It’s been nearly three years since Bungie and Activision first brought us into the world of Destiny. The 2014 first-person loot shooter with MMO-lite mechanics strived to be the next big thing, but was ultimately disappointing. A lack of content, a thrown together campaign and repetitive missions marred what was supposed to be the next big Activision IP. Though Bungie got their act together and released the stellar Taken King and OK Rise of Iron expansions, neither felt like the proper leap forward the franchise needed. Well, now we have Destiny 2, a new chance for Bungie to hit the reset button.
Hardcore Gamer went hands-on with the PS4 and PC versions of the upcoming game and if what we played is anything to go by, Bungie may have a real winner. While Destiny 2 may not change the minds of those opposed to loot shooter or MMO-lite mechanics, it will make those who were disappointed by the original game very happy. Destiny 2 is bigger, better structured and packs a more powerful punch.
The campaign mission was the “Homecoming” mission from the gameplay reveal. It’s the first mission of Destiny 2 and kicks things into action with a giant explosion. The Cabal’s Red Legion has launched a strike on the Last City in an attempt to steal the Traveler. Homecoming is the perfect opening mission for Destiny 2, illustrating just how much is changing between the new game and the old. There are epic moments, like helping Zavalla hold back waves of Cabal infantry, interactions with NPCs and actual set piece moments taking place.
Most importantly, Homecoming is thematic for getting rid of the old and bringing in the new. The Tower was a place of excitement and frustration in the first game. Players would have to continuously go back to The Tower constantly and eventually it became a chore. Walking through the destroyed halls you walked through thousands of times is poignant. We’re saying goodbye to The Tower.
The action continues after a short cutscene (yes, there are cutscenes in missions now). We’ve boarded the Cabal capital ship and need to take down the shields. The level ended in the shield generator room where we were introduced to Destiny 2’s main antagonist, Ghaul. Large and menacing, Bungie claims that he’s a more complex villain than, say, Oryx, but he didn’t come across that way in the demo. Hopefully, we’ll see another side of him in the main game.
From there, we got to try one of Destiny 2’s new strikes, The Inverted Spire. This mission took us to Nessus (one of the new worlds) to break into a Red Legion dig site and figure out what they’re up to. For the strike, Bungie unlocked a variety of different weapons for us to try out and there have been quite a few changes. Weapon classifications have been revamped to give players more options. The main slot now houses Kinetic Weapons, which include Auto Rifles, Pulse Rifles, Hand Cannons and Scout Rifles. The second slot now houses Energy Weapons. These are the Fusion Rifles, Handguns and, new to Destiny, Submachine Guns. Finally, in the third slot, we have Power Weapons,which are your Machine Guns, Rocket Launchers, Sniper Rifles and Grenade Launchers (also new to Destiny).
The strike displayed just how big of a leap the sequel is over its predecessor. The Inverted Spire is an exciting mission from beginning to end, showing off the design philosophy that will hopefully permeate the entire game. The maps were far more open, allowing us to approach the battles in certain ways. At one point, we had to cross a huge battlefield with Vex and Cabal battling in the craters. While there will be a lot of returning enemies, there will also be plenty of new ones. For example, the Cabal have War Beasts, doglike creatures that aren’t afraid to get in close and maul unsuspecting Guardians. Even the returning enemies have some neat new abilities. The Cabal Phalanx now has the ability to put down a bigger shield for a small amount of time, meaning you’ll have to jump over and walk around if you want to get them.
The battlefield then led to the dig site, which shows just how cinematic Bungie intends all missions to be. Giant drills are circling around, and getting smacked by one of them automatically kills a Guardian. You have to navigate across a Cliffside while trying not to get hit by them, and dealing with the Cabal. With so many moving parts, The Inverted Spire is easily more cinematic than anything in the vanilla version of Destiny.
Going deeper into the earth, we finally found what the Red Legion was searching for, Protheon, the Modular Mind. This giant bipedal Vex machine was the final boss and he was quite the challenge. All his attacks caused splash damage and a single stomp was enough to snuff out a Guardian. While he was quite the bullet sponge, Bungie did make it interesting by constantly changing the arena. A multi-tiered boss, Protheon would destroy the arena, sending us falling down to a new one. Each arena had its own little quirk. The second had a burning effect every now and again that would drain health. The third was surrounded by a lake of a milky white substance that would birth Vex grunts. It’s was an exciting boss battle that was more entertaining and engaging than anything in vanilla Destiny.
Finally, we were able to sneak in a match of Countdown, a new multiplayer mode in Destiny 2. The mode is essentially Search & Destroy. One team is tasked with planting a bomb, and the other is tasked with defusing it. If an entire team is eliminated, however, the round ends. The first team to win six rounds is the victor. It’s a neat mode for those who like these types of multiplayer modes. For those who don’t like it, modes like Clash will return. Unlike Destiny, however, all multiplayer modes will only support eight players, down from twelve.
Destiny 2 looks substantially better than the original game. Models and textures are more detailed, the worlds are bigger and more varied and the cinematics are top notch CG. It’s shaping up to be a stunning package on PS4 and PC. While the PS4 build we played was running on PS4 Pro, it wasn’t easy to discern any upgrades due to the size of the screen we played on. PC players, on the other hand, are in for a real treat. On PC, we did notice that pop-in was far less severe and it was nice finally getting to play Destiny at 60 frames-per-second. Unfortunately, the console version still runs at 30 frames-per-second.
It’s still too early to say Destiny 2 is going to be the dream game we all wanted when it was first announced in 2013, but based on what we played, Bungie is on the right track. We’re finally getting that cinematic, set piece filled campaign that was mysteriously missing. Strikes are going to put players in big environments and have them do more than just shoot bullet sponge enemies. There are new modes to play, worlds to see and characters to interact with. Destiny 2 may just be the game Destiny was always meant to be.