Despite its rocky release, Bungie’s Destiny grew to become an immensely popular game. Fans who stuck with it were rewarded with increasingly improved systems, locations, and narrative. At its peak, Destiny blended MMO-lite elements with the kind of pitch-perfect gunfeel that only Bungie could provide.
Despite all the improvements made over its lifespan, Destiny wasn’t perfect. The initial story was weak, and the quest system did little to improve it. Games like Guild Wars 2 dwarfed Destiny’s content. The loot system took nearly two years to get right. Patches to improve Crucible gameplay had increasingly negative effects on the rest of the game. A recent major patch essentially limited Crucible to primary weapons only.
Destiny 2 is coming from a great place, but there are many ways it can improve. The new beta addresses some concerns and raises others. Here are six things we’ve learned from the new beta.
The Classes Are Improved... Unless You're a Hunter
Bungie has made some major changes to the class system—there’s more focus on individual abilities now and less stat changes—but the fundamental Rogue, Soldier, and Wizard fantasy archetypes remain intact as the Hunter, Titan, and Warlock. If you’ve played Destiny, there’s practically no learning curve here, and, unless you’re a Hunter, your powers have been dramatically improved.
One tweak you might not have noticed is that you can no longer be harmed by your own grenade. Getting killed by a poorly-placed tripmine grenade was always both hilarious and disappointing, and being unable to take damage from your own grenades is a welcome change. Every class now has a class-wide ability, which can be used regardless of sub-class. Hunters get an extra dodge, Titans can deploy a shield, and Warlocks can deploy a pool of light to power up their allies.
I loved playing my Defender Titan in Destiny, but the lack of an offensive ability was always a disappointment. The new Defender gets a Captain America-style shield that can be used defensively, either as a regular shield or the classic bubble shield, or as a melee weapon, letting them zip around the arena like a Blade Dancer from the original Destiny. The updated Striker class gives Titans that epic Hulk-like smash, which leaves a storm of lightning where it was used. After using their super, Titans can dash around the arena for several seconds, killing every enemy with a one hit lightning punch (once again, like the Blade Dancer from the original Destiny). The pulse grenade is immensely effective, and might be my favorite grenade in Destiny 2.
If you’ve played much Destiny, you know to be wary of Warlock Sunsingers. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard "don’t worry about it, I have self-res," only to watch a Sunsinger die and realize that they did not, in fact, have enough super energy to activate it. Most Sunsingers refused to use any other more useful ability because they seemingly wanted to play poorly and get away with it, rather than play well and support their allies.
Warlocks no longer have sunsinger, which is great. Now they have a flaming sword that flings fireballs, an ability similar to Sunbreaker Titans from Destiny but with a shorter duration. Pop the super, point in your enemy’s general direction, and let it fly. Chances are, you’ll kill something. It’s powerful, satisfying, and enjoyable. The melee recharges your grenade, and your grenade choices are among Destiny’s best grenades. The other Warlock class in the beta, Voidwalker, has a new and improved Nova Bomb, which can track enemies and be detonated by shooting at it. If you’re a Warlock, your enemies are gonna have a bad time.
Then there’s the Hunter.
Bungie, I’m not sure why you took your most disadvantaged class and decided to make it worse. I’m sure you have your reasons, but I’d sure like to know what they are.
The Gunslinger has more bullets now, but even less time to fire them. While the Titan and Warlock are all about smashing a button while pointing in the general direction of your foes, the Hunter has to hit their targets or feel like they’ve wasted their shot. I never feel like I wasted my super with the Titan and the Warlock. I felt like I wasted my super nearly every time I used my Hunter, which is strange, because I put over 1,000 hours into Destiny as a Hunter. I have plenty of practice.
As a Hunter, I never felt like I had enough time to aim my shots properly—it seems to be the shortest-lasting super—and even when I hit, my hits didn’t guarantee enemy death. More shots, sure, but less time and less damage. Gunslingers just don’t feel good anymore.
