First, there was Destiny 2. Bungie’s bright and optimistic sequel was marred by endgame and PvP woes requiring nearly a year to see major improvements. Then, there was Anthem. Bioware’s foray into the “online, shared-world, looter-shooter” genre had a horrendous opening and was a critical flop as you can see in our review. Finally, there’s Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Massive Entertainment saw the flaws in its predecessor, releasing a sequel that tried to do everything right from the get-go.
All three AAA looter-shooter games are here, and I’ve devoted countless hours to my enjoyment (and detriment), but which one can you consider the best? Which one is truly worth it? Let’s examine and compare the various features, shall we?
Note: Just to be clear, I didn’t include Warframe since I haven’t played it. Plus, by virtue of being completely free-to-play, it already has a major advantage. Sorry (and you’re welcome, I guess) Warframe fans.
Character Design: Destiny 2
This one is easy. The Division 2 can’t really come close since everyone’s a human with different clothing. Anthem could’ve competed, if only the enemy types didn’t look so similar or were anything but generic fantasy tropes. Spiders? Really? I don’t suppose someone has Sting equipped, eh, Shelob?
Destiny 2 trumps the competition resoundingly. Check out how vastly different each exotic armor piece or set looks for each class. How about the NPCs that all have their own quirks? Zavala? Ikora? Osiris even though he sounds like Shaxx (or, no, Shaxx sounds like him), and many others? The enemies also look fantastic. You know when you’ve woken the Hive compared to taking on the Cabal (again!), or even the Fallen.
Environmental Design: The Division 2
This was a hard one to determine. Massive crafted an unreal world grounded in reality in The Division 2. Although both Destiny 2 and Anthem have beautiful, gorgeous environments — with many leaving your mouth opened wide at the wondrous scenery — far too often you’ll notice how each zone pulls from common sci-fi or fantasy tropes, leaving them a little generic.
Conversely, The Division 2 might be grounded in the real-world setting of Washington D.C., but the rendition is breathtakingly faithful and adds plenty of twists with its “six months after the apocalypse” setting. You don’t need a fantasy/sci-fi world to let your imagination run wild: The Division 2 manages to do it in spite of existing within the confines of reality. It helps that there’s all-out warfare in the streets, transitioning is seamless, and there’s always something to do. It’s an interconnected web of action and exploration.
Story: Destiny 2
This is almost a no-brainer. In The Division 2, a virus has wiped out millions and now you’d have to fight to reclaim civilization from the brink of anarchy. In Anthem, there’s uh, a world-changing machine, of sorts, and bad people trying to use that machine, and monsters come out… I think. Yeah, Anthem is not winning this category. Sorry, storytellers from BioWare.
That victory goes to Destiny 2. The writers and storyboarders in Bungie need to pat themselves on the back for creating the lore, both readily seen, and the deeper, hidden story behind it all. There’s still a world-changing machine (the Traveler), and bad people trying to claim it (enemy types), and monsters (those same enemies), but the narrative flow — barring Curse of Osiris’ entry — manages to hit all the right notes. You’ve got a dark tale of revenge (Cayde-6/Uldren/the Scorn), a fully fleshed-out villain (Ghaul), a mysterious benefactor (Mara Sov), a rebel with a dark past (The Drifter), and further details in every lore fragment you obtain.
There’s a reason why some players of The Division 2 might tell you that people aren’t playing the game for the story. Meanwhile, a Destiny player might tell you to check out the lore subreddit, lore threads, and lore videos on YouTube. Heck, you’d even find them all in this convenient hub from r/Destinythegame.
Performance: The Division 2
I have Destiny 2 for PC but I barely play it given that my characters are all low light. Most of my progress and experience comes from playing it on the PS4 where all my buddies and items are. That means I cannot judge it based on its PC performance. This category will be a one-on-one between Anthem and The Division 2. The latter, clearly, knocks it out of the park.
When I did Anthem’s technical review, I noticed how my CPU or GPU usage would spike up at times. It was running at a decent pace, but it was also extremely demanding. In contrast, The Division 2 ran smoothly. Framerates were consistent and they were more acceptable even at maximum settings. The crashes I experienced weren’t due to performance on my end, but rather bugged skills being used by other players. Staying solo or just telling people to avoid those skills made for quick and easy runs.
Combat Mechanics: Anthem
Anthem’s first category win, and no, this is not a consolation prize at all. I truly believe that, for all its flaws, Anthem did something spectacular when it comes to combat mechanics. Sure, you can float and glide around in Destiny 2, and maybe you can go from cover to cover in The Division 2, but you are touching the heavens in Anthem.
Flight, javelin maneuverability, transitioning to hovering while firing, raining down death on opponents, unleashing combos — all of these work masterfully. Masterwork, get it? Okay, I’ll stop. The transition from flying like a jet to turning into War Machine is seamless. You can never get tired of zipping and zooming around in Anthem at all. As for getting tired of other things, well, that’s a different matter.
PvP: Destiny 2
As Lord Shaxx might ask: “Did you throw enough grenades?” The Division 2 didn’t, no matter how tense my Dark Zone and Conflict experiences might be. Anthem sure as heck didn’t throw enough grenades in PvP — it doesn’t even have PvP at this moment. Destiny 2 edges out the competition in this one.
Destiny 2’s Crucible does have flaws, like solo players getting matched against full stacks. And yet, even with these issues, there’s no denying that it manages to capture the essence of being a shooting game with that fantasy/sci-fi feel. It’s the “power fantasy” if you will. Quickplay, Competitive, Iron Banner, the now-defunct Trials, and even Gambit, with different match types, give you numerous ways of taking out the opposition compared to The Division 2’s Dark Zone and more traditional multiplayer.
