Building the Best PC for Destiny 2


Last updated: September 2017

Destiny 2 is an online shooter role-playing game from Bungie. Earth has fallen to an overwhelming invasion force, the brutal Red Legion. Players venture to mysterious, unexplored worlds of our solar system to discover an arsenal of weapons and combat abilities. To defeat the Red Legion, you must reunite humanity’s scattered heroes, stand together, and fight back to reclaim our home.

This guide takes a close look at Destiny 2's graphical settings and the impact they have on the game. We'll also give you a good idea of the kind of PC hardware you'll need to run Destiny 2 to your satisfaction. If you just want to know what to buy without all the in-depth analysis, you can skip to the Recommendations Section.

If you already have a PC but want to know what settings to use for best performance, check out the Graphical Settings section.

Please note that Destiny 2 will be releasing on October 27, 2017, and this information reflects the beta version of the game. While we expect performance to generally remain unchanged from the beta, there may be some slight differences once the game finally releases.

Destiny 2 Hardware Requirements and Performance

Considering how visually impressive the game is, Destiny 2 runs extremely well on a decent modern gaming PC.

Before we explore how each PC component influences your performance with Destiny 2, let’s take a look at the game’s minimum and recommended specifications, which Bungie released ahead of the beta:

Note: Destiny 2 is a 64-bit-only game.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • Processor: Intel Core i3-3250 or AMD FX-4350
  • Memory: 6 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 660 2GB
  • Graphics Card (AMD): AMD HD 7850 2GB

Recommended System Requirements:

  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): NVIDIA GTX 970
  • Graphics Card (AMD): AMD Radeon R9 390

As you can see from the minimum requirements, you don't need a supercomputer to run Destiny 2. Even a computer built in 2012 or 2013 could run the game decently. Clearly, Bungie have invested a lot in optimizing the game's performance. However, if you want to run the game nice visuals, you do need a little bit of power.

Compared to many games, Destiny 2 exhibits excellent multi-core/thread CPU utilization, as well as excellent customization for GPU-intensive features. Although the CPU load is well spread between the cores, Destiny 2 still depends more on the GPU. As such, you could probably get away with a slightly lower than recommended CPU, so long as your GPU was up to specification.

To match the minimum specifications, you could build an “Entry” tier (~$370) on the Logical Increments parts list. That would let you run the game smoothly at 1080p with the settings turned down to Low.

To match the recommended specifications, you could build a "Very Good" tier (~$650) on our parts list, using the GTX 1060 3GB. That would let you play the game smoothly at 1080p with the settings turned up to High.

A note about graphical presets and MSAA:

Like a number of other games, MSAA seems to seriously tank the frame rate in Destiny 2. I have a feeling this is why Bungie only use it for the 'Highest' preset. When you have the game running on the 'High' preset (one down from 'Highest'), it looks almost exactly the same, yet you are gaining massive framerate improvements because MSAA is disabled. With most of the tests performed, simply switching to the High setting preset (which uses SMAA instead) can significantly improve framerate. So, there are either still some optimization bugs in the game or the engine simply doesn't perform well using MSAA.

Recommended GPUs for Destiny 2

Considering that Destiny 2 is so visually impressive, Bungie have done a good job at allowing older systems to still run the game on lower settings, while still allowing more powerful rigs to really improve the game's visuals.

For High settings at 1080p with 60 FPS, we recommend a GTX 1060 3GB or RX 580.

For High settings at 1440p with 60 FPS, we recommend a GTX 1070 or RX Vega 56.

For High settings at 4K with 60 FPS, we recommend a GTX 1080 Ti.

It is worth noting that NVIDIA has been actively working with Bungie during development of Destiny 2. Although we don't know specifically what this assistance entails, various tests show that NVIDIA GPUs perform better with Destiny 2.

The above note about the Highest setting preset and MSAA does ring true across all screen resolutions. If you run everything on the Highest preset, even the GTX 1080 Ti fails to run the game at a stable 60 FPS at 4K, hitting a minimum of 45 FPS and 53 FPS average. However, once the preset is changed to High, it goes all the way up to a 65 FPS minimum and 88 FPS average, which is the sweet spot we're aiming for in this guide!

