Destiny 2 on PC: A guide to optimization

For many players the day has finally arrived, Destiny 2 is officially out on PC and Bungie has triumphantly returned to an audience that has sorely missed them since the days of Halo 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved.

Of course, with the return to PC comes a wealth of customizable graphics and gameplay options, which also brings its fair share of complexity, so if you’re not sure how you should feel about ambient occlusion versus anisotropic filtering we’ve got your back. We’ve broken down the ideal settings to enable the best visual experience, the best settings to tweak to optimize performance, and the best compromise between the two, as well as some handy settings to keep your eyes on if you want to keep your mouse aim smooth and consistent.

For the Best Visual Experience

The general rule of thumb most PC gamers go by for the best visual experience is to max out every setting and hope for the best, but when you’re dealing with more than just medium vs. high settings there are a few questions about what offers a better experience.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a system that works, so anything that can be cranked up to high or highest should definitely be enabled. Throw the switch, crank everything as high as it goes, and make your GPU work for its hungry-hungry-hippo portion of your power bill. We’re assuming that if you’re aiming to max out visuals at 1080p that you’re rocking at least a GTX 1060 or an RX 580, if not something beefier like an AMD Vega 64 or something equivalent to or better than a GTX 1080.

It’s worth mentioning that Nvidia recommends users bring a GTX 1060 to the party if they want to max out Destiny 2’s settings at 1080p, and the boys in green claim you can expect to see a solid 70-100FPS in game with their budget front runner, but keep in mind that they recommend upgrading to the GTX 1070 for 1440p and to the GTX 1080Ti for 4k, to compensate for the increased horsepower it takes to render at these resolutions. 

Aside from just cranking your engine and setting everything to high keep these settings in mind for the best visual performance.

Anti-Aliasing: Set to SMAA.

SSAO: Set to 3DAO.

Texture Anisotropy: Set to 16x.

Wind Impulse: Set to on.

Depth of Field: Personal Preference, Depth of Field controls the way that certain details blur gradually along your peripheral vision in certain situations, like while aiming down sights or sprinting, during cinematics, and occasionally while performing actions in 3rd person. Some people like this blur and consider it a cinematic and visual improvement, others like to see their details sharp and crisp all the time. So, it’s up to you how much you want to enable, if at all.

Motion Blur: Follows the same principle as Depth of Field, if you consider motion blur to be a visual improvement that builds your sense of immersion, enable it, if you hate seeing your gorgeous textures blur when you perform certain actions, turn it off.

Field of View: FoV determines the width of your field of view, and in general this should be maxed at 105 degrees, but if you sit particularly far away from your screen you might notice a sense of motion sickness at higher FoV’s so consider lowering it to 90 degrees, or more if the issue persists. A high FoV can also create a sort of fish-eye effect, and if that bothers you, lower the setting until the feeling subsides.

Render Resolution: This setting is a bit tricky and should be tweaked with caution by users with even extremely high-end rigs. The render resolution setting allows you to enable a form of high-end resolution scaling to improve visual fidelity. Increasing the setting beyond 100% essentially tells Destiny 2 to render the game at a proportionally higher resolution, and then downscale it to the native resolution of your monitor.

As a result, you get crisper visuals, but performance wise, it’s also the equivalent to running the game at a higher resolution. For example, 150% Render Resolution on a native 1080p display is performance wise, the equivalent of running at 1440p, likewise, 200% on a 1080p display is the equivalent, performance wise, to rendering the game at 4K. The result is a massive hit to performance, but also allows you to hit a middle ground between a 1080p monitor and a 4K resolution that might normally be beyond the monitor you have on hand.

That said, if you have a 4K monitor, enabling a 200% Render Resolution will render the game at effectively 8K and then downscale it to 4K, which could cause your framerate to tank and your GPU to scream in agony. Our advice for the best graphical performance with this setting is to monitor your frame rate, and then slowly raise your Render Resolution above 100% until your frame rate dips below 60FPS. You can go even higher, and potentially drop as low as 30FPS, but at that point the visual gains might be outweighed by the lack of a smooth, consistent experience.

For the Best Balance between Style and Framerate

As many players saw during the PC beta, Destiny 2 is surprisingly well optimized, meaning that there are very few tweaks that result in a massive boost to your FPS if you’re running anywhere near a modern rig. That said, if you’re interested in maximizing your FPS without making huge compromises to the great graphical gods above, there are a few settings to watch out for.

In general, consider keeping most of your settings concerning texture quality on high or ultra, because Destiny 2 really doesn’t show a massive FPS gain for reducing the quality of most of these settings, and the graphical payoff is more than worth it. If you’re running a slightly older rig this statement might not hold true, but in general if your GPU has 3-4 gigs of GDDR5 or more you should be good to go.

