Once Destiny 2 was announced for PC I squealed in delight, ever since I had left the console generation around two years ago there had been a void in my gaming experience left by Destiny. It’s my ultimate game, a mix of MMORPG like systems with solid Halo-esque combat, an expansive sci-fi universe and loot mechanics that lure the player in to an infinite gameplay loop that was both fun, challenging and not too simple to get boring. Finally the decision to leave my console days behind and invest in to my PC were not wasted as nothing I had played so far had come close to my love of Destiny.
All I had to do was wait for the release, and wait I did. Impatiently. And once I got my hands on my version (kindly supplied by Activision) the first few moments with the game were of pure joy, feeling right at home with the mouse and keyboard at this point poppin’ heads, left, right and centre. Destiny has never felt so good at the 120fps my rig was able to pump out which in return made this version feel like a completely new game, the game I had been waiting for to fill that void.
Destiny 2 on the PC is so well optimised that if it wasn’t for some blocky textures in certain areas that I honestly would have forgotten it was originally a console game. But according the Bungie and the PC development team at Vicarious Visions, the PC version has lovingly been crafted from the ground up rather than opting for a straight console port. I buy that, I genuinely do, the visuals here are nothing short of masterful.
The lighting in particular is glorious. Natural light bounces off and reflects over almost every surface in a realistic manner and the new shadow system breathes life in to the world. Light shafts are in abundance and provide a sense depth to the universe that the original missed out on, while the particle effects from the intense range of explosions and class abilities meld in to the world in realistic fashions rather than looking like tacked on CGI creations in front of a green screen that appear many other games. Nice touch award goes to the tracers that bullets from weapons produce, they add a layer of further chaos to the combat by allowing us to view an allies gun barrage combined with our own in the big baddie before us. With all these elements and more Destiny has never looked so good and after seeing what the game looks like on console over a buddies, there is no way I could recommend any other system to play it on.
However it doesn’t just stop there, the main shining star in Destiny 2 can be found within its audio. If there is one aspect that has remained consistently amazing from the first game to the sequel is its expertly delivered music score and audio design. The orchestra is on par with a rendition of a John Williams piece and its placing is nothing short of perfect. While the original Destiny opted for a more epic style, Destiny 2’s sombre and reliance on Minor keys pack a gut punch to the feels for any Destiny fan. The weapons pack a punch and keep in line with our key motivation to feel powerful within the game whether that being the player ringing off Hand Cannon shots in to a fellow guardian’s skull or emptying a full clip an auto-rifle. The bass filled explosions of rockets and tank armaments are savagely overwhelming and the cries of your fallen enemies maintain a players momentum from one target to the next. On top of that every weapon archetype feels unique and distinct and with the help of some sort of surround sound, it’s easy to detect enemies or allies and which ones they are by sound alone. Truly expertly delivered audio throughout.
And then we get the gameplay, the pillar where Bungie engineered their success. The weighty but responsive movement architecture Halo was built upon lives on in Destiny and feels completely at home on a PC with a mouse and keyboard. In fact completely stripped of the restrictions that the controllers possess, it really does feel like I’m playing the Destiny where it should be played. Movement is freedom and momentum is king. Providing these two key Bungie gameplay philosophies with the combination of a mouse to aim is gratifyingly incandescent for a Bungie veteran long awaiting a game for the PC. A clean user interface to polish it all off and the integration of the long standing Blizzard Chat functions finish off the recipe for a pleasurable experience whether in our out of the menu, loading or game screen.
Not all Sunshine and Rainbows
I started this review with nothing but love for Destiny 2, I’ve probably mentioned almost every view any other reviewer has stated about the game in terms of its positives, but this is just the title’s preface, its make up and cover on which you would judge a book before buying. But what it delivers in abundance on its initial gameplay, visuals and audio, the holy trinity of what makes a game a good game, it disappoints in almost every other area. It begs the question to me why review after review from major websites fail to mention the game’s pitfalls. It’s staggering to me that Destiny 2 is being compared to the vanilla version Destiny and completely disregarding the 3 years of improvements and evolutions the game went through. While not being incorrect, Destiny 2 is still a solid and fun game, but once you scratch beneath the surface you start to see the cracks and questionable design choices.
First offender being that of the strange Peer-to-Peer network decision by Bungie, in this day in age dedicated servers should be a standard by now and no convoluted 30 page document you hand to me will convince me that P2P is the way to go. Forced to use a wireless connection within my house I’m faced with frequent disconnects and error codes in important moments like competitive PVP matches and raid encounters.
Second of that being an abundance of content, but lack of incentive to do any of it other than just having something to do. While I find the Adventures really awesome and the Lost Sectors are fun to grind through, the lack of choice to control the difficulty of these activities gives me no reason to do any of it. I couldn’t really care less about the loot the activity gives me, but after you hit a certain power level these tasks become trivial. This is coming from a studio that gave me Legendary difficulty on Halo! Give me that ability to crank up the difficulty of my game and I’m yours.
