Featured image credit: Bungie, Inc.
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Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
PC Release Date: October 24, 2017
Genre: First-person shooter
Reviewed on: AMD RX 580, Intel i7-4770, 16 GB RAM, Windows 10 x64, Build 1903
AMD Drivers: 19.9.2
Destiny 2 has been out for a while now on PC. Game that was released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One in September 2017 made its first debut on PC platform only one month later – in October 2017. However, game keeps to be re-releasing itself through various unconventional ways – either through appearance of new post-release content, or by making itself free-to-play in a new format called the “New Light” that was released on PC in October 2019. Latest Shadowkeep expansion that Destiny 2 received makes it appealing again, but how really appealing is it – that is the question.
Although Destiny series is very well-known to console players, most of the PC players aren’t very familiar with it. The prologue cinematic by which Destiny 2 begins tries to correct that gap. At the very beginning, new players learn that things in world of Destiny 2 went wrong really fast. Opening cinematic shows a company of various powerful heroes known as Guardians which are trying to stop an enemy invasion on Earth led by an alien race called the Cabal. Cabal’s main objective is to secure control over “the Traveler” – a mysterious spherical celestial body whose existence enabled humanity to prosper and reach distant worlds in space. There are a lot of explosions, female commanders and robot soldiers in the introductory cinematic. At its end, it is shown that Cabal eventually establishes military dominance on Earth, while Guardians are forced to retreat and regroup in order to take down their enemy. This is the point where player jumps into action. Playing in a role of one of the Guardians, player is forced to acquire new powers and venture to new worlds in order to build strength and eventually face Dominus Ghaul – one of the Cabal’s leaders who led the attack on Earth.
Bungie, developer of Destiny series, but also of the famous Halo series, described Destiny’s universe as “mythic science-fiction” world. Reading the game’s synopsis it becomes clear that Destiny wants to be a space saga and that its primary source of inspiration are motion picture works such as Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy and space drama Firefly. Besides the old theme of a fight between good and evil, Destiny also possesses a surprisingly rich and complex lore that combines various mythological motives and archetypes, contemporary themes such as superiority of artificial intelligence and questions concerning ethical dilemmas such as sacrificing or performing genocides in order to cleanse the world of corruption.
However, all of these aspects of game’s story are very poorly presented and are only interesting to the die-hard fans of the series. In short, it would be naïve to consider Destiny 2 as a story-driven game. This game is first and foremost a looter shooter that doesn’t bother to present its players a meaningful story. During the ventures on other planets such as Io, Nessus or Titan, player encounters other enemy races like the Fallen, Hive, Vex and Taken. Their role in the story is very poorly explained and pretty much doesn’t make any sense for an average player. Most of the insights about the world player receives by listening to the radio chatter between your robotic companion Ghost and your quest provider. These dialogues are often filled with too much blabber and uncanny humor which makes them uninteresting to listen at. Main campaign is filled with clichés that look like they came out of Michael Bay’s movies, while campaign’s only goal is to eventually “kill the bad guy and save the world”.
In a way, Destiny 2 is the Transformers of the video games. It is a shallow, immature and meaningless spectacle that is presented by quality voice actors such as Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Lennie James and Frank Langella. Most of the in-game sounds seem pretty generic, while its soundtrack is easily forgettable and it often sounds overhyped and epic in times when you are just walking through the woods or buying items from a merchant. On the other hand, clicking sounds in the menus provide certain ASMR satisfaction, but they are a pretty irrelevant feature.
Generic and incoherent story bloated with postmodern political correctness Destiny 2 compensates with stellar gameplay. Movement in game is smooth and easy. Even on PC, the game is very playable with a gamepad, which makes it perfect for playing on big screen from the couch. Shooting with auto rifles and submachine guns provide great deal of satisfaction. Recoil is minimal and hip firing is very accurate. Aiming with sights is fast, and if you use a gamepad there is also aim assist which is very sublime and helpful. Throwing grenades isn’t too accurate, however with little practice you’ll learn how to use them wisely since they’re pretty powerful.
Great deal of your gameplay experience is determined with the character class that you choose at the beginning of the game. There are three classes: Titan, Warlock and Hunter. Most significant difference between these classes concerns class abilities that among themselves differ very much. Titans can in power surge mode summon shield with which they can bash enemies. Warlocks have an aura they can drop to heal or increase damage, while Hunters can quickly dodge enemies and perform powerful melee attacks. In PvE mode differences between these classes are insignificant, however in PvP mode Warlock’s and Hunter’s abilities might prove more useful than those equipped by Titan class.