SSAO: Set to HDAO.

Shadow Quality: Drop from the maximum setting to high to net some extra FPS.

Depth of Field: Consider turning this off or lowering the quality according to personal preference.

Field of View: Set from 90-95 for the optimal performance at a small cost in the size of your overall rendered perspective.

Foliage Detail Distance: One of the few distance render settings in Destiny 2 that has a significant impact on performance. Set to Medium for a small loss in visual fidelity but a slight boost to FPS.

Render Resolution: Generally, keep this at 100%, but if you need a quick and dirty way to boost your FPS consider lowering it slightly, you’ll lose some graphical fidelity, but also likely see a boost in FPS. Likewise, if you have frames to spare, increase this value by a notch to get a bit of extra graphical bang for your buck.

For the Best Performance

Anyone that plays shooters in any way competitively knows that sometimes the best thing to improve your game is to maximize your FPS at the cost of pretty much every graphical bell and whistle. It’s why you’ll occasionally see professionals running their games at lower resolutions, on the lowest possible settings, and with frame rates that practically make their monitors smoke.

That said, there is evidence from Nvidia that demonstrates that reducing all of your settings to low in Destiny 2 has very little impact on your FPS, but competitively every little bit can count, especially if you’re running on lower quality rigs, or because you’re trying to avoid deadly frame drops or stutters when the action really kicks up.

So, if you’re looking to maximize your FPS you have two options and it really depends on how dedicated you are to maxing out a steady, high FPS. For most, the settings in the section above this are probably the best route, because the graphical tradeoffs for running the game on high are worth the tiny loss in FPS. For everyone else, crank everything to low, and turn off any setting that seems like it does pretty much anything especially Depth of Field and Motion Blur.

If that hasn’t netted you enough FPS to feel good and comfortable take a look at Render Resolution, but instead of turning it up, reduce it by degrees until you’re happy with your FPS and at the absolute minimum graphical quality you can stand. Keep in mind that this is a resolution scaling trick, which means your HUD and many of the visual elements that make it easy to read and understand what’s going on in your inventory will likely still be readable no matter how low you reduce this setting, but at some point you’ll be playing on the equivalent to 480p.

If playing on that resolution feels like it’s a worthwhile compromise for an extra 5-10FPS when you’re already above 60 or 100, seek professional help, because you’re currently suffering from some bizarre form of FPS addiction and you’ll need to be tested extensively to help others recover from this debilitating condition.

To Optimize Aim and Competitive Play

Most PC players that play competitive shooters know that mouse aim is a finite and complicated skill to master, involving countless hours of practice to build up muscle memory that allows you to pull off instinctive snap shots and full auto spray downs in that narrow window of time between conscious thought and the sound of steps a few feet behind you. Which is why it’s important to know a few settings that anyone serious about their aim should disable immediately and a few extra tips that can help you get started on the right foot.

For starters, scour the settings list like a hungry hawk looking for anything that says Mouse Smoothing, Mouse Acceleration, or Aim Assist, and turn it off immediately. Although these settings can be helpful for playing using a controller, they absolutely rip apart your ability to build consistent muscle memory, and they can get in the way of allowing you to make precise movement on the fly.

Your goal with your mouse is to make movement as consistent as possible, which means that your mouse will always move the same distance in game for the equivalent distance it moves in real life. One inch, should always equal a certain number of degrees of motion in game, no matter how fast you move your mouse. Mouse smoothing, mouse acceleration, and a few of the settings we’ll talk about in a second cause your mouse to move shorter, or farther, based on how fast you move it.

That might sound convenient if you want to turn quickly by swiping your mouse faster across your desk or slower to line up careful shots at long range, but in fact it makes aiming much more difficult and much slower because you have to actively think about where you’re aiming your mouse, rather than relying on muscle memory and twitch reflexes, which are often faster, and more accurate than our ability to consciously make a decision to react. It might seem like a small difference, but surviving a one on one fight in a competitive game is all about split second reaction times, and taking half a second to react rather than letting your reflexes take over is often the difference between life, and a respawn screen.

As far as settings go, you’re going to want to make sure that anything to do with post processing is turned off, and as we mentioned in the previous section of this article you’ll want to make sure that you do your best to maximize a consistently high FPS. As a result, we recommend following the second section of this guide, to find the middle ground between quality and FPS, or going the more extreme route and turning every setting down to low.

That said if you’re interested in preserving your graphical quality as much as possible, just be sure to turn off Anti-Aliasing, Motion Blur, Depth of Field, and keep your eyes peeled for anything to do with post-processing (although Destiny 2 doesn’t have this setting, many others do, and it’s something to keep an eye out for).

There are a lot of other tips and tricks to improve your aim to consider, and if you’re really interested be sure to check out our full guide on the subject.