Players do the math on Destiny 2's new transmog system and the grind is even worse than expected

Destiny 2
(Image credit: Bungie)

To understate things substantially, Destiny 2 players did not react entirely well when Bungie unveiled the new transmog system—"armor synthesis" in the game's lingo—last month. As described, it appeared incredibly confusing and grind-heavy, and seemed designed primarily to funnel players to the Eververse Store, where they could avoid all the grind and guffola by simply spending money.

Now the system is live, and it's somehow even worse than anticipated. It's confusing and grindy, yes, but there also appears to be a hard timegate on the rate at which the base armor synthesis resource can be earned, which means players must spend a solid 4-5 hours of gameplay just to earn a bounty, which also involves a substantial grind, after which you can finally transmog a single old piece of gear (which you have of course already earned previously).

The full process works like this: Players must collect 150 pieces of "Synthstrand," earned by killing enemies anywhere in the game, which can then be exchanged for class-specific armor synthesis bounties. Completed bounties award "Synthcord," which can then be converted to "Synthweave," which is the stuff that's used to convert armor pieces in your collection to a Universal Armor Ornament. That's what actually enables Guardians to play dressup without worrying about taking a hit to their stats.

It's convoluted, yes, but the real problem is this: Redditor alonie-homie has discovered that Synthstrand, the resource that underpins the entire process, does not drop based on the number of enemies you kill, but is in fact based entirely on time spent in combat, at a rate of roughly one piece every two minutes. You need 150 pieces in order to purchase a bounty, which means it's going to take a ballpark of 300 minutes—that's five freakin' hours—to collect. But wait! 

You're not done yet, because now you have to go complete the bounty in order to earn the reward, which could be a milk run or a major pain the ass—you won't know until you've spent your Synthstrand to get it. Our intrepid/masochistic Destiny 2-loving editor Tim Clark is currently the proud owner of a Synthstrand bounty that involves having to kill 40 Champions in Nightfall strike missions. He's trying not to cry.

Another redditor, 13igB, extended the math further to figure out that it will take die-hard players more than 53 hours to hit the seasonal Synthweave cap of 10 (which is ridiculous in its own right) on a single character, or six days and 16 hours for three—one for each class, which is how most seriously players roll. To be clear, that's effectively a week of solid play time, and dicking around in the Tower doesn't count.

YouTuber Houndish makes the good point that all of this is simply to unlock the ability to use visuals from equipment that players have already earned or purchased—there's nothing new on the table here.

Of course, if you'd rather avoid all of that, you can purchase Synthweave Templates in the Eververse Store: A bundle of five goes for 1000 Silver, which will set you back $10 in real money.

I don't begrudge Bungie's efforts at making money and I suspect most Destiny 2 players feel the same. The real problem here is that the system is so overtly designed to drive people to spend money, and not just in the visible mechanics but in hidden systems intended to impede player progress. There's even an ad for Synthweave in the Eververse Store that pops up after the intro quest is completed. 

It comes off as not just avaricious, but sneaky, particularly when other MMOs offer transmog as a quality of life feature rather than an extension of the in-game economy. Yes they also charge monthly fees, but what is the season pass if not a slightly more spread out subscription?

And Bungie should know better: In 2017, not long after Destiny 2 launched, players realized that it was throttling XP rewards for power-grinders. Bungie acknowledged that Destiny 2 was in fact scaling XP based on activities, and then switched the system off. Whether it will do the same with Destiny 2's transmog system remains to be seen, but I'll be very surprised if we don't see some sort of adjustments made in fairly short order.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.