Photo Credit: Bungie/Activision
More than a month after console players got to try out Destiny 2 for the first time, the game's beta is now available on the PC. It's the first time PC gamers get to play the game, since the original Destiny never left the PlayStation and Xbox consoles. And from the time we've spent with it, Destiny 2 on PC makes a strong argument for console owners to consider making the jump.
Destiny 2 is Bungie's first big PC title in almost two decades. The studio began life as a Mac developer, going on to announce Halo for Mac and Windows, with Steve Jobs making the announcement in 1999. That didn't get far though, as Microsoft bought Bungie in 2000, and turned Halo into the Xbox's killer app.
Both Halo and Halo 2 did get Windows ports - the former from Gearbox and the latter from Bungie itself - but they were so mediocre that these stopped from Halo 3 onwards. With Destiny 2 – releasing on October 24 for the PC – the studio's return has no doubt raised questions in everyone's minds, on whether it will be able to hit expectations.
The good news is that from the environment, spaceships, character outfits, and weapon effects, to the artwork and animations put in by the development team at Bungie, everything looks great. It really helps sell the setting for Destiny 2 as a living and breathing world, and makes for a highly immersive experience. In fact, during the entire single-player Homecoming mission, we kept pausing to take in the world around us. One thing we didn't like though, is that Destiny 2 is an always-online game, even in single-player mode.
If the open beta – running from Tuesday, August 29 to Thursday, August 31 – is any indication, Bungie has clearly put in the work. "When someone plays Destiny 2 on a PC, we want them to say 'This game feels like it was made for the PC,'” Mark Noseworthy, Bungie’s project lead on Destiny 2, told The Verge in an interview.
The team appears to have met this goal, as we saw during the Destiny 2 PC Beta. We tested Destiny 2 on a PC running an Intel Core i7-4770, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, and 16GB RAM, and the game had no trouble running on 1920x1200 pixels resolution at 60fps throughout, on the recommended video settings. Here's a sampling of the settings:
Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HDAO
Texture Anisotropy: 4x
Texture Quality: Highest
Shadow Quality: Medium
Depth of Field: High
Environment Detail Distance: High
Character Detail Distance: High
Foliage Detail Distance: High
Foliage Shadows Distance: High
Light Shafts: Medium
Motion Blur: On
Wind Impulse: On
At these settings, which fall somewhere between the 'High' and 'Highest' presets, Destiny 2 was taking up 2.6GB of our total 6GB VRAM. We considered pushing it to eke out more graphic detail and quality – Highest took up 2.8GB – but we ended up comprising on performance, as the framerate dropped to 35-40. And this was when there was no gunfire, which meant the compromise wasn't simply worth it.
Bungie has collaborated with Nvidia on the PC version of Destiny 2, and hence the latter has put out a new Game Ready driver – version 385.41 – that you should download before you jump into the open beta. Nvidia's GeForce Experience utility said we could push the graphic settings for 'optimal' performance. The changes it suggested included:
Anti-Aliasing: FXAA --> SMAA
Depth of Field: High --> Highest
Light Shafts: Medium --> High
Screen Space Ambient Occlusion: HDAO --> 3D
Shadow Quality: Medium --> Highest
Texture Anisotropy: 4x --> 16x
With those settings and the latest driver installed, we didn't have to compromise at all on performance, and were able to maintain a steady 60fps even during periods of heavy action. While Destiny 2 is quite adept at creating a custom setting based on your system specifications, Nvidia's gaming expertise clearly gives it an edge at helping you get more out of your graphics card.
For those who have more powerful hardware, you can make use of the other features Nvidia has helped Bungie bake into Destiny 2. It's got support for 4K displays, though Nvidia says you will need a GTX 1080 Ti. If you've a powerful card but are happy with full-HD resolution, you can also opt for Dynamic Super Resolution, which allows the game to build higher-res assets (up to 200 per cent) and then downsample them for better fidelity.
Destiny 2 also supports uncapped framerates on PC, so you can make use of your fancy 144Hz G-Sync monitor. And it also has HDR (high-dynamic range) support, which allows for higher peak brightness, better contrast ratios, and a wide gamut of colours that make The Last City feel even more realistic.
Since this is the first time for the franchise on PC, Bungie has also had to adapt the control scheme from controller to keyboard and mouse. Destiny 2 gave us no trouble with the new mechanics, unlike its Halo ports, which shows that the developer has spent time to give players a seamless experience.
For the most part, the controls take after established protocol: WASD is obvious, Shift key for run toggle, Backspace for jump, E for interact, and so forth. Plus, it allows you to remap any way you like, so if there's any binding that's unfamiliar or doesn't come naturally, you can always tweak it.
The only downside is that Bungie hasn't bothered with cross-platform support. While the lack of multiplayer across platforms is down to companies such as Sony, you can't even transfer your existing game files from PS4 and Xbox One to PC. Bungie's Noseworthy said this is due to the way Destiny 2's account system is linked to console-specific player history, which is really unfortunate.
Despite that, Destiny 2 on PC is a solid effort from Bungie, and we can't wait to see more of it. The beta shows that the developer has put desktop players on the same floor as its console audience. That said, if you're planning on getting the game on the PC, you will have to wait a month and a half – Destiny 2 is out September 6 on consoles, and October 24 on PC – to get started. But if you can stand that waiting period (we think it's well worth the wait), you'll be treated to the definitive version of Bungie's latest game.
Destiny 2 is available for pre-order. It costs Rs. 3,799 on PC in India, and $59.99 in the US.