My history with Bungie’s Destiny is one that I’m sure is shared with many other people. Eagerly anticipating the game in 2014, I made certain that I was able to partake in both the alpha and the beta testing and played the game extensively – only to find by release that I’d pretty much played the whole thing. You could argue that was my fault, but what wasn’t my fault were the numerous issues plaguing one of the most talked about games in years.
Destiny’s story wasn’t good – it wasn’t even passable. It was missing basic, fundamental structure, like a beginning, a middle and an end, for one thing. There was a universe of untapped potential, but it was squandered on repetitive and pathetically uninspired mission design. Enemies were re-used to no end and the worlds themselves, supposedly lush, interesting planets, were all empty boxes. They were devoid of life and any real differences among them – they were colourful window-dressing at best.
That barely begins to cover Destiny’s litany of issues, but the community survived and eventually thrived. Bungie turned what was seen as one of gaming’s biggest disappointments of recent years into a hefty success story, fashioning a world out of their bungled RPG. Now, with Destiny 2, Bungie is promising a big fix in an even bigger world – having played the beta for a few days though, it feels like I’m playing two different games.
Let’s start with the story, as I feel that was the most glaring of Destiny’s issues. Bungie is keeping decidedly more of the game close to its chest than it did with previous early access tests, but we do get to play the first story mission and it’s a hoot. In fact, it couldn’t be more different from the original game – this mission is cinematic, explosive and fast-paced, with set-pieces around every corner. Enemies come at you thick and fast and there’s a real sense of pulse-pounding urgency as the Tower, your stalwart place of safety in the original game, crumbles around you.
This would all be meaningless however were it not for all-important context. Sweet, sweet context. Yes, there’s a real story here to be told now. The Tower, falling apart in flames around you as it comes under siege by the villainous Ghaul, seems to be a metaphor for Bungie doing away with the old taste of the first game and ushering in something totally new. The game has characters with real personalities and already the world is more alive and better established than it ever was in Destiny. Yes, it’s relatively basic in its execution so far, but it’s something and it makes the whole game, cast and world, more endearing. Finally you have something to fight for, and against, outside of the incredibly vague and never-explained ‘The Traveller’ and ‘The Darkness’.
So we’ve got a story, but how’s the game itself? Well, Bungie are sort of known for making first-person shooters and one thing that was always hard to fault about Destiny was its gun play – the same is true here. However, I must admit, I was a little disappointed with what I’ve played of The Crucible, Destiny’s online multiplayer component, so far.
Several odd design choices mean you have a game that feels remarkably…mundane, when it should be a ballistic light show full of wacky space magic. The base gun is well, just that – completely basic. It’s an uninspired assault rifle that you could quite easily find in Call of Duty. Add into that the massively over-inflated cooldowns on special abilities, as well as the less frequently appearing power ammo, and you’ve got a game that seems afraid of tapping into its crazier side. Most players I encountered simply ran around the (admittedly tiny) map with their regular gun. Special powers were barely on display. I could’ve really been playing any other shooter.
The map doesn’t help. Endless Vale is pretty, but dull. It lacks the distinctive space vehicles of the Moon maps of old, or the peculiar architecture that made for weird, alien terrain on the Venus maps. It’s flat, uninteresting and a poor showcase of Destiny’s creativity. The gameplay is totally serviceable of course – these are the guys who gave us Halo – but it’s a shame that I found The Crucible to be completely disengaging, especially as it was my favourite part about the original Destiny. Here’s hoping the bigger maps will help things out, but with team sizes reduced to 4v4, that might not be the case.
Whether or not Destiny 2 feels new enough is also something that needs to be considered – what was happening on-screen was different, but aside from some tweaks like the fancy new super abilities, it’s effectively the same game so far. Is this going to be a problem for many people? It depends on what you want from your Destiny sequel. Those who wanted only a select few things to be rectified before jumping back in will be perfectly at home here. However, there are those who want a bit more from the sequel to one of the biggest games of the generation.
It’s clear that Bungie has really been listening when it came to fan feedback. Destiny 2 opens incredibly strong, with a powerful first mission that absolutely is a thinly-veiled message to those who were disappointed with the first game. Unfortunately though, the same level of effort doesn’t feel applied to The Crucible, leading to a game of two halves. Destiny 2 appears to be struggling with an identity crisis – there’s a desperation here to be taken truly seriously as a competitive shooter, but Bungie has to be careful not to lose what makes Destiny interesting to most – that delightful sense of the alien.
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