Destiny 2 has finally unlocked for PC players nearly two months after it arrived for our console brethren. I did play the original Destiny for a few months on PS4 and for a while, it was good fun. However, I gradually became bored and when I saw that Bungie was sizing up my wallet for paid expansions so soon after launch, I sold my copy and moved on. That was before I reviewed games for a living and now that Bungie has deigned to release their juggernaut shooter on PC, it would be rude not to give it a poke. Just a disclaimer, this review covers the campaign and a large chunk of the content. In the coming weeks I will be raiding, completing Strikes and trying the other two classes in Destiny 2: after which my review will be updated accordingly.
Never Ending Story (made you sing it)
One of the most common criticisms of the first game was the story or lack thereof. Not only was there little direction, but there seemed to be lots of build up with no payoff. I’m not going to claim I played Destiny past the base game because I didn’t, but from what I can gather the story did improve with subsequent expansions. Things kick off this time with a hostile force doing bad things to the Traveler (the Godzilla sized golf ball from the first game) and by doing so severing the source of ‘The Light’: the energy that gives Guardians their immortal abilities. With your forces scattered to the wind, your mission is simply to unify your friends once more and strike back at the Ghaul (the head honcho) and his army. Obviously, there are no spoilers here but you can expect a good ten to twelve hours of story-driven gameplay. I have to say, I rather enjoyed the elements of the main campaign and found Ghaul less two dimensional than I was expecting. The other characters in the game come off as very hit and miss but overall they get the job done. I will say that I found the final sequence to the game an utterly disappointing and cliche-ridden mess. If this is the standard we can look forward to for future content I may not even bother.
Paint me pretty
The first thing you will notice with Destiny 2 is that the visuals are nothing short of stunning. Right from the off your peepers will be met by many dramatic battles-scapes, impossibly gigantic mountain ranges and dead forests that ooze dread from every creaking branch. These wonderful visuals have actually given me a few spine-tingling moments: even the ginormous waves of Titan (while not technically perfect) still make you feel very small. The use of light and contrast makes many of these scenes pop with luminous plant life or fires raging from a recent fight. Light is also used as a suggestion to the player, luring them into cave systems and underground complexes. Given the futuristic nature of the Destiny 2 setting, you will see a whole manner of effects from shimmering heat of ship thrusters, weapons fire and the devastating light show once guardians start unleashing their specials.
So looks Destiny 2 has in buckets, but how does the game ground it all into place? There are many areas of the open world sections I’ve found intriguing. Often you will wander down a suspicious looking mine-shaft only to discover it is a ‘lost sector’, think secret caves with loot. You can see these marked on the map, which in my opinion completely ruins the surprise: more hand-holding for the casual players. You will see the occasional bird or rabbit pegging it across the ground but I have to say that the world of Destiny 2 feels devoid of life and at times almost lonely. The four planets are impressive in size and this often leads to lengthy yomps across the land. You do have the option to ride a Sparrow (think speeders from Starwars) but bizarrely these only usually drop at the end of the campaign. I guess Bungie wanted to you stop and look at their pretty vistas and not go hurtling past at three hundred miles an hour. Thankfully there are also multiple landing points across a planet which can be fast travelled to at any time.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Shooters are ten a penny these days, firing projectiles is, after all, the bread and butter of mainstream gaming. Despite the saturation of this genre, getting a shooter right isn’t a cinch. If there is one aspect of the original Destiny that players agreed on was that the shooting mechanics were solid as a rock. This strength has carried over to Destiny 2 and dare I say, it has been improved upon. Everything from the sound effects, the visual feedback and hitbox detection is razor sharp. I personally would have liked more location-based damage, the kind we see in games like Left for Dead 2. With that said, you can see enemies recoil when taking hits, which gives you a sense of impact.
This time around we have three weapon slots, kinetic, energy and power. The first two are obviously defined by the ammo type that weapon uses, so this could be anything from a Pulse Rifle to a Hand Cannon. The power weapons carry a bigger punch and as such, you can expect to have less ammo for these. Weapons like shotguns, rocket launchers and bizarrely sniper rifles make up the power category. While this is a different system to the first game I have no complaints because it all works fine. I would have liked a better explanation of how the weapons mods work and a summary of the loot system in general.
With everything that is going on the HUD does a wonderful job of keeping you aware of your situation. Other players are always clearly visible and a helpful minimap assists with knowing where your Fireteam is in relation to you. I would have liked to see a maximum bullet gauge on my weapons but this is a small quibble. While speaking of player groups, I find it bizarre that you are limited to three players, four for PvP and six for raids. I would have liked all these numbers to be bigger and these restrictions have caused a few frustrations in my group of friends.
As well as your pop guns you also have a grenade slot which recharges over time, so nades feel a little more like a power in that respect. The melee attack is very satisfying and squelches most basic enemies in one thump. As you level up you will have new options to unlock, such as new grenade types and alternate jumping mechanics. Most of these feel like subtle preferences rather than decisions which will make your class build stand out.
The three classes of Destiny 2 are the Titan, Hunter and Warlock. Each can be distinguished by its visuals (shields, capes and frilly frocks respectively) and by their ultimate skills. I always felt that the differences between each of them weren't all that great. Maybe there is nuance I’m missing here but to me, in the heat of battle, there seems very little that distinguishes one class from another. In games like Overwatch, you know exactly which character you are facing off against and who just decimated your team with their ultimate. I would like each class to have a bit more personality because as Sick Boy once said, personality goes a long way.