Recommended CPUs for Destiny 2

For the best in-game experience, having 4 or more CPU cores is now essentially a requirement. Those of you who have recently purchased new Ryzen processors will be particularly pleased with your performance.

For gaming on High settings with 60+ FPS, the AMD Ryzen 5 1500X would be a good choice. That said, you will get similar performance with a recent quad-core Intel CPU, such as the Intel i5-7500.

For the best performance, as long as you have a powerful GPU to go along with it, get an i7-7700K.

RAM Recommendations for Destiny 2

The official recommendations are good for RAM. 6GB is the minimum you should be looking at, and would allow you to run the game fine, but 8GB is much better. More than 8GB is unnecessary for playing Destiny 2, but certainly won't hurt anything. Additional RAM may be useful if you use your PC for other purposes.

The performance impact of RAM speed depends on what CPU and motherboard you have, but the difference between the fastest and slowest RAM available to you will be small (usually less than 10%). If you have an AMD Ryzen CPU, you should know that it does like faster RAM, so if possible look to spend the extra money to get some 3000MHz RAM. Although it can use 3200MHz OC RAM, the jump in price from 3000MHz usually results in only very small performance gains.

Destiny 2 Graphical Settings and Performance

This section takes a close look at the graphical options in the game, and their effects on the game’s performance.

The ‘performance impact’ in each subsection below is the measured difference in average FPS between playing the game with the settings at their highest and turning only the specific setting down to the lowest, while leaving all others at maximum.

Graphics Quality Presets

The quality presets are ideal for those who don't want to touch individual settings, allowing you to change multiple settings at once.

From testing, going from the 'Highest' preset to 'Low' results in a 95-100% increase in average frame rates -- in other words, you can double your framerate by turning all the settings to Low. In my opinion, this results in only a moderate loss of in-game visual quality. The size of the performance increase shows the level of optimization done by Bungie for the PC version, and it allows you a lot of control over the in-game experience.

Because the game fundamentally still needs a decent PC to run, in order to squeeze the best performance possible out of your own rig, we have found that tweaking the individual settings can result in a much nicer graphical experience overall, while potentially resulting in a lesser decrease in frame rate.

Performance Impact: Up to 100% between Low and Highest

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Drag the bar to compare Graphics Quality Presets on Low and Highest.

Visually, the obvious changes are the weapon textures and nearby environmental textures. The overall lighting and shadow effects are greatly reduced on Low vs. Highest, too. Effects detail, however -- such as the flames shown in the shot -- still come across quite nicely. You will also see a drop in overall sharpness thanks to losing effects such as anti-aliasing.

Anti-Aliasing

Anti-aliasing has the greatest impact to frame rate in Destiny 2. Lowering the anti-aliasing can give the appearance of lines being more jagged, but the visual impact is lessened if you are playing at higher resolutions, i.e. 1440p or 4K.

You might be surprised to see how close the comparison screenshots look in 1080p considering the performance difference. Pay attention to the smoothness of the curved ends and the overall shape of the railings (especially the bent one on the left side), as well as the bent door at the back.

Performance Impact: Up to 80% between Low and Highest

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Drag the bar to compare AA Off and MSAA.

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion

When enabled, this setting adds small, soft shadows to crevices and nearby objects, giving them a more natural look and improving image quality. Yet that performance comes at a cost. Note the difference in shading on the stones in the foreground.

Performance Impact: Up to 8% between Off and 3D (On), depending on surrounding environment

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Drag the bar to compare Scrren Space Ambient Occlusion set to Off and 3D (On)

Texture Anisotropy

This is one of the most difficult settings to see visually in the game as it only becomes obvious at a decent resolution on very small details. Generally speaking, you'll see it on text and other small 3D detailing.

Performance Impact: Up to 6% between Off and 16x

Texture Quality

You can see the effect of this setting in the environment on a few finer details in the comparison image. See the texts and the grates on the wall with the red markings on the right. The most obvious comes from the weapon texture and the detail on the left hand.

