Just Be Good: Destiny 2 Beta Impressions

In the near future, I’ll be documenting my profound disappointment with everything that was the original Destiny. For now, though, let’s discuss what little bit I’ve been able to play of the sequel!

I was going to make a "Can you tell which Destiny this is?" joke here, but I'm better than that.

The Destiny 2 beta, which began early access a few days ago, doesn’t stray far from my expectations I mentioned back when the game was first revealed. It’s very Destiny. It’s hard to look at it and tell it apart from the first game, due to returning characteristics like its HUD, similar (but beautiful) art style, and distinct movement and combat flow. At its core, Destiny 2 is the first game with some upgrades, which is great because that first game really needed some upgrades.

The beta appears to put you right into the real introductory mission of the full game. I began as a level 20 character, and I assume it makes every player level 20, since there was no mention of a save or character import mechanism to transfer in my Destiny guardian. You select your class from one of the same three available in the previous game, watch a cutscene, and start wandering. There's no character creator in the beta, and you begin with a predetermined gear and class ability set.

From the start, it’s obvious that the Destiny 2 story is intended to be more personal. Your guardian is referenced and called upon directly, even in scenes where you’re not present. The plight of the characters is drawn out much more plainly, and the game presents the overall goal in a bold, hard-to-ignore way. Destiny may have felt to some like the story was just an excuse to go shoot aliens. Destiny 2 gives you motivation and purpose before you’ve even moved your character: an accomplishment achieved because of its improved storytelling. Without a doubt, my personal highlight for all of the Destiny franchise so far was the cutscene in this beta that introduces the game’s primary antagonist. It’s one of the best villain reveals I’ve ever seen in a game, and the character’s disregard for you, the stuff you’ve accomplished, and the whole Tower made me feel like the writers are saying “F*** that old story.” Word.

a.k.a. "Victory has defeated you."

I immediately felt at home playing the game last night. The controls feel mostly untouched, save for the addition of a new ability executed by holding the crouch button, and an extra function for your class’ "Supercharged" attack. This is definitely one of those ways that Destiny 2 feels more like an expansion to the first game than a sequel, but control and gameplay mechanics were basically perfect in that game, so it’s not a bad thing to have this one feel the same.

This, of course, made me wonder what exactly has changed with Destiny 2 besides the story. If you’re looking for the answer to that question, you probably won’t find it within this beta. In terms of content, you get to play that opening mission, a strike (3-play co-op mission), and two PvP match types. You could realistically play everything the beta has to offer within about two hours. If you’re just dying for more Destiny, that’s probably a disappointment, but bear in mind that this is definitely a real beta. This is Bungie’s window to test out server stability and balance details, to hopefully improve the final game. That’s increasingly rare nowadays. Also, if you’re worried about story spoilers, there’s nothing in the opening mission that hasn’t already been shown in trailers or explained in any of the other public Destiny 2 showings to this point. The strike itself takes place an undisclosed amount of time after the intro, so it’s safe to assume playing this won’t ruin the rest of the story waiting for you in the full game.

I came away from the alpha of Destiny with a strong concern that the game would have content problems, since that build of the game seemed to comprise about half of the entire package (it turned out to be more than half). I definitely don’t feel that way about the Destiny 2 beta. However, because it is so short, and it doesn’t get into the way the missions flow, it’s impossible to get a sense for how loot drops, quest structure, and overall content is going to be managed. That’s the stuff that made Destiny such a disappointment back in 2014, and Bungie has been struggling to solve those content problems ever since. Still this beta was fun in that way that killing stuff in Destiny always is, and the new tone of the story makes everything less bland and sterile. Given that it takes about two hours to play all of it, and that the beta is open to every PS4 and Xbox One player to download right now (until 1 AM EST on July 24th), I recommend grabbing two other friends and getting your guardian on this weekend. If that's not an option, you can check out our live stream from yesterday, where I complete the story mission and the strike as a Titan, down below. I liked it and I'm interested, but not yet quite excited, to play more on September 6th.