I’m now fully caught up on the Destiny 2 [official site] presentation and am wading through the first hands-on footage people are feeding out as videos. The game has a hard release date of 8 September on console (and a smidge of pre-order beta before that) but PC is still a bit of an unknown. It’ll still happen but the exact details are still lurking in the realms of “dunno”. BUT! That gives us some breathing room to get you, the wide-eyed PC player, up to speed. There’s also plenty in the info we now have that excites me and a few niggles I wanted to poke at while they’re still fresh in my mind. Shall we start with an overview of the game and then move on to things like the reworked match-making for raids and so on? It’s my article so I’ll assume you said yes!
Destiny is best thought of as a sci-fi MMO with some truly lovely-feeling shooting as its core gameplay. There was a story campaign but the bulk of the experience came after that through quests and raids and weekly challenges and PvP and all manner of other bits and pieces. Like I say, it’s an MMO set in space. I just checked my own game stats and the majority of my time was spent on PvP, playing a point capture map selection called Control. But what do you really need to know about Destiny and its lore to get to grips with Destiny 2? Allow me to explain – I’ll be brief!
A Teaspoon of Lore
Destiny 2 is set in the same universe as the original game. There’s a bunch of lore nerdery which might help you appreciate all the oohing and ahhing during the trailers but the core of that first game was that The Traveler – that big moon-looking object hovering in the sky over Earth – is the source of your characters’ special powers. It lets you tap into and use a force called Light and there’s also a lot of gubbins about existential threats and whether the Traveler’s motives are benign and… if you’ve played a lore-heavy sci-fi game you’ll probably be able to imagine the discussion of every minute detail on subreddits over the years.
There were factions in the first game and all manner of figureheads and legions within those factions because it’s a lore-heavy sci-fi game (even though you’ll hear a bunch of arguments about there not being a real story because of how it hid everything in grimoire cards so you had to be bothered to tease it out of the game and frankly some people didn’t fancy that approach). What I think is most useful to know is that one of the alien races is the Cabal. They’re based on Mars in the original game and take the form of these beefy, heavily armoured jerks – kind of space turtles who often had these irritating shields you’d need to work around when splattering them.
The Cabal are the focus as the main enemies for Destiny 2. Players of the original game suspected they might be because all of the other major races (the Hive, the Fallen, the Vex) had been the focus of a raid and a bunch of chunky content so it was theoretically the Cabal’s turn. So here you have a Cabal Warlord called Ghaul (also known as Gary because of bants in a trailer) who is in a right mard that the Traveler decided to make human and human adjacent characters (the blue-skinned Awoken and the humanoid machine Exos) the heroes of the piece and has decided HE deserves to wield Light too thankyouverymuch.
To that end he sort of wheel-clamps the Traveler and siphons off its Light while also leading Cabal to destroy the original game’s hub world, The Tower.
TL;DR? This is a hard reset which zaps all your previous powers, destroys your loot vault and sends everyone you know scattering in all directions.
The story (in as far as Bungie have shown so far) is about regaining your powers and getting the band back together.
The band in this case is the triumvirate of vanguards for each of the player classes. There’s Zavala who was the commandy shouty blue guy who made the bubble shield in the trailer above. He’s one of the Awoken, if you were wondering, and he’s in charge of the Titan class. That’s the class which is very much about front-lining, stomping about and doing power-fists into the earth. Then there’s Nathan Fillion as Cayde-6 – an Exo who heads up the Hunters. Hunters are the showboating faction who wear capes and zip about being annoying. Hunters are the worst. Ikora Ray is the human who acts as the Warlock vanguard. The Warlocks are the best faction and they are in charge of space magic, really floofy jumping, and wiping out entire capture points with Nova Bombs in PvP.
After the destruction of The Tower Zavala’s off having an existential crisis, gazing across the methane seas of Saturn’s moon, Titan. Because he’s a Titan. DO YOU GET IT? Ikora has gone to a sacred site on Io to regroup and also to marshal her fury into something useful. The presentation made it sound like she was in some kind of mashup between a church and Professor Farnsworth’s Angry Dome. Cayde is doing bantz on Nessus which is a Vex stronghold – the Vex being a sort of robo collective who can play silly beggars with time itself. To be fair, Cayde is always doing bantz. He is Banter Claus. Archbishop of Banterbury. Immanuel Bant.
And thus: new story campaign, new strikes (kind of mini-raids), new actual raid with details TBA, new multiplayer maps presumably based around these new locations and so on and so on.
Here’s Terra Mantis’s footage of the Inverted Spire strike. It should give you a better feel for how the game flows. In case you’re wondering, they’re playing as a Gunslinger Hunter – they get a Golden Gun as their ultimate:
Let’s now move on to the more granular bits and bobs!
So much of Destiny was about how guns felt when you handled them and you’d develop incredibly strong preferences and attachments to your loadout. That’s why I’m not particularly interested in the weapons themselves until I can actually play with them and see what feels nice. In the original game I favoured hand cannons as my primary weapon. They were good for close-up work and you could deal an impressive/horrific amount of damage if you were precise. I would also sometimes cheat on my favourite hand cannon – a gun called The Last Word – with the mid-range burst-fire of a pulse rifle. Secondary tended to be a sniper rife called Defiance of Yasmin and my heavy weapon slot was generally reserved for a machine gun (Qullim’s Terminus in case you were interested).
