This weekend I spent 22 hours farming golf balls in Destiny 2, what is wrong with me?

Hello giant shank, my old friend. We've come to blow you up again. (Image credit: Bungie)

Exactly how much of a good thing is too much? This weekend, spurred by the promise of double loot drops, I spent over 22 hours farming the Master Nightfall strike. Starting Friday afternoon (which I had taken off work for not unconnected reasons), I played the same mission 72 times, each run taking between 10 and 12 minutes. And it sickens me to say it, but I'm still not done. As I type this, I'm planning to get in a final grind tonight before the weekly reset. All of which will have you understandably asking: what the fuck for? 

The short answer is golf balls. A golf ball in Destiny 2 is the nickname for an Ascendant Shard, which is the rarest form of enhancement material. It costs a frankly absurd three golf balls to fully masterwork a single piece of Exotic Armor, and in a typical 10-week season you might expect to earn a handful of them. For example, completely resetting your PvP rank will net you a solitary ball, capped at once per season. However, one of the more reliable sources of balls is the Nightfall strike. Played on the hardest difficulty currently available, you should see a ball roughly every three completions.

One of my darkest days in Destiny 2 was the time I accidentally deleted a stack of 10 golf balls...

So, with double drops active, plus the fact that the loot pool also contained Exotic armor and Enhancement Prisms (a lesser but still valuable material), the Nightfall became not just my best way to spend time in Destiny 2, but realistically the only way. The marathon began just after Friday lunchtime. I was so thirsty to get going that I used the PC LFG Discord server to bang out a couple of runs before my clanmates got on. Once they arrived, we jumped into a voice channel to shoot the shit while we shot the aliens. Because they're both excellent players and inveterate grinders, those runs were painless, barring the occasional comedic death to the falling Warsat at the start, or a weird physics instadeath at the boss that sent my body ping ponging across the room.

After several hours a slight awkwardness crept in. Which of us would be the first to break and say we needed a break? I knew it wouldn't be me. As you may already be gathering, I have incredibly poor impulse control, and tend to spend my balls as soon as I get them. Consequently, despite having farmed the last double loot Nightfall event like Old MacDonald on an angel dust bender, I went into this weekend with precisely none saved. The maximum amount you can bank is 10 in your inventory, and 10 more in the postmaster of each of your three characters. As the mathematicians among you will have surmised, I needed to run a lot of Nightfalls. I admit the word 'need' is doing a lot of work in that sentence. 

(Aside: One of my darkest days in Destiny 2 was the time I accidentally deleted a stack of 10 golf balls by allowing them to be pushed out of my postmaster. Upon realisation I felt physically sick and such was the horror that I immediately confessed my mistake to my teammates who of course laughed their arses off.) 

Destiny 2 Fallen S.A.B.E.R. strike

The mixture of kamikaze exploder shanks and arc electricity coursing through this corridor makes it the perfect spot for 'hilarious' team wipes. (Image credit: Bungie)

Once my initial group disbanded, I'm proud to say I lasted a full hour before crawling back to LFG discord to find more silent partners. (Being an anxious bunch, most don't bother with mics.) It was a bit like being Christopher Walken's doomed character in The Deer Hunter, being drawn magnetically back to the horrors of Vietnam. Perhaps that's a slight overstatement, but queuing with randoms into a nominally hard activity really is Destiny 2's equivalent of Russian roulette. Will you get a competent team running at least one Warlock with the AoE healing of Well of Radiance? Or will you get triple squishy Hunters none of whom wants to shoot the turrets off the skiff? Who can say! 

No longer feeling champion 

As the weekend rolled relentlessly on, so strategies were refined and spread throughout the LFG community. The two Overload champions at the end of the first bunker room encounter can be spawn killed in the tunnel if you stun them fast. Titans should only use their Cuirass of the Falling Stars Thundercrash once the boss is below half health to avoid damage gating. A Divine Protection grenade helps the runner during the electric corridor sequence. Etc and so on. 

Even with experienced teammates wearing the right gear, the occasional run would descend into time-consuming shambles.

Likewise the optimal loadout was defined early. The Succession raid sniper for dealing with Barrier champiers and those Skiff Turrets. The Riskrunner SMG for Overload champions and because almost all incoming damage is Arc-based, which this gun mitigates. Finally, either the Falling Guillotine sword or a void Rocket Launcher for DPS. Anyone not running that loadout, or something very like it, could rightly be considered a red flag. 

Even with experienced teammates wearing the right gear, the occasional run would descend into time-consuming shambles. The 1330-power Nightfall is just challenging enough that you can't entirely switch your brain off. After a bad experience I'd take a break for a little bit, before inevitably being sucked back by the knowledge that if I wanted the balls—which I very much did, despite not having anything in particular to spend them on—then the price was going to be my spare time. And look, this weekend I also saw some friends (twice), walked the dog, watched Arsenal gift a point to Burnley, worked out, saw a good movie and an absolutely terrible one. I lived, kinda, but I sure did also play a lot of Destiny 2.

Destiny 2 Fallen S.A.B.E.R. strike

The boss is actually one of the easiest bits of the strike. He barely has time to cycle between damage phases before getting Thundercrashed into atoms. (Image credit: Bungie)

It helped that the Fallen S.A.B.E.R. strike we were running was only introduced this season, having been revamped from the original game, which reduced fatigue somewhat. Even still, I felt a justified sense of self-disgust when I logged on this morning before work to get a couple more reps in. I realise that there's something about my brain that enables me to tolerate such absurd repetition, but even I have limits. Or do I?

To spice things up—something I should've done a lot earlier—I joined one of the 12-person groups on LFG. This involves using a matchmaking glitch to bring many more players into an activity than Bungie intended, something the studio has given a free pass to for now. After faffing about in orbit to make the glitch happen, once in mission it proved both remarkably stable and fun as hell. I've embedded a video of one of the runs below, but suffice to say I'll be going back tonight, because of course I will. The 12-man version is enjoyable enough to make it almost feel fresh, and ironically negates the need for any of the strategies that I'd previously refined. I have room for eight more balls. A real farmer needs no more reason. 

Tim Clark

With over two decades covering videogames, Tim has been there from the beginning. In his case, that meant playing Elite in 'co-op' on a BBC Micro (one player uses the movement keys, the other shoots) until his parents finally caved and bought an Amstrad CPC 6128. These days, when not steering the good ship PC Gamer, Tim spends his time complaining that all Priest mains in Hearthstone are degenerates and raiding in Destiny 2. He's almost certainly doing one of these right now.