Gunslingers have always had bad grenades, but for most of Destiny’s life they had the Tripmine, the only fun grenade to use. Tripmines weren’t fun because you could plant them on surfaces and hope enemies would walk into them (that rarely happened), they were fun because you could throw them at an enemy, stick them, and use the ensuing explosion to kill their friends. They felt amazing to use, and since the other two grenades were among Destiny’s worst, everyone used them. Bungie nerfed them so they wouldn’t stick to enemies. They stopped being fun. Gunslingers have no interesting grenades now.
Blade Dancers in Destiny were intimidating foes. While they rarely generated enough super orbs to help friends against the forces of the Darkness, they were great as a support class, resurrecting the dead thanks to their invisibility power. In the Crucible, they were terrifying weapons of death; zipping around the arena, punching people in the face. If you want that experience in Destiny 2, don’t play a Hunter.
The new Hunter Arcstriker is kind of like a Blade Dancer, except now instead of cool knives, they have a dumb looking pole. I have never been seriously threatened in the Crucible by an Arcstriker. I have killed everyone I saw. They are laughably easy to defeat and pose no threat whatsoever. There is no point to playing as an Arcstriker.
As someone who mained a Hunter in Destiny 1, the hunter nerfs are so bad that I almost want to recommend bypassing Destiny 2 entirely.
There's a Bigger Emphasis on Story
Despite having over a thousand hours in the first game, I can’t remember what the story was or why I did anything, which seems to be a common theme with people who played the game. While subsequent expansions improved the storytelling somewhat, Destiny 2 is shaping up to be Bungie’s best post-Halo storytelling effort yet.
The intro is clear: your home is under attack. Your goal makes sense: put a stop to it. Gaul, the new Cabal villain, is a lot more dramatic than Destiny’s villain (a pulsating, black blob). He creates sufficient motivation for you, not just by attacking your home and blowing up all your loot from the first game, but by cutting off your access to the Traveler, the alien artifact that is the source of all your powers. This sets up a way more interesting story about growing your power and avenging the dead. Clear motivation is everything.
Bungie wants to deliver too much damn story, but whether they can deliver depends on their ability to deliver a campaign on par with those first opening levels.
The Cabal Are Dramatically Improved
Despite being some of the most fun enemies to fight in Destiny, the Cabal never got much love. Cerberus Vae III and Dust Palace were two of the worst strikes in the game, none of the story or expansions focused on them, and they never got a raid. Bungie has corrected this in a big way with Destiny 2, adding new enemies and refining old ones. One of the best changes is their increased mobility—Cabal use their jetpacks now a lot more than they ever did, adding some much needed verticality to their engagements.
One of my favorite new enemy types are the flamethrower-wielding Incendiors that explode if you detonate the packs on their backs. Psions have been tweaked; they’re a sniper class now, and they have a new attack that lets them fling players into the air. Phalanxes have new shields that can be destroyed with enough damage, adding some much needed variety to the tactics players can employ against them. The melee-centric Gladiators are fantastic, and it’s immensely satisfying to blast a pack of their new attack dogs, called War Beasts, with a well-placed grenade.
The Exotics Don't Feel Exotic
Destiny 2’s beta arrives with three exotics: Sweet Business, Sunshot, and Riskrunner, and compared to exotic weapons from the previous game, they’re disappointing.
The hunt for Destiny’s exotic weapons was one of its most fun activities. Players could only equip one exotic weapon at a time, but their unique rewards were worth it. Telesto’s time-delayed void explosions made it one of the most satisfying weapons I’ve ever used in a first-person shooter. Icebreaker’s regenerating ammo pool made it one of the most desirable sniper rifles in the game. Gjallarhorn’s massive damage output and tracking rounds made it so popular that it essentially became Destiny’s mascot weapon.
Sweet Business is a recoil-heavy gatling gun that can carry more ammo than other similar guns. Sunshot is a pistol that makes enemies explode when they die. Riskrunner has the most interesting perk, increasing its damage output when the player takes arc damage, while also increasing resistance to arc attacks.
