Some Destiny 2 players are upset by the feeling they have nothing left to do in the game. The controversy has burned across the Bungie forums and the Destiny subreddit, and people keep repeating this claim that there just isn’t enough stuff to do.
They’re right. Once you complete a handful of activities in Destiny 2, you’re pretty much done with it for the week. And that’s a great thing!
No more worlds to conquer
Destiny 2 has a whole lot of things to do. In addition to a campaign that’s longer than the story in the first game, Destiny 2’s large environments are populated with patrol missions, Lost Sectors and frequent and varied public events to master and upgrade into heroic events.
Repeatable activities stop providing you with gear upgrades once you hit a power level of 265 or so, however. At that point, you mostly make progress toward the maximum power level of 305 by doing activities called milestones. These give you rewards once a week, and reset every Tuesday. The game is delivered to you on a schedule.
Some of these activities are aimed at casual players. One milestone asks you to participate in a few public events. Another rewards you for playing about five crucible matches, and you get credit even if you lose. A few are more challenging, such as the weekly Nightfall strike that only 40 percent of players have completed to date. There’s also the raid, which 10 percent of players have beaten.
The high-stakes, fiercely competitive Trials of the Nine competitive mode is also demoralizing for the unskilled. But you can gain a few points every week on the easier stuff, if that’s your preference. The milestones are a good combination of simple tasks and more impressive challenges.
Once you have completed them all, or at least the ones you’re willing to do, you have almost no avenues for meaningful progress until the milestones, raid and Nightfall strike reset on Tuesday morning.
There are some players who are frustrated by this situation, but most mortal players are going to love it. This is what makes Destiny 2 more inviting than ever; you only have to play a limited amount of time per week to progress at a good pace.
This is a huge change from the first game.
A history of grinding
Destiny was a game about grinding when it launched. Every weapon and piece of armor needed to have its traits unlocked by collecting planetary resources and ascendent currencies, then you had to gain experience while wearing it.
There was no infusion system, so you had to repeat this process whenever you replaced or upgraded a piece of your gear. It would take you dozens of hours of grinding if you wanted to power up a collection of exotics.
Raids and Nightfalls were always on a weekly lockout, but the game gave you an extensive list of daily chores you had to complete to upgrade all your goodies. Players re-ran the campaign missions over and over again and logged in every day to do the daily, repetitive tasks like hunting down 10 Hive Majors to earn experience to activate all their gear. This is what you spent the majority of your time doing if you wanted to have the best equipment.
These activities weren’t fun or challenging, however. Although it can be satisfying to perform a rote gaming task in order to slowly push a progression bar along, it’s hardly good design. The first Destiny was a grind, and it was often boring.
Bungie started to roll back the grind by the time the Dark Below expansion released. I wrote an article advising players they could collect most of the best stuff in Destiny while playing just five hours per week by running the most profitable high-end weekly lockout activities — the raid, the Nightfall, and a weekly heroic strike that existed at that time — on three characters, and then taking it easy until the next weekly reset.
This was, at the time, the best way to do things, and it still took a huge time commitment from players while not ensuring the best gear.
Bungie continued to phase out the game’s duller grinds as Destiny evolved, getting rid of ascendant currencies and scaling back the need for planetary materials. Activities like bounties, patrols and daily campaign missions grew less important.
Then a new grind took their place.
No more god rolls means no more grinding
Guns had perks in the first Destiny, which can do things like increase the range before the gun’s damage falls off, improve reload speed, magazine size or weapon handling or provide more exotic effects like full-auto fire or explosive rounds. Guns had four perk slots; one for sights or scopes (which could also impact range, stability or handling), and three that modified the way the gun functioned.
The guns sold by vendors had fixed perks, but the ones you could get from end-of-match rewards or reputation packages had perks that were randomly chosen from a larger list of possible perks for that gun. These perk loadouts could completely nullify the weaknesses that balanced certain weapons and break the game, so of course those were the combinations that players hunted.
Shotguns in Destiny were powerful secondary weapons that could kill a crucible opponent in a single blast, for instance. But they were only lethal at very close range, and they fired slowly. Your target could take you out if you missed with that first shot and had to reload.
But you could extend your shotgun’s range and drastically reduce the odds of that happening, and make your close-quarters weapon lethal in quarters that weren’t that close. You just needed the right perks.
Similarly, sniper rifles could also kill a player in one shot, but only if you got them in the head. They were balanced.
But high-impact sniper rifles could score a one-hit kill from across the map with a single body shot with a perk called Final Round, which increased the damage dealt by the last round in a magazine by 33 percent.
