The Destiny 2 beta is now open to anybody who owns a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, and everyone will have more than two full days to check it out. A few of us here at Polygon have been playing since the beta went live on PS4 this past Tuesday, and we’ve been putting it through its paces to get a feel for how Destiny 2 plays (and to get our bearings in this universe after many months away).
Bungie said this week that the beta is “based off a build of the game that is now months old,” so there’s a chance that the studio has already addressed our criticisms, or will do so by the time Destiny 2 launches on Sept. 6. With that said, here are thoughts on the beta from three Destiny veterans: managing editor Michael McWhertor, social media manager Ashley Oh and senior reporter Samit Sarkar.
Samit: Surprise, surprise: Destiny 2 plays a lot like Destiny 1!
That’s obviously a good thing — of all the complaints leveled against the original Destiny, no one would have told you it didn’t feel satisfying to pop off the heads of Fallen or explode Vex tummy crystals. Also good: The beta looks great. I was struck by the image of the gnarled red-leafed tree in the Tower, burning in the aftermath of the Cabal assault on The Last City.
The beta’s story mission, “Homecoming,” is a lot of fun, if only for the moments in which you run into each class’s Vanguard. Those interactions underscore how dire the situation really is, and the ending of the mission, where you meet the Cabal leader, Ghaul, is a chilling introduction to the story’s big-bad. (I’m still not sure if I like it that he speaks English in a distorted voice, like any ol’ villain.)
I’m less thrilled about the overhaul to the classification of weapons. I haven’t had the chance to try out the Crucible yet, but I imagine those players are loving the fact that shotguns and sniper rifles are now power weapons (formerly known as “heavy”) — in the original Destiny, pretty much everyone ran with one of those two gun types in their special slot. It’s almost as if Bungie prioritized PvP balance over PvE.
Speaking of power ammo, it’s nice to hear that Bungie is aware of the absurdly low drop rate of it during the Inverted Spire strike. We had to keep chipping away at Protheon with our main guns because we just didn’t have any ammo for the heavies. The way that battle went reminded me of the bad old days of Destiny, with bullet-sponge strike bosses who just ran around an arena. (The floor disintegration was a neat environmental hazard, at least.)
I wish the beta had more to do, but I know it’s meant to be a taste of the launch version of Destiny 2 (and a way for Bungie to stress-test its servers). I’m definitely eager to check out the full game and see how elements like the weapon changes play out over a longer period of time.
Ashley: When I booted up the beta, I wasn’t expecting anything too different from the first one. But those visuals always surprise me. Both the cutscenes and the maps were absolutely gorgeous, so rich in color — I am a big sucker for shading — and they felt way more polished. I’m really excited for the narrative aspect of this game, especially since we all know the first one isn’t exactly known for that. The “Homecoming” mission did a great job teasing that out. Finally seeing Cayde, Ikora and Zavala in action was really cool. I definitely want to see more of that throughout the rest of the campaign.
As for the weapons, half of why we’re all here, moving the sniper rifle to the power weapon slot really threw me off. I guess it depends on your play style, but I always ran with a scout and sniper rifle (at least in story missions, less so with PvP). Moving the submachine gun up to the top was kind of jarring, though it came in handy during the strike we did. The last stages of Inverted Spire kind of reminded me of the big Crota fight in The Taken King, which was interesting. Taking elements of that huge, culminating boss battle and throwing them in a strike was a surprise. But that also makes me nervous, maybe even excited, for what the bigger boss battles in Destiny 2 will actually be like.
We struggled for about an hour to get through Inverted Spire, but it’s always hard to properly assess things when you’re rusty. Was it the boss? Was it just time away from Destiny? (I have been playing so much Overwatch.) Or was it really the lack of heavy ammo, as you mentioned? I’m curious to see whether they adjust the difficulty or if a new standard will be set for strikes in general.
But the two things I was immediately excited about were the revamped skill tree UI and the subclasses themselves. Selecting your abilities and seeing how they intertwine felt much, much more intuitive with the way Bungie redesigned the interface. It still holds up to the Destiny aesthetic that I know and love so much — clean and natural, but still somehow futuristic with its minimalist tones. I stuck with the default Arcstrider Hunter subclass, and I did not regret it for a second. That electric staff is amazing, and it blows Golden Gun right out of the water. I think I may have found my new favorite super ability.
Mike: Even though I played the “Homecoming” mission at E3 — on PC, mind you — one of my biggest fears about Destiny 2 going into the beta was that somehow Bungie might find a way to screw up the feel of gunplay that (pretty much everyone agrees) was fantastic in the first game. Thankfully, Destiny 2’s guns handle and sound just as solid as they did in Destiny. And I love the thunk of the new grenade launchers. That so much of the original game’s DNA seems to be present in the sequel probably has a lot to do with that, but it felt great to play this game with a DualShock 4 and have it just feel ... right.
But Destiny 2 also feels just a bit too familiar in parts. I got a little deflated when I realized that all four directions on the DualShock 4 D-pad were still mapped to four separate emotes. It’s a small thing, and I know Destiny players love their dances, but it was a clear indicator that, interface-wise, not a lot’s changed since Destiny hit in 2013.
I’m sure I’ll get over it.
For those who haven’t played the new mode, Countdown, it’s not unlike Counter-Strike’s bomb/defuse gameplay. Teams alternate between planting a bomb at one of two locations, while the other team tries to prevent that bomb from going off. Countdown maps feel pretty small in size, and communication seems absolutely crucial in that mode — not great for solo queuers like me. I really like the current map, Midtown, which is full of lanes and offers two distinct bomb sites, one with a wide-open area and another in an enclosed space. I’m looking forward to digging into Countdown, but only with a full fireteam.
Control feels pretty much exactly the same as it did in the first Destiny, though it’s a bit less dynamic with its smaller player count. I am pretty excited by the possibilities that new Guardian abilities will bring to Control; being able to put up Sentinel Titan shields or Dawnblade Warlock rifts to buff your teammates is going to have a big impact on the strategies players use to capture zones.
As with the original Destiny, Destiny 2’s beta left me feeling a little lukewarm. But I returned to Destiny post-launch and fell madly in love with it, and — based on the fact that this build of the game is months old — I think I’m going to do the same with Destiny 2.