All screenshots were taken on the PC at 2560×1440. PC hardware: i7-7700K, Geforce GTX 1080 Ti, 16 GB RAM, 250 GB SSD, Windows 10.
For years, Destiny has been making waves on consoles. The long-awaited successor to Bungie’s Halo promised to break the mold of the shooter experience. And, despite a rocky start, Destiny captured the hearts and minds of many gamers looking for something a little bit different. Bungie managed to craft something unique that seamlessly combined single and multiplayer experiences into a quasi-MMO loot-shooter that felt like a mashup between Borderlands and Halo. As time wore on, the formula only got better as Bungie continued to expand, and refine, the original idea into a well-polished game with a fervent following.
Yet, for all of its popularity, Destiny never made it to PC. Many players wondered why, and Bungie even took the time to explain way back in 2014 when the game released, but it still didn’t remove the sour note from PC player’s mouths. Nor did it soften the blow when it turned out we were missing one of the better shooters of the year.
But that changed a little over a week ago. It took almost three years, but PC players are finally getting a chance to sink their teeth into the world of Destiny.
So…was the wait worth it?
The short answer is “yes”, but if you’ve read any of my other articles, you know brevity isn’t really my thing.
So here’s the long version…
Shortly after Destiny was released, I had an opportunity to sink a few hours into the PS4 version of the game, and I honestly wasn’t impressed. It was a solid shooter, but for some reason it never really grabbed me. I can’t say why. And even though Bungie continued to support the game, I never felt the need to explore any of the content that came out after the initial launch.
Fast-forward to 2017.
My aging computer was in dire need of replacement, so a few weeks after my birthday, I splurged on a replacement. And, as part of a promotional deal, I got a download code for Destiny 2. Even though I was less than impressed with the original game, there was something exciting about the fact that the sequel was coming to PC. Maybe it was because I had just built a powerful new computer. Or maybe it was that I was excited about being able to play Destiny the way it was meant to be played. Either way, I impatiently awaited the PC Beta that was slated to go live later that month.
On July 28, I briefly dove into the first mission of the game and was somewhat ambivalent about what I had experienced. Bungie had made it clear that the purpose of the test was to give players a taste of what was to come and to serve as a general technical test before the game released. And while the beta served that purpose, I had more than a few concerns. At max settings, my brand new Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti was producing lower-than-expected frame rates (sub 60). And, at only 1440p, this was far from ideal. Then, there was the lack of loot. Before the beta, Bungie made it clear that they were going to restrict the loot to a preset loadout, but with rumors surrounding how loot was going to work in the final game (a very limited pool with far less randomization than in the first game) , I took issue with the decision.
So, after one playthrough of the beta, I was less than enthusiastic about the October release. And the feeling persisted even when the game released on PS4 and XBox One to generally favorable reviews. I still doubted that an extra month of waiting would make that big of a difference with regards to the PC version of the game.
Boy, was I wrong.
When release day arrived, excitement managed to creep its way past the deep-seated doubts that were a result of the PC Beta. Because, after three years, I was finally getting to play Destiny how I wanted to play it. How it was meant to be played – on a PC, with every graphics setting cranked to the max and a mouse and keyboard beneath my trembling hands (they weren’t really trembling, but it’s a good mental image, right?).
It’s no surprise to say that Destiny 2 is one of the best shooters on PC right now. The extra time Bungie had with the PC version of the game allowed them to deliver something that was wholly unexpected. While many gaming companies release a product rife with bugs and glitches, Destiny 2 doesn’t seem to exhibit any of those of shortcomings.
And there’s more.
The low frame rates I experienced during the beta were gone, replaced with silky-smooth, lag-free frame rates in the high 80s, with barely any dips below that and more than a few spikes above.
Then, there’s the actual gameplay. I’ve played more than my fair share of shooters on the PC, but this one feels about as refined, if not more so, than the giants of FPS. Movement is crisp and the controls are responsive – even in the default configuration. But having the ability to rebind keys makes the experience that much sweeter. Most people who play on PC have their own preferred setup, and Destiny 2 easily molds to personal preferences like any good PC game should.
It’s fantastic. And everything that I hoped for. But let’s be honest, it isn’t perfect.
Like any game, Destiny 2 has cracks. Head over to Reddit, or the Bungie forums, and you’ll find plenty of threads detailing lists of things that players would love to see changed. And, honestly, I have a list of my own that makes the game fall short of absolute perfection.
Destiny 2 is very much a sequel. The main campaign pretty much assumes that players have spent a great deal of time with the first game. I hadn’t, and that drained any semblance of emotional connection I was supposed to develop with all of the main characters. They were all supposed to be “familiar” to me, but they weren’t. So, nothing that really happened in the main story carried any real emotional weight.
