s happened to the sniper rifles, shotguns, and fusion rifles, I hear you cry? Well, those have been moved into the Power Weapons slot, along with the standard heavy weapon types; rocket launchers, machine guns, etc.

How this pans out, we are yet to see. I’m not sure how this is going to affect raids, etc, where we would often rely on have a sniper rifle equipped to your secondary weapon, and a rocket launcher to your heavy. It’s nice to be able to have the choice to wield dual auto rifles, or a scout rifle and a pulse rifle now, especially for PvP.

There have also been slight changes to armour in Destiny 2, where the Intellect, Discipline, and Strength stats have been removed, and now each piece of armour adds to your Resilience, Agility, and Recovery. Of course, these vary also depending on class types, but I’ll go more into that in a bit. Personally, like these changes, as it removes the Agility, Resilience, and Recovery from the sub-class nodes, and removes the ability cool downs which were tied in with Intellect, Discipline, and Strength.

That’s right, cooldowns are now the same across the board, but I imagine will rely on armour perks to be affected. Also, melee ranges have been toned down (no more Warlock slaps from across the room) so all three classes are inline with one another. And, speaking of classes…

Sub-classes

Destiny 2 is bringing with it three brand new sub-classes, one for each class, each replacing a long-standing class from the very beginning of Destiny.

Starting with the Hunter, gone is the Bladedancer… An once beloved sub-class, which fell out of favour with many Hunter stalwarts has now been replaced by the Arcstrider. Instead of dual-wielding blades of arc, the Arcstrider chooses a staff of the zappy stuff to do away with its foes. Equipped with a devastating ground pound, feisty staff swing, and fancy acrobatics, this sub-class takes some getting used to, but in the hands of someone with experience, it will soon become a dance of destruction.

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The new and improved Gunslinger was also available to play with in the beta, and the main difference is that the number of Golden Gun shots has increased from three, to six. Each of the six shots are less powerful than the original three, however with a steady hand, and a keen aim, they can easily immobilise any enemy.

Along with the new super abilities, the Hunter now has a swanky new ability, similar to the Nightstalker’s dodge. Coming in two different flavours, the Marksman’s Dodge will allow you to perform an evasive spin, which while dodging the onslaught, will also reload any weapon you have equipped. The other dodge, the Gambler’s Dodge allows you to tumble into any direction you are moving, and fully recharges your melee ability.

The Titan’s new sub-class takes over from the ever-loved Defender, and instead of popping the Ward of Dawn, the new Sentinel Titan will spawn a void shield, which can be thrown to dispatch your enemies. Like a tank-y Captain America, you can then move around with slightly more agility, and pound the shield into your foes, and clear the way for the rest of your team. The Ward of Dawn, however, is not completely done with, as with a longer press of the shoulder buttons, you can still cast a bubble of protection, should the need arise.

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Along with the Sentinel, the Striker sub-class has also had a face-lift, and instead of the single, devastating ground pound, the Striker can smash multiple times per activation. Increasing the running speed, significantly, allows you to move around the map, and take out single, or multiple opponents, with a satisfying slam. Of course, each individual slam is less powerful than the original Striker Fist of Havoc, but as it is now a mobile attack, it’s now less of a panic reaction which is over instantly.

Finally the Warlock’s classic Sunsinger has been replaced by the epic Dawnblade. Leaping into the air, despatching devastating waves of flame, the Dawnblade is easily the most terrifying of the new sub-classes. Running through a PvP map and hearing the “whoosh” of a Warlock unleashing their power instils a feeling of pure fear, and has you running the opposite direction. Wielding a sword of pure fire, the trails of flame will soon devastate any group of enemies with ease.

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The Voidwalker has also seen some tweaks with its iconic Novabomb. Unleashing the ball of purple death is, however, less satisfying as it used to be, as it now moves through the air, like it’s moving through molasses. Once it hits its target, the area is overtaken by a cloud of void energy, which will destroy anything it touches. There have also been reports that the Novabomb in the beta will aggressively track its target, but this is something I haven’t witnessed personally.

As I mentioned with the Hunter, the new versions of the classes also some with brand new, class specific abilities. The Titan can produce a wall (which looks like ice) which is either tall enough to protect everyone behind it (think Mei’s ice wall in Overwatch). Or a smaller wall, which you can crouch behind, and peek over to attack. Every time you duck back into cover, you automatically reload whichever weapon you have equipped at the time. Finally, the Warlock can now throw down a rift, an area of effect ability, which either gives whoever enters a weapon damage boost, or a health regeneration boost. It’s a shame that it feels as though the Titan and Warlock abilities are far more team-friendly, where the Hunter dodge is for them, and them alone.

Overall, each of the classes in Destiny 2 feel like they should. The Hunter is agility, but vulnerable. The Titan is now the tank class everyone expects, with higher armour levels, and is much slower that its counterparts. The Warlock is a lovely balance between the two. Fast, but not too fast. Can take a fair amount of damage, but not too much. Personally I really like the direction they’ve taken the classes, and look forward to see what the final sub-class will be. Yup, Nightstalker, Stormcaller, and Sunbreaker are currently nowhere to be seen. It’ll be a real shame to not see these sub-classes return, especially as they’ve only been around since the launch of The Taken King, but as Destiny comes to an end, they feel like they’ve always been there.

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to take part in the beta, as typically it was awash with different error codes…

Error… Error…

Everything from the good old weasel, to olives, and moose(s?), some Guardians found the beta to be completely unplayable. I know, I know, “it’s a beta!” I hear you cry, and everyone understand that. However, the fact that one of my regular fireteam members wasn’t able to get through the story mission was disappointing to say the least. Others experienced weasel errors (famous for disconnecting people with little warning, and absolutely no reason) every time they finished an activity. One very strange issue which was experienced by many, was loading into a Control match, on your own. To then suddenly be surrounded by both the enemy and your allies. I will reiterate, though, and say that the vast majority of players understood that these issues were expected, and that ultimately that was the reason behind the beta.

So, what did I think of the Destiny 2 beta?

As a way to increase hype for the September 6 release, it was perfect. Just enough to entice us, and not enough to give it all away. The activities on offer gave a perfect snapshot into how the core game has been tweaked, with slower time to kill in PvP, and a much more involved strike, with actual mechanics which involve more than just putting bullets into a boss.

If things continue in the same vein as this months old “demo”, this veteran Guardian shall be very pleased… However, don’t take my word for it… I’ve asked some close friends of mine to tell me what they thought:

Haley: I love the feel of D2, it feels like Destiny only better. I think the changes, both major and minor, were both thoughtful and purposeful. The little nibble we’ve been given has definitely increased my appetite for the whole thing. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us!

Lunar: What I’ve played of the Destiny 2 warlock was a refreshing 2nd take on the class i fell in love with. the controls feel solid and the new systems in place do not feel tacked on or unnecessary. I’m very happy with what I’ve played so far and it gives me very good vibes for what is to come with release.

LargerBrute: While the looks and most of the gameplay is familiar, there is a distinct difference in playstyle being introduced as classes are being given different utility based abilities (with the glaringly obvious absence of said abilities from Hunters)

Folgers: It’s amazing! It’s more than I knew to hope for.

Nin: F*ck mooses

Destiny 2 is set to release on September 6, 2017, on Xbox One, and Playstation. Destiny 2 will make it way to the PC on October 24, 2017.

Thanks to FolgersInHerCup for allowing me to use her footage for each of the gifs above.

Web Developer by day, massive geeky gamer by night. I've been playing games for as long as I can remember... You can see me stream most weekday evenings on Twitch as KooKatchu!