Destiny 2 hands-on: A natural evolution

The cover art for Destiny 2
The cover art for Destiny 2PHOTO: BUNGIE
Members of the press waiting to enter the Destiny 2 event at the Jet Centre in Los Angeles, US.
Members of the press waiting to enter the Destiny 2 event at the Jet Centre in Los Angeles, US.ST PHOTO: BRYAN DE SILVA
Director of Destiny 2, Luke Smith, speaking on stage at the game's event at the Jet Centre in Los Angeles, US.
Director of Destiny 2, Luke Smith, speaking on stage at the game's event at the Jet Centre in Los Angeles, US.ST PHOTO: BRYAN DE SILVA

LOS ANGELES - Some of the mystery surrounding the gameplay of online first-person shooter Destiny 2 has finally been lifted.

On Thursday (May 18), developer Bungie of Halo fame announced at an event many new improvements that Destiny 2, the highly anticipated sequel to 2014's Destiny, would bring.

These include new areas to explore, quality of life improvements, new abilities to dabble in and tweaks to competitive play.

Back in 2016, Bungie said that Destiny 2 would be released in 2017 and in March this year, it was confirmed that the game was slated for a Sept 8 release globally. But scant details on gameplay were known, until a big reveal event on Thursday in Los Angeles, which coincided with a world-wide video stream.

WHAT IS DESTINY?

For the uninitiated, the first Destiny game has a virtual world where gamers can interact with one another, cooperatively tackling its hordes of enemies or even compete against other players, all for in-game rewards and bragging rights.

The action takes place in a narrative where fantasy and science-fiction are woven seamlessly together - imagine fighting against an enemy not unlike a cave troll from The Lord Of The Rings movies, except you'll find it on the moon, and it shoots beams from its eyes.

Knights, Wizards, Harpies, Hobgoblins, Hydras, and Minotaurs are just some enemy types with magical-themed names that embody very alien exteriors.

 

Where it was unlikely before, this marriage of genres has managed to build a wholly new unique community of fans from both sides, even as it gained fans new to its strange, yet familiar universe.

However, at the core of any game is its gameplay - the minute-to-minute interaction that defines the player's experience.

In a first-person shooter like Destiny, that would be it's gunplay.

Its developer, Bungie, made first-person shooters viable on consoles with the multi-billion dollar Halo franchise, after the first game released in 2001.

Destiny, released on XBox and PlayStation consoles in 2014, was no different with its virtual shooting physics .

Guns had the feeling of weight when you aimed down sights and comparable impact when you pulled the trigger. The aesthetics and sound of each gun felt unique, like it had a story to tell behind each bullet shot.

With Destiny 2 poised, is it going to be a matter of fixing what wasn't broken?

Maybe "refine" would be a better word to use, to build upon a solid foundation, as opposed to overhauling a tried and tested formula.

HANDS-ON

Destiny's publisher Activision, through PlayStation Asia, invited The Straits Times to Los Angeles to get some hands-on time with the new sequel.

At the event, Bungie announced new areas in Destiny 2 that players can explore and hunt for loot. They include three new planets and a new area on Earth called the European Dead Zone. There are also non-playable characters who give side-missions that will lead you to dungeons called Lost Sectors.

But navigating these areas looks to be easier in Destiny 2 with the inclusion of an in-game map, something the previous entry in the series did not have.

The three player classes return in the sequel - Titan, Warlock and Hunter, with subclasses for each to further cater to different play styles.

Titans are the game's tank class and able to take more damage than the other two classes. Hunters have a more tactical edge and are built for speed and evasion. The Warlock sits firmly in the middle with a mixed bag of defensive and offensive skills.

With Destiny 2, classes are getting new tools to give players an edge in battle. On top of grenade and melee abilities, each subclass now looks to get a new character ability.

For example, during my time with the Warlock's new Dawnblade subclass, I found it had the ability to conjure an area where my teammates and I could be healed, or even have our damage output increased.

The Striker Titan subclass has a new ability which creates a barricade of light that can block pathways or act as cover during a gunfight.

A new ability for the Gunslinger subclass for Hunters allows players to reload weapons instantly while dodging, or generate melee energy while dodging near enemies.

Then there is the new Hunter subclass, The Arcstrider, which is very reminiscent of the original game's Bladedancer subclass. The new subclass is adept at taking out multiple enemies very quickly.

Not to be outdone, there is also a new Titan subclass, the Sentinel, which allows a player to wield a shield offensively by ramming or flinging it at enemies.

There's still more to be revealed, including other subclasses, in the lead up to the game's launch.

One major change to gameplay lies in the game's player-vs-player component known as The Crucible.

Where previously the game would pit teams of two, three or six head on, Destiny 2 is locking in team numbers to four, across all game modes.

The four-vs-four limitation would essentially allow for quicker communication between teammates, but without the strength of numbers, strategy would be imperative for victory.

That said, good old skill and brute force still appear to work - in one playthrough, my team wiped the competition with a 6-0 score with that.

Destiny 2 is also reclassifying its weapon categories, which could affect players who dominate competitive matches with specific types of weapons.

Gone are the "primary", "secondary", and "heavy" categories of weapons from Destiny. In their place, Destiny 2 will have "kinetic", "energy" and "power" weapon categories.

Shotguns and sniper rifles, the two most lethal weapons in Destiny, will be moved to the power category in Destiny 2. They will join other high damage weapons such as the rocket launcher, and the new grenade launcher.

Similar to the ammunition for heavy weapons, those for weapons under the new power category won't be as readily available in the game as other types of ammunition.

Kinetic weapons in Destiny 2 will be your bread-and-butter weapons, while energy weapons inflict elemental damage - arc, solar or void - and can take down enemy shields quicker, as well as players who have unleashed their "super" abilities.

A super is a charged up ability that can dish out extremely high damage in a wide area or to multiple enemies for a limited time. Supers can often turn the tide of a battle.

Destiny 2 also aspires to be more accessible to new players, implementing a "guided game" feature which allows such gamers to search for the right group of players to lead them through the game's more difficult aspects, like cooperative missions which require a team of up to six to complete.

The original Destiny was released on video game consoles, but Destiny 2 will bring the franchise to PC gamers for the first time - the game can be purchased exclusively through Blizzard's Battle.net gaming platform.

Console versions of Destiny 2 will run at 30 frames per second. But the PC version will run at an "uncapped" frame rate. At the Los Angeles event, demonstration booths had the game locked in at 60 frames per second.

The PC version will also support 4K resolution and allow players to adjust the game's field-of-view.

An expansion pass - which players can pay extra for, on top of the game's base price, to access additional content - has been announced for Destiny 2. But Bungie hasn't revealed the schedule for new content to be released. With the original Destiny game, new updates were typically released in April and September.

EVOLUTIONARY

Coming out of the event, my first impression is Destiny 2 looks to be addressing some of the criticisms levelled at the first game, while building upon the solid foundation of the first three years of the franchise.

From my limited hands on time, Destiny 2 is very similar to what came before. It doesn't feel like a full-fledged sequel, but rather a natural evolution of the same game.

If you're a hardcore Destiny player, a casual gamer, or you've been holding out for a PC version, it's quite likely that you'll be impressed and excited by the new changes to the game. I know I am.