The unedited Homecoming mission was a very pleasant surprise, much more so than I was expecting. It was obvious that the footage we saw at the Destiny 2 reveal had been edited; what I wasn’t expecting was how much more to the story mission there was.
After I completed it I took a quick look at my gameplay time for the beta, which Xbox logged at 48 minutes. Factoring in the amount of time I spent cooing at particle effects, staring into fires burning everywhere, and running around waving at the randos in my instance of the tower – more on that later – and randomly hopping around looking for secrets, it probably took me 20 to 25 minutes to get through the mission. That’s fairly sizeable for a first mission.
I will not go into details of the mission simply because they aren’t necessary to offer an opinion of it, and because I imagine there may be some of you out there who want to go in spoiler-free.
Now, let’s begin.
The opening in-game cutscene of Homecoming was mildly disappointing, only because there’s no reason provided for why I’m not wearing the armour I had in Destiny 1, or where my ship has mysteriously vanished to. I’m not sure if this is a beta thing – there was a theory floating around Reddit that our Guardians have switched out their armour for celebratory armour while participating a parade to commemorate the city’s Age of Triumph. I’ve always thought that theory would be proven true, based on this piece of artwork put out by Bungie. It’s a small thing but it’s annoying.
Literally everything else about the Homecoming mission is goddamn fantastic.
I was reminded, vividly, of the very first mission of Halo aboard the Pillar of Autumn. Small, narrow corridors connect to medium and large-ish spaces, with several tight, surprisingly hectic encounters in corridor and open space alike. Everything is burning. There’s constant chatter over the comms channel that adds to your awareness of the larger conflict – this isn’t just you on a solo mission like Destiny 1; you’re a small, albeit important part of a massive defence that is slowly and steadily being overwhelmed.
Cabal hurtle to the ground in massive spheres of what seem to be metal, which dissolve on landing and vomit their inhabitants out. Psions with sniper rifles home in on your head from behind cover and blow a good portion of your shields away with a single shot. Named Cabal yellow-health-bar enemies – the equivalent of unique monsters from the Diablo games, except they’re not loot piñatas in Destiny – are scatted throughout the mission, towering above both you and their comrades and throwing all of their considerable firepower at you.
I’m so used to being overlevelled for Destiny’s PvE content that I had forgotten what it felt like to be at or near the recommended Light level – renamed to Power level in Destiny 2 – for an activity. The Cabal are actually a reasonable threat and it’s no longer possible to charge in fists blazing and punch the world to death. (I am a Titan main, if that was not already obvious.) I actually died a few times through sheer recklessness, which felt fantastic, adding something that Destiny’s PvE experience (outside of the Raids) has been lacking for a good while now – intensity.
Overall, the action in Homecoming is fast, frantic, and often breathtaking. And consistently, hugely satisfying.
An especially nice touch was that other people playing the Homecoming mission at the same time – two others – had loaded into my instance of the Tower. What I loved most was that it fed seamlessly into the greater context of the story. I don’t know these two Guardians, we weren’t in the same fireteam, but here we were, all together, defending our home. We waved at each other the first time, did a little dance, and then went on a Cabal-murdering spree as Guardian pals are wont to do.
You also have brief, scripted encounters with each of the Tower’s major inhabitants, including Cayde, Shaxx, Zavala, Ikora, and Amanda Holliday. You board the Cabal command ship to do some stuff. And then plot things happen and you’re presented with the Destiny 2 logo and left to fume at how wretchedly far away September suddenly seems.
Homecoming is a fantastic start. As much as it evokes the goodness of The Taken King, it also has the energy of the Halo games, which hammered you over the head with good gunfights and a solid amount of narrative in excellent measure. It genuinely feels like Bungie took all of the lessons they learned from the original Destiny, took everything that we loved about The Taken King, pumped it full of steroids and slapped a ‘2’ at the end of it.
However, it is not possible to make an accurate assessment of the quality of an entire game using a single mission as a reference point. But from what I’ve seen in the beta, Destiny 2 is as full of potential as the trailers and gameplay reveals have made it out to be. The key word here, however, is ‘potential’.
My hope now – my fervent, burning hope – is that the full game lives up to all of the promise of this one mission-carrot that Bungie has so tantalisingly dangled in front of our noses.