Destiny 2 Beta — Hard Landings

As my fireteam and I made our way through The Inverted Spire, the sole Strike available in the Destiny 2 beta, I was surprised to find a number of quite breathtaking gaps which must be overcome to reach the Vex construct Protheon, Modular Mind. I shouldn’t have been surprised—it’s implied in the name, “The Inverted Spire,” after all—but it’s less the existence of these drops as the result thereof which made them stand out.

It was with a sense of déjà vu that I entered a metal ring that glowed with some non-specific energy and found my avatar flung across a massive chasm. I’ve encountered such apparatuses before in Battleborn which segment each of its Player-versus-Environment campaign missions into discrete sections delineated by similar launching pads. Those pads enable a swift ride to the next area, depositing the player character at a point of impact in defiance of gravity and kinetic energy. My player character barely survived my first trip through a launching ring in Destiny 2’s Inverted Spire, landing in a narrow tunnel with a grunt of pain and the faint beep indicating I was near death. My two companions weren’t as lucky; turning, I saw them impact into the cliff face above me, plummeting to their death, waiting to be revived.

The two experiences are superficially similar: Battleborn’s launch pads are exhilarating and cinematic, hinting at a death-defying feat while the videogame systems take control and delivering you to the next area; Destiny 2’s launch rings are deadly and terrifying, rocketing the player character through the air where they must thread a needle and a single wrong move will end in disaster. Are these fatal missteps are a malfunction which the Beta is intended to correct? It’s possible. But this moment wasn’t the only one where my fireteam found ourselves facing a deadly plummet with no warning.

When my fireteam and I reached the depths of the Inverted Spire, we encountered a Vex construct styling itself as Protheon, Modular Mind. The fight begins rather straightforward, Protheon bombarding the fireteam with energy mortars while summoning in occasional waves of Harpies. Taking cover behind obstacles and dispatching the Harpies while we whittle down Protheon’s considerable health bar is a simple enough task, but then the phase changes and the floor vanishes beneath the fireteam’s feet, sending us to a floor far below us.

Maybe it’s that I didn’t play Destiny enough or that I’ve played Borderlands (where there is no fall damage) too much, but I looked down until I was a stain on the floor below me. The ignominious pace at which the team wiped and we were forced to reset spoke to my allies making the same mistake. It was an infuriating and delightful moment, speaking to a level of complexity in boss design which the original Destiny never bothered to introduce except to those willing to dump hundreds of hours into the equipment grind to access the most prestigious content. Our lesson learned, my fireteam returned for another attempt, and this time we all survived the fall with a well-timed double jump . . . to be immediately broiled by a periodic wave of fire we couldn’t have anticipated. But that’s a story for another time.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by these hard landings and fatal impacts given the name of the Strike: The Inverted Spire. The name is a paradox, a spire calling to mind a structure that reaches to pierce the sky, but here we have one also reaching to pierce a sky that is far below us. We are unable to get a good look at the level geometry that enables such an environment in the beta, but there is something funny going on with the area’s gravity. I was at first irritated by these deaths, as they felt arbitrary and unfair (are the launch rings really supposed to send you into a wall?), but when I compare them to the original Destiny, whose Strikes involved corridor after corridor of faces to be shot, points to be held, and cover to hide behind, that I’m heartened to see a little platforming variety included.

I found the original Destiny to be a listless and uninspired affair, a technical marvel with amazing shooting but nothing interesting done with it. In the brief glimpse I was given of Destiny 2, I saw a moment where the potential of the original was fulfilled. Will I be picking it up? Probably not—Destiny 2 and other videogames of its ilk makes demands on my time which I am unwilling to commit. But maybe, this time, it will be one I regret missing out on.

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