I’m not entirely certain what I was expecting, picking up the DualShock 4 to get my turn with Destiny 2‘s first stage, “Homecoming.” Wait, I guess that isn’t entirely true – I was expecting something original; an altogether major departure from iterative expansions that the Destiny series has enjoyed over the past three years.
I’m not sure whether it was the fact I had been re-marathoning my Guardian the week prior to brush up on my grenade-chucking, or that the most interesting systems weren’t being showcased on the show floor or even the fact I just saw the entire mission played on a jumbo screen moments ago. But Destiny 2 wasn’t that substantial departure I was originally expecting. Although, as a long time Destiny fan, I’m not sure how much I cared about that… just yet, at least.
Rushing from the ship bay, I sat nearly 25 minutes exploring the nooks and crannies of the ever-familiar Tower, the hub area of the original Destiny, as it lit up with gunfire. Truth be told, the familiar environment had never looked more beautiful, transmitting via gorgeous 4K displays thanks to the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Despite the fresh take on the environment and seemingly new systems in place, when I picked up the controller, my typical Destiny rote-gameplay loop and muscle memory from took over. I equipped my pulse rifle, charged into the fray and started taking headshots towards the newly-remodeled Cabal.
Was the instant familiarity bad? Not for a moment. I still contend that developer Bungie has crafted some of, if not, the best shooting mechanics and controls that a modern FPS games has to offer. While I was expecting more change added, I can’t say I was disappointed to comfortably adapt to my old strategies.
And that isn’t to say the new things didn’t immediately spice up how I approached scenarios. While I was a little shocked to see my default snipers in the heavy weapon category, it made the game feel more balanced. Having a kinetic primary, an elemental secondary and a powerful-but-limited heavy, I imagine, will add more depth into the long game, allowing better customization to gameplay as a whole.
Alongside that, I was surprised how quickly I began to default to the new class-based ability within moments of finding out what the new box on-screen was. For my Warlock Dawnblade, I was creating small healing ponds to regenerate health when I got surrounded by adds (Destiny shorthand for “additional enemies”). Even better, my Striker Titan in later gameplay created tiny and towering covers in the same vein of the signature Ward of Dawn.
Last but not least, the sword-bearing Warlock Dawnblade they had available for the preview was an impressive addition, feeling like a more precision-based Sun Breaker with a more badass aesthetic. I wasn’t able to tell, but the Super abilities seemed to charge longer – whether that was an actual tweak to the structure of the game or the just my excitement to test out the new abilities has yet to be seen.
The most impressive part of “Homecoming”? The way that established characters (looking at you Ikora) are interwoven into the story outside of traditional cutscenes. Sitting behind cover with Zavala as he barks orders and fires outside at the incoming army or watching Ray use standard Warlock supers to annihilate foes added storytelling depth beyond the original’s stop-and-go cinematic scenes with radio chatter parsed out in between.
While “Homecoming” felt like (arguably) the best Destiny mission I have ever played thanks to the dynamic storytelling, creative use of old environments, and creative level design, I find it hard to imagine other missions will keep the same quality consistency. With no other gameplay experience other than the “Inverse Spire” Strike, I can’t make a real assessment if this is just my cynicism. But it felt like Bungie pulling out all the stops in the first mission, much like the dynamic, atmosphere-rich first level of vanilla Destiny.
And while I walked away from the “Homecoming” mission feeling ambivalent, I think Destiny 2‘s glory lies somewhere in the unseen and unplayed – even to everyone who was invited to the reveal event.
With a stress on new, dynamic planets, enhanced quality of life improvements, clans with better gameplay purpose, an incoming raid and what sounds like secret dungeons, Destiny 2 is poised to be an even more dynamic experience than what is offered within the first three years of Destiny. The new, amazing things Bungie is claiming to add can’t be seen in a short preview of the first mission.
But at the moment, those gameplay enhancements are just that – promises. And plenty of vanilla Destiny purchasers have felt burned by Bungie’s promising advertisements in the past.
What I can say is that Destiny 2‘s FPS gameplay in my short time with it felt like more of the same – if anything, with far more explorable depth than what current Guardians are used to. And with the best features coming in unseen moments of Destiny 2, I’m excited to see what the news brings until the game’s September launch.
Correction: Confused the Dawnblade Warlock with Sentinel Titan.