Destiny 2 Gameplay Reveal: Should you be salty about everything we’ve seen?

If you’re feeling salty, I think you’re entirely justified in doing so. Kotaku Australia has a nice piece about the other side of the fence and I am, to be perfectly honest, firmly in that camp. I loved what I saw – the reveal was literally an hour before my birthday so I rang in my 30th year with Destiny 2. My little sister, who knows how much I love the game, stayed awake and watched the whole thing with me, and she was as hyped as I was.

But I understand the salt, I really do, because up until the reveal I hadn’t really thought about what what I was expecting to see. When I realised that the differences between Destiny 1 and 2 weren’t going to be as dramatic as they could – and probably should – have been, I was (despite the hype) somewhat disappointed that Bungie hadn’t tried anything riskier.

In the Destiny 2 gameplay reveal, we saw nothing that was fundamentally new. I wrote briefly about the subclasses. Nothing new there. Bubble (presumably) becomes shield, Radiance becomes flaming sword, Bladedancer becomes Poledancer. Gunslinger is the same with tweaks to Golden Gun via passives; Striker is the same but Fist of Havoc is now a roaming super. We haven’t seen the other subclasses yet but if this is anything to go by, they won’t be dramatically different.

I’ve already written about how much resemblance the Dawnblade’s super bears to a combination of the Young Wolf’s Howl + the projectiles from Boltcaster. The big change to the Striker Titan is essentially combining Fist of Havoc with Shoulder Charge. Bladedancer hunters get a longer knife or a stick with a pointy end, I couldn’t really tell.

What about visitable locations? In the original game, we had Earth, the Moon, Mars and Venus. We still have Earth, which will presumably take the role of Mars as the Cabal planet since the Last City has been invaded and whatnot. I’m not expecting to see very much of the Fallen because they’ve had the spotlight for a while now with two expansions devoted to their assorted nonsense (House of Wolves and Rise of Iron) and one of the RoI Grimoire cards claims that they’ve all buggered off from the Cosmodrome.

Nessus, we know, is the Vex planet and will presumably take the role that previously belonged to Venus. We haven’t seen a whole lot of Io and Titan’s antagonists but it’s safe to say that Cabal will be heavily featured, along with a sprinkling of Vex or Hive – the latter of whom have been noticeably absent from promo videos and imagery.

But either way, from what we’ve seen so far, there are no real ‘new’ enemies except the variants that we’ve seen of the Cabal. They may play a little differently but they’re still Cabal. Big, hefty, highly militarized dudes with bolters and shields. And was it worth waiting for 3 years to have angry dogs added to Destiny? I dunno.

In much the same way, weapons are largely unchanged. Autos, Pulses, Scouts, Handcannons, Snipers, Shotguns, Swords, Rocket Launchers, Fusion Rifles, and Sidearms are all alive and well. They’re just in different spots on the inventory now and the ammo mechanics work differently, forcing a primary meta in the Crucible and demanding that all of PvE gunplay be balanced around PvP.

With the new weapon system design, we’re unlikely to see another Icebreaker or Invective, because can you imagine what PvP would be like with a heavy sniper that regenerates ammo? Can you imagine how badly it would bugger up strikes which have bosses that are probably balanced for mostly primary DPS? Can you imagine that?

Maybe don’t. Such imaginings are the way of the Darkness, Guardian, please discard these sinful thoughts and step into the Traveller’s blessed light of gunfights featuring all primaries and only primaries foreverandeverandever.

It’s annoying for PvE-focused players simply because – speaking from personal experience – weapons like Icebreaker are just so much fun in PvE. I’ve been running Icebreaker instead of Gjallarhorn in Solar Burn strikes just because regenerating ammo on a weapon that consistently procs explosions is hugely entertaining. But because Bungie is fixated on keeping the PvP and PvE weapon experience identical, weapons that could be fun in PvE  but overpowered in PvP will probably never make their way into Destiny.

