Destiny 2 Gameplay Reveal: Let’s talk about the 3 classes

Over the course of the last few days, the internet has been flooded with Destiny 2 content. There are plenty of detailed breakdowns of very literally everything that’s known about Destiny 2, everything people suspect is coming, and much, much more. Since I wasn’t actually at the event, I’m going to draw from what people have reported on already with my own observations and opinions thrown into the mix wherever they’re actually relevant.

Now, let’s talk about the 3 classes. In a surprise to absolutely no one, Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks are making a return. In what is also a surprise to no one, most of the subclasses aren’t changing dramatically. The reveal featured several subclasses. The new ones are Sentinel for Titans, Arcstriders Poledancers for Hunters, and the Dawnblade for Warlocks. However, only 3 were really featured in gameplay – Striker Titans, Gunslinger Hunters, and Dawnblade Warlocks.

Here’s everything that’s known about them so far.

General Changes

Each of the 3 classes now gets a ‘class ability’ that’s available at all times, irrespective of what subclass is being used.

Titans

Titans get a shield that can be equipped with one of two possible perks. The first deploys a waist-high barrier that instantly reloads your weapons every time you crouch behind it; the second deploys a full-height barrier that can be used to wall off areas. Enemies can’t shoot through the barrier but neither can you, so it’s essentially the Ward of Dawn but with protection from fire in one direction only, and minus the Weapons/Blessings/Armour of Light buffs. That isn’t to say it’s a Ward of Dawn replacement. The Void super is now a Captain America-style shield that Titans get (more on that later) which can be used to block damage and protect allies group behind the Titan, so it’s possible that the Blessings/Weapons buffs have been moved to that super ability.

Titans can no longer skate with the increased control jump equipped, so the days of Titans zooming around the Crucible with shotguns are a thing of the past. How you feel about this will, I suppose, depend on how much you enjoyed skating and how good at it you were. I still have nightmares of skating Titans running Defender/No Backup Plans/Universal Remote/Secondary shotgun so I am delighted that skating is no longer a thing.

Hunters

Hunters get what is essentially shadestep as their class ability. Now a generic dodge, it also has two perk options. The first instantly reloads the Hunter’s gun; the second grants bonus melee damage. I really like how this synergizes with a Hunter’s playstyle. The first perk allows you to reposition in a gunfight and resume firing immediately after, while the second allows you to hard-engage with melee and potentially get a kill. How effective the latter will be in crucible remains to be seen, simply because I’ve heard that melee is now a three hit kill, so the Hunter’s second dodge perk may be more effective simply to finish off a fleeing enemy.

Warlocks

Warlocks get an aura called a Rift which can be equipped to either heal allies within the aura or increase their damage. In essence, this is the equivalent of (a tweaked) Blessings of Light or Weapons of Light and it is also the class ability that I am least happy about.

The other class abilities emphasize the role of the class. Titans, the wall against which the darkness breaks, get to build a goddamn wall. Hunters, an extremely mobile, jumpybouncyleapyalloverthegoddamnplace class, get a dodge with a fair bit of utility. It’s like Bungie literally couldn’t figure out what to do with warlocks, so they went to Josh and Greg, took their PvP Balances bucket, and put the first thing they pulled out into the game.

Warlocks are the space magic class. They’ve been able to throw Void nukes, go full-on Palpatine, and even occupy a role in raid clutch saves simply by being Space Jesus. Who, in a Crucible match, does not panic when they hear a Stormcaller pop their super somewhere on the map, or feel their heart leap into their throats when they see a Nova Bomb hurtling towards their heads? Or, for that matter, who does not stop and stare in awe as a Light-mad Sunsinger burns down half a Crucible map with their endless supply of nades? I agree with the decision to make the Warlock ability a team buff because they desperately needed team utility, but the one they got is a bit meh.

It could have been, for example, an ability that tethers the warlock to nearby allies and either gives every tethered ally the grenade recharge rate of Radiance or adds a twist to any elemental weapons they may be using – Arc weapons chain lightning, Solar weapons add damage over time, Void weapons blind opponents. Or, honestly, anything that emphasizes the space magic-ness of those silly floofers. As useful as the Warlock class ability is, I think Warlocks deserved better than a recycled Weapons/Blessings buff.

