Yesterday around noon was the official launch of Destiny 2 Beta on the PS4. I personally got my hands on it around 6 pm after doing various things that needed to be done and taking my wife out to eat. To call this a Beta however feels like a little bit of a misnomer because in truth we are getting out hands on essentially the same demo that was available to press at e3. With that comes a greatly limited subset of options that you can take part in. Functionally right now there are three things available to players: The first story mission, the Inverted Spire strike, and one play mode of the crucible. I didn’t get a ton of screenshots because I was actively playing, but I did decide to stream and ultimately record me in game from the moment I started up Destiny 2 to the moment I logged out feeling like I had “beat” the demo. If you are really curious you can check out my Mixer VOD that runs for a little over an hour. I opted to go for a silent stream because I was largely just recording this for my own benefit.
This game is going to catch so much flak for being “Destiny 1.5” and I can see that. In every meaningful way this is Destiny. The characters perform as smoothly as the original, and the gunplay feels just as good. Those who played a significant amount of time with the first game… might have a little bit of an adjustment period because there are subtle differences everywhere. This is not simply a “HD Remaster” of the original game… but you can feel that it is in fact a brand new game that has tried extremely hard to capture everything that was great about the first one. The titan jump feels slightly different, and everything from the pulse rifle to the hand canon are recognizable… but feel different enough to know at a base level that you are playing something different. The first story mission is excellent and does an amazing job of providing you a feel for the game and its play… as well as giving you a rich narrative ride through parts of the tower you have never seen before. It takes everything that was learned through the Taken King and Rise of Iron and distills it down into the purest form. You are killing Cabal but you are doing it with a constant purpose of trying to save those you can… with enough nostalgic elements to make it feel like your home is falling apart… not just some random structure being blown to pieces. The mission also does a great job of weaving in single player and multi player elements… with the central section being a sort of defend the tower mode as you and lots of other players fight back against the Cabal along side Zavala. That is another huge part of this experience… you are interacting with characters that you already know like Zavala, Cayde-6 and Ikora Rey. They have personality and treat you in a manner befitting someone who has been leading all of these strike missions for all of these years. Hell you even get some interesting interactions with Lord Shax and Amanda Holliday.
The Strike is similarly awesome, and I can see myself running it over and over as part of the strike list. There were a few annoying jumping puzzle style elements… namely that giant grinder that we have seen multiple times in trailers and such. You find yourself trying to navigate through an area while avoiding the spinning wheels of doom. There is a similar mechanic in the first story mission where you have to avoid certain death while destroying objectives, and made me question my choice of the control jump instead of the height jump. The only weirdness about all of this is… it felt like grenade and super both charged super slow. Maybe I am just used to running around with my Armamentarium and rocking two grenade charges… but it always felt like when I needed a grenade the most it was still on cooldown. The super when available however was glorious. Last night I focused on the Sentinel Titan… and I got to run around bashing things with my shield. I never figured out how to throw it… but doing the equivalent of the old striker titan shoulder charge with a void shield was amazingly fun. While sunbreaker is supposedly back for Destiny 2… I can absolutely see me maining Sentinel. The thing that surprised me the most is the fact that I didn’t really seem to use the portable shield capability that often. It was useful for setting up essentially a gun nest, but for the most part I just ducked in and out of cover like I always did.
The only negative of the night was the crucible. I am just not a fan of the changes they made. For starters they have reduced the number of people in standard crucible matches from 6 vs 6 to 4 vs 4. As a result they have created a series of much smaller maps with much tighter choke points. What this does is make it feel much more frenetic in a style of game-play that I equate with Call of Duty. Crucible always felt like a thinking mans game… where it was as much about how you moved and when you chose to fire or not fire… rather than just charging forward into the fray every few seconds. It could be my experiences were deeply colored by the fact that in both occasions I ended up on a team of randoms fighting against a team of people sharing the same clan tag. Functionally all I know is that the changes did not feel as good as the original crucible does, and as a very casual player of the crucible it is not really something I look forward to participating in. Which leads us to the other problem of the night… I am more or less a Patrol player. If you believe Destiny Tracker I spend something like 70% of my time playing Patrol missions where I wander around aimlessly and kill things in the open world. As such with this demo “my Destiny” was not open for business yet and after doing the story mission, the strike, and a few round of crucible I considered myself largely done for the night. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself… it just felt like a very shallow experience without the open world content and without character progression. I am sure I will boot it up a few more times… but this did nothing to really satiate my desire for the actual game.