Destiny 2 seems to be doing away with that primary/secondary/heavy distinction so you can have more than one weapon of a particular type in your loadout. Maybe multiple sniper rifles if you’re That Kind Of Jerk. It might also be useful because the previous distinctions – primary, secondary and heavy – generally meant you had one all-rounder gun, one specialist gun and one massive burst damage gun. I can imagine a bunch of scenarios where you might want to have two or even three specialist guns you can easily access depending on your role in the current fight.
The new categories are thus “kinetic”, “energy” and “power”. What that actually means in specific terms is not clear to me yet – I assume it’ll be a lot clearer when I’ve watched more footage or when we get bigger chunks of time with the game.
Supers are things in the original Destiny which you power up as you play and which, when charged, allow you to perform some spectacular or game-changing move. I mentioned two of those earlier – the Warlock’s purple Nova Bomb which you could use to blow an area up using purple elemental energy and the Golden Gun you get as a Gunslinger Hunter. Purple energy is technically called “void” energy but there’s also blue which is “arc” and orange/golden which is “solar”. By switching between different flavours of power you could change your super as well as other bits and bobs like how your character moves and how they jump and the grenades they can throw.
I’ll use the Warlock as an example:
If you’re using void power you’re a Voidwalker Warlock and you get that big bomb. If you’re using solar you’re a Sunsinger Warlock and you get Radiance which boosts your grenades and melee skills and reduces their cooldown timers massively. Arc power gives you Stormcaller Warlocks which gives you a Palpatine-style lightning attack. This one is super useful if you don’t fancy doing nonsense like “aiming” or “hiding”.
With the Traveler being clamped by turtles from Mars you lose all of this stuff even if you played the first game and had it maxed out. That’s why everyone’s stumbling around in the trailer – no Light means no powers. It looks like Bungie aren’t overhauling the elemental flavours though, so the supers you do get will be some new ones (based on the same principles but with different manifestations) and it looks like you earn back some of the earlier ones (but probably not the really game-breaky ones).
Specifically there’s a solar thing for Warlocks called Dawnblade where your super (I think that’s called Daybreak) has you use a flaming sword to slash projectiles at people, Sentinel is for Titans and gives you a void (i.e. purple) version of Captain America’s shield you can use to duff people up or ricochet off someone’s head to hit someone else, and Arcstrider for Hunters offers up fancy nonsense involving a glowing blue staff. It’s always fancy nonsense for Hunters.
PvP takes place in The Crucible and spans a wide range of modes. Some are always available and some are only around for limited times and have unusual requirements or restrictions/boosts. In the original there are another tier of PvP modes – Iron Banner is monthly-ish and you can earn special loot, there was also a Sparrow Racing League and there’s a hardcore elimination-style thing called Trials of Osiris. It sounds like Bungie want to keep that basic variety so there’s at least one mode each player will want to play but they’ve been reworking how it fits together.
It sounds like all PvP in the Crucible is going to be set up as 4v4 instead of the variable team sizes of the earlier game. That’s good in that you don’t need to add or drop people if you fancy changing modes during a session. I’m wondering whether Trials of Osiris falls into that bracket? Theoretically it could but Trials is a 3v3 mode with a bunch of specific requirements that ramp up the difficulty and sort of gate access because you needed a group and an access pass and it’s only available a few days each week. Bungie mentioned Trials as a thing that would exist in Destiny 2 but I’m wondering if that will be an exception to the 4v4 rule because it feels like it was so finely balanced around 3 that 4 would make it a significantly different experience. That said, they might have overhauled the whole thing and made it something different.
Another change is that instead of needing to keep mental track of big PvP milestones, like who of the enemy team has their super ability charged, or who picked up the limited supplies of heavy weapon ammo and is thus a greater threat, you’ll get that info on your HUD. Part of me is inches away from screaming “GIT GUD NUB NUB!” and “IN MY DAY WE HAD TO REMEMBER THAT STUFF BY HAND!” But Bungie are banging on about things being easy to pick up and hard to master. Bloody annoying to people like me whose mastery extended as far as the thing which is now default info for everyone if you ask me!
They also mention an attack/defend mode called Countdown. I assume it’s a word game with a few number rounds thrown in at intervals. Or I suppose it might be a vaguely Counter-Strikey mode about setting charges and killing other Guardians if you want to watch this video:
This is the one causing a lot of feather-ruffling. Think of it as Bungie’s way of bringing LFG (looking for group) queries into the main game rather than leaving them as the domain of subreddits and dedicated third party forums/apps. It combines with an attempt to make matchmaking a bit less awful.
The idea is the if you’re a member of a clan you can use that as a kind of second friend list in order to find people for raids who are of a similar gaming bent to you. If you aren’t you can see which clans are up for raids as well as a little bit about them – a short bio, for example – which would theoretically give you an idea of how friendly they might be to play with and what they prioritise.
Their vision is that solo players will be taking less of a gamble when they join a group to attempt a raid or a strike or something, and that players who are already partied up to some degree can easily fill any remaining slots.
That’s the plan. I believe that that’s how Bungie want it to work and I hope that’s how they get it to work because otherwise as a solo player who is nervy about joining up with randos you can end up missing a huge chunk of content and loot.
I do have reservations, though. What they showed of the system sort of relied on the clans giving accurate or flavourful information in their short bio to let solo players know if they wanted to play with them. I can imagine it being far more of a lottery in real life (although I guess Bungie could also get players to rate groups on competitiveness or helpfulness which could add another dimension to sorting through clans). They also haven’t revealed enough about the system to know if it factors in things like whether you’re happy to be on voice with strangers. I’m not. I get really nervous, not least because I have a very obviously female voice and that can end up in some very uncomfy places online.
So…. cautiously optimistic but assuming third party hubs might need to make up for shortcomings?