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Ahead of Destiny 2’s release in September, developer Bungie offered a public beta test of its odd shooter-MMO-hybrid for PS4 and Xbox One users last weekend (PC gamers will have to wait until 28/29th August). Iain McNally donned his guardian garb again and returned to the world of Travellers, The Darkness (not that one) & The Light to see what, if anything, has changed for the sequel.

I wasn’t a fan of the first Destiny. I played the beta for the first game and bought it on day one (or maybe day 5 depending on when the physical copy hit Malaysia). A huge fan of Bungie’s Halo games, I played vanilla or “base Destiny” for something like 20 hours, right up to the end of the single player “story”, if you could call it that.

I was hugely disappointed.

The shooting in Destiny 1 was up to Bungie’s usual standard but the enemies seemed a lot dumber than the Covenant. Shooting respawning mobs of enemies wasn’t quite as satisfying when a well-placed headshot didn’t take your enemy out, instead resulting only in bigger damage numbers spilling out of them. The story was a mess too. It introduced a mix of high fantasy and hard sci-fi concepts but never explained anything. Who or what was humanity’s protector The Traveller? What’s was the deal with the Guardians and the light? Who were we supposed to be protecting in humanity’s last city? How could humanity be losing a battle when it was apparently able to resurrect the long dead from only bones or ashes in the opening cut scene? Why was this never mentioned again?

It’s since come out that Destiny fell far short of what even its creators envisioned with a messy development cutting its ambitions off at the knees.

Traveler in trouble

Destiny 2 Traveller

So what’s different in Destiny 2? Not much or so it seems. I didn’t return to the game for the later, paid expansions, so I can’t compare this to the “Good Destiny” but at first glance not much has changed.

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The beta offered a mostly single player story mission, one multiplayer strike; or mini-raid where players team up to take on a mission together, and two multiplayer competitive modes in The Crucible. A multiplayer social area called the Farm was available for an hour on the Sunday of the beta but apart from allowing guardians to kick a football around this area only served as a stress test for Bungie’s servers.

Players choose a class from either Hunter (handgun specialist with dodging), Titan (soldier/tank class) or Warlock (magic AOE attack user) and jump into the game using Destiny 1’s weird half pc/half console interface, navigating menus with a mouse cursor. Odd for a game that never came out on PC’s originally.

Playing as a Hunter first, my preferred class in Destiny 1, it took me a while to get back into the flow of movement, the weapons and enemy encounters after playing more immediate shooters.

Things aren’t looking great down’t farm

Destiny 2 The Farm

Very few, if any, enemies go down with one shot, necessitating a constant back and forth as you whittle down health bars before ducking behind cover to reload. Power ammo used for more powerful weapons like grenade launchers & sniper rifles was pretty scarce and best saved for boss encounters than crowd control.

The story mission finds your guardian returning to the tower under siege from the Cabal and working your way through a few encounters before assaulting an enemy flagship. There’s a lot more character this time around with the player joined by heroes who were previously relegated to store owners or quest givers. Characters voiced by The Wires’ Lance Reddick (Zavala) and Nathan Fillion (Cayde-6) and Gina Torres (Ikora) from Firefly leave their static positions and take part in the action.

Why Can’t I attack a ship barehanded too?

Destiny 2 Ikora

After finishing the mission a cut scene sets up the new status quo (it involves the guardians been robbed of the light, yeah I don’t know what that means either) and the player is free to join the Crucible’s competitive multiplayer or try the strike. As a Hunter I got murdered unmercifully in the crucible. Even in the “low intensity” playlists I barely seemed to have time to score a hit. I fared slightly better with my second Titan character, but not much. Bungie may balance out the differences in the levels of players weapons but it can seem like an uphill battle at times.

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The strike is the main meat and here most of the problems I have with the game come to light. Not an awful lot seems to have changed apart from some nice environments, giving everything a definite Destiny 1.5 vibe.

The very first time I spawned into the strike, one of the two players with me, a Titan, was already far ahead taking on enemies and stayed that way, unless I caught up with them during encounters they couldn’t breeze though on their own. Later excursions fared better as I joined a group who were scouting around the edges of the map looking for secrets (we didn’t find any) but it reinforces the idea that without a regular group of friends, Destiny can be kind of a drag.

Goodbye “Your Only Friend”

Destiny 2 Strike

In the strike, players negotiate a mostly linear map, with a few dead ends of to the side, fighting Cabal and Vex enemies. Near the end of the level you need to negotiate a giant multi armed drilling machine, finding the safe path to avoid each of its spinning arms of death, while also dealing with clusters of enemies. It can be pretty challenging and I never really got the hang of it. This was compounded by my teammates making it past me and onto the boss fight area, teleporting me past the drill to join them. Despite multiple runs I think I only got past the drill once on my own, and was unable to replicate that.

As for the boss fight against a Vex Warmind, it’s fun enough, despite some cheap attacks that are incredibly frustrating the first few times around. It takes a few attempts to realise when the boss will turn the floor to lava and when the floor will disappear from under you completely, requiring a last minute jump before you hit the ground to avoid losing most of your health. Still, it’s relatively fun standing shoulder to shoulder with other guardians, raining hell-fire on enemies. It can also be thrill watching a fellow guardian narrowly avoid death to revive you after you’ve been killed (or you repay the favour ), but with so much going on there’s not much way to share that feeling. I didn’t meet any guardians using voice chat, most just communicating their desired direction by simply going there, making it an oddly solitary multiplayer experience.

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Sit this one out?

Destiny 2 Chillin

All this was in the first Destiny and (I believe) it’s expansions, and even for me this doesn’t feel like much of an evolution.

Without a gang of regular Destiny players to team up with and based upon the lackluster story and samey enemies on show here, it would take hell of a lot for Destiny 2 to entice me away from my regular games of Titanfall 2 or Overwatch. The strike on offer may only take about 20 minutes to run through but presumably, the bigger raids will take a lot longer than that. Some raids in the previous game took almost 10 hours to complete and required the help of other players. Overwatch and Titanfall 2 scratch the same shooter itch for me far better than Destiny does and with their shorter matches make them easier to fit into my life.

Unless Bungie has some AMAZING surprises up its sleeve, Destiny 2 is going to be a hard pass for me. There’s just not enough new on display here.

I’ll wait for Anthem.

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Iain McNally
Movie lover, project manager, coder. co-host of the McYapndFries movie podcast. Irish lost in Malaysia. Can be found on twitter @McNastyPrime (and yes, that IS the Iron Throne)