I was surprised and disappointed that Bungie had not decided to include a new class for this second game and strengthened my feeling that Destiny 2 was less sequel and more of a refinement. They have added a new subclass to each base class and these offer players a slight variation on your role in combat. Every class has a few skill loops which you can learn, these will do things like increasing your movement speed or reduce your power cool-downs. Each class also has an ultimate ability which charges while you fight and then lets you obliterate your enemies. The moment you fire off these moves you do feel powerful but it’s disappointing how similar all the class specials are: basically hammer attack until it’s burned out.
‘Have you ever fired your gun up in the air and gone “aaaggghh”!’
If you fancy a break from the campaign or PvE activities, Destiny 2 has the Crucible which is the place you go to fight other players. We now have Control, Countdown, Clash, Supremacy and Survival. Each mode pits your team again another and you will need to work as a unit to come out on top. Like the Strike missions, you have a frustrating lack of say in which of these modes you will partake in. In this way Bungie remind me of those stubborn companies like Nintendo or Apple: they have an amazing core product but equally, disappoint with counterproductive design choices.
Like so much in this game, the design caters for casual players who just want to play mindlessly rather than be a little more discerning about what they do. Overall the PvP in Destiny 2 is ok, occasionally exhilarating but when compared to games like Overwatch it just doesn’t compete. However, if you are invested in the Destiny world and wish to have something else to do, it is nice to have the option. I would like to see some better game design, with substantial objectives to take on while fighting other players. I’m thinking sinking an enemy boat, powering up a super weapon or maybe racing across the surface of a planet like in Riddick. How fucking awesome would that be?
Chink in the armour
So amazing visuals, excellent gunplay and plenty to do. However, there are some problems here. My first issue with Destiny 2 is a lack of interaction with other players. I understand that Destiny was conceived as a console game but that is no excuse for no clan chat or planet chat what-so-ever. I concede that most PC gamers will be using Team-Speak and Discord to chat but this then leads to another problem. In order to combat cheats, many third-party programs just will not work with Destiny 2, such as overlays and FPS counters. On launch day many players had reported being banned and this was attributed to people using these programs. Bungie has since claimed this is not the case and all bans are manually managed. Regardless, it seems bizarre they would not include communication in the wider game and then also not embrace other forms of communication that PC gamers use as standard. When in social hubs like the Farm or open areas with other players, I find it insane that the best interaction I can have with another player is a dance emote.
At the time of writing the clan roster in game is not working and as clan leader, I’ve found this infuriating. It has made helping our players group up and see where other players are all the more problematic. These are basic things to get right and given the money and expertise they have over at Bungie, there really isn’t any excuse. Like in PvP, you cannot actually choose the Strike you want, instead, you must take the random selection. In the original game, you could make the choice so why this has been taken away is beyond me.
In Destiny, you could find and apply shaders to your armour but in this sequel shaders are now a one-shot deal. While I have found a lot of shaders dropping it is very convenient that shaders can be bought with real-world cash. I will always have a problem with Micro-transactions in gaming and only see them improving the occasional title. For the most part, they are simply there to squeeze an extra pile of money from a player base that is already being asked to pay through the nose
Is it PC?
So we’ve known for a while now that Destiny 2 would look and play very well on PC. My gaming community has around 35 players currently tucking into Destiny 2 and some of these have modest gaming rigs and even laptops. Every single one of these players has given this game praise for how well it runs because for the most part Destiny 2 runs like a dream on PC. When playing in 4K the visuals are just breathtaking and show off exactly what a high spec gaming rig can do. I will never forget the load times on the PS4 for Destiny, sometimes minutes for each planet. On PC with an SSD you are looking at between five to ten seconds, which is just long enough to take a slurp of your coffee. In my opinion, the biggest advantage to playing Destiny 2 on PC is that of course, you can use a mouse and keyboard. It’s been good to see so many veteran peasants trying Destiny 2 on PC and proclaiming their awe at how good the precision and speed feels. The bottom line is that if you plan on playing Destiny 2, PC is the definitive place to do it.
As you all know I’m not a sound expert but do I know what I like. Destiny 2 hits all the bells with its sound work. From the weapons, explosions, vehicle effects and general atmosphere: it’s spot on. The voice acting is ok for the most part with Cade being the stand out for me. I always liked Peter Dinklage as the Ghost in the original game but Nolan North does a great job as his replacement. The music is appropriately dramatic and varied. My only complaint is that it seems to take a long time to calm down after a firefight and I sometimes just ended up turning it off.
Destiny 2 is not the game I wanted it to be, indeed I get the distinct impression this is the case for many people. Gamers are certainly craving a deep and complex space game, a universe they can get lost in and make their own. Look at No Mans Sky: people wanted to believe in it so desperately that they took the bait; hook, line and sinker. Star Citizen may be the only game I’ve ever seen that might come close to this ambition.
When the original Destiny launched onto console there really wasn’t anything like it, or indeed on any platform. Yet when I look behind the curtain the adventures that I personally want are just not here. When not shooting Space Marines I want to kick back and live in my own spaceship, listening to music from my own PC through the ship sound system. I want to discover a rare species only seen by three other players and I want to surf the waves of Titan in my pink Bermuda shorts. These things I will never do in Destiny 2 because it isn’t that type of game. With all that said, I do really like Destiny 2 and it does have a lot going for it. If you are looking for a beautiful and competent shooter that you can play with your friends this game really does offer a good amount to do. I just wish the developers at Bungie would forget safe and dare to take us somewhere we haven’t been before.
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