Players called these perfect guns and perks “god rolls.” You were unlikely to get the gun you were looking for when you opened a faction package, and you were even less likely to get a god roll when you got the gun you were looking for. The dream of a perfect LDR 5001 or Imago Loop kept some players running crucible matches and strike playlists for hundreds of hours. It might not have been fun, but it was something you had to do if you wanted to break the meta in PvP.
Destiny 2 is having none of that bullshit.
All guns have fixed perks in Destiny 2, so there are no more god rolls. There is a lot less variance in the quality of guns in the new game, but the best guns in the meta aren’t extravagantly overpowered like many perfectly-rolled weapons were at various points in the original Destiny’s competitive metagame. It’s a trade-off, but a good one.
You can compare a gun from the original Destiny with a weapon with fixed perks from Destiny 2 below.
This change also means Bungie can nerf broken or overpowered weapons without negating dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of grinding from players.
The new system eliminates the weirdness of random guns from reputation packages being dramatically superior to the guns awarded by flawless Trials runs or hard-mode raid completions. This change also gets rid of the frustrating scenario in which a hardcore player chases the random roll unsuccessfully for months of heavy play, while a random scrub might get a winning lottery ticket from a faction package and not even realize it.
There is no real reward for grinding strike playlists or crucible matches now that these randomly rolled guns have been removed. The community never seemed to love random rolls in Destiny, and faction packages were disappointing a lot more often than they were exciting. The whole thing was unfair and arbitrary.
Don’t believe players who claim they miss having grails to chase; Destiny 2 is now a game that respects your time, and that’s a wonderful thing.
Live the dream of hardcore Destiny 2 on five hours per week
Some players weigh a game’s price against the number of hours they spend playing it. But not all of those hours are created equal.
The hours spent crushing the competition in Trials and earning elite rewards, or the hours you spend mastering a complicated raid encounter and then beating a final boss are really good hours. Hours you spend grinding the same couple of public events over and over or hours spent repeatedly running a strike dozens of times in the hopes of a god roll on a strike-specific weapon are bad hours.
Polygon reviewers Samit Sarkar and Russ Frushtick memorably described Destiny 2 as “Destiny without all the bullshit,” and the bullshit in Destiny was the stuff that swallowed your time without being fun, engaging or helping you to become a better player. There is still some bullshit, but the bullshit has been cut down considerably.
Getting an exotic weapon with the perks unlocked in Destiny 2 is better than getting an exotic weapon with locked perks that require six hours of grinding for planetary materials and experience points in repetitive bounties to unlock. And that’s if you liked the included perks to begin with!
You haven’t been deprived of six hours of Destiny, you’ve been relieved of six hours of bullshit. You can play whatever modes you think are fun, help some friends in the raid or just … not play. It’s not that there are fewer things to do, it’s that the meaningful things take less time. And people are complaining?
Well, we have some ideas.
Bungie could throw a bone to people who like grinding
Bungie’s current philosophy lets players do the eight to ten weekly hours or so of cool shit Destiny 2 has to offer without sandbagging that experience with an additional 10 to 15 hours of soul-numbing grind.
There does seem to be a sizable constituency of players that want to spend a lot of hours playing crucible matches or running playlist strikes, however. These are the players who feel that their preferred method of engaging with the game has been diminished by the loss of random rolls on guns. Their objection is reasonable. Everyone has a different style, and some people want to grind or pour a lot of time into Destiny 2 PvP, and they want a goal to chase after while they do it. Fair enough.
Bungie could give people who play this way more of its cosmetic loot boxes, which it calls bright engrams. Destiny 2 currently gives you a bright engram for every level you gain above 20, but the experience requirement to earn each subsequent engram rises until you need 80,000 experience points per engram.
You do get a special buff on one character each week that triples the experience points you gain until you get three boxes. Each subsequent box takes seven or eight hours of crucible matches or strikes to earn after that.
I’ve written before about how I think Bungie’s microtransaction system is extremely stingy, and how this system compares unfavorably to the loot-box system in Overwatch, which awards players a loot box about every 90 minutes. If players received a bright engram for every two or even three hours of crucible play instead of every eight, that activity would feel at least a bit more rewarding without Bungie having to rework a major system.
Bungie should just make the well-rested buff permanent, in other words.
Destiny 2 makes you earn your gear without wasting your time
Players shouldn’t just be handed all the good stuff in multiplayer loot-based games like Destiny; the best items should always be earned. But you should earn things by completing real challenges or performing meaningful feats that test your skills, not by engaging in grinds that test your patience.
Just because repeatedly pushing the lever in the Skinner box feels like work doesn’t mean it’s virtuous or necessary.
In Destiny 2, you have to play just as hard and just as well as you did in old school Destiny to collect your sets of raid and Trials gear. You just don’t have to play as much. That doesn’t make Destiny 2 a worse value; the lack of grinding makes it a better game.