Skill Tree Changes

The skill tree for each subclass has been split into groups of abilities. There are separate groups for the subclass jump, grenades, the class ability, and collections of perks called ‘Attunements’ for the super. It’s worth noting that Attunements change the way you can spec a super. Where once any super-related perk was selectable as long as it was part of a different branch of the skill tree, now Attunements act as locks on entire groups of skills. Datto explains this pretty well in his video on the Striker Titan Subclass so I’ll just let you watch that instead.

I’m assuming that the design of the Attunements and the skill tree is general is meant to allow Bungie to add more nodes to the skill tree later on, stuff that potentially changes the way a super works, but that’s wild speculation at this point. The screens below – and the blank space they contain – should give you an idea of what I mean.

Overall, the nodes seem to limit subclass customization rather than increase the – far too few – options that we had in Destiny, so I’m not particularly happy about the design of the skill tree. There also isn’t a whole lot new to see here. Grenades are the same, the jump options seem to be the same, and Bungie seems to have kept subclass perks that most players were using and removed the rest, paring the skill tree down rather than expanding on it. Only the class skills are new and that seems like a fairly minor addition to subclasses that have already been played to death over the course of the last three years.

Whether the changes that have been made will be enough to make the subclasses feel fresh again remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that I don’t see any melee nodes on the skill tree. Any melee perks that do exist seem to be bundled with the Attunement nodes, which means that a whole piece of Destiny 1 customization has been removed completely from Destiny 2.

Striker Titans

Now let’s take a look at the subclass-specific changes. Both Datto and Mr. Fruit have videos on the Striker Titan, which I highly recommend watching. Datto’s video is PvE and Mr. Fruit’s is PvP, so you’ll get a sense of how the Striker plays in different settings.

The changes aren’t significant, however. The grenades are the same – Flashbang, Lightning, Pulse. Lightning is the only one that works a little differently – there’s a brief delay, similar to the Hunter’s tripmine, in which the grenade arms itself, before it begins to pulse lightning.

Fist of Havoc is now a roaming super, you slam once to activate it, and can then slam a few times more or run around and smash into targets in a manner very similar to how Suncharge on the Sunbreaker Titan works now. That means it might be useful for more than 2 kills in the Crucible, so hooray for that.

The jumps are the same, Shoulder Charge is back as well, and the only other modifications are passives that apply to Fist of Havoc. One increases damage the longer you’re in the air, another increases the duration of Fist of Havoc while sprinting.

Gunslinger Hunters

As a small aside, having Cayde pop his golden gun and fire on a goddamn Cabal fleet has to be the sexiest thing that I have ever seen Bungie do in a game.

Raw, robot sexiness aside, Gunslingers have also not changed dramatically. Same grenades, same jumps, same super. As with the Striker Titan, passives change things up a little bit. One allows Golden Gun to fire off six shots but the super itself drains very rapidly. Mr. Fruit’s Gunslinger video demonstrates this very well, so go ahead and watch that. He also covers the other subclass abilities, so I’ll leave you in his capable hands.

Dawnblade Warlocks

Again, I feel like Warlocks got shafted a little here. There’s very little innovation in the Dawnblade. The flaming wings in the animation are straight out of Radiance. The sword is Young Wolf’s Howl (the slam) with a sprinkling of the Bolt Caster (the projectiles) thrown in. Like the other subclasses, the grenades and jump are the same.

While the Dawnblade is certainly cool, the way the subclass has been designed looks to me like – again – it came out of Josh and Greg’s Balance Bucket. Someone stuck their hand into the bucket, pulled out a bunch of notes that said ‘Sunbreaker’, ‘Young Wolf’s Howl’ and ‘Bolt Caster’ and lo, the Dawnblade was born.

Fruit has two videos that I would recommend checking out – one with PvP gameplay and one with PvE, both as the Dawnblade. A word of warning, though – the PvE video covers the entire Inverted Spire strike, so if you want to go in blind, skip that one.

