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Review: Destiny 2 (PC)

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Identity Crisis

The Destiny franchise has finally come to PC. I've always been interested in the franchise, but I never play my Xbox in any meaningful capacity so I knew if I were to ever get my hands on the series, it would have to be on PC. It makes sense -- both the loot-driven and FPS genres thrive on PC, so an amalgamation of the two feels right at home.

I had some concerns about jumping into the second game without any knowledge of the first, but it's worked in the past so I figured it could work again here. While there are some high notes, I feel as if Destiny 2 mostly misses its mark.

Destiny 2 (PC)
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision

MSRP: $59.99
Release Date: October 24, 2017

I’m honestly not completely sure what happens in Destiny 2’s story. Like, I get the gist of it and I always know what my character is supposed to be doing, but coming with no prior knowledge of the previous game left me with nothing but apathy for just about everything. There’s a moment in the story where a character, as dramatically as possible, says “Get me so-and-so and whatshername” and then the cutscene ends. All I was left thinking was “I bet that was dramatic and cool for people who know those characters.”

That being said, even without any real knowledge of Destiny and its world, damn, does Destiny 2 know how to build to some incredible moments. I don’t need to know anyone’s motives to understand that playing around with unlimited light is an exhilarating moment. While most of the boss fights are more spongy than epic, there are smaller moments in the story that sticks out the most. Just as impressive are the tonal shifts, which Destiny 2 performs excellently. I felt some genuine dread while moving through the darker areas with my flashlight on.

It’s a bit sad to have gone through almost all of the content entirely alone, given the multiplayer-leaning design of the game itself. It’s so strange to see so many people running around the hub world and out on the various planets and have no way to talk to them. Why do I need to use third-party websites to create an actual team? Why is there no general chat? I get mixed messages when I play in Destiny 2. It is structured like an MMORPG, but with none of the things that make the genre memorable.

As a first-person shooter, it feels great. The different types of guns all have a distinct flavor, as do the unique weapons later on. But again, I feel like there are mixed messages being sent between the design and the gameplay. I’m led to believe that there is more than just shooting here: a supercharged ability, class-specific abilities, and an entire skill tree to work through. When taking a closer look though, there’s not much to separate this from most other FPS games. A grenade and melee attack with some quirky interactions is hardly what I would call interesting.

This would be less of an issue if the cooldowns were shorter. It often feels as if Destiny 2 is a traditional FPS game until the big boss fights, at which point everyone just dumps their abilities into it until it dies. Outside of those larger fights, I would occasionally use my grenade when an appropriately grouped bunch of enemies presented itself. On the flip side, I often felt discouraged from using my melee attack; it was always tied with reducing the cooldown of things that were usually already up (I played primarily as a Warlock, I understand that this is not an issue with every class).

Things start to get better in Strikes, which act as an end-game series of repeatable missions for teams of three. When players are rotating their ability usage, combat is much more fluid and fast-paced. Yet again, no one communicates. I’ve typed things into the chat plenty of times and had no response from anyone. Most people seem pretty determined to blast through the content as quick as possible. I always seem to be on a team with those who cut every corner possible, which can be pretty off-putting, especially if you haven’t done the Strike before. “I guess we don’t have to kill these guys…”


Then again, the game almost demands that you zoom through the end-game stuff as fast as possible. After completing the story, it felt like a slog to increase my power (light) level. Since this power is tied to the player’s armor and weapon levels, everything is loot dependent. “Leveling up” means nothing and is more of a progress indicator for the story missions. After reaching max level, gaining experience simply leads to receiving another bright engram, which is essentially a lootbox and, of course, you could also just pay for these. The game doesn’t feel too skewed towards making the player feel as if they need to pay for them, but the temptation is constantly there. As Chris mentioned in his original review, it’s not quite pay-to-win, but it’s damn close.