I imagine it’s annoying for PvP players as well. I’m not terribly good at PvP but I was playing a 1v6 Clash game yesterday (it was 6v6 but 5 people on my team left and nobody joined for the bulk of the game) and I got three or four back-to-back kills with Icebreaker and I felt like a god. Primaries are easy to get to grips with but secondaries seem to require more map awareness for ammo pickups, more understanding of timing – when to pull out a sniper/shotgun/fusion – and generally seem to require higher levels of skill to use. Shotgun warriors (pre-patch) made the business of run-and-gun-with-shotgun look easy, but I tried it and it was actually anything but. I’m going to miss the challenge of exorcising my scrubness in my eternal (and futile) quest to git gud with secondaries.

What about things that are new? There are new weapons – the grenade launcher, for example. It looks like fun, but where’s the spin on the weapon that could have made it memorable? The SMGs are any shooter’s SMGs but with sexy, futuristic weapon models. The new exotics are equally forgettable. There’s Zhalo 2.0, a gorgeous looking handcannon with the perk equivalent of explosive rounds and firefly – except firefly procs on all kills, not just precisions kills – and an unholy union of auto rifle and machine gun that looks pretty cool but doesn’t seem to behave differently from any heavy machine gun with hip fire and Thunderlord’s Lightning Round perk.

But perhaps there’s something genuinely new in the class abilities? Eh, not so much. Warlocks get a recycled Blessings/Weapons buff, Titans get a wall that faces one direction instead of a bubble, and Hunters get shadestep. Nothing new, nothing especially imaginative, nothing that evokes the awe that you feel the first time you pop a Golden Gun or use Fist of Havoc or go full blown Palpatine on someone’s ass.

Okay, two strikes. But maybe they added cool new stuff to do? … Well, there’s a map. It marks things to do in a playable area. Thing is, the old Might and Magic games had in-game maps. Baldur’s Gate had an in-game map. Games with playable areas that have things to do usually have maps. Destiny playable areas didn’t have maps because, honestly, they didn’t really have a whole lot to do. This time there are subquests (huzzah), dungeons (huzzah), playable characters that talk to you and give you quests (huzzah). Except … well, none of these things are used to videogames and, if you’ve played any game that isn’t Destiny any time in the last twenty to thirty years, you’ve probably come across some or all of this – in RPGs and in FPSes alike.

Bungie isn’t evolving the Destiny formula by taking a strong foundation and evolving it in new, interesting, and dramatically different directions. They’re adding things that were missing the first time around.

This also came up in the reveal stream – Destiny 2 is a fresh start. What feels like it was left unspoken was that this is an opportunity for Bungie to fix everything that was thoroughly buggered up the first time. You like sub-quests? We’ve got ’em now. Want matchmaking for everything? Here you go. Is an actual story something that interests you? Yeah, here’s some of that. Remember those big, open worlds we promised with stuff to do? Finally figured out how to do that right. This is Bungie delivering what they promised in E3 2013.

And I think – I could be wrong, but I genuinely think – that this is the real source of the dissatisfaction that’s going around. What we’re seeing now in Destiny 2 is what Destiny should have been at launch. Three years ago, this is what we should have been playing.

So if you’re feeling salty, I think you have every right to feel that way. I’m not going to tell you to give it time, or see what Bungie has to show at E3, or play the beta or whatever. After 3 years of Destiny, 4 expansions, and dozens if not hundreds of hours of playtime that you may have sunk into the game, you have every right to expect something that isn’t just more of the same. Something that validates your belief that this game could be great – geninuely, jaw-droppingly, mind-blowingly great.

And, at the end of the day, ‘great’ is a far cry from what Destiny 2 seems to be – at least at the time of the May 18th reveal. It’s a refinement, no doubt, a distillation of the Destiny formula with some new bits and bobs thrown in. But at its core, it really is just more. of. the. same. And for very many people, I don’t think that’s good enough.

Trevor Coelho

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