One of the most dramatic departures to be found in Destiny 2 can be seen in its multiplayer. Where the original boasted twelve players in a match and even launched with some maps of a size and scale to feature vehicles, the sequel hews toward a smaller scale, with all game modes now featuring four players per side.
It’s an interesting move, certainly, and makes for a major shift in the game’s multiplayer dynamics, engendering more close team play in tandem with its peculiar game modes. For me, however, it’s not always entirely successful in comparison to the original.
At the heart of that is Bungie’s shift away from Primary, Secondary and Heavy weapons to what they call Kinetic, Energy and Power. Kinetic and Energy weapons are identical, except that the latter remove an ounce of brute force in favour of elemental damage, while Power weapons are most of the weapons that were previously a Secondary or Heavy, with one or two additions. Additionally, all weapons now have fixed rolls of perks, only subject to certain set options and the ability to add relatively minor boosts.
What this does is pare most combat back to a set of guns that you’ll be using 95% of the time. The only way you’ll get to deliver someone a surprise shotgun blast as they round a corner or snipe someone from the other side of the map is if you manage to grab one of the two Power ammo boxes that periodically spawn. These are now only for the person picking them up, and reward you with only a small amount of ammo, meaning you need to use them well. It’s a rather brute force way of Bungie sidelining some of the most powerful and difficult to balance elements from the first game, where they had already dramatically scaled back their prevalence.
The various game modes in Destiny 2 are now split into Quickplay and Competitive areas. The former contains the classics of Control, Clash (AKA Team Deathmatch) and Supremacy, where you grab the relics dropped by fallen guardians to score, while the latter now has a loose form of Elimination called Survivor, where both sides have only eight respawns to use per round. It’s a clever mode, keeping the sense of caution from Elimination, but freeing you to be more offensive and for teams to make a comeback. It’s joined in competitive play by Countdown, which is Destiny’s first attack/defence game mode, with the attackers looking to plant and defend a bomb or simply wipe out the other team.
One thing the regimented match size does mean is that all of the maps can be purpose built for this number of players, and it allows for a somewhat more cohesive feel across the board. It’s also allowed Bungie tighten up the respawn positioning, letting you spawn closer to teammates, closer to the fight and still avoid being caught out by enemy players 99% of the time, in my experience.
That said, there’s some great variety in the maps and designs, not getting pigeonholed into the mentality that all maps need to be small. They’re not as expansive as some of the maps from the original, but there are still maps that feature large open spaces, such as Vostok on Felwinter Peak, which can favour snipers and scout rifles around the outside of the map, while Midtown in The Last City has long curving roads that are also great for long range. They still have closed in areas for SMG and shotgun players, but there are other maps, such as the Cabal themed Fortress which are all about corridors and interlinked rooms, which are much more about the close quarters fights.
However, it doesn’t feel as though Bungie have properly taken the reduced numbers into account when determining score limits and round times. Most matches don’t reach their score limit, and while some of this perception might be personal after spending a lot of time this summer in Splatoon 2’s quickfire multiplayer matches, matches all feel a minute or so too long.
Similarly, there’s now no real “just for fun” game mode to dive into. As frustrating as Control could sometimes be in the original when your team wasn’t working, it was often a lot of bombastic fun as supers were thrown around, players gathered around to share in the heavy ammo and you roamed around certain maps. Now every game in Destiny 2 feels like a tactical battle of wits, right down to when you deploy your Super, of which you’ll be lucky to get one a match.
That’s certainly what Bungie wanted, and while I also want a mode in which I can simply let off steam, this is almost certainly better for Destiny 2 in the long run. A more balanced system for weapons, tighter map design and a uniform game size will all help as Bungie look to establishing more competitive, esports friendly multiplayer.
After our initial impressions, a feature centred around the central story for the game and now this write up of the multiplayer, there’s just one thing left for our launch coverage of Destiny 2, which is to play the Raid and publish our full review later this week. Hopefully you’ll join us then!