You never know what you’re going to get with E3 demos. Sometimes the demo and courageous employee walking you through it are instructed to assume you’ve never held a controller in your life. These are the fun demos, the ones that let you speak with a person as you explore and goof around, and provide help if you need it. Other demos just see you dropped in without a paddle, with the publisher providing said demo assuming you know what you’re doing or having faith that the game or person playing it can adapt enough to speak the language on the fly. Activision provided such an experience with Destiny 2 .
While getting dropped in front of a game without an introduction can be fine, especially with shooters like Call of Duty: WWII , Destiny 2 is like sitting down to do basic math and having a bunch of algebra shoved in your face after years away from school. Sure, it looks and feels familiar, but there’s a bunch of extra stuff all over the place that doesn’t make immediate linguistic sense. So not only was I figuring an unfamiliar game out on the fly, it was a game with all kinds of inside baseball all over the screen, and it was up to me to decipher it as quickly as possible. I found myself thinking, “this must be what it feels like to play a fighting game for the first time.”
I think Destiny 2 looks pretty awesome. There are numbers all over the place, it’s super colorful, and it feels good. Even if you’re playing something for the first time, there’s something visceral about just seeing what happens when you press buttons that’s a real joy for me. Even despite the meters and special effects that came off as a bunch of utter nonsense in the midst of chaos, I was able to sift through the noise and find some appreciable fundamentals. It helped that while the other team put up plenty of fight, my ragtag team pulled out the victory in the end. I didn’t have the heart to tell anyone I was up against after our victory that I hadn’t played a Destiny before. I was second on the scoreboard.
In this demo environment, Destiny 2 put us into a 4v4 (opposed to 3v3 or 6v6 in the original) situation in which nobody got to choose anything – no classes, equipment, nada. It was a “look at the nice poster with the controls and figure it out” situation. I had what felt like a Halo -style battle rifle and, when I pressed the shoulder buttons together, at times I was able to throw what looked like energy-based javelins. After doing some post-demo research, I found out I was playing as a “Hunter Arcstirker,” and my ability was more of a bladed staff than a spear. Other players were distinctly different classes and while everyone in Destiny looks like a fancy robot person, having each different kind of fancy robot person look appropriately different likely helps more educated players make snap decisions in a firefight.
The mode we were playing (again, more post-demo research told me I was playing Countdown) saw teams either setting charges or defending against/disarming them, and it was intriguing as there were two different points in a 4v4 situation. The natural inclination was for us to split into groups of two, but of course without communication or familiarity we couldn’t account for skill and that strategy costed us points. However, when we stuck together as a whole group we found much more success.
While getting a grip on the goals and basic mechanics ended up being fine, where I did run into frustration was respawning. In Destiny 2 , you don’t just respawn like in most other shooters. You get the usual countdown, but then after it ends instead of popping back up, you’re allowed to be revived by your teammates. In such a close-quarters competition, no such opportunities were generally afforded. My teammates made attempts, but when you go down in a multi-man shootout, you can’t exactly stand still long enough to fill in a meter all the way.
I understand the intent. The game was a first to five points, rather than a majority win decision style, and having a straight-up respawn counter likely would have caused more contention and longer rounds. Taking out the entirety of the other team counted as a sort of bonus win condition, likely designed to keep the pace brisk. But having that extra chance of getting back in the fight dangled in front of me while I sat there and watched the rest of the round finish was annoying! I can imagine the salt flowing freely in public online play as people scream at each other trying to get respawned in a tough match.
Despite feeling like I was in over my head pretty intensely, I did have fun with my time with Destiny 2 . It has that Bungie feel to it, meaning picking up a controller and figuring it out was a mostly smooth process. The RPG/MMO trimmings were another story and having to decipher my abilities and other rules on the fly was a challenge, one not offset by any in-game prompts or instructions. But hey, my team won, and it felt pretty good to succeed despite wrestling with the unkind unfamiliarity. I could do without the funky respawn system, but with as much variety as Destiny 2 provides, I’m sure there are other ways to dive in and get to learning.