Why Destiny 2 players got so angry, and how Bungie plans to make them happy again

Static weapon rolls have made loot boring 

In Destiny 1, guns and armor dropped with perks randomly allocated from a pool of possibilities, which led to hardcore players chasing for 'god rolls' of perfect perks on the best weapons. Clearly Bungie felt that grind was off-putting to more casual players, so for Destiny 2 abandoned the system in favour of fixed rolls on all weapons and gear. According to Wesinewski this makes it easier for players to discuss their equipment, which makes the game more social. At the time static rolls were confirmed I was immediately worried. Unless Bungie committed to creating a vast amount of bespoke gear (which was always unlikely), it seemed obvious that getting the same item multiple times would be rendered meaningless. 

That exact problem was even acknowledged by Smith at the time: "How can my second, third, and tenth Better Devils hand cannon be interesting?" he said. "That's a question we should be asking and answering as quickly as we can." Sure enough, this has proved a substantial reason why the endgame has felt empty. Barring the weapons from the Trials of the Nine PvP event, most players will have already acquired multiple copies of almost every gun in the game. What's left for Captain Ahab to do when the White Whale no longer swims?

How can Bungie fix it? The cornerstone of yesterday's blog post was the announcement of 'Masterwork' weapons, a new tier of gun that will feature a single re-rollable stat boost. In the example shown, a Uriel's Gift auto rifle has +10 reload speed. The implication being that the other possible rolls are Impact, Range, Stability and Handling. I like anything that enables me to micromanage my loadout, so Masterworks are welcome, even though I suspect the boost will be almost imperceptible in practice. The fact these guns also generate orbs on multikills is probably more relevant, and will be useful in the Raid and Nightfalls. Masterworks weapons will arrive on December 12.

There isn't enough scope for character customisation

Seeing the talent tree menu for subclasses in Destiny 2 was a shock. Whereas the first game allowed players to mix and match perks freely, the sequel forces you to pick from one of two node clusters. The advantage of this, in theory, is twofold: 1) Less confusion for casuals over which perks work best together, and 2) Bungie can design synergistic sets of perks which play nicely with particular exotics. The counter-point is that a binary choice is quite boring. As a player, there's little opportunity to make a build that feels really yours, and you don't get those eureka moments when you find a combination that you love. 

Cosmetics in the game suffer from a similar problem. In Destiny 1, after you'd acquired a shader (which are dyes for your gear) it was permanently unlocked and had unlimited uses. In Destiny 2, shaders became consumables which cost in-game currency to apply. On Twitter Smith argued that this added to the loot chase: "Shaders are now an ongoing reward for playing. Customization will inspire gameplay. Each planet has unique armor and Shader rewards."

All of which is true, but neglects to mention that the vast majority of the best shaders in the game—ie the non-fugly, shiny legendaries—are locked in the Eververse microtransaction store, which only sells three shaders per week. The alternative is grinding or paying for Bright Engrams in the hope that RNG blesses you with the shader you want.

If there are some super-powerful synergies, is that really a problem? It's not like the Hive are going to start writing Reddit shitposts about it.

Finally, there's a big issue with the way armor works. Players swiftly worked out that 'recovery' was by far the stat that mattered most on armor, rendering gear that doesn't have the recovery bonus undesirable. That's led to many good-looking sets being completely ignored, particularly by Hunter players who struggle to get a decent amount of recovery as it is (partly because their boots are bugged). If Bungie truly wants us to be able to wear whatever we want, it needs to reconsider how these bonuses are applied.

How can Bungie fix it? No changes to the way shaders or subclasses work were mentioned in the blog post, but Bungie did say "We have future plans to extend Masterworks to other gear", which presumably means armor. Being able to reroll whether a piece is 'Restorative', 'Heavy' or 'Mobility' would go a huge way to making for more diverse outfits. (Shout out to my brothers and sisters on r/DestinyFashion.)

More concretely, on 5 December we'll be getting cosmetic ornaments for many of the gear sets in the game, which will be earned by completing particular objectives. These look cool and will also provide something new to grind for. Hopefully greater outfit diversity will mean no more rocking up at the tower only to find every other Warlock is rocking the Philomath robes with New Monarchy shaders. 

