Last month’s big Destiny 2 reveal event offered players a chance to check out the new Warlock Dawnblade, as well as a couple of returning (but evolved) subclasses – the Titan Striker and Hunter Gunslinger. I recently had a chance to dive in and explore another of the brand-new subclasses coming to Destiny 2 when it releases for consoles on September 8 (with a PC release coming later). The Hunter Arcstrider offers a lot of fun options for Hunters looking for a change of pace.
Even in my first moments of playing with the Arcstrider, the tone of the class is clear. Wielding a staff of pure energy and zipping quickly in and out of battle, the subclass feels like an homage to a classic archetype in action movies, RPGs, and games, but one that goes by many names. In Dungeons & Dragons, it’s a monk. In cinema, it is the kung fu master. No matter the comparative name you apply, the Arcstrider is a physical skill adept, moving fast, striking hard, and slipping away before anyone can hit him or her. More than any other class I’ve played in Destiny 1 or 2, the class feels optimized for melee-play and short-range dynamism.
The Arc Staff super serves as the centerpiece for the subclass. The roaming super looks and feels amazing in action. While still moving very fast, it feels more controllable than the Hunter’s previous Arc Blade super that was part of the Bladedancer subclass in Destiny 1. I found it easier to maneuver between targets both in front and behind me, and my strikes inflicted major damage. Even so, the super didn’t feel invincible. In one PvE sequence, I got overconfident and smashed into a large group of Vex attackers, and their energy blasts finished me off.
Grenade and jump options maintain mostly familiar dynamics. A choice between Skip, Flux, and Arcbolt grenades offers little to no change from the existing Bladedancer. The High Jump, Strafe Jump (for better mid-air directional control) and Triple Jump also don’t stray from established convention, but Hunter players will certainly note the absence of Blink in their arc subclass.
The Arcstrider has the same new class abilities available to the other Hunter subclasses; that structure of shared class abilities across all of a class’ subclasses is true for Warlocks and Titans as well. For Hunters, the choice is between a Marksman’s Dodge (which reloads your equipped weapon when dodging) or the Gambler’s Dodge (which generates melee energy when you dodge while near to enemies).
The most interesting options are along the two subclass paths, viewable to the right of the super. These two groups of four abilities can each be selected for an optimum experience that focuses on different playstyles, but you can’t mix and match abilities from the two paths.
The top path is entitled the “Way of the Warrior,” and its most intriguing ability is Combat Flow, which recharges your dodge class ability upon a melee kill. Used in conjunction with the Gambler’s Dodge (described above) you could remain in close range to enemy groups, dodging and melee-attacking repeatedly. That option is further accentuated by Deadly Reach, which extends the range of your melee lunge temporarily after a dodge. Lethal Current makes your Arc Staff attacks hit twice after dodging. And finally, Shocking Blow makes your fist emit lightning on a strike.
The alternate path along the bottom of the screen is called the “Way of the Wind,” which struck me as being focused on speed and rapid-fire strikes. This path changes up the focus of your melee attacks to a Disorienting Blow; striking an enemy with this melee disorients them, leaving them vulnerable. And if you kill a target with Disorienting Blow, it instantly recharges. It’s also along this path that you’ll see Lightning Reflexes, which lets you take less damage while dodging when Arc Staff is active. A third ability, Battle Meditation, encourages a high risk/high reward style; when critically wounded, melee and grenades recharge drastically faster. Finally, Focused Breathing helps turn your Hunter into a speed machine; with this ability active, sprinting reduces your dodge cooldown, and you gain increased sprint speed.
After playing with the multiple subclasses in Destiny 2, the Arcstrider continues a trend we saw with the Hunter throughout the first Destiny game – a demand for precise and smart play that, when executed well, is absolutely devastating. Managing the timing of the new Dodge class ability is far trickier (in my time with the game) than either the Warlock’s Rift or Titan’s Barricade. But get down the timing for your dodge and melee options, and the Arcstrider becomes a blur of hit-and-run tactics that can drop entire groups. I’m eager to get more time with the subclass, and determine which path I prefer. My broader initial assessment is that the Arcstrider is a skill-focused front-of-the-fireteam threat that will completely rock in the right hands.
We’ve pulled together some additional insights into Destiny 2 drawn from our day visiting Bungie; check out the latest issue of Game Informer for a full ten-page article on the game. And check out some additional insights from the game's leads about where Destiny's story is going in the new installment.