Destiny 2 is only days away from release on console, but a lot of the buzz this week has been around the game’s PC beta, which just recently began. PC players had to sit out the fun of the first Destiny game and its expansions, but the sequel is a different matter. Destiny 2 on PC will launch on October 24, several weeks after PS4 and Xbox One players are able to dive in on September 6. But is the wait worth it?
As one of GI’s longtime Destiny enthusiasts, I sat down with our PC editor, Dan Tack, to discuss what makes the PC version so compelling, based on several hours exploring this latest beta.
Matt: Dan, I’ve played some of the PC version of Destiny 2 at earlier events, conventions, and Bungie studio visits. But you have spent time with a far more polished version presented through the beta. We’ll talk about specifics in a moment, but what is your top-level takeaway?
Dan: I was skeptical that Destiny 2 would be be able to bring me back, after falling out of the original after The Taken King on console. However, the PC experience is vastly superior to my time with console Destiny. Uncapped framerate, buttery smooth gameplay, it’s almost like a different game entirely. Granted, I’d still like it to go “full MMO” and embrace those aspects so I can avoid having to play Destiny 3 someday and just play “Destiny”. The controls on mouse and keyboard are super tight, and the game looks and controls wonderfully. Remapping keys is a dream. Playing with my Battlenet friends is super easy, and I can see exactly what they’re doing as soon as I go to play Hearthstone or Overwatch. It’s incredibly convenient.
Matt: For a lot of players of the original game, a great deal of the fun was in following along with the community in the early weeks after launch, discovering secrets, uncovering new exotics, and figuring out the best strategies for the raids and strikes. I have to admit to some disappointment that PC players are going to miss out on at least some of that in the early weeks of Destiny 2’s life cycle. What’s your take on that?
Dan: I was going to ask you about that. I’m pretty miffed that consoles have a huge launch window on this, and to be frank I don’t understand why. Are they trying to get people to double dip and buy the game twice? I am definitely upset that I have to choose between playing with different communities and that I am forced to play console if I want a chance to play the game “at launch.” Why do you think they are doing this? It isn’t cool, at least for the PC community.
Matt: I agree with a lot of your feelings on this. I’m certainly not interested in defending the decision. But I do have some ideas of possible reasons why it is the way it is, or at least some guesses, anyway. The first, and most obvious, is that the PC version needed more time. While Bungie and Vicarious Visions are, by all accounts, working hand-in-hand on the PC adaptation, it seems very likely that the core Bungie team built for console first, and then began adapting that content to the PC. It may just take more time. Another reason might be that Bungie (and Activision) may be hesitant to fracture the existing community of console Destiny players that was built up over the last three years. If the PC version launched at the same time, it’s likely that at least some players would cross over to PC, while others stayed behind, and that’s not ideal in a game that is all about clans playing together, and a community that shares an experience with one another. Finally, if I may don my tin foil hat for a moment, we know that Sony has been a longtime and very public supporter of Destiny’s creation, though the specific terms of that cooperation aren’t public (beyond some in-game exclusives). Until now, PS4 has been the dominant platform for playing the game. In my mind, it’s possible that Sony pushed hard that Destiny 2 needed to be out first on consoles, to help ensure that more copies would be active on PS4 in the early months. Speaking from experience, once you’ve spent a few dozen (or a few hundred) hours building up a Guardian, it’s hard to consider stepping over to a new platform and starting anew. With that said, I know more than a few hardcore players who are considering running Guardians on both one of the consoles and on PC. Do you think you’ll even try the game at launch on console, now that you’ve seen the PC version?
Dan: I was considering it before trying this beta. Frankly, after playing, there’s no way I can go back. Despite being the PC editor here, I am not a PC elitist, but the difference in gameplay for me is so night and day that there’s no chance I touch the game on console again. It would be like moving to a tricycle with training wheels after cruising in a Ferrari.