This bleeds over to the group PVE strikes as well. With the removal of Heroic strikes from the first Destiny each strike is a breeze and requires little to no engagement what so ever, not to mention the strikes are just Campaign missions with different enemy spawns, bosses and dialogue. It speaks scriptures about the lack of innovation and reliance on safe minimally viable production techniques.
The raid is at limbo state of opinion for me however. How does it compare with previous raids? Well not great as the whole thing barely relies on any of my gear being meaningful, some of the encounters are straight up frustrating and with only one boss fight to even draw from it’s difficult to compare. The potential for the raid location was astronomical, a giant ship that eats worlds? Yes please. But not once did I even feel like I was on this said ship. In fact it just seemed like a shiny palace that could have been placed anywhere in the universe. But with all that being said, those hours spent with friends beating it is still some of the best cooperative experiences I’ve ever had in gaming. In my mind the Raid is the pinnacle of Destiny and the most fun to be had with the game lies there. But the dilution of its difficulty and innovative encounters hurt it immensely, but for new comers I must admit it is a good introduction to the system and I’m okay with that.
The new PvP environment in the Crucible is up for scrutiny also. As an unpopular opinion but I do like the new direction it’s taken. Initially I was upset that I couldn’t wipe an entire enemy team with raw skill and abilities due to the new competitive and tactical approach where time-to-kill and ability cooldowns have been significantly increased. But after a few days I learnt to actually enjoy the new system. It felt miles more rewarding for scoring a triple kill as my brain and wits turned to be my best weapon against the enemy rather than just face rolling over everything. But once again there’s a minor flip side here. With only two mix-tape like playlists to speak of, I have little control over what mode I get to play and with the lack of any ranking system the whole competitive side of things seems rather pointless. However these are nitpicky minor faults that I look past as like I previously stated, I do really enjoy the PvP.
But then I’m reminded of the progression cap that can be knocked out within a couple of hours after a weekly reset, the lack of an encyclopedia for all the franchise’s expansive lore, the fact the hardest modes in the game give the same gear as the easiest activities in the game, the tiny range of encounters that the public events rotate on, absolutely no new enemies from the original game, a lack of customisation in subclasses/weapons and quite frankly a weak story line where we’re stripped of everything and then given it all back 5 minutes later which leads on to a disappointing end boss fight that could have easily been expanded in to a raid to flesh the whole story line out. The list grows and grows, strange decision after strange decision that leaves me scratching my head and screaming at frustration at my screen with me proclaiming to the traveller’s light, “what in the world happened at Bungie!?”
Video Games are special, they allow average human beings with average lives live out exciting tales and enrol ourselves in to the shoes of a hero from the safety of our home. They allow us to feel powerful and special, your every day average human being.
Sixteen years ago, Ten year old me was introduced to a game I deem as one of the most accomplished and unique experiences that helped define who I am as a person today, that something being Halo. Although a love for gaming was already on the borderline of fixation for me as a child, Halo was the one true game that ruled them all.
To this day I will still retain Halo in my top 5 games of all time. It was an authentic, lore rich experience with tight controls and excellent combat mechanics. It was an embodiment of everything I love about the gaming industry. It inspired and excited fans while opening a path way for console shooters in an era that was largely dominated by PC games such as Quake and Half Life. It’s a game that helped shape a generation in its own way, it was revolutionary release after release and in that regard, Halo was special.
Now fast forward sixteen years to Destiny 2, a lore rich experience with tight controls and excellent combat mechanics who’s whole game philosophy is designed to allow every average human being to become their own hero. A wholesome sentiment, but at what cost? At what point does the catering of every player that touches the game start hurting both the dedicated community and the casual ones. What about the minority that beat the raid week in week out on BOTH difficulties, took part in every facet that is Destiny. The players who cosplay and attend the convention stands, submit Fan Art and community videos, the ones who sherpa the brand new players through difficult content and develop feedback on the game for Bungie to improve on. The ones that have actually helped build the massive Destiny community as it is today.
At the Destiny 2 announcement Head Director Luke Smith specifically laid on thick about Bungie’s dedication to the community. “This game is for you” he proclaimed, referencing those players who play every day, even the credits boast this sentiment after defeating the campaign:
But from my point of view after playing pretty consistently since I received my press copy, Destiny 2 is NOT for the community. But it is for the new comers. It’s for those players who see a shiny new product, get intrigued and then buy it. In that essence I find it an empty shell in its current form, waiting to be filled. Think of it like a new house, on the outside its beautiful and welcoming, but once you step inside there’s nothing but barren and lifeless foundations, a house but not a home.
I struggle to come to terms with my final statement on Destiny 2, here I just spent around 1000+ words telling you what I dislike about the game, but you know what? Regardless of everything stated, I still love it. I only write down my thoughts and feelings on Destiny 2’s short coming because I love it. This review would probably be a lot shorter did I not love it. Destiny 2 symbolises my every needs and wants within a game. Its gameplay is so satisfying and universe so alluring that I will continue to play it and will probably do so for a long time to come. For me the game is no where near the vision Bungie originally conceived for the franchise, but it has the potential to be and I’m willing to wait until that point in time where it finally pushes itself to be the best it can be. Destiny 2 is special, and special does not necessarily mean perfect.