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Destiny 2 is gatekeeping hardcore players from playing what they want

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Even hardcore Destiny players can’t play content without hours of grinding

Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris - Titan entering triangular passage
Destiny 2
Image: Bungie

I’m a hardcore Destiny 2 player. I organize day-one raid races with my Fireteam and we regularly spend 16+ hours working for that completion. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the game. But the artificial grind for more in-game Power is preventing me from doing some of the game’s hardest content.

Destiny 2 veterans know what I mean. Instead of working to improve my ability in Destiny 2, giving me an edge in some of the game’s best content, I’m spending my time completing boring bounties to level up my Artifact Power.

For Destiny players who want to compete in Grandmaster Nightfalls and the new Master version of the Vault of Glass raid, we have hours and weeks of homework to get done every three months. And as each season goes by, my desire not to grind out my Power level gets closer to overthrowing my desire to play with friends.

How Bungie gatekeeps Destiny 2

Titan character screen with bonus Artifact Power in Destiny 2
It took several days of grinding challenges to raise my Artifact Power from +13 to +18
Image: Bungie via Polygon

In Destiny 2’s 2019 expansion, Shadowkeep, Bungie added the Artifact system. Each season, I pick up a lore-significant item and level it up by gaining XP. I can then unlock a handful of seasonal mods, giving me some special powers for the next three months.

The Artifact also grants me bonus Artifact Power, which is where the real issue lies. The Artifact has two XP bars. The first is to unlock mods, and it taps out at level 12. The other bar has unlimited unlocks, and grants me a bonus to my overall Power average, regardless of the gear I’m wearing. For example, if I’m wearing 1311 gear and I have +6 Artifact Power, my character will be Power level 1317.

The original idea behind bonus Artifact Power was that players who didn’t have the time or the friends to complete rewarding activities like raids could passively level up their Artifact by doing repeatable bounties and other XP-granting activities. Players like me also use these bounties to level up, but by doing harder content, I should be able to bypass some of the grind. At least, that’s how you imagine it might work.

What came into the game as a boon for casual players acts like a lockout for those who don’t want to grind multiple hours each week. In order to even start a Grandmaster Nightfall — a super hard, rewarding version of the weekly Nightfall Strike — I need to have max level gear and +15 Artifact Power. Grinding to +15 can take weeks of careful bounty and weekly Challenge uses, and often involves waiting to turn in XP items until I’m in a party with friends in order to take advantage of the Fireteam XP boost.

Despite logging in every week to complete the new story quests and run the new season’s raid on all three characters, I’m behind. It doesn’t matter that I’ve maxed out my loot at 1320 in Season of the Splicer, I’ll need to grind some bounties if I want to get into Grand Master content with my friends. What makes matters worse is that Artifact Power resets to zero every three months, so any gains I make are temporary.

With the addition of Master Vault of Glass — a harder version of Season of the Splicer’s reprised raid — Bungie juiced the Power recommendation to 1350. That’s 30 Power Levels above the season’s gear cap. If you don’t go in with +15 or more Artifact Power, you’re going to get creamed. And creamed I got.

Why the same old grind?

Destiny 2 weekly challenges for Season of the Splicer
A list of Destiny 2’s weekly Challenges, one of the best and most repetitive resources for grinding XP
Image: Bungie via Polygon

I love playing Destiny 2, it’s why I’ve spent so much time over the years doing it. I love doing day-one raids with my crew, when the experience is still hard, before players get overleveled and solve it with bizarre strategies and weapon combos. Grandmaster Nightfalls, while admittedly frustrating, are some of the only content that gets close to matching that level of strategy. I’ve wanted to do them every season, but I want to spend my time in Destiny challenging myself, not going out of my way to complete bounties that ask me to “kill 10 enemies with a sword” for the thousandth time.

I’ve done the bounty grind in Destiny 2 every three months since the fall of 2019, when the studio added the Battle Pass and Artifact. If I don’t grab all my bounties and pay attention to how I’m playing Destiny while running around the world, I’ll never level up and be able to play with my friends. Destiny 2 streamers like Datto only went into Master with +17 on their Artifact. I had to take extra time out of my week to grind bounties just to catch up and not hold my friends back in Master Vault of Glass. And even after grinding, I would still need to grind further to deal 100% damage to the boss.

That level of tedium gets old. Each Destiny 2 season offers very little in terms of new content, meaning players have to supplement the experience with Strikes we’ve played 100 times and Crucible matches on maps we know like the back of our hand. As a player that wants to see everything Destiny has to offer, I’m forced to re-grind something I’ve already done 100 times over.

More often than not, I’ve skipped grinding and missed out on GM Nightfalls with my friends. Not because I don’t want to do them — I love the difficulty — but because spending hours grinding the same content every season just to bypass an unnecessary gate ruins my desire to play at all.