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Destiny 2 graphics performance guide

Chino
Level 15
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Destiny made 2014 a great year for developer Bungie. The game was so popular that it placed third on Forbes’s list of top-selling titles for that year. Bungie demonstrated to the world that it’s capable of producing a best-selling blockbuster outside of the Halo universe. But PC gamers were let down by the developer’s decision to exclude the PC crowd from the fun.

Bungie hopes to repeat Destiny’s success with its much-awaited sequel. The PC is included this time around, so Destiny 2 should easily make the top ten once again. Even during the beta phase, the amount of hype and excitement surrounding the game was simply unreal. Since then, Bungle has had four months to optimize performance and iron out the bugs. Today, we see how the various graphics options affect performance and run the game on Strix GTX 1050 Ti, 1060, 1070, 1080, and 1080 Ti graphics cards to determine which is best for which resolution.

For a limited time, you can get a free digital copy of Destiny 2 with select ASUS and ROG GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti graphics cards. The offer is valid worldwide except for China and South Korea, and it ends January 5, 2018. Game codes may run out before then, so check with participating retailers in your region if you plan to purchase an eligible card over the holidays.


Graphics options

Bungie used its in-house Blam! engine for ten years of Halo games. By 2008, Blam! was already showing its age, and many considered it past its prime. For Destiny, Bungie developed a new engine that would become known as Tiger. Destiny 2 is built on a variation of the Tiger engine.

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Destiny 2 comes with four default graphic presets (Low, Medium, High, and Highest) that target gamers who prefer to dive right into the action. A custom preset is also available for users who take pleasure in tweaking the image fidelity to their liking. The following graphical options are available:

  • Anti-Aliasing
  • Screen Space Ambient Occlusion
  • Texture Anisotropy
  • Texture Quality
  • Shadow Quality
  • Depth of Field
  • Environmental Detail Distance
  • Character Detail Distance
  • Foliage Detail Distance
  • Foliage Shadows Distance
  • Light Shafts
  • Motion Blur
  • Wind Impulse

Four additional graphical options are grouped in a separate section. They include:

  • Render Resolution
  • HDR
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Film Grain


Image quality

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Highest Preset

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High Preset

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Medium Preset

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Low Preset


The Highest preset provides a sweet taste of the updated Tiger engine used in this installment of the franchise. The textures have rich details and appear very sharp. Superb lighting really helps to create a realistic environment for the player. Objects look excellent, and shadow effects add extra visual punch. Lowering the graphics quality to High maintains good image quality with a few compromises. Notice the jagged edges around objects like the pistol, the railing, the destroyed crates, and the metal structure above the character. The textures also lose a tiny bit of detail that’s difficult to notice at first glance.

The Medium preset shows visible degradation is the level of detail in the textures and lighting. It’s evident when you compare the railing and the destroyed crates with the screenshot from the High preset. As expected, the anti-aliasing and shadow effects suffer as well. The Low preset drastically changes the image fidelity. There is no anti-aliasing, and as a result, the jagged edges get out of hand. The textures also suffer from lack of details, resulting in a flat-looking image. We wouldn’t recommend playing Destiny 2 on the Low preset.


Test system and methodology

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CPU: Intel Core i7-7700K
CPU Cooler: NZXT Kraken X42
Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IX Formula
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (4 x 8GB) 3000MHz
Storage: PNY CS1311 960GB
Video Card: ROG Strix GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060, GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and GTX 1080 Ti
Case: NZXT S340 Elite
Lighting: NZXT HUE+
Power Supply: Seasonic Prime 750W
Operating System: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit with Fall Creators Update
Drivers: NVIDIA 388.31 WHQL
Display: ROG Swift PG27AQ

We updated the game client to version 1.0.7.1, which was the latest revision available when we did our testing for this article. The only option we disabled was V-Sync. Destiny 2 doesn’t support Fraps, so we turned to PresentMon to measure performance. We captured individual frame times during the initial sequence of the first mission from the single-player campaign and then converted the data to FPS for easy interpretation.


Graphics settings analysis

First, let’s look at how individual graphics settings affect performance. These tests were conducted at 2560 x 1440 resolution using the Strix GTX 1070. The results are presented in average frames per second (FPS).

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As exhibited in our image quality analysis, Anti-Aliasing plays an important role in smoothing jagged edges around objects. The performance difference between using the highest setting (SMAA) and disabling the option completely is a mere 1.4 FPS. FXAA smooths edges according to how they appear as pixels instead of analyzing the underlying 3D models, so the results can sometimes appear blurry. SMAA reduces this blurring to provide a better image. Since the performance hit is minimal here, we recommend SMAA over FXAA.

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Screen Space Ambient Occlusion is responsible for shadows where objects or surfaces meet, and in situations where an object blocks light from reaching other elements of the scene. The 3D (3D Ambient Occlusion) method reduced performance by 12 FPS, while HDAO (High Definition Ambient Occlusion) had a lower cost of 5 FPS. We don’t recommend completely disabling this option, as that makes in-game environments look rather flat. If you need theextra FPS, HDAO is a good middle ground.

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You can adjust the sharpness of textures viewed at a distance or angle by modifying the Texture Anisotropy option. The performance difference is insignificant, though, so you can leave this option on X16.

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The Texture Quality option controls the overall resolution and fidelity of the textures. There was no performance hit on the Strix GTX 1070, likely because the card’s generous 8GB of GDDR5 video memory leaves lots of room for high-quality textures.

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Destiny 2 gives you the freedom to tweak the resolution and filtering for the in-game shadows. Since the Highest and High settings performed similarly for us, it makes sense to turn this option all the way up. Reducing the Shadow Quality to Medium and lower only improved frame rates by a few FPS.

