Save humanity’s last, best chance for survival.
PC Release: October 24, 2017
By Ian Coppock
After much hooting and hollering from console fanboys to try this game, try this game, Destiny 2 has landed on PC. Most PC gamers (especially the ones who game only on that platform), have reacted to the launch in ways ranging from mild interest to complete indifference. Those reactions could be chalked up to gaming’s long and sad history of broken PC ports, but it might just be because few PC gamers have ever played a Destiny game. Destiny 2 is out to change that, and to make a big splash in the world of PC gaming.
Destiny 2 is a massively multiplayer shooter and the second installment in Bungie’s new flagship series. The legendary developer, best known for creating Halo, began work on the first Destiny shortly after escaping Microsoft’s clutches. The game released in 2014 to mixed reviews; critics and gamers praised its gunplay but took everything else (especially its “story”) to task. The game eventually straightened up and flew right, but only after releasing multiple, overpriced expansions that gamers were only too happy to throw money at.
Originally, Destiny was supposed to be a 10-year endeavor, but Bungie’s publisher, Activision, isn’t known for not releasing sequels all the time (cough*Call of Duty*cough). Destiny 2 shot out of the gate barely a year after its predecessor’s last expansion. The title has been hailed by console gamers as a major improvement over the first title, but PC gamers have no such point of reference, so reviews like these will have to suffice.
For those PC gamers who need a quick primer, the Destiny games are sci-fi shooters set in a universe of both spaceships and magic. After enjoying centuries of peace and prosperity across the Solar System, an apocalyptic event called “the Collapse” forces humanity to retreat to Earth ahead of a foe called “the Darkness.” Humanity’s sole hope for survival is the Traveler, a sentient globe that gives certain humans a magic power called Light. These warriors, the Guardians, serve as the Destiny series’ player characters and are the only thing standing between mankind and a myriad of alien threats.
Destiny 2 takes place a year after the last Destiny expansion and opens with the Cabal (one of those aforementioned alien threats), invading humanity’s last city and taking the Traveler for themselves. The player’s Guardian rushes home to help repel the invaders but gets their Light stolen by Ghaul, a Cabal leader who seeks the Traveler’s power for himself. As the Guardian, it’s up to players to get their mojo back, assemble humanity’s scattered forces, and retake the city before the Traveler’s Light is snuffed out forever.
As a Guardian, players can employ a diverse mix of magic powers and sci-fi weaponry to take the fight to humanity’s foes. Players can find and equip ever better armor, as well as a wide range of pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, and other killing implements. As players regain their Light, they can also unlock special abilities that even the odds on the battlefield. Players can pick from a few different classes that each emphasize guns or magic or a mix of the two, and branch out into sub-classes as the game goes on.
As players level up and gain new abilities, they can also explore dangerous areas all over the Solar System. The Cabal are hardly the only threat to humanity; a wide variety of other alien species are happily squatting in the ruins of mankind’s solar empire. These include four-armed bug pirate things and a race of creepy robots that are basically Geth in all but name. Players can face these threats by playing through the story or teaming up to embark upon MMO-style dungeon raids.
Destiny 2‘s first-person gunplay is the foundation upon which the rest of the game is built, and boy is it identical to Halo. Anyone who played Halo back in the day will instantly recognize how Destiny 2‘s weapons handle. Grenades float through the air as if borne on the backs of butterflies, while light weapons feel more like Super Soakers than actual firearms. Thankfully, Destiny 2‘s mainline guns pack much more of a kick than the weapons in Halo, which helps players feel like the powerful space warriors that the game wants them to be.
Destiny 2‘s other big gameplay feature is its powers, which players can level up and earn like in most RPGs. Different classes offer different powers; the Titan class, for example, focuses on brute battlefield strength, while the Warlock emphasizes devastating magical powers. As players pick and choose these powers, they can branch out into sub-classes that offer further specialization. These powers are a mixed bag: some, like the Hunter’s double-bladed melee pandemonium, are awesome. Other powers… not so much.
Players can use these guns and powers to undertake story missions (most of which are relatively brief) or explore pseudo-open world areas in pursuit of items, quests, and timed events like boss battles. These areas are fun to explore and are also apparently much larger than the ones found in Destiny. Neither of these activities holds a candle, though, to going on Strikes and Raids. Strikes are small-scale dungeon adventures meant to be completed in just a few hours, while Raids (much like their World of Warcraft counterparts) are involved marathons that can support huge fireteams.
