Nearly three years ago, a new gaming franchise launched with an ambitious plan: To evolve the first-person shooter genre into something new, something bigger.
Whether or not the plan was a success is a matter of ongoing debate, but one thing isn't: Millions of people loved the first "Destiny," played it incessantly for years, and are very excited for the upcoming sequel.
"Destiny 2" is scheduled for launch on September 8, for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC — months from now! But press got an early look at the game on Thursday in California. We've rounded up the highlights of what we've heard thus far.
If you liked the first "Destiny," you're probably gonna like "Destiny 2."
Though previewers had a wide variety of opinions on "Destiny 2," every piece I read shared the same sentiment: "Destiny 2" isn't re-inventing the game.
As Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton puts it:
"From a design standpoint, everything I played could have been in a 'Destiny' expansion. Watching it run on at the usual 30fps on PS4, it’s basically just more 'Destiny.' Sure, the [user interface] has been tweaked, and there are a few new abilities. But generally speaking, this demo walks, talks, and quacks like 'Destiny.'"
That's not a huge surprise, but it's either exciting or disappointing depending on how you felt about the first game.
Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole expressed the same reaction to his time with the game:
"After two hours playing 'Destiny 2' at its reveal event in Los Angeles yesterday, I can confidently say this: Bungie's sequel is a lot of fun to play, but it does feel very familiar."
The characters are more believable, but the focus is still on gameplay over narrative.
One of the biggest complaints about the first "Destiny" wasn't with the gameplay, but with the rote, cliché characters and story. Though it sounds like there aren't huge changes in this respect, Bungie's apparently making moves toward more memorable characters in "Destiny 2."
One of the game's early campaign missions was available to play at Thursday's event, but it appears to focus on a character that's only meaningful to you if you played the first game.
"I got to play the game's opening mission, called Homecoming, which begins as the Cabal attack the Tower. I enjoyed this mission a lot - there's loads going on, with a lot of spectacular skybox action to gawp at, plenty of explosions, shooting and the odd quiet moment during which tension builds.
The highlight of the mission was fighting alongside Zavala, one of the main characters from the Vanguard in the Tower in 'Destiny 1,' now thrust into action in 'Destiny 2.' Zavala, his back against cover, pops a Titan bubble, which you must hide inside during a Cabal missile barrage. As someone who spent a lot of time interacting with Zavala as a somewhat docile NPC in 'Destiny 1,' it was a thrill to shoot aliens with him. But I can't imagine this set piece will have a similar impact on 'Destiny' newcomers."
Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton was less impressed by his interaction with the sequel's revamped approach to storytelling. "You’re not exactly fighting alongside any of these characters, he said. "Zavala stands still like a robot and basically acts as a Titan bubble generator. Ikora appears and then leaves, all scripted. After Amanda picked me up, I landed on a ship and fought some more Cabal before wandering into a room occupied by the new big bad guy."
The gameplay itself is still top-notch, it sounds like.
If the game's developer, Bungie Studios, is known for one thing, it's excellent gameplay. This is the studio behind the "Halo" franchise — notorious for having perfected first-person shooters on game consoles, starting with the original Xbox. For all the complaints there were about the first "Destiny," few critics found faults with the gameplay.
In the case of "Destiny 2," it sounds like the shooting is as good as ever. Here's how Engadget's Sean Buckley described it:
"Much like the games in the original 'Halo' trilogy, 'Destiny 2' borrows the most iconic elements of its predecessor, but tries to up the ante. The new game still has the same solid gunplay and excellent controls that defined the original, for instance, but gives more control over their Guardian's loadout — letting them equip multiple weapons of the same type simultaneously. Fighting through waves of enemies still charges a super move, but now each character type has a new, more powerful attack that spawns an ephemeral sword, shield or staff for high-powered melee attacks. Somehow, these minor changes to the original 'Destiny' paradigm make the new game feel like a larger epic."
The enemies haven't changed much, nor has the structure of the game.
Conceptually, "Destiny 2" seemingly isn't attempting any major changes from the first "Destiny." You'll fight alongside characters you met in the first game against enemies you fought against in the first game.
More specifically, Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton described his experience playing a "strike" — one of the online co-operative missions — as "the best thing I played at the preview event, but like everything else it felt familiar."
"These were still the same Vex, with void shields and exposed juiceboxes. These were also basically the same Cabal, with their perfectly poppable heads and their blooby arms just off to the side of their shields. The boss was still just a big-ass Vex guy surrounded by a bunch of smaller Vex guys. I saw a couple different enemy types, including a Cabal with a larger emplaced shield and another wielding what looked a giant meat cleaver."
The new PC version of "Destiny 2" sounds like the place to play it.
Unlike the first game, "Destiny 2" is headed to PC as well as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. That's cool if you're one of the hundreds of millions of people with a PC, but it's especially cool because of what it means for the game: You'll be able to run it at a higher framerate (it'll look smoother), a higher resolution (prettier graphics!), and who knows what else. How about mods — player-created customizations that fundamentally change how the game plays? Those are a possibility!
More importantly for some players, though, is the difference made by playing the game with a keyboard/mouse setup (as opposed to a traditional gamepad on a game console).
Polygon's Charlie Hall is especially excited about the PC version — he played the same section of "Destiny 2" on both PlayStation 4 (with a gamepad) and PC (with keyboard/mouse controls). Here's what he said in a piece titled, "I played Destiny 2 on PC, and now I don’t want to go back":
"The most visible difference between the two versions was the frame rate. Representatives told me that while the PS4 version was running at 30 fps, the PC version was set to 60 fps uncapped. In motion, it looked incredibly smooth."
That's a pretty meaningful difference! Hall also said that the controls are far more precise (for him, anyway) when using a mouse for aiming:
"I was landing precise shots with both a handcannon and a sniper rifle, something that I simply wasn’t able to do as well with a controller. It was the most competent that I’ve ever felt while playing a 'Destiny' game."