Longer term, I'd love to see Bungie be bold enough to unlock the subclass nodes. Imagine if we had a third node in which we were able to add perks from the other two. No doubt Bungie is worried about potential imbalance, but this user-created node could be locked out in PvP. In PvE, even if there are some super-powerful synergies, is that really a problem? It's not like the Hive are going to start writing Reddit shitposts about it.

The mod system needs much more depth 

I don't think there's any argument here. Like many, I hoped that mods would be the reason why your tenth Better Devils might be interesting, but as things stand all that gun mods do is change the type of elementary damage on energy and power weapons, or give kinetic weapons a slight power boost. Armor mods are slightly more interesting, offering buffs to ability cooldowns, reload speed, damping weapon recoil and so on—but they're still nothing to get excited over. Also, like shaders, mods are consumables, so you end up having to build multiple sets of gear if you want an optimal loadout for every subclass. It's a pain in the hole having to acquire the exact mods you want, too, because they currently drop as RNG rewards from the Gunsmith and Bright Engrams.

How can Bungie fix it? There was plenty of news about mods in yesterday's blog post. From 5 December the gunsmith will begin selling specific mods directly and his stock will rotate weekly. Each mod will cost 10 Legendary Shards and 5 Mod Components—so not cheap, but worth the price if, like me, you've been searching for a leg recovery mod for your squishy hunter. Bungie also said: "We are exploring more updates to [the mod] system in the New Year." Fingers crossed that means they're working on some more interesting options for the weapons. Being able to add Outlaw or Explosive Rounds to your favourite gun would be amazing, and worth grinding for. As of now, what we're getting are easier ways to earn the existing mods, but as we've established those are all pretty dull. 

Nobody likes Tokens 

In Destiny 2 almost every activity rewards players with tokens which can be handed in to a particular vendor in exchange for legendary engrams. I have to admit I don't dislike the token system nearly as much as most players seem to. When I was levelling up my toons, it helped that the tokens were shared across all characters, meaning I could spend them on whichever needed the boost most. However, where I agree they suck is in high-end activities like the Leviathan raid, or time-limited events like Iron Banner.

Handing [tokens] in to to a robo-janitor robs the player of the triumphal moment of standing next to a kill and getting a trophy.

Completing the raid is a rush, but getting tokens from chests and then handing them in to to a robo-janitor in the tower robs the player of the triumphal moment of standing next to the kill and getting the trophy you most wanted. I don't think Leviathan nets out any less generously than previous raids in terms of loot, it's just that the delivery method feels sucky.

The fact that the rewards from tokens depends on RNG can also feel grim when you're grinding for a particular item that just won't drop. Check out this thread in which one player describes handing in 72 Iron Banner packages, which amounts to 1,440 tokens, and still not being able to complete the Hunter armour set.

How can Bungie fix it? There are a ton of changes coming to tokens. As of December 12 the faction vendors will begin selling their gear for Legendary Shards and Tokens, meaning you can pick the item you want rather than rely on RNG. Various activities, including Strikes, Daily Challenges, and Patrol will also drop tokens in larger numbers. Additionally, the Cryptarch will begin selling Legendary engrams and Xur will sell a one-per-week Fated Engram that guarantees you an exotic item you don't already own. In short it should be much easier to get the items that have been eluding you. 

Given that I've acquired almost every exotic without really trying, I do wonder if making the game even more generous is trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist, particularly as the shortage of unique legendary loot was already an issue.

The double-primary system makes you feel less powerful

Probably the most significant change made by Destiny 2 over its predecessor was the change to weapon loadouts. The upshot is that players now equip two primary weapons, one of which will do elemental damage, but at the expense of moving shotguns, sniper rifles and fusion rifles into the 'power weapon' slot. Ammo for power weapons is scarce, and it also means you can't run a loadout that includes, say, a rocket launcher and a sniper rifle. Speaking on the Crucible Radio podcast, Weisnewski conceded that they'd been plenty of pushback from within the studio about whether this was a good idea at all. 

