Hands-on: Destiny 2’s campaign, a strike, and some PvP

This week Activision and Bungie revealed the highly anticipated Destiny 2, a sequel to 2014’s Destiny, with a big event at the Jet Center in Los Angeles. During the reveal, we were shown gameplay, a new story, new planets, and were informed of all the new features coming to the sequel including Clans, a Guided Games feature, and a PvP overhaul.

After all the announcements, we were able to get our hands-on the very first campaign mission, one of the game’s new strikes, and the new PvP mode, Countdown.

Campaign Mission – Homecoming

Most of this campaign mission was shown during the reveal. Playing on PS4, I was using the Warlock class. One of the first things I noticed was how the weapons are now classified as Kinetic (previously Primary), Energy (previously Special), and Power (previously Heavy). In that Power weapons slot, Sniper and Fusion rifles are sitting next to rocket launchers and grenade launchers. In the Energy slot, along with sidearms, are sub-machine guns and in the Kinetic category there wasn’t anything new with Pulse, Auto, and Scout rifles as the options. There were Hand Cannons in both Kinetic and Energy categories.

I also looked at the Warlock’s skill tree and it comes with a total redesign. On this build, we were looking at the Dawnblade subclass, which you saw during the reveal and equips the Warlock with a flaming sword that you can throw at enemies. There was also an ability that allows the Warlock to hover and aim, dodge in mid-air, an empowering lifts ability that regenerates health or increases attack for a limited time, and a Phoenix Dive that restores health when used.

The mission starts with some cut scenes showing the Cabal speeding toward The Traveler and The Tower. When I took control, I started on the Tower. It’s amazing to see an area of the game that I frequented every time I logged onto the game being destroyed and going down in flames. I met up with Zavala (voiced by Lance Reddick) at the top of the area and while we were taking out incoming Cabal, he instructed me to join Ikora (voiced by Gina Torres) to look for The Speaker who went missing. When I meet up with Ikora, she was taking out Cabal soldiers and ships so I then moved forward to meet up with Amanda Holliday who takes me up to a Cabal command ship to take it out. The North Tower opens up here and it looks a bit like the Bannerfall Crucible map.

Anyway, once I was on the Cabal ship, I fought my way through a number of Cabal enemies. Some just like Destiny 1 but with new shields and others with blades. While the gameplay may look the same to people who haven’t played it yet, the mechanics seems even tighter than before. And Destiny 1’s gameplay mechanics were near perfect. I had a great time using the submachine gun (which might get nerfed because that thing was wreaking havoc), the grenade launcher, and the Warlock’s new super, Dawnblade. It’s very similar to the Titan’s flaming hammer, allowing the Warlock to throw a flaming sword at enemies, disintegrating them, along with a ground pound ability that makes nearby enemies burst in flames.

The campaign mission ended with a dark door opening and the shadow of a very large figure laughing at me and telling me “Your journey ends here.” The entire mission lasted about 10 minutes and was a great teaser of what’s to come in the story campaign.

Strike Mission – The Inverted Spire

I also played the new strike mission, The Inverted Spire, with two other players. Using the Warlock again here (what can I say, Warlocks rule), we were on the new planet, Nessus. To me, it kind of looked a bit like another area of Venus. For this mission, the goal was to find out why the Red Legion is sending crew to the planet (which is mostly in habited by Vex).

I first equipped my guardian with the Scathelocke auto rifle, but the handling and stability was ridiculous. I had to switch to the Nightshade pulse rifle, which gave me a ton of more control when firing.

The cool thing about this strike is all the jump boosts all over the place. So there’s lots of flying to and over platforms. On the way to a dig site, we went through a couple of pockets of Cabal and Vex fighting each other, so that isn’t anything new. When we finally get to the dig site, we’re introduced to a new Cabal creature, a dog-like creature called a War Beast, with blades on their backs and a mean bite.

When we finally arrive to the main dig site, there’s a gigantic drill, with massive gears digging into the ground. Being a first time run, it took a couple of tries to figure out the drill’s pattern, where and when to dodge it, and exactly where to go when we finally got past it. It wasn’t that difficult to figure out, but it sure was fun running up in there trying to figure it out.

Once we finally got past the drill, we met up with the strike’s main boss, Protheon, Modular Mind, a Vex mind that is equipped with a cannon, can teleport from one side of the room to the other, summon Harpies that shoot lasers, and it also can make the floor disappear.

Each of us died a few times during that final battle, but thanks to that handy grenade launcher and the Warlock’s incredible Dawnblade super, we were able to take him out. The entire strike took us almost 30 minutes and it was a blast all the way through.

I also played the strike on the PC version of Destiny 2, and the game looked amazing running at least 60 frames per second. I may need to remap the keys to my liking though.

PvP Mode – Countdown

Finally, I hopped in the Crucible with seven other players for a match of Countdown, a new four-vs-four PvP mode. The object of the game here is to win rounds by either setting charges at one of two locations or defending one of two locations from the opposing team trying to set charges. If the attacking team wipes out the defending team while trying to plant the bomb, the attacking team wins the round and vice versa. Yet, if the attacking team plants the bombs and the defending happens to defeat all of the attacking team, they still need to diffuse the bomb or else they’d lose the match if it was to detonate. It takes about 60 seconds for a bomb to detonate and about five seconds to diffuse a bomb.

For this match, I chose to play as the Hunter. While the Hunter didn’t have his new subclass, Arcstrider, available at the event, I was able to use the updated Gunslinger subclass that features six shots for the Golden Gun (Destiny 1 only featured three shots), a throwing knife that explodes, and powerful trap grenades.

Being honest, I don’t use the Hunter very often, so I was a bit green during the game. Countdown is a very fast-paced, intense and close quartered battle. There are no respawns but you can be revived by a teammate, however, each team only get four revives per round.

Compared to the 3v3 matches of Destiny’s Trails of Osiris multiplayer mode, the 4v4 felt pretty good. If one player goes down, the map is big enough to where three vs four players can still be competitive. However, compared to 6v6 multiplayer modes, the 4v4 felt a bit lacking in the chaos and pandemonium that I grew to love in most Crucible matches. With Destiny 2 apparently going to 4v4 across all multiplayer modes, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about that. But with anything Destiny related, Guardians will try it out, and if they hate it and raise a big enough stink, Bungie will listen and usually make some changes.

Destiny 2 will hit PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC (maybe) on September 8.