Of course, any game involving Bungie also features PvP multiplayer. Destiny 2 introduces a few modes for the multiplayer enthusiast to try, including the time-honored deathmatch and a fun best-of-ten mode called countdown. These bouts are some of the most fun multiplayer shooting to come to PC so far this fall, as teams of four players fight viciously for supremacy. Players can also compete in weekend-long competitions called Trials of the Nine, or in the Iron Banner, a tournament that randomizes each player’s equipment without unbalancing anyone.
With that rather exhaustive list of shooter features out of the way, it’s time to ask a more fundamental question: is it fun? The answer is that yes, Destiny 2‘s shooting is indeed fun; the caveat is that it’s not shooting that hasn’t already been done a million times. Destiny 2‘s shooting is a very “safe” amalgamation of all the shooter trends popular in the industry these days, so players hoping for something more novel might be disappointed. Destiny 2 also has a vicious appetite for grinding, and players who don’t share that appetite might get bored by gunning down alien waves over and over.
Additionally, while Destiny 2‘s gameplay is polished on the front end, its underpinnings could use some work. The game’s menus are a jumbled mess that juxtapose player powers, maps, locations, and arsenals. For some reason, prompts to start missions on a given world sometimes appear away from that world. Destiny 2‘s menus can be hard to follow, and that assessment is coming from someone with a great deal more patience than the pathologically impatient shooter fans this game is presumably aimed at.
Destiny 2‘s story is a similarly “safe” space odyssey that doesn’t break any notable ground for the genre. If this game’s narrative is an improvement over the first game’s, that might just be because the first game didn’t really have one (at least the vanilla version). Destiny 2‘s narrative goes through the typical paces of a space opera: a big bad guy appears, someone gets captured, the hero needs to believe in themselves, and an epic battle ensues. There’s even the monologue about saving the galaxy, and a planet-destroying superweapon to boot.
None of these things are bad, per se, but the game’s singular focus on plot comes at the expense of the characters. No one evolves along with the story or changes in a meaningful way; the NPCs are just there to yell missions into the player’s ear. Sorry, but even Destiny 2 poster boy Cayde-6 is funny for only so long. Destiny 2‘s focus on scale instead of narrative is no surprise coming from an Activision studio, but it still represents a missed opportunity to inject some Mass Effect-style nuance back into space adventuring.
Then again, perhaps it’s a bit naive to take a game so obviously built for multiplayer to task for having an underwhelming story. Sure, the narrative is what binds Destiny 2 together, but its multiplayer scene is where the game truly comes alive. No, the real stories of Destiny 2 are the ones of friends getting together to take out hellholes full of alien creatures, not a silent Guardian’s fight against an obese space turtle.
What’s more, Destiny 2 runs well on PC, so players seeking those great multiplayer stories can do so without having to worry about crashes and too much lag. It would seem that that extra month or two that Bungie took to port this game was well spent, as Destiny 2 can maintain a consistent framerate and has been praised by many gamers for running well even on subpar rigs. Players might experience occasional lag, but that happens on any multiplayer game with a heavy server load.
While the Destiny fanboys may have exaggerated how fresh and novel the game’s shooting is, they certainly weren’t kidding about the scenery. Destiny 2 is a gorgeous game that weaves thousands of colors into epic space paintings. The game’s environments are layered with rich colors and object detail, which helps Destiny 2 give off that space opera vibe. Many times, players will also have the opportunity to behold jaw-dropping vistas, especially anytime the Traveler is within view.
While on the subject of art and immersion, it’s also worth pointing out that Destiny 2 has one of the prettiest soundtracks of any 2017 game. Bungie is well-known for its musical chops and gave Destiny 2 a spine-tingling OST driven by strings and deep horns. It’s a set of music that moves at about the same pace as the tracks of the original Halo, but abandons Gregorian chant in favor of a more diverse sound. This is definitely one of those titles whose soundtrack is also worth buying.
In conclusion, Destiny 2 is one of those games that’s built to the scale of everyone’s favorite space epics, but it relies on the players to spin the story instead of a team of writers. The game’s subpar central narrative is not the star of the show; the stars are the great tales of battle that players pass from Discord server to Discord server. While Destiny 2‘s gunplay isn’t anything new, its curious post-apocalyptic excitement adds enough novelty to keep the fun going for a long time.
The bottom line for PC gamers is that Destiny 2 is worth taking more than a glance at. It won’t replace Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Team Fortress 2 in anyone’s library of favorite multiplayer shooters, but it might just be a worthy enough companion for even those vaunted titles. Get some friends together and give the game a try, because while Bungie explores little new ground when it comes to shooting, the stars are the limit in its mesmerizing space fantasy universe.
You can buy Destiny 2 here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.