I’m sure this won’t be the case for fans of the first game, but for anyone going into Destiny 2 with a clean slate, be aware of this fact. It won’t really impede your ability to enjoy the campaign, but you’ll definitely feel left out.
Loot in Destiny 2 is generally disappointing. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time with Borderlands, or Diablo, or any other game where loot is randomly generated will feel underwhelmed by the selection available here. Below level 20, armor in the “normal” loot pool belongs to one of a handful of named sets. Each has its own particular quirks, but duplicate drops of each armor piece will have only minor changes to the armor level. And all this just goes to drive a player’s power level higher. At level 20, players gain the ability to score rarer loot called engrams. While much more exciting, engram collection quickly becomes a grind towards finding the specific set you want for your class/subclass.
Weapons are about the same. There are only really a handful of types. And, throughout my time playing, I wound up picking guns that I’d prefer to shoot rather than what was most powerful. And I wasn’t really impressed by any of the non-legendary weapons (I’m still not).
At the end of the day, for a game that touts itself as a loot shooter, the insanely small pool of what is available can only be described as laughable.
Subclasses are “discovered” when a player finds a relic dropped from a random chest in the game world. Once the relic drops, they’ll have to kill enough enemies to power it up. Then, they’ll have to go through an arena-style trial mission to completely unlock the subclass. And they’ll have to do this for each subclass across each character. I found the process needlessly complicated.
The upside is that players can seamlessly switch between the three subclasses for each character type at will, but the trade-off is that ability points are a shared pool. This can present complications if a player invests too many points into one subclass before unlocking the others.
Problems with jumping aside (I hated every iteration of the double-jump mechanic in the game. All of them felt inconsistent in one way or another. And all were unwieldy enough that the occasional platforming sequence Bungie shoe-horned into the game only served as a point of frustration rather than a fun mechanic). I was confused by Bungie’s decision to withhold the Sparrow from players until after they complete the campaign. Without the sparrow, running from one story mission to the next got very boring very quickly. Especially considering how large some of the areas are. In some cases, I spent more time running to the start of a mission than I actually spent in the mission.
And now that I actually have a sparrow, I’m wondering how I managed to tolerate spending so much time running around the game world without it.
Unchallenged (for now)
Regardless of how many minor quibbles I have with Destiny 2, the bottom line is that it is a solid shooter – probably the best on PC right now. And even though I think there is plenty Bungie can improve upon, I’ve still enjoyed my time with it.
From the very first moment I stepped foot into the world of Destiny 2, I’ve been impressed by every little detail. From the lore, to the environments, to the shooting mechanics, Bungie has poured every ounce of their creativity and expertise into making this game a masterpiece. And while it falls short of true perfection, I’m sure they’ll do their best to get it there.
For fans of the first game, Destiny 2 on PC seems like a no brainer. And it seems like a safe bet for everyone else too, for now, at least. Because, despite how good the game is, there’s an elephant in the room.
While there’s nothing else on the market currently going up against Bungie’s beast of a game, I’m not sure if it will continue to dominate once familiar titles (like Gearbox’s Borderlands) join the fray. I know that won’t be for a while, but as I was playing Destiny 2, I couldn’t help but make the comparison in the back of my mind on multiple occasions. While these games are remarkably different, the basic concept is similar. And even though Destiny 2 likes to advertise itself as a multiplayer experience, the only multiplayer time I’ve spent with it were a few Crucible matches. Otherwise, it’s been a solo experience.
Borderlands 3 is, I’m sure, a few years away. And, at that point, I expect I’ll be writing about Destiny 3, but I can’t help but make the comparison now. Because the simple fact of the matter is that, regardless of how good Destiny 2 is (and it really is good), I wouldn’t be playing it if something like Borderlands 3 was out.
On the fence
Right now, Destiny 2 occupies a space that no other game has the ability to fill. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On countless occasions, I’ve had the desire to mindlessly shoot things, and no other game can satisfy that need so quickly. For that reason alone, I want to say that Destiny 2 is worth a try, but I’m not sure I can recommend it at $59.99. Personally, I wouldn’t have paid so much for the game considering what I’ve gotten out of it so far. And since each expansion will likely cost around $30, Destiny 2 winds up getting expensive if you plan to stick with it.
I know I’m sitting on the fence here, but after my time with Destiny 2, that’s where I ended up. The game is definitely going to be a must-buy for fans of the series, but for PC players who haven’t had the ability to try out Destiny? I’m not so sure. Like I said above, I wouldn’t have paid $59.99 for it. And I don’t know any PC players (that haven’t played the first game) who have.
So I can’t really end the article with a solid verdict, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.