Matt: Ha! It's pretty clear where you fall on that. From my perspective, the same things that you value so highly matter less to me. I’ve played on both PC and console, and I tend to just enjoy the experience more on console -- lounging on my couch, and the feel of the game on a gamepad with thumbsticks. When I play on PC, I recognize the added speed and precision that’s possible, but that’s not my main priority with the game. I also have an existing set of friends I regularly play with on PS4, which in a game like this, is no small matter. All that said, I think a lot of folks have been surprised just how remarkable the game is playing on PC, and I suspect there will be a lot of converts, just like you. We spoke briefly the other day about the way that this PC version of Destiny 2 feels like more than a standard port; I wonder if you can articulate that a little bit?
Dan: As any PC gamer knows, not all ports are created equal. To be fair, we still don’t know if the final PC version will be as immaculate as the beta appears, as it’s just a small slice. But assuming it lives up to the quality of the beta then this doesn’t feel like an afterthought port that will be plagued with bugs and issues on release. It does feel like it was made for PC from the ground up, and hopefully won’t be one of those ports you hear about that are still unplayable trash years after they get rolled out on Steam. I was also extremely concerned about the call to go P2P on PC, but as far as the beta has gone, there haven't been any lag issues for me.
Matt: That’s good to hear. I spoke with some of the team members at both Bungie and Vicarious Visions who are working on the PC version, and it’s clear that they’re devoted to optimizing for PC, from changes that they’re making to the way things like aim assist are handled, to the location of the reticle, which needs to be adjusted to feel “right” in different ways on console or PC. As people get more experience playing the final PC version, I hope that the hundreds of different weapons manage to also feel unique from one another; on console, that variety in the arsenal is one of the big things that adds long-term appeal. You mentioned a happy lack of lag in the Crucible play, but I’m also interested in what your personal experience was in PvP. Did you get a chance to run around and shoot some other players?
Dan: I have spent all my time in PvP, in both the Control map and the “set the charge” Countdown map that they have in beta. I really have no interest in doing strikes at the moment – they put me to sleep in the first game with their metric tons of trash monsters and giant bullet sponges – I do hope to be surprised by some more variety in that regard this time around when I get to play in October. It’s beta, so my options for customization are also limited. But that said, I am enjoying the PvP quite a bit, on a Hunter and Warlock.
Matt: That’s fascinating to me, as it has often been when I talk to different folks about their Destiny experience. People come at this game franchise from so many different perspectives. For some people, it is purely a co-op thing that they play with their spouse, best friend, or kid, and they like to run around and chat as they explore the world. Other people really look at it as a solo RPG, with a focus on experiencing the whole storyline, and then collecting all the loot. And still other friends, like you, are really focused on the Crucible play, and the other things (at least in the beginning) are almost just distractions from that. It will be really interesting for me to see how the broader PC player base settles there. Perhaps many of them will congregate to the PvP, as you did.
Before we finish out, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to chat together about something you brought up briefly before – Destiny 2’s place on Battle.net – and the broader implications of that move. When Bungie, Blizzard, and Activision first announced that, it got a lot of attention, but I think it’s hard to overstate just how big of a deal that is.
Dan: If you’re like me, you’ve acquired a pretty healthy amount of friends on Blizzard Battle.net over the years, and it’s real easy to see what they’re playing and what they’re doing. I have no doubt that people will see their friends playing and check it out, and some will inevitably become diehard Destiny converts. I’m also curious to see if Blizzard will start dishing out some of their cross-promotion techniques to get even more people playing, like offering skins or other cosmetic perks in other games for playing Destiny, as they do this across their own titles.
Matt: Yeah, the potential for cross-promotion (for better or worse) is pretty huge. And we haven’t even talked about the ways that Battle.net offers entryways into other international markets, such as South Korea, where Blizzard games are huge. I think the PC version has been hobbled a bit by its late launch, but even with that handicap, the game is going to be pretty massive on this new platform. I’m glad you had a chance to dig in. I’m eager to chat more about this series with you, even if we end up playing our main accounts on differing platforms.