My Hands-On Experience With Destiny 2

By Blair Nokes on May 17, 2017, 3:00PM EST
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Activision flew me out this week to let me experience the worldwide reveal of Destiny 2. Hosted at the Jet Center Los Angeles, which is an aircraft hangar in the Hawthorne Municipal Airport, the venue had a terrific presentation of all things Destiny. From to-scale modelled statues of the game’s three main Guardian classes, to gun models on display and even a gargantuan model of The Traveller hanging above us as we entered. The event kicked off with the full reveal trailer of the game, followed by an introduction by none other than Luke Smith, who shared a lot of insight as to what we’re to expect of Destiny 2, the necessary changes made and steps in the right direction to ensure this is a natural evolution of its predecessor. Set to release on the Playstation 4, Xbox One on September 8th. Not only that, but Bungie and Activision were proud to announce that the game will in fact launch on the PC, however it seems as though it may not coincide with the official launch date.

Luke, along with other key talented members at Bungie, want Destiny 2 to act as more of a ‘New Beginning’ for both veterans of the series and newcomers. The three main takeaway points they wanted to get across and highlight throughout the presentation were: ‘A world that pulls you in,’ ‘amazing things to do,’ and ‘always someone to play with.’

We got a chance to see an opening cinematic for the campaign mission, titled ‘Homecoming.’ Zevala, Cayde-6 and Ikora are all investigating a recent disturbance in the Tower. Unable to locate any of their satellite surveillance, Zavala peers out into the unusually stormy sky, and was met with an oncoming assault headed straight for the Tower.

Dominus Ghaul, Commander of the Red Legion, leads the attack on the Tower. His vision as the game’s main antagonist is to assume what he perceives is rightfully his – The Traveller and the mysterious powers it bestows. He feels he and the Red Legion were more deserving of the abilities granted by this enigmatic entity.

Flawlessly executed, Ghaul’s campaign was a success; in one fell swoop we witnessed the fall of the Tower – the central headquarters that protected the last populated city of Earth, now completely overrun with the Red Legion forces, and the Traveller is now under their control. It was refreshing to see an antagonist whose goals were rational, rather than the stereotypical “motivated through pure evil” we seem to see more of lately. His reasoning is at the very least understandable; I can empathize with someone feeling like they’ve been cheated out of earning what they think is rightfully theirs.

The brief glimpse into Destiny 2’s plot is almost like the antithesis to how the first game unfolds – rather than earning our powers, we see them stripped away; the world and everything the Guardians have fought for has been taken over by the enemy. For all intents and purposes, we start the game by losing at the very beginning. From there, we see our forces scattered across the stars, collecting themselves as best they can and figuring out how to take control of The Traveller once more. This sets the stage for the wonderful new planets and satellites we will experience in Destiny 2. There were four main new worlds that were covered and revealed to us, and I’ll go a little bit into the backstories behind each of them.

Wounded from his best attempts in defending the Tower, the citizens of the city, and the Traveller, Zavala, the Titan Vanguard was injured during the Red Legion’s onslaught and fled the planet to recuperate on Saturn’s largest natural satellite – Titan. Saturn’s moon is rich with oceans of liquid methane, and fragmented platforms that players will need to utilize to navigate the terrain. During the Golden Age as per Destiny’s engrossing lore, humans erected large monolithic structures on Titan before the events of the Great Collapse, so expect to get a glimpse of what life was like during that period.

Ikora Rey, the Warlock Vanguard sought to find more answers after the failure in defending the Tower. She left for Jupiter’s moon, IO. This sulphuric satellite was the last place The Traveller touched before the Great Collapse that nearly wiped out humanity. As a result, IO is rich with the deeper lore and mythos surrounding the Traveller, and is considered a sacred ground to the Guardians. I’m very much looking forward to exploring this world the most and uncovering the mysteries within.

Cayde-6, the Hunter Vanguard chose to embark on his own adventures after the events in ‘Homecoming’ and unfortunately becomes trapped on the Vex-controlled planetoid known as Nessus. As it is fully consumed by the Vex, the world itself is machine based, though we’re to expect to see shear walls, lush native vegetation with a tinge of reddish colours, and vast canyons (designed based on the Brazilian Plateaus).

Earth features a hub-like area known as the European Dead Zone. According to the presentation, this will serve as the largest place Destiny has seen by far. Interestingly enough, the EDZ was actually cut from the original Destiny game. If the size is any indication, I could only imagine it was cut due to the limitations of having to port to the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, so it’s great to see that fans will finally get a chance to experience it.

They certainly did not stop with just a change in scenery; Destiny 2 has been given a wealth of new changes to the core gameplay. Crucible has been reworked to now support 4v4 across all modes. Trials, Raids and the Nightfall will be available to all players. This is accomplished by an ingenious new matchmaking system called Guided Games. In an effort to add a sense of inclusiveness and belonging to the growing Destiny community, Guided Games acts as a matchmaking system to find a clan missing its final slot and joining in on their adventure and getting a share of rewards. The results of this can go a number of ways; its most positive application would result in clans recruiting new applicants based on the performances of these lone rangers, or at the very least they serve as a filler slot in the event one of your clan members drops out at the last minute.