The other subclasses we got a glimpse of

Captain America Titan, as a Void subclass, will presumably replace the Bubble Bro I have come to know and love. This is slightly disappointing because Bubble Bro is the reason I main a Titan but since we know virtually nothing about the subclass except for the fact that it has a shield, I will reserve judgment until more information drops.

Arcstrider Poledancer replaces Bladedancer, which feels even less thought out than the Dawnblade. The essence of the Bladedancer revamp seems to have been ‘make the blade bigger’. Then out came the Balance Bucket and someone said, ‘What if the blade was a stick?’ and lo, the Arcstrider was born. Hunters everywhere are feeling fairly salty about the changes and I can’t really say I blame them.

The subclasses we haven’t seen

Sunbreaker Titans, Voidwalker Warlocks, and Nightstalker Hunters have not yet made their way into the public eye. I imagine we’ll find out more at E3 and as Bungie slowly releases their ViDocs for Destiny 2, but the only thing to do now is wait. I think it’s safe to say that, based on what we’ve seen so far, we aren’t likely to see dramatic changes to anything that those subclasses already do well but Bungie might very well surprise us.

Let us speculate

In terms of everything that we know – little though it is – Destiny 2 seems to be The Taken King on steroids. There’s very little that’s really new simply because Bungie’s doubling down on everything that worked in TTK.

So, I suspect that part of the whole ‘re-establish your connection to the Light’ business will be subclass quests for each subclass for all characters. Although Bungie hasn’t spoken about it, I know that those quests were very well received in TTK and I can’t imagine Bungie missing out on an opportunity to put 9 of them into the game. That’s not a bad thing by any means. Personally, I loved them all and it offered a rare glimpse into the lore behind each of the characters that wasn’t buried in the grimoire.

There’s no proof of this, of course, and I could be woefully wrong, so keep your hopes manageably low until Bungie says something.

Edit: I had a thought. 3 Vanguard leaders, 3 planets, 3 subclasses (assuming we don’t get a fourth). It is possible that each of the Vanguard leaders will help Guardians develop a v2 version of their subclass? It would explain things like the Dawnblade, for example – Zavala guides Warlocks towards a better understanding of the manipulation of Solar energy, leading to a fusion between Sunsingers and Sunbreakers, resulting in the Dawnblade. If there’s story context to the subclasses which helps account for some of the overlaps (again, for example, perhaps Ikora teaches Striker Titans the ways of Stormtrance, which turns Fist of Havoc into a roaming super) that would actually be an interesting move. But, again, this is all speculation because I know nothing about Destiny 2 that isn’t already public, so I could be entirely wrong. It’s a fun idea, though. I hope it makes it into the final game.

So, to sum this up …

There’s a recurring theme with the way people who have played Destiny 2 have been talking. It boils down to one sentence: “What were you expecting?” There’s a general sense that Bungie has a formula that works in Destiny, so it makes sense for them to stick to it where possible while improving on what didn’t work. While I’m not entirely in agreement with that sentiment, I believe more work should have gone into the subclasses.

The new ones we’ve seen are woefully lacking in imagination and, while they may play fantastically well – I don’t know, perhaps I’ll find out in the beta – they’re something of a missed opportunity. Why is there no Hulk Titan, who swells up to twice his size and gets a one-hit-kill melee? Why is there no Doctor Strange Warlock, who can freeze their opponents in time? Why is there no Black Widow Hunter who won’t get her own solo flick despite the fact that a racoon and a talking tree will get three – count ’em – three goddamn movies?

The last part belongs in a different rant, but you get the idea, yeah? Destiny 1 works, sure. For all that Bungie got wrong – and there is a lot – they did plenty of things right. The subclasses are a joy to play, they’re incredibly fun executions of intriguing power fantasies and I have nothing but good memories of playing with all 3 of my characters. But Bungie shouldn’t be sticking with the old just because throwing it out represents too much of a risk. If they’re going to strap on a number at the end of their game’s title, they need to do the work to earn it. So far, I haven’t really seen much justification for that ‘2’.

Trevor Coelho

Trevor Coelho

Owner, writer, content janitor at Lizard Lounge
Writes things. Occasionally pokes head out a door or window. Looks around. Gets a bit scared. Then goes inside where it's nice and safe, and writes more things.
Trevor Coelho

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