Over the dozen hours or so that I’ve put into the Destiny 2 Beta, I have been taking notes. My aim has been to identify all of the ways that the sequel might have improved or changed since the original game. So far, it’s the little touches that have had the biggest impact on my experience. With that in mind, I thought I’d go over some of the things I noticed, and whether or not the upgrades add up to a substantially better game than the original.
I should note before I continue that my experience is limited to the PS4 version of the game. As a result, your mileage with this piece may vary depending on which system you choose to play Destiny 2. My suspicion is that most of you will still be playing on original PS4s and Xbox Ones, as I have been. If that’s the case for you, my observations might be of some use.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s get into it. The first thing I noticed, as I’m sure you’ll see straight away, is that the graphics are a little prettier in Destiny 2. So far, on PS4 at least, no single graphical feature is substantially better than it appeared in Destiny 1, but taken overall, the tweaks and improvements convey an altogether enhanced visual experience.
Take the character models, for instance. Though you can’t see your own character’s face thus far in the early access period for the Beta, the details are superior. From what I can see, the meshes (the polygonal framework that forms the basis of a game model) on characters and NPCs alike appear to have a higher number of polygons. This makes for less angular curves on models. On top of that, textures appear to be sharper across the board. They seem to be better able to convey detail at a greater distance as well.
Despite these visual improvements, I haven’t detected any hitches in the framerate thus far. I’m pretty adept at spotting the difference that a few lost frames can make, so it’s pleasing to see that any fps issues have been negligible during my playtime with the game. I haven’t actively been monitoring the framerate, mind you, but it hasn’t interrupted gameplay so far.
Which is a good thing, because gameplay, at least the story-based stuff (more on multiplayer in a bit), has received a number of upgrades. We’ve seen the majority of the first campaign mission played through a few times since E3. Nevertheless, running through it for myself, I couldn’t help but smile the whole time.
There’s something satisfying about seeing such a nostalgic location as The Tower crumbling down around you. It’s like taking a wrecking ball to the past; it hurts a little, but it means something better can be built in its place. You only get a few moments with him, but Dominus Ghaul feels appropriately dangerous too. Although, right now, his character arc seems predictable. It’s obvious that he is governed by his pride, and that very same trait will prove to be his undoing.
Predictability by itself doesn’t always make for an uninspired story, however. Some of the best tales have predictable conclusions. As long as the experience is satisfying, it doesn’t matter whether or not you saw the ending coming from a mile off.
The Inverted Spire Strike was an entirely different beast. I’d gone into it expecting predictability, and instead, was surprised at every turn. I’d even go so far as to say that the strike mission felt more like a miniature raid—minus a healthy amount of team-based puzzle solving, that is.
For starters, the mission environment felt much more open than I had anticipated. It sort of felt like being in a Star Wars movie. You know; those scenes where the heroes are running across a battlefield, dodging mortar strikes and weapons fire while two armies are duking it out. Only, instead of navigating through a maze of storm troopers and rebels, we were making our way through Red Legion troops engaged with the Vex. Neither faction was pleased to see us, either. From there, the Inverted Spire only gets crazier. I won’t spoil the surprises for you. Suffice to say you’ll have several new challenges to deal with throughout the mission.
Apart from the spectacle, Bungie has consistently nailed Destiny’s fundamental mechanics. There’s always room for improvement, though. The most significant change to gunplay, for example, is the way weapons are categorized. Guns which used to be considered primary weapons are now available in both Kinetic and Energy form. Which means, if you want, you can choose to have two different auto rifles equipped simultaneously. The same goes for pulse rifles, scout rifles, hand cannons, and sidearms.
I can’t count the number of times I got upset at being gunned down by another shotgunner in the original game. No matter what Bungie did to address the weapon, it still felt overpowered. If you weren’t using one, you were losing to one. Likewise, there were a few sniper and fusion rifles that left me equally as frustrated.
An idea that floated around between my circle of friends was that those guns (especially shotguns) should just be converted into power weapons, which would make them reliant upon heavy ammo. “You could even make them more powerful in that case,” I would say. Thankfully, Bungie must have heard my whining, because they did just that.
Now, shotguns, snipers, and fusion rifles are considered power weapons and behave as such. They share the same ammo pool as rocket launchers, grenade launchers, light machine guns, etc. They’re more potent than before too. Like Halo, shotguns and Sniper Rifles can change the tide of battle, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for heavy ammo. Luckily, it seems to drop a little more consistently than before.
It’s not all sunshine, however. There are still some nagging issues that persist from the original game, and a couple of the new features which could use some tweaking. Matchmaking for multiplayer still seems to have difficulty pairing players of equal skill together. I’ve also encountered a few instances where rubber banding and latency have negatively impacted the experience. Although, the point of a Beta is to help to figure those things out, so it’s hard to criticize the game for such issues at this point.
Character classes have been reworked, and for the most part, they’re all the better for it. Each subclass has a new class ability. After having played around with them for a while, I’ve found them cumbersome, however. I think the problem is that they are dependant upon a cooldown. As a result, even if the timer is short, executing a dodge roll, a mid-air strafe, or a shield wall can be hit or miss.
Our player ships are another sticking point for me. It seemed like Bungie was testing the idea of ship-based combat for Destiny all the way back in Halo Reach. Remember how smooth that Sabre space combat sequence felt? I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since, but so far; nothing. Near as I can tell, our ships are still just cosmetic items, only ever seen by other players during loading transitions.
If we’re never going to be able to fly them freely, perhaps Bungie can convert our ships into a kind of mobile player home. One in which you could customize the entirety of, both inside and out. They could even make it like a small social area, where you can invite a few friends over to check out your unique sense of style and maybe even play some mini games. It’s just a thought. Who knows, perhaps that is already planned for the full release?
That pretty much sums up my observations during the Beta. On the whole, I think the game is headed in the right direction. There’s only a small amount to play around with during the Beta, which makes it difficult to make a comprehensive determination about whether it’s a better experience than the original. I can say, that every component we can currently play feels better than it did before. The graphics are objectively superior, the gunplay feels somehow tighter, and the story seems more complex despite a certain degree of predictability.
A lot of the time, Destiny 2 hums a familiar tune. There’s no denying that. I would avoid mistaking its familiarity for a lack of progress, though. If Destiny 1 had launched in the state that Destiny 2 appears to be in right now, it might have reached heights that only the likes of GTA V or the Mario franchise have ever soared. If the rest of the game is as fully fleshed out as this tiny slice of Beta pie, we might all be a few pounds heavier by Thanksgiving.