A possible downside to this would be what is commonly referred to as ‘leeching,’ where a player who may not contribute in any meaningful way in the overall campaign receives the experience and the bounty they may not have been able to receive. I’m far from a pessimist, but I could see how this may not sit well with those may take Raids more seriously. For me, it’s a fantastic inclusion to raids and online gaming in general; far too often I’ve played in team-based matches waiting for that last player to join, or have had experience in members dropping out last minute leaving the team stranded. At its core, it’s a way to encourage the flourishing of a community, and offers further interactivity with the playerbase, and in maintaining clans.

One small concern was that it seems that Destiny 2 will be shipping with only one new raid out of the box. I understand the core development was to focus more on the story, the things to do within the worlds and the new places we’ll visit, but Raids have been widely regarded as being the best content in the original Destiny, so I was personally hoping to see more. Luke did mention that only 50% of Destiny’s population participated in a raid, meaning the other 50% never got that chance, or perhaps never went forward in the game to the point where one could participate. I’m thinking this was another reason as to why Guided Games will be incorporated, so that more players can partake in Destiny’s content.

Another improvement in accessibility was that we can now access all activities within Destiny 2 from anywhere in the world. You heard it right, folks; you no longer need to go into orbit! This highlight was met with a roaring cheer in the seats at the event, so it seems Bungie recognized this as a nuisance to the community. As Luke explained it, they wanted to trim as many areas that delayed your gun from an enemy’s face.

One of my bigger gripes with the first game was that despite its larger landscapes and sense of wonder to the world, everything felt rather vacant as you travelled between missions. Thankfully this was addressed in Destiny 2, as players will have a host of new activities to complete in their adventures, like Treasure Hunting and dungeons know as the Lost Sectors. This is precisely what was needed to flesh out the core campaign experience, and offer a true sense of adventure. There’s a good reason some of the most prominent open world games are known for their side quests outside of the main campaign, so I hope Destiny 2 will reach that mark with what they aim to do.

Sadly, there were no new classes announced outside of the archetypal Rogue, Mage and Warrior trinity. However, there are new sub-classes announced for each. Hunters will get the 'Arcstrider' sub-class, which lets them unleash a swift assault using an electrical staff. Titans will get something called ‘Sentinel,’ which grants them a Captain America-styled shield that they can use to bash enemies and throw as a projectile. Warlocks receive the ‘Dawnblade,’ which awards them with temporary flight via flaming wings, and a large flaming sword that can also be used to throw at and incinerate enemies. Having tinkered around with all of them, they are each a blast to play; though I had a slight bias towards the Warlock - flaming swords are rad.

A new PVP mode was announced called Countdown, which I had a chance to play. It's a classic bomb-defusal mode you'd find in any competitive FPS game. Attacking teams are given two areas to plant bombs, with the Defense tasked with defending and defusing. Should a team successfully defuse one bomb, or if one had exploded, the match ends. A sense of strategy must be implemented here, as attackers might not to plant charges in both areas, as defending either location from those who can defuse it will be tougher to manage.

Strikes are Destiny 2's cooperative mode, that truthfully feel like mini-raids. Time slots were limited at the event, so I was only able to participate in one that took me and my teammates to one of the worlds where we embarked on our quest. Though we unfortunately could not finish it in time, we understood there was a three-stage boss fight towards the end. Everything leading up to it was sublime; exploring the terrain, getting a sense of the environment and platforming to new sections, jumping into portals that shot us across vast distances, and descending down these mastadonic holes made by these large rotating drills that will kill you on impact. This was a blast to play, and I can't wait to see the other Strikes on different worlds when the game launches.

Weapon loadouts for characters have also received an overhaul. Players now have three weapon slots – Kinetic, Energy and Power. From the looks of it, you can use the same weapon in multiple slots this time around, rather than having certain types locked to one.

One of the bigger reveals at this event was the announcement of Destiny finally making its way onto the PC. Not only that, but it will be available exclusively via battle.net. Naturally, the game was made playable today on the PS4 and PC, so we could test out the differences, and I was fortunate enough to play around with both platforms. The PS4 version performs as you would expect, locking the framerate at 30 frames. The PC version, in comparison will sport an uncapped framerate, complete with 4K support. The PC’s keyboard and mouse controls felt finely tuned to the game – weirdly feeling like Destiny has always belonged on the platform. Time will tell what the system requirements will be for the game, but as a Destiny player who started on the PS4, handling the game on PC was convincing enough to at least consider switching platforms. Another thing to note was that I felt an added level of competitiveness with the vast increase in range of motion allowed with a mouse's DPI as opposed to a thumbstick. I expect Crucible to have a faster paced environment as a result, harkening back to twitch shooters the PC has bred for generations now.

Though it was a mere taste of things to come, I was genuinely impressed with my experience playing Destiny 2. Going into the event I was rather skeptical; my time with the first Destiny was short-lived as I incrementally lacked the drive and motivation to want to continue forward and explore the game that to me, lacked the content to warrant it. On top of that, friends I would have played with dropped off and moved onto newer titles. With Destiny 2, and all of the wonderful content announced and how Bungie seems to have really listened to the constructive criticisms regarding its predecessor, I feel my Traveller’s spark has reawakened, full of excitement to want to explore each new world, and fully understand the story behind Dominus Ghaul, the secrets of IO, and how Cayde-6 managed to get himself into the pickle he’s in. In short, I am now waiting with great anticipation for September 8th.

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