The Destiny 2 beta has arrived. Activision invited Recombu along to an early access beta event, where we go to experience the multiplayer and campaign on a PS4 Pro. Here are our first impressions.
When Activision invites you along to play Destiny 2 ahead of everyone else, it would be rude to say no. So we made our way over to Victoria House in London and descended into the Destiny-themed event.
But we weren’t there to look at the life-sized models of some of Destiny‘s better known weapons nor try to steal the toy Gjallarhorn, a gun that became legendary for being rather too effective. As in, everyone used it to bulldoze their way through the toughest raids in rapid fashion.
No, what we came for was the chance to play Destiny 2 before anyone else. And free beer. But mainly Destiny 2 because, for all of its faults, we ended up sinking a lot of hours into the first game.
Really, it was only the repetition of the grind to the maximum light level that stopped us from returning. But then playing any game for a long time falls foul to that crime. We can only hope Destiny 2 has added depth, because then it would much harder to fault.
So what is new in Destiny 2, when is the release date, how can you play the closed and open beta and does it play better? Allow us to elaborate.
How do I play the Destiny 2 beta?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what’s new, you may want to play the game yourself. The closed beta requires a code, which you were either given because you are internet famous or because you pre-ordered the game.
Assuming you have or can get a code, you need to enter said code and wait for it to download and install. Depending on your console of choice, you may have to wait to play.
PS4 Closed Beta: 18th of July, 10am PT / 6pm BST
Xbox One Closed Beta: 19th of July, 10am PT / 6pm BST
PS4 & Xbox One Open Beta: 21st of July, 10am PT / 6pm BST
PC: August (date to be decided)
All beta sessions end on the 23rd of July, 2017, if you live in the US or 5am GMT on the 24th of July if you live in the UK. The latest Destiny 2 beta update must be installed to access the beta.
The update is 15GB on PS4 and you need at least 30GB of free space to run it. For the Xbox One, expect it to be around 13GB.
If you have a code, head to www.bungie.net/redeem and enter your nine-digit code once you have logged in. Grant some permissions and then follow the link to the redemption page. Choose your preferred console, if your code allows, and then enter the 16-digit code into your games console code redemption area.
When is the Destiny 2 release date?
PS4 and Xbox One players can expect to see Destiny 2 arrive in the UK on the 6th of September, 2017. PC gamers will have to wait until the 24th of October, 2017. A price is yet to be confirmed, but you can expect the usual new game price and a pricier Destiny 2 Collector’s Edition.
What does the Destiny 2 beta include?
You can play one story mission called ‘Homecoming’, which involves going against Cabal’s Red Legion. It is actually the first mission hence the name. Go here, shoot this, move to the next room ─ the opening action will prove familiar to anyone who has played Destiny.
There is also a three-player cooperative Strike called ‘The Inverted Spire’. Basically, you have to shoot your way through hordes of awoken Vex robots, culminating in a big boss battle. Again, feels familiar.
You can also engage in two multiplayer types. Control on the new Endless Vale map sees you try to capture points on the map and defend them. The 4v4 setup means it is more important to work together.
What is missing from the Destiny 2 beta is the ability to increase or decrease your hero’s light level, clan support and progress beyond the beta into the full game. Because Bungie hopes you buy the actual game, obviously.
So what did we learn about Destiny 2?
1) Hand cannons still rock
There were multiple hand cannons on offer and all of them were headshotting machines, as they should be. In fact, there were multiple attempts to use something other than a handcannon, but the scout rifles and even some of the machine guns proved a bit rubbish for the predominantly long-ranged combat.
2) Matchmaking has arrived (sort of)
No longer will you need to use one of the third-party websites to find other players who want to run the Nightfall or high-level raids because Bungie has added in matchmaking. Apparently only 50 per cent of players attempted the harder elements of Destiny, hence its inclusion. So in Destiny 2, solo players will be able to look for clans that require an extra player.
This is rather clever because you could spend hours looking for five other players, only to find they all have the dexterity of a dead otter or a screechy voice, neither of which are a good thing. Tagging along with a clan increases the chance they will know what they are doing, leading to ‘phat lootz’.
3) The graphics are even better
Destiny was a pretty game to start with, but with the PS4 Pro and ultra high-definition television it looked even better. Not necessarily startlingly so, but enough of a visual sheen to keep it current and stop the PC master race from complaining too much.
4) The PvP has been adjusted
Another change to Destiny 2 is the fact Bungie has reduced the team size to four versus four, instead of up to six versus six. That makes Crucible multiplayer gaming more personal and increases the reliance on each player within a team.
This is potentially a good thing from a matchmaking speed perspective, but it may also be annoying for larger clans that were used to playing as a team of six and could see maps reduced in size. Hopefully a six or eight-player multiplayer mode will be reintroduced.