Players of the Destiny 2 have various modes and activities at their disposal to indulge in. Firstly, there is a campaign which is rather short and can be finished in 5 to 10 hours depending on your pace. After completing the campaign, players can throw themselves into PvE or PvP modes. In PvE you can complete side quests, activities and challenges that you obtain from quest givers or that you initiate while exploring various planets that you have at your disposal. Since Destiny 2 for PC is an “always online” game, from time to time you can join public events and with other random players fight AI enemies. Special kind of PvE activity are Strikes – recurring missions which culminate with a boss fight. Strikes can be very challenging so be prepared for a tough fight. Similar to them are Raids. Crucible, on the other hand, is an essential PvP hub in which you can matchmake and participate in various PvP modes that resemble Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, or Domination.
Since this review covers only the base game, it is worth to mention that additional game’s expansions provide even more PvE and PvP activities which give you plenty of content to indulge into. Like any looter shooter, your greatest reward for completing certain activity is obtaining new gear which can be common or rare, and can give you advantage in your next battle. Loot boxes can contain new weapons, armor gear, various artifacts that are required for crafting new gear, skins etc. By upgrading your gear you also upgrade your power level, which obviously gives you more strength, but also the ability to participate in level-locked activities which require certain amount of experience before you can initiate them.
When you consider the amount of content that Destiny 2 on PC provides, it is surprising how much of that content is dull and bland. Various weapons that you acquire shoot and feel the same. Like armor parts, their visual appearance isn’t too exciting. You always hope that your next piece of equipment will be something special and memorable, but that is never the case. Everything just feels and looks the same, while the really exciting stuff is locked behind the paywall and requires you to preform microtransactions in order to acquire them.
Even though Destiny 2 for PC packs up more than 10 different types of activities, they are all pretty much the same. You initiate the quest, go to location A, kill a bunch of enemies, go to location B, kill the boss and receive loot reward which is often very disappointing. After 10 hours of playing you realize that game doesn’t have any depth. There is no need for tactics, there is no need for using cover, you just run and shoot, shoot and run. Surely, there is enough content to keep you busy for tens of hours, but after realizing that game keeps you bringing back to the same place to shoot the same enemies, then all of the sudden everything becomes pointless. If you die, there is usually no penalty. PvP maps are too simplistic and remind of an era of old-school shooters like Quake and Doom. However, they are no fun since they lack symmetry and functional usage.
All in all, main problem with Destiny 2 is that this game doesn’t know what it wants to be. It clearly wants to be Borderlands set in space, with gameplay of Call of Duty and Doom, but at the same time it strives to incorporate RPG and MOBA elements. Destiny 2 is a mish-mash of everything that in the end produces an extremely mediocre and repetitive experience. It is clear that Activision tried to transform this series into a microtransaction milking cow, but what disappoints the most is that Bungie didn’t have enough courage to ascribe it a proper identity. In the end Destiny 2 became a financial flop. When the game with the 60$ price tag becomes free-to-play title you know that it under-performed a lot. Becoming F2P is just a desperate way to milk as much money as possible through microtransactions. In a way, Destiny 2 is just a bad copy of Bungie’s past legendary projects like Halo, which sooner or later might not have any future at all.
Speaking about performance on PC, it is encouraging to say that game runs rather smooth and stable, with almost no hiccups. On most PCs with mainstream graphics cards such as Nvidia GTX 1060 or AMD RX 580, game will usually run around 60 to 80 frames per second at highest image quality settings. Since Destiny 2 is a multiplayer FPS, it is recommended to turn off Vsync, otherwise you’ll receive input lag. Visually speaking, game looks good, but is nothing impressive. Texture quality is acceptable, but from time to time Destiny 2 on PC looks like a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 game. Antialiasing in this game is implemented very poorly. Even with SMAA on, there are jaggies everywhere and currently only solution is to ramp up resolution scaling in order to smooth up the picture. This however forces the card to do more work, which negatively impacts performance.
In my personal opinion this game is an example of badly optimized game that runs smooth. Taking into the consideration game’s visuals, this game should be able to achieve frame rates higher than 100 on mainstream graphics cards on maximum settings. Instead, it keeps fluctuating between 60 and 80, and very often drops below 60 in gunfights. It is also visually rather bland. Colors look washed out and water textures on planet Titan look like they came from early 2000s title. Crysis, a game now 12 years old, has superb water texture quality compared to this game. Only graphical area in which I found Destiny 2 on PC really appealing is lighting system. Light that is thrown on objects looks very soft and its reflection from the object’s surface looks very accurate. Motion blur also looks like a nice touch, since it helps smoothen the jaggies on which antialiasing apparently has no effect. Character models seem quite detailed but environments look a bit uninteresting due to bland textures.
Destiny 2 for PC provides a mediocre looter shooter experience that is plagued with an incoherent story and repetitive game mechanics that might be appealing for casual players. Combat is very well done, weapons are responsive, and most of the time you feel like a super hero that can do anything. Once you start noticing that things start to repeat, element of fun starts to burn out really fast. Spongy enemies, lack of guidelines and unexciting loot in a combination with various game modes make this game a mixed bag of everything. Hopefully, game is now free to play so there is no reason not to try it out. However, investing your time in this product is questionable since you might never find a feeling of full accomplishment while playing this game.