So why do it? Well, the logic runs that by having all weapons capable of one-hit-killing in PvP locked in the same slot, the ammo economy ought to be easier to balance, and the moments you do get to cut loose more special. The other suggestion was that by being able to mix hand cannons, with auto, scout and pulse rifles in the same loadout, players are able to cover any range of engagement using their weapons that have the most uptime (ie deep ammo reserves.)

The new format is a step back from Destiny 1 if judged by the most important metric: fun.

Though far from universally disliked, I think the new format is a step back from Destiny 1 if judged by the most important metric: fun. Plinking away at bosses with your primaries feels a little like eating a day-old sandwich compared to the oven-fresh pizza of letting rip with power weapons. Here's a great recent Reddit thread discussing whether the system has failed, and I would also recommend watching the video above made by PvE powerhouse Slayerage, who comes down very hard on what the change has done for the dynamism of combat. And the stats bear him out: Over the course of November, swords and rocket launchers absolutely dominated power weapon useage, with sniper rifles barely registering.

How can Bungie fix it? The weapon loadout system wasn't mentioned at all in Bungie's post, and that's no surprise. Unpicking something this core to the way the game has been balanced would be a massive undertaking. However, what Bungie could do is create more exotic weapons that live outside their natural slot. For instance, despite being terrible, the Fighting Lion is a grenade launcher that lives in the energy slot rather than power weapon slot. I'd like to see Bungie experiment with putting a shotgun and a sniper rifle into the energy slot also. They've done this before, with the likes of No Land Beyond and Universal Remote, so it ought to be possible in D2 if balanced accordingly.

PvP doesn't make for as many hero moments 

If the switch to double primaries can largely be laid at the door of the sandbox team, then the move to all multiplayer modes using a 4v4 format rests with the PvP team. Interestingly, on the Crucible Radio podcast Weisneswki admitted there had been issues between the two groups for much of the development process: "The Sandbox and PvP teams did not necessarily have a great road together for a while," he said. "We were definitely at odds about some of the risks we were taking, in terms of vision, and it took a long time to get to a point where we could see each other's visions." Weisneswki went on to add that they did see eye to eye towards the end, but it's interesting to learn how much internal pushback there was within the Bungie. The studio even has its own internal version of reddit which enables devs to leave feedback and then up or downvote each other's comments.

Even if you're a much more skilled player, if you're spotted alone by two enemies, that's usually that.

On the face of it, the PvP we ended up with looks a lot like the kind of thing many players said they wanted during Destiny 1: Less ability spam, more duels with primary weapons, and a slower time-to-kill overall. However, given that the whole game seems to have been balanced with PvP heavily in mind, the great irony is that the most prominent PvP players don't seem to like the new feel. In the video above SirDimetrious explains why "this isn't the primary meta we wanted", with the tl;dr version being that the game focuses almost entirely on players team-shotting each other. 

Even if you're a much more skilled player, if you're spotted alone by two enemies, that's usually that. It's much harder to pull off those clutch 1-vs-3 multikills that make for great montage reels. As a result teams tend to prowl the map, grouped up nut-to-butt, looking to gank their opponents. That lack of tactical diversity gets old fast, and isn't helped by the fact there are only two playlists, casual and competitive, both of which contain multiple game types, so you don't even know what you're getting when you queue.

How can Bungie fix it: According to the blog post, changes to PvP are a little further off, but Bungie did say that adding ranked play (the lack of which has been another source of pain for 'sweaty' players) is now "top of our priority list for next year." The studio is also "targeting early 2018" to introduce private matches, which the tournament scene depends on. Note that these were a feature, albeit one added late, in Destiny 1 which didn't make the jump to the sequel. Assuming the player population allows it, hopefully ranked play will also see the playlists broken out by game mode, though Bungie hasn't said anything to that affect yet. As so many of these changes, it's going to be a case of wait and see.

Amazingly this stuff represents just the tip of the Hive ship in terms of changes the community has been asking for. Ultimately most of it boils down to providing better incentives to keep players coming back. Add some sweet Strike-specific loot to that playlist and we'd all be in there. 

Now who wants to talk about vault space? 

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.