Destiny — Bungie reveals Destiny 2

E3. PAX (East, West, South, Australia). GDC. SXSW. There are many gaming conventions that publishers will bookmark to promote their new game. Bungie — with Destiny — are a different breed. They create their own exposition, inviting the biggest streamers, content creators, and gamers— whether Destiny Veterans or other wise — to preview a title that will be seen for the first time less than four months before it is to be released.

A cinematic opens the reveal. Set prior to the original Destiny timeline, Commander Zavala recalls his resurrection, and his first of many lonely deaths to a Fallen combatant (his Ghost offering him unlimited retries) as he scours the aftermath of The Collapse. He eventually finds what he has been resurrected to protect; the remnants of humanity surviving in the shadow of The Traveller against all odds. We see Zavala grow from proficient soldier to inspirational leader, driving back the Eliksni and building The Last City, sprawling out below The Tower that represents the social hub of the first Destiny title.

Enter Luke Smith, the Game Director who gained infamy by trying to argue players would “throw money at [their] screens” to buy new emotes, when defending Bungie’s bizarre decision to give exclusive content to new players when The Taken King launched (and force loyal players to pay again for content they already owned if they wanted the same).

Two successful expansions mean Smith has largely put that behind him, and so with renewed faith he promised what Destiny Veterans wanted to hear.

A World That Pulls You In

Destiny 2 promises a “story you can relate to”. Relating to resurrected saviours of the galaxy empowered with Light is a little far fetched, but Bungie have proven over their last 2 expansions that they can create interesting story-lines for Destiny, and in the much maligned Grimoire (Destiny’s lore, unlocked as you play but only visible outside of the game) they’ve built up an epic and rich backstory underpinning their world — for those who choose to read it.

Vanilla Destiny fell short in this regard, but there were perhaps mitigating circumstances — and with no distractions this time around there is real reason to believe that Destiny 2 will expand on that rich lore and history in-game.

The cut-scenes shown at this reveal — especially Zavala’s Prelude, embedded above — already exceed expectations set by the first game.

And while the enemies we can expect to face may be familiar (all game-play shown so far includes races already encountered in Destiny) they have made some interesting changes — both in the abilities those enemies have and how they approach attacking the player.

Amazing Things To Do

Smith goes on to discuss the changes made in both PvE (Player versus Environment) and PvP (Player versus Player).

He talks of “changing the way that exploring the world works”, and later goes on to describe the 4 new environments players will wage war across — Earth (this time, Europe), Io, Titan and Nessus — with one of those locations over twice the size of the largest zone in Destiny 1.

This is unlikely to be a truly open world experience, but with the promise of NPC quest givers and ‘lost sectors' to discover and explore, it certainly sounds to be of that ilk.

For competitive players, the typical 6v6 game modes have all been replaced with 4v4, to produce a less chaotic environment that creates “a sense of mastery”. The Crucible sandbox has been rewritten from the ground up, so the frustrations many players have with the current system (damage fall off, special ammo economy, bloom, etc) will be reconsidered and re-implemented — hopefully for the good of the game. And new game modes will be featured — including Countdown, a bomb plant/defusal mode where players must attack or defend 2 objectives.

Always Someone To Play With

Luke Smith revealed an interesting stat — one that Bungie have raised previously in their weekly updates — but to hear it again was to reinforce the point:

Tons of players — 50% — never had the opportunity to experience Destiny’s most unique content [raids]

Bungie have long been reluctant to introduce matchmaking to their raid encounters. Their view: Destiny Raids require communication and teamwork, and that’s unrealistic when matching 6 random players together who will likely vary in knowledge, experience, and ability.

But for Destiny 2, Bungie have proposed a solution. Rather than match-make players together at random, and risk the toxic atmosphere that may potentially ensure, they’ll create a system that matches established clans with keen individuals. The intention here is to put 4 or 5 players who likely know what to do — or at least, have some level of familiarity with their teammates that they can engage in friendly communication — with 1 or 2 players who perhaps don’t.