5) There are three new subclasses
To increase the variety in Destiny 2, the game now includes three new subclasses (all of which can be used in the beta). Warlocks can utilise the Dawnblade class, Hunters have Arcstrider and Titans have Sentinel.
Dawnblade lets you summon a large, fiery sword that can lob flaming projectiles or stab anyone who gets too close. Sentinels can throw a shield around, Captain America style, and Arcstriders can smack people with a staff.
6) You can play football
Fear not, Bungie isn’t going after FIFA 17. What we mean is that the social space known as ‘The Farm’, where players gather and turn in missions, features a football pitch and goals so you can pass the time while waiting for your Fireteam leader to finish his dinner. It will go live on the 23rd of July, 2017 at 6pm for a mere hour so best be ready to go on that date.
7) Countdown is great fun
Destiny needed a game where you plant a bomb or keep others from doing so and Countdown is Bungie’s answer. Like in Call of Duty, dying is especially bad as it can result in one player having to take on up to four, which can get tense. Each game lets you play as the attacker and defender.
8) Clans can do more in-game
Clans will be able to have a bio and in-game rosters, which could make it easier to see if you want to join them or simply provide a way of showing a clan’s infamy.
9) Expect new multiplayer maps
10 new maps have been added to Destiny 2, including the aforementioned Endless Vale and Midtown (the level you play Control on in the beta). There will also be five different game modes. Hardly loads, but we will have to wait to pass judgement.
10) New worlds have been added
Four new worlds, in fact. These are the official details:
EDZ: A total of four worlds will be visited during your Destiny 2 campaign. The first is the European Dead Zone (EDZ) on Earth. Here, the Red Legion is using this area as a staging ground for their war against humanity.
Io: Io is a moon of Jupiter and the last place visited by ‘The Traveler’. The Red Legion and Vex are both interested in this site because it hides great power.
Nessus: Nessus is a Vex planetoid that is said to feature ‘giant twisted trees, deep caverns, waterfalls and silver swamps’. As Destiny scenery goes, this is one of the more visually interesting backdrops.
Titan: Titan is a moon of Saturn. Here, a flotilla of construction barges are all that remains of mankind. Well, except for something ‘far more sinister’ below the surface.
11) Weapons come in three flavours
Solar, Arc and Void damage is still present in the game, allowing you to be more effective against certain enemies (and their pesky blue shields). But in Destiny 2, there is a new system.
Kinetic: Kinetic is the term for standard damage weapons such as Hand Cannons, Auto Rifles and Scout Rifles.
Energy: Energy weapons are the weapons augmented with Solar, Arc or Void damage and will be most suitable for situations where you need a specific damage type.
Power: This is the new name for ‘hyper lethal, situational firepower’ and this includes all the really nasty stuff such as Swords, Rocket Launchers, Shotguns and Fusion Rifles.
12) Get a new emblem for your troubles
Yes, you can tell people you played the beta because you will get a unique emblem. Unique to the thousands of players who give it a go, that is. Still, better than nothing.
Destiny 2 closed beta: What is the campaign actually like?
If you can imagine a Christopher Nolan movie, only with more explosions and guns, you have Destiny 2‘s epic opening mission, Homecoming. The graphics, even on a lowly Xbox One and without a 4K television, are absolutely stunning.
The fire effects look fantastic, while the explosions that constantly rock the battlefield as you fight your way through the Red Legion are spectacular. The few story scenes are predictable, but that makes the visual spectacle no less captivating.
The AI hordes seem to be more intelligent this time around. Instead of running away slowly and trying to hide behind things, which made killing them more of a chore than difficult, enemies actively split up to make it harder to take them out quickly using the grenade launcher.
One section sees you have to defend an area from an assault, which has been done to death in Destiny. But the need to jump behind an NPC’s shield to avoid an artillery barrage from above makes it more frantic.
Likewise, the Poison enemies have a snipe attack that forces you to move around more (getting close works well), whereas in the old game you could hang back and pick enemies off with little effort. It is a minor change, but it makes Destiny 2 more involving.
This could, of course, stem from the fact the weapon number is somewhat limited and you have a maximum light level of 200, which means kills take longer. But Homecoming reminded us of that opening Halo level a little, which is a big compliment.
There is some jumping around too as you work your way to the final cut scene, which again serves as a way of slowing the pace down to build suspense. But the map tells you exactly where to go, as it did in the old game, so there is still a sense of hand-holding.
Before you know it, the campaign opener is over and you get to meet Bungie’s Bane wannabe bad guy. But what a way to introduce Destiny 2. The universe feels more complete and there is this sense of impending doom. All hell is breaking loose around you and you feel more involved.
Destiny 2 closed beta: What is the Crucible multiplayer like?
