Square-Off: Destiny 2 Beta Impressions
Few games in history have been as divisive as Destiny, with a hardcore fanbase rallying behind it, and still many others disliking it for various reasons. It’s no secret to PlayStation LifeStyle readers and anyone that’s spent more than 15 minutes around me that I’m a huge fan of Bungie’s shared-world shooter. I’ve played 1,300 hours of Destiny over the last three years, having a 100% trophy list, completing all of the triumphs the game offers, and now owning no less than nine Destiny shirts.
Our own Tyler Treese recently gave his impressions of the Destiny 2 Beta from the perspective of someone that hasn’t played a lot of Destiny, and while it failed to blow him away, he liked what he played enough to want to be a part of the Destiny 2 movement when the game comes out. In the revival of an old PSLS feature, Tyler and I square off on our opinions and impressions of the Destiny 2 Beta.
Chandler: Alright Tyler, I read your impressions, and I have to be honest, some of your points didn’t strike a chord with me. A few of the things you mention not liking, such as the first-person platforming, are such a fundamental part of what Destiny players love. Every Raid has had some sort of platforming, not to mention Rise of Iron’s hub area having a mountain goating challenge to climb to the peak. Destiny is a game that embraces vertical movement.
Tyler: I get that you associate first-person platforming with Destiny, but is that a good thing? It felt less like the game was embracing verticality, and that they just had to lengthen a level out with some mediocre platforming. It’d be one thing if I was jumping around environments in order to get to a vantage point like in Titanfall 2 or DOOM, but in the Destiny 2 beta there weren’t many opportunities to do that. The main jumping sections during the strike were 100% platforming from one pillar to another, not a combination of shooting and movement. If it was more of the latter then I wouldn’t mind it, as it’d add to the strategy, but do you really come to Destiny for jumping around? This isn’t Mario, people come back to Destiny due to the combat loop. Just because a game has featured something in the past doesn’t mean it’s a good thing or something that should return.
And while I get that it’s easy to paint me as someone who didn’t play a lot of Destiny when you’ve spent over 1,000 hours in the game, but I played every story mission (aside from raids) in the original and its several expansions. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a Destiny die-hard (the game simply wasn’t good enough for me to commit that much time to it), but it’s not like I played four hours of the vanilla version and immediately bailed. I doubt the average player spent hundreds of hours playing Destiny, as the replayability strictly depends on if the player is cool about replaying the same missions repeatedly.
I would like to hear from you about what impressed you about the beta, though. What are your positive takeaways, and what’s most exciting about Destiny 2? The reason I ask isn’t due to some dislike of the beta (as I said in my preview, I still really like the gunplay), but that nothing really felt all that different from a core level. I was expecting a bigger upgrade from the original, something that felt like a real step above from its predecessor. This problem is sort of exacerbated by The Taken King fixing a lot of vanilla Destiny’s issues, and this seems like further polish rather than any real next-level innovation. That tweaking is fine for an expansion, but expectations should be raised for a sequel. Imagine if Blizzard launched World of Warcraft 2 and it felt like more of the same with no sizable changes or innovation. People would be really disappointed, even though it’d likely still be the best MMO out there.
Chandler: This is exactly where I’ve gone back and forth on Destiny 2 for a while now. How much do you change and innovate before a sequel simply isn’t a sequel anymore? What’s the sweet spot of staying the same, yet giving players something fundamentally new? You are right that Destiny 2 feels like further polish on all of the changes made in Destiny. If you compare vanilla Destiny with launch Destiny 2 though, these are fundamentally different games. It really earns its place as a numbered sequel. The difference here is that we got to see the slow transformation over three years. In 2020, I expect Destiny 2 to be a vastly different game than will launch in September.
The Destiny 2 Beta does a bad job of showing off the gear grind that Destiny players love, but that’s not what it was designed to show. The more I play the Beta, the more I realize this is the Destiny that I have loved with the changes I’ve so desperately wanted it to have. The new 4v4 Crucible is a much more competitive place now, finding the perfect curve to give players a challenge while also allowing them to learn. The story mission is so much more cinematic and emotional, while still retaining that Destiny feel. The strike is the weakest aspect of the beta, but gives a good idea of what PvE gameplay will be like. For the record, I happen to like the first-person platforming. I’ve spent hours and hours just jumping around in Destiny. Who’s to say it has to be less like Mario and more like DOOM or Titanfall 2?
I don’t see the Destiny 2 Beta as a demo because it’s impossible to demo what longtime players love in such a small slice. I see it as a proof of concept. We haven’t been given things like the open patrols to run around in, more Crucible modes, or most notably, the raid. We haven’t been given progression or the ability to see how loot drops will really work. Bungie has already stated there are multiple balance changes incoming and surprises in store. For now, the beta gives me a feel for how Destiny 2 will play, and I’m happy with what I’ve got.
Tyler: You make an excellent point by pointing out that Destiny 2 will be a very different game in the next few years. If it continues to evolve like the original did, I have no doubt fans will get an excellent game. Both Activision and Bungie are clearly all-in on the series, and they’ll make sure that players stay invested for years to come.
It’s also fair to point out that it’s difficult to demo a game like Destiny. If it does deliver on a much better campaign, and the beta’s opening mission certainly does make it seem like that will be the case, then I’m certain I’ll enjoy my time with the sequel a lot more than I enjoyed Destiny originally. The jury won’t be out on Destiny 2 for a while, even after the game is being sold on store shelves, as it’s a constantly evolving product. As games continue to become more of a service than a standalone product, we’ll have to figure out how to better cover them as well. It’s a learning process for the entire industry.
Chandler: It’s fascinating that Bungie is almost offering two distinct products. There will be the campaign for those who don’t want to get caught up in the living game, and yet they’ll inevitably tie it into another insane loot grind that will both captivate and frustrate, as my emotions were during all of Destiny’s life. This is the most exciting part to me, knowing that while it may not strike your fancy enough to get you trying for every exotic, there’s still a game there for both of us, whether you just want to see the story through or play until your fingers bleed.
In terms of what the beta showed, I think it showed that those who love Destiny will love Destiny 2. The complaints from most of the longtime fans mirror my own, and they are small balance changes and things that will likely be altered by launch. The Destiny 2 Beta proved that Bungie isn’t going to alienate their players in pursuit of some far-fetched new feature or mechanic. Some may see that as lack of innovation but I see it as player loyalty. Just seeing the changes coming to the sequel, I’m confident that Bungie is already listening to their fans. The innovation in Destiny 2 will come in time, and I’ll be happy to be along for the ride.
Where do you stand on the Destiny 2 Beta? Did it stoke your interest in Bungie’s sequel, or did it reveal that you wouldn’t be taking part in the phenomenon when it launches in September? We’d love to hear whose side you land on and your thoughts on game betas in the comments below.