Some clans may find their additional player to be friendly, able, and fun — and sign him or her up to join them for future endeavours. Some players may find the clan they are paired with to be hostile, and choose not to join them again in the future.

The result — on the face of it — is a system which gets that 50% of players who have never raided before the opportunity to be ‘the 6th man’ for an established team who know what to do and just need the additional firepower they would otherwise be lacking.

It’s a smart and novel idea from Bungie and — as someone who frequently finds their team is either 1 man short, or can’t agree a date to get the team together — it could be just what is required to make Destiny Raids a regular weekly activity for their entire player-base.

Homecoming

Destiny 2’s premise is simple — The Traveller is under attack.

You — the player — have encountered threats on multiple fronts across 3 years of Destiny. Four races faced off against humanity during that time period — the Fallen (a scavenger race that came to Earth to reclaim The Traveller, who they believe to have betrayed them), the Hive (an “ancient, festering evil” who believe The Traveller caused the extinction of their kind on their home planet), the Vex (masters of time travel who are trying to rewrite all threads of time to create a universe that they alone master), and the Cabal (who, up until now, seemed to simply be a military race hell bent on destruction — they “blow up planets and moons just for getting in their way”).

The latter of these threats have a new agenda. Having seen what powers The Traveller can bestow upon the civilisations it graces, the Cabal feel left out. One division in particular — the Red Legion, led by Ghaul — have taken issue with this and have arrived on Earth to either punish The Traveller for overlooking them, or to capture it for their own gain.

And so Destiny 2 opens with The Last City coming under attack from the Red Legion, and The Traveller suffering significant damage. Players’ first task in Destiny 2 will be to survive that onslaught, and leave behind The Tower — a peaceful, safe space for their previous 3 years of game-play. The opening mission — titled Homecoming — was shown in full at the reveal and is embedded below.

It sets the scene for a neat reset; all your old gear is gone — buried in the rubble of The Tower that you once called home — and your new abilities explained by the Cabal interfering with The Travellers gift of Light.

The invitations to this reveal made reference to ‘a world without light’, and so it would be no surprise if after that first outing, players must reacquire those abilities as they play through the campaign.

Reception

It’s fair to say that for the most part, Destiny 2’s reveal was well received. Fans of the current game have plenty to look forward to, with a new story to unfold, new sub-classes to try, a new raid to discover and of course a new competition to engage in, in the Crucible.

Criticism can still be found, however. High on the wishlist for some were dedicated servers for the Player-versus-Player game modes, and while Destiny have since tried to clarify their networking model (something we’ll dive into in a later article), they’ve categorically stated that it will not be the client-server architecture that other competitive games benefit from.

Others felt Destiny 2 “looked just like another Destiny” — which on the face of it is a bizarre criticism to level at a sequel — but perhaps some merit can be found in that complaint from those expecting more content at the outset or even a fundamental re-imagining of the series. To have only replaced 3 of the 9 sub-classes — and kept the other 6 — it’ll surely feel like a very similar game once the novelty has worn off.

With just one raid on release, will Destiny 2 struggle with the same issues vanilla Destiny had — a single end game activity, that players will inevitably need to farm to death as they wait for the first of the 2 DLC’s promised with the Season Pass.

And while it looked superb on stream, it was clearly capped at 30 frames per second — later confirmed and allegedly limited by the processing power of the current generation consoles, including the PS4 Pro. Xbox Scorpio has higher specs on offer, but given Destiny’s exclusivity relationship with Sony, it seems hard to imagine that Microsoft could negotiate a 60fps build even if it was achievable. Some solace can be found in the fact it can now run at 4k for those with consoles that support it. Even for those that don’t, improvements have obviously been made to a game that was never really lacking in the graphical department.

There’ll be much more to discuss following the reveal once players get their hands on the beta, dropping sometime this summer.