The problem is, none of them seemed better than the starting weapons; why use Sweet Business when I could just use my elemental assault rifle, which usually killed enemies much quicker and had the added benefit of doing elemental damage against enemy shields? My scout rifle had much better range than Sunshot, and the enemy explosions didn’t seem powerful enough to warrant using it instead. None of these weapons would be counted among Destiny 1’s best exotics. Even legendaries like Eyasluna and Hung Jury were more fun to use.
The New Weapon System is Disappointing
Part of the reason Destiny was so fun was because players had three distinct tiers of weaponry. Primary weapons were good at every range. Secondary weapons tended to work in extremes; shotguns were great at short range, fusion rifles were fantastic in groups, and snipers were great at long range. Heavy weapons were a great way to output a lot of damage in a little amount of time. This three-tier system meant that players always had interesting ways to use their weapons.
The worst change Bungie ever made to Destiny was with a patch late in the game’s life that dramatically reduced the special and heavy ammo count. Matches quickly became focused entirely on the general-purpose primaries, greatly flattening the overall combat experience.
Destiny 2 doubles down on this by… putting all of its interesting weapon classes in one category, and changing the secondary weapon slot to be a second primary slot, though these primaries have the added bonus of elemental damage. Shotguns are one of the most popular weapons in shooter history. I once loved playing as an agile shotgun user in Destiny, but over the course of an entire strike, I found a mere 8 shells. The rest of the time, I just used automatic weapons.
Why can’t every weapon be elemental? If an enemy is, say, a solar type, the difference in damage they take from a solar weapon, a kinetic weapon, and a different elemental type is negligible.
Destiny’s original weapon system was vastly more interesting than Destiny 2’s. It was bad enough when Bungie dramatically reduced secondary ammo counts through Destiny’s life to an insulting 15 rounds of special ammo, but at least special ammo dropped with some frequency. Putting all of its interesting weapons in a category that rarely gets ammo so players will spend more time with the more boring, general-purpose weapons is a huge mistake. The enemy variety can only offset this shortcoming so much.
Smaller Maps and Team Sizes Make For Enjoyable Crucible Combat
I was leery when I first heard that Bungie was reducing Destiny 2’s team size in the Crucible, but as it turns out, they reduced the map size and respawn timer to compensate. The end result is a more frenetic, exciting combat experience with less down time than ever before. There’s no reason to use anything other than an autorifle or an SMG, however. Not once was I outgunned with a scout rifle, pulse rifle, hand cannon, or sidearm, and at this stage, I’m not sure it’s possible. I never even touched my power weapons; there just wasn’t enough ammo, and the auto rifle never let me down.
Just using one gun type in the Crucible is boring, but that’s a symptom of Bungie’s terrible weapon slot system. Elements don’t even appear to matter in the crucible, so you could just equip two auto rifles and never have to worry about running out of ammo. It flattens an experience that might have been a lot more fun if shotguns, fusion rifles, and sniper rifles still had a place.
That’s Destiny 2. In many ways, it’s an improvement over the first game, unless you’re a Hunter, or you happen to like Destiny’s more interesting weapons. The Crucible is tighter and more enjoyable than ever before. The new powers for the Titan and Warlock are phenomenal. The villain looks great… Honestly, there’s so much to praise about Destiny 2, I don’t even know where to begin. But the changes to the weapon system and the Hunter class are so frustrating that I don’t even know if I’ll be playing Destiny 2 this fall.
Many questions remain unanswered: will Destiny 2’s patrols be more enjoyable? How does the new weapon mod system work? Did The Cryptarch survive? Can Bungie really deliver too much story? Are there any good exotics? Why is the weapon system so much weaker than it was in the original game? Will Hunters be fun to play ever again?
We’ll find out when Destiny 2 releases on September 6th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (and PC on October 24th).