Destiny 2 has finally hit the PC with its new beta, which makes it the first Bungie game to do so in ten years.
The awful 2007 Windows Vista-exclusive port of Halo 2 wasn't that great, and after Destiny snubbed the PC, it seemed like Bungie might never return, but with Destiny 2, they have, and in doing so, have delivered something remarkable. What's up with Destiny 2, and how does this beta differ from the last one?
Destiny 2 on PC is Shaping Up to be the Definitive Version
Destiny wasn't perfect, as reviews can attest, but at the time of its release, it was one of the best-feeling shooters of all time. It was easy to jump into the game and run around on patrols or strikes, kicking alien butt for a few hours, and I spent over a thousand hours doing just that. Subsequent patches made Destiny a lot less fun—Bungie's whack-a-mole design philosophy meant that nerfs to shotgun and hand cannon range, sniper ammo, tripmine grenades, and other features really hurt the fun factor—but it was still a great way to chill, thanks almost entirely to that incredible weapon feel.
Because it's on the PC, Destiny 2 utterly demolishes its predecessor, running at a flawless 60fps on my machine, with far more bells and whistles available than are on the consoles. The particle effects feel especially improved, especially at the higher framerate, so every bullet feels more impactful on the PC than anywhere else.
You can select your server region, which means you have more control over who you're playing with. Because of this, you're less likely to encounter laggy foes; the online experience is noticeably smoother than it was on consoles. If you want the best online experience in Destiny 2, the PC is a no-brainer.
Everything feels snappier thanks to the mouse and keyboard controls. While Destiny 2 does sport console controls, and Bungie are the masters of making shooters tolerable with a controller, the game sings on the PC. There's nothing quite like leaping into a crowd of Cabal soldiers, tearing them apart with your shotgun.
When I wrote about Destiny 2's console beta, I found myself wondering if I should cancel my preorder. Having played the PC version, I believe Destiny 2 is, without question, the best-feeling shooter that has ever been made. Nothing comes close.
The Options are Incredible
During the 360 generation, especially early on, PC ports were few and far between. Without a major platform holder to push the PC, and with publishers gazing starry-eyed at the console success of Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, it seemed like PC Gaming was dying. The ports were atrocious, lacking proper mouse support, networking integration, and basic features like FOV sliders.
Destiny has all of these things. The menus and gameplay are a natural fit for the mouse and keyboard, and they're a joy to use. I had to rebind some keys from the initial setup—I moved my super to the middle mouse button and melee to F—and the game's lacking PlayStation controller icons for PC gamers who might want to use the PlayStation controller, but the overall user experience is wonderful.
A few things are unintuitive; a friend using a controller said it wasn't immediately apparent how to exit the game, text chat requires you to bring up the text window and type in it separately, and the text doesn't fade over time. It seems odd to have to reach across the keyboard to press buttons like O for some functionality.
The options themselves are some of the best I've seen in a PC port. Mouse smoothing, the bane of many PC gamers, is turned off by default. A lot of these features are great for people who get headaches and motion sickness playing shooters on a monitor. The FOV goes up to a comfortable 105 degree; not quite the 110 degrees I prefer, but dramatically better than the default of 80. You can also disable things like film grain and chromatic aberration, which is fantastic.
Some options are missing, like the ability to select 2/4/8x anti-aliasing or the ability to hide damage numbers, but overall, the options are fantastic.
Some options, like "show full battle tags," and "HUD opacity," appear to do nothing, and others don't seem to work super well. One friend reported that the game ran worse for him on low than on high, and I found that MSAA halved my framerate while looking noticeably worse than SMAA. I also found that the game reset my preferred grenade every time I started it up. I'm sure these things will all be fixed before Destiny 2's PC release in October.
Bungie Has Tweaked Some Things, but the Core is Still Faulty
One major change in Destiny 2 is the weapon system. Before, you had primary, special, and heavy weapons. Each weapon type occupied a distinct role and made combat feel dynamic and robust. Destiny 2 gives you two primary weapon slots, and puts all the interesting weapons in the heavy slot. Fans complained that heavy ammo wasn't dropping enough, and Bungie has, thankfully, tweaked the drop rate for this in the PC beta, so you actually get to use the heavy weapons now.