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Distant objects are usually blurred during gameplay, cinematics, and when aiming down the sights of your weapon. You can control that blur with the Depth of Field option. The High setting is a good mid-point for performance and quality, but if every frame counts, the Low setting is the way to go.

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Chino
Level 15
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The game provides options for adjusting the level of detail for different elements. Environment Detail Distance regulates the detail level of the character’s surroundings, Character Detail Distance controls the details for characters and NPCs at medium and long distances, and Foliage Shadows Distance adjusts the shadows cast by vegetation. These options didn’t impact performance for us, so we recommend sticking with the highest possible setting.

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The Foliage Detail Distance allows you to tweak the detail level of the in-game vegetation, and we did measure small performance differences. Dropping from high to medium improved the frame rate by 3 FPS, and we gained another 2 FPS with the Low setting. If you can’t run on High, the Medium setting is a good compromise.

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Light Shafts are beams of light that shine through foliage and other gaps in the geometry, Motion Blur is responsible for the effect associated with fastmovement, and Wind Impulse determines whether the vegetation sways in the wind. None of these options affected performance on the GTX 1070 at the resolution we tested.

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Render Resolution affected graphics performance more than any other option we tested, and with good reason. This setting allows you to render the game at a higher resolution than your monitor supports. Unless you’re using an overpowered graphics card for your native resolution (like a GTX 1070 for 1920 x 1080 or a 1080 Ti for 2560 x 1440), we don’t recommend going beyond 100%.

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We don’t normally see a Chromatic Aberration option in games. Not all light rays that pass through a lens focus at the same position; depending on their wavelength, they might focus at different points, giving objects colored edges. The Chromatic Aberration option corrects this phenomenon, but there’s no performance cost on the GTX 1070.

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And Film Grain adds a bit of noise to the image for those who favor the look of old film. Given the lack of performance impact, this option is entirely up to your personal preference.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a HDR monitor at hand to test the HDR option. The ROG Swift PG27UQ isn’t available yet.


GPU performance analysis

Now, we’ll look at how the game performs with different GPUs. The following graphs show FPS over time. Since the data has been converted from individual frame times, cards with higher performance produce more frames—and longer plots.

Before benchmarking, we played with performance capped at different frame rates to gauge the effect on actual gameplay. Based on that experience, we think Destiny 2 players should shoot for frame rates over 40 FPS to ensure sufficient smoothness.

1920 x 1080

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The Strix GTX 1050 Ti exceeded our 40-FPS minimum requirement without breaking a sweat. Gameplay was fluid despite the graphical detail being turned all the way up, with frame rates mostly eclipsing 50 FPS. If you’re looking for a true 60-FPS experience, however, the Strix GTX 1060 is the better choice. It consistently ran at over 70 FPS during our test sequence, often by double-digit margins.

2560 x 1440

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The Strix GTX 1060 continued to show its performance prowess at 2560x1440. Frame rates dipped below 50 FPS on a few occasions but never below the 40-FPS mark. Gameplay was even smoother on the Strix GTX 1070, which stayed comfortably over 60 FPS almost throughout.

3840 x 2160

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Once we got to 4K, it was evident that we had to bring out the big guns. The Strix GTX 1080 performed admirably, staying mostly above 40 FPS with only occasional dips below. But the Strix GTX 1080 Ti stole the spotlight by giving us a noticeably smoother experience. With that card, performance only dropped below 50 FPS on two occasions during our test sequence.


Conclusion

The Destiny 2 looks incredible, and the level of eye candy surpasses expectations. It doesn’t have high requirements, either, which is a big plus in our books. The Pascal-based graphics cards we tested all performed well at appropriate resolutions, a testament to how well the game is optimized for recent GeForce hardware.

We recommend at least a Strix GTX 1050 Ti for playing at 1920 x 1080. It provides good frame rates and enjoyable gameplay, but if your budget permits, the Strix GTX 1060 offers the 60-FPS experience gamers covet. We consider it a worthy investment because Destiny 2 is filled with action-packed scenes that challenge the 1050 Ti.

Step up to 2560 x 1440, and the Strix GTX 1060 is our minimum recommendation. It pumps out surprisingly good frame rates at this resolution. However, the Strix GTX 1070 is clearly a better candidate, as it maintained performance over 60 FPS for nearly our entire test sequence.

At 4K, the Holy Grail of resolutions, we wouldn’t dare launch the game without having a Strix GTX 1080 at the very least. This model provides a good experience if you can live with occasional FPS dips, but we’re inclined to upgrade to the Strix GTX 1080 Ti for more buttery smoothness and frame rates mostly over 50 FPS.

Nate152
Moderator
Hey Chino, are you still playing Destiny 2 ?

I'm sure you know the second expansion Warmind was released a couple days ago and it's pretty good. For PC you get two new Heroic Strikes, Strange Terrain and Will Of the Thousands. As I was playing the story it said I unlocked a more difficult Strike, haven't tried this one yet. Strange Terrain isn't really anything we haven't seen before, the boss is a giant hive wizard.

Will Of The Thousands Heroic Strike, Frames Per Second in the upper right corner.

Nate152
Moderator
If you have the Forsaken expansion and the annual pass you get access to a new game mode called the Menagerie.

I'm digging this !

Nate152
Moderator
Hey Chino, been awhile and thought I'd post something from Beyond Light, this is the Empire Hunt: The Dark Priestess on the planet Europa.

They've added some cool things like champions that can't be stopped without certain mods, this particular one has Barrier and Overload champions.

A smidge over 4k with the Nvidia DSR factors setting, framerate capped at 60 FPS.

Thank you for your interesting review.
I`a m huge Destiny fan and was really hyped for Destiny2. Game hasn't actually altered since its early years