I’ll be the first to admit I got a little emotional at the Destiny 2 gameplay reveal. Destiny is a game that I’ve spent well over 1,000 hours in, making tons of friends along the way and having some of the most memorable gaming experiences of the last three years. As Destiny 2 opens with loss, it was hard not to get a bit misty eyed watching the home that I’d come to know and love approached by the menacing fleet of Red Legion ships. Within moments it’s a pile of rubble and there’s a very clear feeling that I won’t be coming back here anytime soon to decrypt engrams or find where Xur is hanging out for the weekend. Last year I asked Steve Cotton, Bungie’s World Design Lead, when the Cabal would finally have their day. His coy reply was “Perhaps the Cabal will have the biggest day of all.” That day is here. The Tower is gone. And it’s because of the Cabal.
Not only does Destiny 2’s opening show this moment, it lets you play in the first mission, Homecoming. Emerging where I’ve so often spawned in to grab bounties, I’m greeted by flames, rubble, and Commander Zavala. This moment is unlike any that we’ve seen in Destiny. Finally these powerful characters are fighting by our side and we get to see what our favorite class representatives are capable of. Standing with Zavala, he summons a shield bubble to protect you from the Red Legions barrage of fire. It’s an awesome and epic moment for Destiny fans, and while it may not have the same impact to newcomers (or even those who aren’t Titan mains), it sent chills down my spine to essentially be in a fireteam for a few brief moments with the Lance Reddick-voiced character.
We can’t hold that spot forever though, so I move through to the Speaker’s area of the Tower, searching for the mysterious and enigmatic leader figure. Before I can make it all the way there, I’m greeted with a couple of Easter eggs in the form of a still sweeping Broombot, and Ikora Rey disintegrating a bunch of Red Legion soldiers with a Nova Bomb. A couple seconds later and I realize the Speaker isn’t there. In fact, his whole section of the tower is effectively missing, brought down by Ghaul’s army. After watching Ikora perform another epic attack, it’s off through the giant mysterious door that everyone theorized about for all of Destiny’s life. Behind this door? Turns out it leads right into the Last City, and things aren’t going so well here.
After fighting off a few more Red Legion Cabal, Amanda Holliday flies in to give the Guardian a ride to the main Cabal ship. From their it’s a not so friendly jaunt to the core to disable the shield where I was met face to face with Ghaul himself. Well, I didn’t really see what the imposing Cabal threat looked like, but the deep voice and strobing light were enough to give me a good sense of his imposing power.
In Destiny, we’ve always journeyed out to fight enemies. We’ve gone to their home turf. We’ve fought them in the depths of the moon, on a ship near Saturn, even deep inside a Siva production facility. The Red Legion have take one from our playbook. The tower was Ghaul’s raid and he won. He beat us fair and square, forcing the last remnants of humanity to scatter, regroup, and collect themselves to fight again. Guardians have always been defending their home, but they’ve never had to really defend their home so directly, and they’ve never failed so badly.
Destiny’s Love Letter
As epic a set piece this will be for new players, Homecoming is really a love letter to Destiny’s fans and longtime players. It’s a scattering of the Vanguard, not even trying to win, but just trying to save the citizens of the last city. To them, even one life saved is victory enough. It’s interesting that in these moments where we feel the most vulnerable, we get to see the Vanguard at the most powerful we’ve ever witnessed them. Zavala throwing up a Titan bubble is a sorrowful goodbye to the subclass which will be going away in favor of the Sentinel, the Titan’s new “Captain America shield” ability (and how sad, because Zavala’s Titan bubble looks so damn cool!).
Of course I mentioned seeing Broombot, Ikora doing her Nova Bomb attack, and finally getting to go into the massive door by the Speaker. All of these things are telling Destiny players “We hear you. Thank you for playing.” It’s Bungie providing an emotional sendoff to the Tower, a symbol of our many, many hours in Destiny, while also saying “Don’t worry, Destiny 2’s got some pretty great stuff coming your way.” For the new player? Homecoming is a cool moment to prove that Destiny 2 can have impactful and cinematic story missions, something that fans and detractors alike have been clamoring for since Destiny first launched.
As someone who is very much into the lore that Destiny has, I am slightly concerned about how they will address this opening in the final game. When I played, I was the Warlock, able to use the new Dawnblade subclass to rain flaming swords down on every enemy around me. Technically this attack is occurring within Destiny 1 era. Before the Cabal make us lose our light. Before we are forced to seek out our powers once again and gain these new subclasses. Likewise, the gameplay above from Bungie shows the new Arcstrider Hunter subclass and Sentinel Titan subclass. I may be a little bit nitpicky here, but hopefully this was more to demonstrate the new gameplay as opposed to how things will play in the final game where we shouldn’t actually have these abilities yet.
Homecoming reassured everyone that Destiny 2 is still Destiny while advancing and providing a Destiny experience that’s more action packed and interactive than any we’ve had before. Bungie has been listening to their fans and those that criticize the game. They’ve taken steps to ensure that right from the beginning you know what Destiny 2 is and what it is trying to do. Whether or not it succeeds beyond the destruction of the Tower is up to Bungie to show us come September 8th.
Destiny 2 previewed at Bungie’s reveal event. Travel and accommodations provided by Activision.