Multiplayer Features: The Division 2
But if Destiny 2 succeeds in PvP, The Division 2 succeeds with the sheer number of multiplayer options and accessibility. Anthem is almost a non-factor in this category with the lack of text chat (which the two other games have).
Destiny 2 may have Strikes, Nightfalls, adventure, Crucible, raids, and all that. The Division 2has something similar (minus the still-to-come raids), but one-ups its counterpart by having non-invasive queueing/matchmaking that happens in the background. That’s right. You don’t need to stay in orbit or check an app just to find people. You don’t need to wait in line, twiddling thumbs, until you find teammates. The Division 2 lets you do these things while continuing with your adventure. Nothing can top that.
Loot System/Itemization: The Division 2
All three games have some semblance of a “smart-loot system” involved. You slowly climb one step at a time whenever you gain items based on your character level, power level, or gear score. All three games also tend to give you a plethora of loot for your enjoyment whether as regular drops, engrams, vendor items, or crafting. But what exactly makes The Division 2 better than other looter-shooters when it comes to the loot department?
It’s the insane number of perks and random rolls that your items can have, and what you can do with them. Destiny 2 can’t compare to that. Its main draw would be the exotic items it has which, far and away, feel different compared to anything else in your inventory. And no, The Division 2’s exotics don’t even compare. Anthem has a number of rolls dictated by RNG, sure, but that’s plainly RNG.
As for The Division, you’ll pray to the RNG gods and your own wit. The game provides you with control, a means of dictating how you’d want to start and complete your build, making it so that you can focus on boosts to a certain skill, or perhaps extra damage with certain weapons, or even just the attachments you’d want to have.
Best of all, you can recalibrate weapons, taking a perk you like from one and moving it to another. Even older weapons won’t feel useless especially if you need a certain talent. The reason you’re keeping that Ikelos shotgun in Destiny 2 is because it’s the only one with those rolls. In The Division 2, you’re keeping items and reusing them because you know you can create something later with those same rolls you want. That freedom for the player is unparalleled in a looter-shooter.
Endgame: Destiny 2
The endgame is another major factor in any looter-shooter. All three games have their respective grinds once you finish the campaign. In Destiny 2, you’re re-running milestones to increase your power level. In Anthem, you’re re-running strongholds or free-play to increase your javelin’s tier and min-max your stats. Lastly, in The Division 2, you’re re-running all over the world map from one tier to the next as you increase your gear score.
Destiny 2, however, wallops the competition by having an actual endgame or pinnacle activity for you to feel that sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s almost an unfair distinction given that the raids for Anthem and The Division 2 have yet to launch, and Destiny 2 has had raids since 2017.
Even if it was an unfair advantage, I don’t think the other two games would come close to what Destiny as a whole has managed to accomplish. It made epic, MMORPG-like boss fights in an online shooting game. Multiple boss phases? Check. Different mechanics? Check. Bosses being a throwback to something you’ve experienced in the campaign or in another scenario? Check.
Dev Turnaround Time: The Division 2
Massive Entertainment comes out ahead against Bungie and BioWare in this category. All three games have had their share of problems, that’s true. What Massive was able to do was turn that frown upside down in spectacular manner.
Bungie had killer ideas at the end of Destiny: Rise of Iron, and then it went back to the drawing board for the sequel. The sequel started strong… until problems surfaced due to endgame woes, PvP, and streamlining. Bungie took a while to get the ball rolling. Even our fellow Enthusiast Gaming website, Destructoid, noted how Destiny 2’s slow patch cycle was an anomaly in the genre.
Anthem? Oh, that. The game was critically panned due to mission structure, performance issues, middling progression, and barebones story. Even worse, as a looter-shooter, it managed to screw up the loot. Twice. On both occasions, players realized that bugs in the loot made the game more fun. When BioWare “fixed” these problems, people even called for blackouts.
We all know video game development is hard. There’s no way anyone should ever consider it easy. But still, there are some factors that’d make you wonder what goes on when everyone’s in a meeting. Are they making decisions, or are they still seeing how things go? Are they just “listening?” Thankfully, Massive did listen, and more than that, they actually did something within an acceptable timeframe. The fact that you’re seeing a “true sequel” that surpasses the original in many ways is a testament to the studio’s guiding hand.
Communities: Destiny 2
This one might be hardest to judge since I’m part of the subreddits for all three games. Each community has thousands of helpful and constructive players, although there will always be the unsavory types (this is the internet, after all). Anthem players deserve a lot of credit for putting up with the game in spite of its flaws, coming together to provide constructive criticism. The Division 2’s players are also energetic, vibrant, and lively, especially with the game’s very recent release.
Destiny 2, however, inches out ever-so-slightly ahead. It seems there’s always something going on every day when you’re in the forums, subreddit, or simply checking social media. There’s drama, there are massive statistical breakdowns, and there are Crucible or raid aficionados willing to sherpa you through these activities. There are subreddits designed specifically to discover raid secrets or those who want to delve more into the lore. There are streamers and YouTubers who focus on PvE, ones who PvP, and others who explore the story. You’ll also experience community events where numerous people chime in, such as ARGs to find a Valkyrie spear, or the Niobe Labs puzzle (seen below) — which was a puzzling disappointment, but still. Do you want thingamabobs? Destiny 2 has plenty whether it’s apps like Destiny Item Manager and Ishtar Commander, or websites such as Raid.report. Players scrape and make something out of the API for the betterment of the community.
If I could compare it to another part of my gaming life, I’d recall my days playing World of Warcraft because of that community aspect.
Each and every community has its strengths and flaws (salty moments or content droughts), but at the end of the day, it’s gamers coming together to help build something that they can enjoy and find enriching.