The increase to the ammo drop rate means players feel more willing to use their heavy weapons; rather than finding 8 rounds in a strike, I found 16 or so. I used them, and, to my delight, I found that shotguns are a lot more fun than they used to be, but I still didn't have enough ammo to really enjoy myself. The optimal way to play Destiny 2 is to equip automatic weapons in your primary and secondary slots. It is absolutely less interesting and far less fun than its predecessor, and still, to me, one of the biggest mistakes I have ever seen in game design. I spent more time wishing I had ammo than I did using the guns I enjoyed, playing up close and personal.
Super cooldown was another area of concern, and thankfully, the cooldown has been reduced. Using the hunter's golden gun now no longer feels like complete a waste of super energy, though the other class supers still feel dramatically more powerful. You still have to be more accurate, while having less time and doing significantly less damage. Some low-tier Cabal enemies were able to tank my golden gun. Hopefully, the hunters will continue to be improved, but overall, supers feel significantly better. Destiny 2 is much more fun now.
Grenade and melee cooldowns appear to have been improved as well, but they're still far too slow. With Halo, Bungie introduced a concept called the "golden triangle." In it, players used a potent combination of guns, melee, and grenades to take on their foes. Destiny reduced the grenade count from 8 grenades in Halo: Combat Evolved to just one on a timer, but the timer was quick enough that it wasn't frustrating.
Destiny 2's grenades appear to recharge faster now than they did in the console beta, but it's still too slow, especially compared to their power, which is next to nothing in terms of damage and splash radius. There's nothing a grenade can do in Destiny 2 that a gun or a few punches can't do in far less time, without needing a cooldown. The hunter's tripmine is still the greatest victim here; it was the only good grenade hunters had back in the day, so everyone used it, but Bungie took issue with its popularity and removed its defining characteristic: the ability to latch on to enemies. Hunter grenades might as well not exist, and the other class grenades aren't much better.
Destiny's core fantasy is that you're an awe-inspiring space lich, and the original game lived up to that fantasy by providing its first-year players with a potent arsenal. Destiny 2 appears to offer more variety than its predecessor, but due to the arsenal changes, the actual experience is dramatically less varied, and most encounters play out with little meaningful variation. Sure, it's got more gun types, and they're great, but since they're all relegated to the heavy slot, you're going to spend a lot more time just using the game's rifles or pistols.
Destiny 2's PC beta gives me hope
After the console beta, I wasn't sure if I would be buying Destiny 2. The PC beta has changed my mind. I have never played a game that felt quite as pleasing at the basics of moving, shooting, and engaging enemies as Destiny 2. Detonating a Cabal soldier and watching the gas blasting from his helmet will never get old.
Destiny 2's remarkable combat feel is held back by its lack of effective options, so I have my reservations. Everyone I have played the beta with so far has expressed frustration that PVE squads are limited to 3 players, while PVP squads can play with 4. It's disappointing that Bungie hasn't stayed with the traditional rogue/warrior/mage archetypes, and not added new classes inspired by RPG staples like bards or necromancers. The biggest missed opportunity is the lack of cross-platform save. I have so many friends across so many platforms, and I'd gladly buy three copies if I could maintain my progress regardless of platform.
Despite this, the PC port is incredible, the game feels joyful to play, the campaign looks like it will be a treat, and I had far more fun playing Destiny 2 than any shooter in recent memory. I cannot stress what a magical experience a Bungie shooter is running at a flawless 60fps. Destiny 2 is magnificent, and it's clear that the hard-working developers at Bungie are doing their absolute best here. With some changes to the player arsenal, I think Destiny 2 might become an all-time classic. Right now, it's easily my most anticipated game for the forseeable future.
Destiny 2 will be out September 6th on console and October 24th on PC. Here's everything you need to know about the release date, system requirements, and more.