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Destiny 2 for the PC is luxurious.
Bungie's Halo games had better campaigns and characters, and Destiny had better guns and endgame content, but these were console games, limited by technology and input. Destiny 2 has no such limitations, which makes it a game that just might be the best-feeling first person shooter ever made.
The last console generation was plagued by years of ignorance and bad ports. Developers locked the field of vision to TV-appropriate settings, which gave some players, like myself, massive headaches. Mouse support was rarely adequate, resolution options were often arbitrary, and awful middleware like Gamespy meant that multiplayer rarely worked for players. Some multiplatform games, like Destiny, never even came to PC.
PC ports have been gradually improving over time, but Destiny 2's goes above and beyond. Want to change the FOV? Destiny's default might be a mere 85, but you can crank it up to a beautiful 105. Headache-inducing graphical effects like chromatic aberration and motion blur can be enabled or disabled at will. Mouse smoothing is disabled by default.
Better yet, Destiny 2 runs beautifully on a wide range of rigs. With every setting maxed out, Destiny 2 challenges my Core i7-6700k, GTX 1070-powered behemoth, but a friend of mine with an underpowered Steam machine from Gamestop was able to run it at a near constant 60fps on lower settings. Despite the differences in our settings, Destiny 2 looked gorgeous either way. It's a game designed to scale; you might not be able to max out everything right away. In any case, the game looks better than its console counterparts, while running at double the framerate in most scenarios.
Technical specifications and port quality might be the first thing most gamers think of when we consider PC ports, but the PC experience is also impacted by its predominant control scheme: the mouse and keyboard. Genres differ depending on the control scheme; platformers and racing games are better with controllers, while strategy and shooters tend to be better with mouse aiming.
Last gen, as consoles became the predominant shooter platform, developers pushed for more controller-friendly approaches to design. This meant flat levels filled with slow, cover-based combat and aim-down-sight mechanics. Controllers aren't great at vertical, quick movement, so cover, flat levels, and ADS mechanics help slow things down to make shooters more comfortable on controllers.
Bungie's brilliance lies in their ability to ignore controller limitations. With the Halo games, Bungie started with a heavy auto-aim system, like many console developers, but they pushed it further than anyone else. Bungie's auto-aim is extremely good at predicting what players want to shoot and where they want to aim, making it feel much more comfortable than other auto-aim heavy shooters, which can often select the wrong targets or make it frustrating to nail headshots.
Improperly ported, this can frustrate PC players, where auto-aim gets in the way of the more precise, mouse-driven combat style. In first person shooters, mice also allow a greater degree of precision in movement, since they function as both aiming and steering tools simultaneously. Bungie and Vicarious Visions have wisely removed the auto-aim mechanics from Destiny 2's mouse and keyboard control scheme, giving combat a breezy but precise sensation. I've nailed sniper headshots from the hip while leaping across obstacles in the map.
Destiny 2 relies heavily on stumble and critical hit mechanics to make combat feel alive, and the precision of mouse and keyboard combat makes everything feel incredible. Nailing a headshot on a Cabal soldier will cause his helmet to blast off in a thunderous cloud of goo, and the sensation is like nothing I've encountered in any other shooter. Without hyperbole, it has never felt this good to kill things in a video game before.
I could play for hours, just wandering Destiny 2's four planets, headshotting aliens. This game feels like the first shooter truly made for mouse and keyboard, even more than PC exclusives like Half-Life and Doom.
Taking Stock of Destiny 2 After a Month
That said, Destiny 2 has some problems. Just over a month after release, console players are complaining that there's too little to do. I put a thousand hours into Destiny, but I'm not sure if I'll spend the same time in Destiny 2. The first game introduced amazing arenas like the Archon's Forge, which players could repeat for loot. Its weapon system allowed for more tactical variety by stratifying its weapons into three distinct tiers, as opposed to the sequel's two. Randomized item rolls gave compelling reasons to repeat content, and raid loot offered meaningful rewards for players who braved their challenges.
Destiny 2 offers none of this, choosing to ignore Destiny's best aspects and subsequent improvements for an experience that's disappointingly similar to the first. Thankfully, Destiny 2 makes some improvements on its own. The campaign missions are far closer to the Halo-esque mission design that Bungie is loved for; it's far more generous with its loot drops; the visuals are impeccable, and public events are more exciting and responsive. Better yet, the bosses are far more interesting than Destiny's dull bullet sponges, and the enemy rosters have been expanded and improved upon. The combat is still that pitch-perfect blend of physical, explosive combat.
Destiny 2 should have been as mature and interesting a game as Destiny Year 3, but Bungie's perplexing mistakes don't prevent it from being a great game. As Mike Williams said in our Destiny 2 review:
Destiny 2 isn't really built to be played every evening. I'm already slotting into a place where I jump on one night, burn through everything I need to do, and then don't see the game again for a week. And perhaps that's as intended, meaning it's really not a problem. It just feels like there's a middle ground in the tuning that was missed.”
PC players are blessed with a bounty of great, grind-heavy games. There's nothing like booting up Warframe and its recent Plains of Eidolon expansion, finding some new Prime parts, and building new weapons. Guild Wars 2 always has something to do. Destiny 2 feels anemic in comparison.
Fundamentally, Destiny 2 is a great game, and the definitive package is on the PC. I've played with friends who hated the original Destiny or never gave it a chance, and they all love what we're playing now. We can hope that Bungie will improve things as it continues, but the biggest improvement they can make to the game's longevity would involve redesigning the inventory system completely, giving players back the random roll system from year one. Hopefully, they'll do just that.
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