I enjoy a loot treadmill as much as the next person, but this feels awfully structured. From what I’ve experienced, the loot players find that playing the missions is great for getting to the end-game, but after that, it‘s mostly vendor trash. Finding guns that increase the character’s light level by one feels pitiful. It’s the engrams that promise larger leaps. So players play Strikes as fast as possible to earn an engram or two, open it, and see if they become “more powerful.” Sure, it’s exciting to open up a legendary engram and find something badass, but it’s equally deflating to open up a legendary engram and find something badass that you found five hours ago. Your progression is not tied to your performance, but instead tied to chance.

I am also shoe-horned into using my strongest weapons all the time. For example, I have no interest in power weapons that aren’t shotguns or swords. However, if I receive a rocket launcher that’s +30 to my current sword, there’s no reason for me to stay with the sword other than the fact that I like it more. I just need to hope that I find an equally powerful sword. It’s rare that the weapons ever feel more damaging than a previous one -- the number is just higher. My 240 power level sniper rifle is the same thing as my 100, except the number that pops out of the enemy is bigger this time. There are some innate weapon mods like quick-scoping, and also player-driven mods to make weapons better, but rarely do they make a significant impact on the weapon’s feedback to the player.


The PVP Crucible is another way to spend your end-game, but man, I’m not sure why players would spend their time here. Given the cooldowns, PVP is essentially any other FPS game where the players occasionally throw out a sci-fi ability. It’s an okay experience, but an all too familiar one, which is a letdown. I suppose the cooldowns help balance everything in the long run, but the end result is a par-for-the-course PVP experience.

For me, it was all about the “Adventures” and Public Events. Adventures are essentially side-quests that pop up around the various planets and feel way more natural. This has been my go-to content outside of the story missions. They get reset and can be replayed, but unless you’re a super-hardcore player you likely won’t feel the need to constantly play the same Adventures over and over again -- there are enough to keep things varied. Public Events are just that - events that anyone on the planet (in your instance, at least) can cooperate in and gather some loot. It can feel weird to do the same mission time and time again, but it's not as farfetched or as boring as other repeatable missions, and again, they feel more natural. These two things are what keep me coming back to Destiny 2.

The PC version runs incredibly well. I have never seen the framerate drop below 60 (cutscenes are locked at 30), and generally rests at around 70-90. The environments look absolutely stunning; there were multiple times where I simply stopped what I was doing just to look around. Likewise, the soundtrack to Destiny 2 is phenomenal. Why haven’t more people brought this up? The brilliant score hits all the right notes and makes those aforementioned incredible moments even more memorable.


There are definitely some weird, probably console-driven decisions in here. It can take forever to get rid of your excess inventory by dismantling. Players need to hold the F key while mousing over the item, which slides the next item into that slot as the first item disappears. To dismantle that item, however, the mouse has to leave it and come back. Every time. Why can’t I ctrl-click a group of items and dismantle them all at once? Also, why the heck doesn’t the map screen start centered around my character?

I was glad to see a colorblind mode included, but it doesn’t address my biggest color issue: the weapon element colors. Each sub-weapon comes with an element: solar, void, and arc (or, as I know them, firey, circle-stuff, and spiky-ball). Certain enemies have an appropriately colored shield (red, purple, light blue) that need to be hit with the appropriate elemental weapon for easy disposal. Problem is, I can’t tell the difference between the void and arc colors, especially not mid-firefight. I essentially just hope for the best when shooting either of those two shields.

Destiny 2 is an incredibly competent shooter that lacks a strong identity. Just when I think I understand what it’s going for, some off-brand design decision comes into play that shows me I’m wrong. PC players who missed out on the first game will likely have no interest in the actual story, but the missions are varied and exciting enough to be worthwhile. Despite my issues, I can easily see myself jumping back into Destiny 2 frequently enough to shoot some aliens and scoop up some loot.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Destiny 2 (PC) reviewed by Patrick Hancock

6.5

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

the day he teaches high school kids about At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, and more + disclosures


 



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