Destiny 2 Beta: Welcome to Year One All Over Again

I remember playing the original Destiny beta back in 2014. I had watched some trailers and promotional content and kept up with all the regular news up until that point but I was skeptical. I didn’t think Bungie could deliver all the promises they’d made about their “shared world shooter” (read MMO without the massive part). But when I sat down with that beta for the first time and started playing I was immediately hooked. “Wow,” I thought to myself “once I get into the main game and these areas open up this is going to be something truly special”. Destiny year one was, as a result, one of the most disappointing games I’ve ever experienced.

But I stuck with it. I saw it through the pathetic excuse for an expansion that was The Dark Below, the slightly better content drop that was The House of Wolves, the very welcome near-reboot that was The Taken King, and the last, pathetic fart that was The Rise of Iron. In that time I’ve grown to truly dislike Destiny. Every time I boot it up with the desire to go on a fun loot grind I run smack-dab into the slow, boring, punishing, tedious, poorly designed game that makes up its bones, then I go and boot up Diablo III instead. Still, in the back of my mind, I’ve wondered if it was just too late for Destiny’s first iteration. If the game that Bungie had produced would require more work than a few patches could reasonably deliver. So I waited for Destiny 2 and hoped they’d get it right this time.

It’s 2014 all over again and this is year one. Welcome.

The beta starts with a first impression that makes you wonder if you booted up the wrong game. The menus and prompts are nearly identical to those found in its predecessor. The first mission, while thrilling, is filled with desperate Disney theme park setpieces and Whedonesque quippy dialogue that strains the very definition of a one-liner. The action kicks off with a poorly delivered joke from your ghost about flying too fast and ends with the big-bad delivering the line “I give you a world without light” in total po-faced earnestness. This isn’t the game that will fix Destiny’s storytelling woes. There’s a chance that there will be more story but little chance that there will be a marked improvement in its quality.

The same goes for gameplay. After the opening set piece, you’re dropped into orbit – Christ almighty! I hoped and prayed that we were done with fucking orbit! – and presented with a flat menu of two PvP arenas and one PvE strike to select from. I played the strike, of course, because I’m an idiot for returning to Destiny after all this time, not a fucking masochist. Fuck the crucible. It was… well, it was a Destiny strike. I’ve seen some pundits praising it for its overall length and variation compared to the strikes in the first game and its expansions but I honestly have no idea what they’re seeing. It’s paced a little better. There’s more rapid traversal and less sitting inside of monster closets for minutes at a time but that’s hardly a pro if the end results are the same. The mobs are from two of the three alien races that Bungie will ever put in these games, there’s some awkward first-person platforming, and there’s a final boss that requires an eternity of circling in an enclosed space to finally defeat. There are no branching objectives or cleaver puzzles or even any new enemies to defeat. All the bosses are still just oversized versions of the regular mobs. Fucking seriously.

There is a new loadout system but it actually serves as more of an annoyance that hinders your ability to deal efficiently with threats instead of an empowering statement of everything Bungie has learned in the last three years. Instead of the primary, secondary, heavy loadout from Destiny 1 you’re now locked into two primaries and one “power weapon”. That power weapon can be anything from a rocket launcher to a sniper rifle to a fusion rifle or heavy machine gun but the overall effect is a decreased damage output over Destiny 1 and a diminished capacity to improvise from situation to situation. Now you just unload on your enemies with whatever you have on hand and reserve your power ammunition for overpowered minions or bosses that require the extra pain. It slows things down and makes you feel feeble in comparison to a kitted-out Destiny 1 exotic freak.

I don’t know what the Destiny community at large will think, having not visited the forums in over a year. Perhaps the player base will be thankful for the adjustments to PvE that slow down the grind even more or the increased emphasis on PvP. Personally, I was hoping that Bungie would make good on some of the promises that were made years ago when Destiny was first announced and touted as an enormous MMO with literal mountains of dynamic content and immersive discovery. Instead, players will be running the same old strikes against the same old enemies and listening to the same old lines of dialogue for three more years until Bungie does it all over again.

You may think I’m getting ahead of myself, that the beta is only a tiny sliver of what Bungie has to offer and it’s unfair to judge the finished product before the whole thing opens up, and I would ordinarily agree with you. But I was there for the first beta. I had those thoughts myself at the very beginning and I’m certain that what we all just played is all there is to Destiny 2. That may be enough for you, but for me, it’s too little too late. I’ll just be over here waiting for Anthem.

Wesley Scott

Puppet Master at Ludonarrative Assonance
Wesley Scott is a writer and actor living on the North side of Chicago in a tiny studio apartment and spending his days playing video games, reading comic books, watching television and occasionally going to his day job when he needs a little cash. He is everything conservatives fear when they talk about the problems with a welfare state and he is everything liberals fear when they timidly advocate for sex positive education.