Performance Impact: Up to 10% between Low and Highest, depending on environment

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Drag the bar to compare Texture Quality on Low and Highest.

Shadow Quality

This impacts shadows of both the player and NPCs in the game, as well as other major shadows. The Shadow Quality setting is surprisingly light on the performance impact.

Performance Impact: Up to 7% between Low and Highest

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Drag the bar to compare Shadow Quality on Low and Highest.

Depth of Field

In Destiny 2, this only slightly impacts larger open spaces, with little to no visible difference otherwise.

Performance Impact: Up to 4% between Off and Highest

Detail Distance

I'm including the character, foliage, and environment detail distance settings all together here. By themselves, they have nearly no impact on the quality until you come to larger open spaces. Even then, it's hard to pick out differences. You can see some slight detail changes in the environment on distance objects, yet it's very subtle. Depending on your preference, you could probably set this to Low to improve your frame rate.

Performance Impact: Up to 6% between Low and High

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Drag the bar to compare Detail Distance on Low and High.

Light Shafts

This is a standalone lighting tweak which slightly changes how light shafts interact with the world. Light shafts have a little bit more precise sources for reflections (see the top entrance in the comparison) and in how they light other objects. It's a nice, subtle lighting effect for very little performance cost, so leave on High if you can afford it!

Performance Impact: Up to 4% between Medium and High

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Drag the bar to compare Light Shafts on Medium and High.

Choosing the Best Settings for Destiny 2

If your computer can achieve a steady 60 FPS with all the settings turned up at your desired resolution, then we recommend keeping things as they are.

However, if you’re not reaching 60 FPS, or if you have a specialized monitor with a higher refresh rate and want to get even better performance, there are certain settings you can lower in Destiny 2 to improve your framerate without sacrificing too much in the way of visuals.

Unfortunately, lowering multiple settings will not have a cumulative effect on framerate. If dropping one setting gives 10% improvement, and dropping another gives 10%, lowering both will not give 20%, but possibly between 12-18%.

Improve FPS considerably with little to no impact on visuals

  • Lower Ambient Occlusion and/or Shadow settings slightly.
  • Set Detail Distance options all to Low.

Improve FPS by larger amounts with moderate impact to visuals

  • Set Shadow Quality to Lowest setting.
  • Set Texture Anisotropy to Off.

Last Resorts

If doing all of the steps above still does not achieve your desired framerate, try some of the following:

  • Lower Anti-Aliasing to Off.
  • Set Ambient Occlusion to Off.
  • Set Texture Quality to Lowest.

If you try all of the above and still can’t run the game as smoothly as you would like, you may need to upgrade your hardware.

Logical Increments Tiers and How They Fare

At Logical Increments, we maintain a free, regularly updated list of parts for optimal gaming PC builds. These PC builds cover a wide range of budgets that are sorted into tiers, starting with the Destitute going all the way up to Monstrous. Each of these tiers features the parts that we have spent hundreds of hours researching, and have decided will provide the best combination of performance, reliability, stability, quietness, and aesthetics for the price. The builds are tailored for playing a variety of games, and also work exceptionally well for any other demanding PC task.

This table shows how builds with our recommended hardware will roughly perform Destiny 2 on the High preset (not Highest):

Tier 1600x900 1920x1080 2560x1440 3840x2160
Destitute ($165) Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Poor ($230) Borderline Unplayable Unplayable Unplayable
Minimum ($320) Playable Borderline Unplayable Unplayable
Entry ($370) Playable Playable Borderline Unplayable
Modest ($390) Smooth Playable Playable Unplayable
Fair ($430) Smooth Smooth Playable Unplayable
Good ($520) Very Smooth Smooth Smooth Borderline
Very Good ($620) Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Playable
Great ($800) Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth Playable
Superb ($850) Silky Smooth Very Smooth Very Smooth Smooth
Excellent ($1120) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth Smooth
Outstanding ($1250) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Smooth
Exceptional ($1600) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Enthusiast ($2000) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Very Smooth
Extremist ($3300) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Monstrous ($4500+) Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth Silky Smooth
Explanation
Below 20 FPS Unplayable Jerky animation, "lag" and "stutter".
20-30 FPS Borderline Ok for some, too "laggy" for others. AKA "Cinematic".
30-45 FPS Playable Acceptable to most people. Not very good though!
45-60 FPS Smooth Fluid animation, no "lag".
60-90 FPS Very Smooth Very smooth is very smooth to almost everyone.
Above 90 FPS Silky Smooth Criminally smooth. For hardcore and professional players.

