From my limited perspective, if I were Bungie I’d probably declare the Destiny 2 beta on PS4 a success. It served two major purposes: it was a marketing exercise, like any beta these days in a world almost post-demo. The other purpose was the technical jiggery with servers and tests and the like. I know critical reception is probably not the most favourable, just look at my initial post on it. However, I would hesitate to bash the game based solely on the beta.
So let’s look back at the 5 days of beta. I played on 4 of those days, dipping my toe into two classes, one go at the strike, and several attempts at the Crucible PvP multiplayer.
My initial thoughts weren’t the best. The game is essentially more of the same, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. The good comes for those Destiny nuts who have played over 1000 hours of the game and probably wouldn’t stop if Destiny 2 weren’t coming. It also provides a level of consistency, but I reckon that’s a bit of a weak pro. Thankfully, the hints from the beta indicate that the system and UI contain welcome refinements.
The cons of being “more of the same” come in the form of a hackneyed feeling, it’s just getting a bit old. And then, when considering any PvP activity, there are still those thousands of Destiny nuts who have 3 years of experience with virtually identical mechanics over the newcomers. Arriving late on the scene for any multiplayer shooter can be daunting, annoying, and sometimes feel inaccessible. It also raises the questions over whether or not they’ve updated the engine, because the assets seem uncomfortably familiar. Many of the developmental problems with Destiny were down to the archaic engine and development hell that Bungie put themselves through. Has this improved?
The one level of consistency I welcome, regardless, is the basic shooting mechanics. They remain tight and satisfying. Destiny carries elements of what makes any good twitch-arena shooter. When you can concentrate on shooting your opponents rather than sitting in menus trying to set everything just right, then I’m an automatic fan of the shooter. Of course, it would appear Bungie has still taken this for granted, because the menus (at least in the beta) still lacked the kinds of settings many other competitive shooters have these days. It would be great to just have the more in-depth options, you know? For example: Where is an FOV setting?
Still, Destiny 2 feels great at the basic gameplay level, and that weighs heavily in its favour.
The other major positive takeaway I had from the beta is the intriguing story. I do have an element of doubt in my mind though. The intriguing bit is that Ghaul and the Cabal come along and fiddle with the Traveler and take everyone’s light away. Phwoar! But the light thing is what the basis of the game’s mechanics, story, and gameplay were built on! Well done Bungie! You seem to have shaken things up!
Light levels are still there. It’s just called Power now. You still have your ghost. Strength, Intelligence, and Discipline are still present, they only have new names. So, what kind of impact can this story really have then? If Ghaul comes along, snatches away the light, eviscerates the Traveler’s floating ball, and razes the Last City and we can walk away and still have identical gameplay and levelling systems, what did those things matter in the first place? It’s a bit of an existential question for me, and many will probably not care.
I do care, purely because if you’re going to make such a big deal about your story, and if it goes through the motions of utterly decimating the established systems and yet fails to change anything in practice, why should I then trust that this story will live up to the hype? We’ll just get our light back, or we don’t need to because we have light’s good-enough cousin called Power.
The eternal optimist in me, way in the basement of my mind, is mumbling past hist gag while he struggles against the restraints: “What if this is just a beta set up with old systems to mislead?”
Shut up Carl.
Anyway, back to the beta. I’ll reserve judgement on systems like the drop rate of exotic and legendary items for the full game. This beta’s purpose was clearly not to preview any improvements or changes in that area. There were like 20 weapons and 2 armour variants per class in the whole thing, so let’s not use that as a meaningful sample.
Overall, having played for the duration of the beta, my conclusions have fleshed out a bit. I’ve decided that I’m more likely to pick this game up on release, purely out of a morbid curiosity. I enjoyed some aspects of it, and it’s possible that I like some of the refinements in this second iteration of the game a lot more than the first. However, those refinements are small enough that they could have merely been quality of life updates in the original. Visually, I will reserve judgement until the full release. The new social space, The Farm, was visibly incomplete in certain aspects, and other parts of the game have an all-too-familiar air about them. The strike on Nessus could have been any one of the Vex’s instalments in the solar system. Hopefully the full release will have better visual distinction.
I have a better overall impression of Destiny 2 after the beta, and yet I’ve come away being able to better articulate my doubts. Those doubts are firmly established in my mind, and I already have a sneaking suspicion that they’ll be saving me considerable disappointment with the full release.