The 4v4 thing worries us somewhat, but in Control on Endless Vale it is easy to find an opponent. If anything, the lower player count seems to encourage teamwork. Point B, which is raised up and can be hit from three sides, requires particular effort to hold.
A cheeky Warlock tactic is deploying a healing shield while capturing a point, giving everyone in the vicinity a boost in health so they can take more damage. We saw this tactic being used by more experienced teams.
The move can also be set to increase damage if you prefer to use attack as defence, but it seems less effective in PvP because the area of effect is relatively small and that limits your movement, making you easier to kill. We can see this being more useful against NPCs.
Titans are also useful to teams as their equivalent move involves deploying a forward-facing shield that everyone can hide behind. Hunters can do a quick roll that reloads their weapon and grenade instantly. That sounds great for PvE teams, but less so for PvP ones.
Titans soak up damage nicely, but the scout rifle and hand cannons can make light work of them if you nail the headshots. The scout rifle is particularly nasty as it fires bursts of fire with little recoil and over long ranges.
You can gain access to a shotgun as a reward for playing, which is a one-hit killer if you get close. But the scarcity of the weapon ammo drops make it less useful, although we still found a few instances where the grenade launcher was mincing groups trying to capture a point.
Bungie has actually admitted the frequency of the special ammo drops is too low. We actually like it that way because it puts the focus on weapons that take more precision and reduces the number of one-shot kills. Besides, the some of the heavier weapons are actually quite weak.
Another issue is the recharge rate. Grenades take so long to respawn you can start to forget about them, while the Super kicks in so late games have usually been decided by this point. This is partly because of the lack of gear to speed up the process, but we still hope it is a bit faster in the full game.
The newest game mode has you trying to kill the enemy team or plant a bomb and ensure it reaches the end of its countdown, which is longer than in Search & Destroy in Call of Duty games. More often than not, all players eliminated would end a round.
Teams get to take turns at attacking and defending on the map, which is actually rather large and has a long central alley section that would work well for sniping if ammo was more readily available.
Again, the lower number of players puts more pressure on each individual and the inability to respawn only emphasises the need to communicate. As a result, the multiplayer feels noticeably more exciting and a little more grown up. Somewhere between Halo and Overwatch.
There does appear to be more visual clutter in the user-interface and adjustments to the scoring are jarring at first. You are now rewarded for helping to kill an enemy, for instance.
Get a long enough kill streak and you are rewarded with a funny soundbyte. Perhaps there is more than one, but sustaining a long enough streak is tough when those who are playing the beta are likely to be the more dedicated and more skilled.
With a new roster of guns, the right weapon balance and the ability to customise your weapons more should be enough to keep the 4v4 multiplayer enticing, but the addition of 10 new maps seems too little.
As for server stability, there are too few players to judge what Destiny 2 will be like when the masses jump in. Slower would be our first guess. But the servers, which are said to be hosted by Bungie but not fully dedicated, have not skipped one beat.
Destiny 2 closed beta: Overall gameplay impressions
Our time with Destiny 2 was slightly limited (not because of the beer), but we did get to try out the Dawnblade Warlock, which lets you chuck a deadly fiery projectile from above and that proves effective.
The 4v4 element does increase the chance of finding another player alone, making it easier to increase your kill count and easier to retreat if things go wrong. This resulted in a lot of games where we died once or twice at most.
The downside is that your Supercharged attacks are less useful if you have gone for the offensive variants. No longer will you be able to as many easy kills at the spawn area of your opposing team.
Another effect of the 4v4 adjustment is that it means taking down a particularly skilled enemy player is harder. Where an overly confident player may end up losing to a group of six newbies, the worst case scenario will be four.
We found it was a bit quicker to get back into the action, even though one of the multiplayer levels was quite large in size. But our relatively experienced team made Countdown games way too short to be satisfying, suggesting the smaller team roster could make life harder for less experienced players.
As for the campaign and strikes, one part of the beta gameplay has you avoiding giant spinning mechanical arms of death while trying to blow up three cogs of a reactor (because cogs are still used in the future, it seems). It does break up the monotony of headshot after headshot.
Our time with Destiny 2 reveals a more polished offering that is visually spectacular and the sense of humour in the story appears to make it more compelling. Whether the new subclasses and other less obvious adjustments work in the longer term is impossible to say.
The fact you will be able to get more from Destiny as a solo player is arguably the biggest plus, as it allows you to jump right into a game without wasting time looking for suitable buddies.
But with smaller PvP maps and little departure from the original formula, will Destiny 2 feel too similar and cause veterans to burnout quickly? That is the big question because many players, including this very writer, have played Destiny since day one.
For now though, the closed beta feels too short and has left us wanting more – which is exactly as it should be. See you on the battlefield, Guardian.