To see what different FPS looks like and understand how high of FPS you need, read: All About Frame Rate.

To see how resolution affects visuals and performance, read: All About Screen Resolution.

To determine how your PC will perform in Destiny 2, you’ll need to consider three things:

  1. The resolution you want to play at (usually your screen’s native resolution)
  2. How much graphical detail you want
  3. How smoothly you want the gameplay to run

For this guide we aimed for a very smooth 60+ FPS with the graphical settings turned to High. If you’re willing to lower any graphical settings, or you’re happy with frame rates lower than 60 FPS, you can get by with an even lower-tier PC.

Below, we list the the tiers on our parts list that would achieve that 60 FPS baseline with Destiny 2 at a range of progressively more demanding screen resolutions.

1600x900

The Good tier, featuring the GTX 1050 Ti and the i3-7100, will get you very smooth performance in Destiny 2 at 1600x900.

Downgrade the CPU to a G4560 to save some money, at a slight performance cost.

1920x1080 (1080p)

The Very Good tier, featuring the GTX 1060 3GB and the R3 1300X, will get you very smooth performance at 1080p.

2560x1440 (1440p)

The Excellent tier, featuring the GTX 1070 and the R5 1600, will get you very smooth performance at 1440p.

3840x2160 (4K)

The Exceptional tier, featuring the GTX 1080 Ti and the i7-7700K, will get you very smooth performance at 4K.

Conclusion

To play Destiny 2 to its full potential, you need a fairly powerful PC. Like other modern AAA games, Bungie have made Destiny 2 look visually impressive. However, considering its polished visuals, the game is very well optimized for PC hardware. Players with at least a quad-core CPU and a decent graphics card will find themselves having the best time here, yet even less powerful PCs can manage to play the game with lower graphical settings, still resulting in a game that is visually appealing.

We hope this guide has helped you understand the necessary PC hardware for running Destiny 2 to your satisfaction. If you want to do further research on PC hardware, please visit our main PC parts list on our homepage.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below, or email us at contact@logicalincrements.com.

A Final Note from the Author

The PC version of Destiny 2 has had a lot of its optimisation undertaken by Vicarious Visions. Part of the 2-month gap between the console and PC release dates is to get the port of the game right. If the current benchmarks are any indication, they've done a seriously good job so far, so I doubt any PC player will complain when they can run Destiny 2 in 4K at an uncapped frame rate! That being said, Bungie is the 'official' developer of the game and as such they are who I refer to in the guide.

My own PC runs with an i7-4790K (@4Ghz) and a GTX 1070. On the Highest setting with MSAA on, I was hitting around 55-58fps at 1080p, which jumped up to around 90fps when I turned that down to SMAA. Outside of my own rig, various benchmarks and information for the article can be found in the Sources section below.

About Us

Chris is a contributing writer for Logical Increments and has worked in the gaming and technology industries as a community manager and customer service representative. He has been building PC's for a little over 10 years.

When Chris is not here creating builds and guides, he can be found running his viewer interactive streams weekdays on mixer.com/ScouseLite

Thanks to low latency (FTL) streaming, Chris can respond to viewers plus they can interact with him and the stream in nearly real time. Simply come down to his channel Monday - Friday, 3-6pm and 8-11pm (UK time) to see for yourself!

Logical Increments helps more than 2 million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.

If you want to see our build recommendations for general purpose gaming PCs, check them out!

Sources

  1. VG 24/7 on Vicarious Visions' Destiny 2 port
  2. Bungie's 4K PC Reveal Rig Specifications
  3. PC Gamer Destiny 2 PC 4K Guide
  4. GamersNexus Destiny 2 Benchmarks
  5. HardwareUnboxed Destiny 2 Benchmarks