I’ve not hidden the fact that in many ways, the original Destiny let me down. While I’ll be the first to admit that things got a lot better by the time The Taken King rolled around, vanilla Destiny left a poor taste in my mouth. When it came time to give the beta for the sequel a shot, I honestly didn’t know how to feel or what to expect. Part of me wanted a love at first sight experience, but part of me wanted the game to just be more Destiny so I could move along. I’m sure I’m not the only person with a cautious attitude toward Destiny 2, and I believe that’s why Bungie appears to have gone all out to make this beta something special.
Anyone who has been keeping track of the game since its announcement will know the general idea of what’s going on. The Cabal Red Legion have attacked and destroyed the tower, the last bastion of humanity on Earth. Your Guardian arrives on the scene too late, but not so late that we can’t fight back. This opening mission is an absolute blast to play and the contrast between the experience here and in the original is striking. Where the original just kind of …starts, and thrusts you into the world with no real objective other than, “bad guys are around here somewhere, let’s shoot them,” Destiny 2 gives players an immediate draw. A flashy cutscene sets the stage, this time building up characters right off the bat and making me, the player, more inclined to care about them. By the time I am boots on the ground, I’m ready for some payback.
The mission itself is full of exciting set piece battles. One that sticks with me involved fighting back waves of Cabal near the old Tower social zone. I remember wasting hours there trying to push friends off the ledge, kicking balls around, and just talking with my friends. This place was now rubble, almost unrecognizable at first. I almost didn’t notice the fact they they snuck in another defend the area mission, their favorite mission type from the original (ugh). This time, however, the context was better, defending evacuating civilians rather than a Ghost who said he could hack the security system without setting off any alarms. Context is a major aspect the original Destiny was missing, and even through this very early mission I can say Bungie has clearly learned from their mistakes.
This extends to the overall world building as well. A particular sequence that comes to mind was early in the mission where I came upon a hallway full of civilians. This was after several rooms of enemies, I was ready to turn the corner and fire away again but boom, a bunch of displaced civilians and a single protector. He opened the way to his armory and saying he’d protect the people. They cowered in the hallway, afraid and no idea what to do. In the brief moment this scene took place it struck a bit of a chord with me. It was the first time where Destiny gave me context both in what I was fighting to protect (more than just a slumbering Traveler), and in what I as a Guardian meant to this world.
The mission’s finale introduced the new big bad, Dominus Ghaul. As he was kicking my Guardian to and fro like a ragdoll, he gave me an almost Megatron-esque speech about how the light was now his and the Traveler made a mistake choosing to give its power to humanity. I’m not mocking him when I say that either, I thought it was a hell of a scene and again, provides way more context than fighting “the darkness.” Ghaul is someone I will likely enjoy killing when the time finally comes, but will hopefully continue to develop to the point where I at least respect him when I do.
Homecoming was an excellent first taste of what should be a much improved campaign experience in Destiny 2. I realize that’s a lot to assume from a 20-25 minute mission, but it already trumps anything found in the original. I’m sure the whole campaign won’t be as consistently exciting, but this is the kind of experience I wanted in the first installment. Even the strike, while brief, was a lot of fun. It was fairly familiar so fans of strikes can still get their fix. Matchmaking was fast and the final boss fight was satisfying. I’ll need to play it again to get a full grasp of it since I’m pretty rusty, but strikes should continue to be a fun way to grind out some gear.
There are two multiplayer modes on offer, but I’d be lying if I said I had played much at this point. Suffice it to say it’s Destiny multiplayer. It’s one of those things where if you enjoyed it in the original, you’ll enjoy it here. This is where you’ll spend the vast majority of your time unless you really want to grind out the strike over and over again. It’s only day one of the beta and I’ll need to wait before I can drag the likes of Ross and Nat into this, but I think even they, as fellow Destiny naysayers, will be pleasantly surprised. Make sure to give this a try on PS4 and Xbox this weekend during the open beta, or you can pre-order the game to get immediate access.