Despite its flaws and missed potential, I did enjoy Destiny. For two years, it was my go-to game on the PS4 thanks to its drop-in nature, excellent gun play, and loot-based progression. Yes, the story was awful (aside from The Taken King where they remembered they had Nathan Fillion’s voice at their disposal), the open world event system was too repetitive, and the decision to put the lore details out of the actual game was beyond lunacy, but when I teamed up with friends I didn’t care.
Especially in the Crucible, where my Hunter ripped apart opponents with The Last Word. Man, I miss that weapon.
However, I didn’t load it up throughout 2016. I wasn’t enthralled by the idea of playing through more of the same old content with a new skin (again), and most of my in-game friends had moved on, highlighting the lack of matchmaking for end-game content. So, with the announcement of Destiny 2, I was left conflicted. I knew that (barring some sort of development meltdown) the gameplay would be great, but I wanted a sequel that could get me engaged with its narrative and provide social options that other online titles enjoy. So, I patiently waited for the PC beta to arrive, hoping that Bungie could show they had put things right this time.
My first impressions from the opening missing were as expected – familiar and polished. The slickness of the controls I had been used to with a gamepad was there with the mouse & keyboard, but the additional accuracy made it a joy to play… well, once I got going. The biggest concern was the default bindings weren’t explained as the action began, and while movement and shooting were as you might expect, the special abilities were in some rather odd places such melee being bound to C. A quick rebind later meant everything made sense to my style of play, but I do hope that some pop-up text during the intro mission is included with the PC launch in October.
It should be pointed out that the PC version does support gamepads (including the Dualshock) so former players can just jump into the fray as they always have. I on the other hand don’t think I’ll be able to go back to a gamepad after experiencing the silky-smooth precision of M&K, no doubt aided by the increased frames per second (with Destiny 1 capped at 30 FPS on consoles.) The jump in FPS gives a responsiveness that made me feel invincible (but not actually be invincible, as I discovered jumping into the middle of a pack of dogs on low health during my first Strike mission.)
It’s not just increased frame rate that’s worthy of praise – the visuals and attention to detail as I made my way through the opening mission had me looking around instead of pushing forward. Even with my GeForce GTX 970 powering my rig, every bullet and explosion were (to paraphrase a friend of mine) “candy for the eyes.” It’s a testament to the optimisation of the game engine and Bungie’s promise to make the most of the PC version.
As for the content of the beta missions, for the most part, it’s business as usual in terms of structure. Encounters with groups of enemies as you may your way to objectives, with different factions fighting each other at various points, and the occasional elite enemy thrown into the mix as needed until the big boss at the end. One aspect I did appreciate was the environmental hazards in The Inverted Spire mission, which not only made sure players were paying attention but enhanced the storytelling that the Cabal aren’t messing around by unleashing a giant drill of instadeath.
You know, if sealing away the Traveller, taking away the Guardian’s Light, and occupying The Last City wasn’t making that clear enough already.
But yes – it’s these small touches that have me hopeful that the full game, and later missions, will include some much-needed variation to the constant shooting (or at least make players think as they engage the enemy.) One of my favourite aspects of The Taken King expansion was how it mixed up the gunplay with other elements – the perilous tower climb, for example – and while I understand Bungie wouldn’t want to throw in all of the best parts in a beta, I hope it was a most vertical of slices of what’s to come.
With players set to Level 20 and loot drops being relegated to boss drops (or post-Crucible rewards), it’s hard to say how progression will feel. That said, diving into the class abilities did at least highlight some of the ways each sub-class can be played. For instance, I was able to switch from the new Arcstrider sub-class (in all its twirly glory) back to the Gunslinger, reacquainting me with the Golden Gun super that served me well in Destiny 1.
As a former player, it took some adjustment getting used to the subtle changes throughout the game, be it the way guns are now organised or the new class abilities, but switching between them or tweaking a gun’s attributes remains a straightforward process. While I’ve only tinkered with a few of the options, I can see there is enough scope for some powerful situational setups.
Meanwhile, the small slice of the Crucible included in the beta proved to be just as enjoyable as in Destiny 1. The Control and Countdown modes proved to be quick fire and accessible enough to jump into the action, giving me hope it will end up being the evergreen multiplayer suite Bungie are known for delivering (all while Lord Shaxx showers you with praise and/or encouragement via his earnest yet sultry tones.)
So, the PC Beta has more than proved Destiny 2’s visual prowess and excellent gameplay are of exceptional quality, but there are still a number of unanswered questions. Will the open world sections have more emergent and interesting content as players ride around on their Sparrows? Will the Guided Games (or “in-game matchmaking”, as the rest of us call it) really allow solo players the chance to tackle end-game content? Finally, will the narrative deliver a memorable experience? We’ll know for sure when it releases on consoles next week, but I can say the following with confidence – barring some sort of server-based catastrophe, the PC version will end up being the definitive version of Destiny 2 when it launches in October.