Destiny 2’s Biggest Problems Don’t Include a Lack of Loot

Well that didn’t take long. It’s only been about a month since Destiny 2 released and it’s already struggling to hold its players’ attention. Many are focusing on loot or the sheer lack of content as the cause, but the game’s real issues run a bit deeper. Having loot to grind for is all well and good, but it doesn’t amount to much when there’s not a whole lot one can actually do with it. The game’s economy has also undergone a very player-unfriendly change, one that encourages microtransactions and hoarding over fun and engagement. Even the moment-to-moment gameplay has suffered. What was once relatively fluid and fast-paced combat has become slow and laborious. As it stands, Destiny 2 meets the basic requirements necessary to be called a full and proper sequel rather than a glorified expansion, but falls into the category of unsatisfying sequel that “fixed” all of the wrong things.

Over the course of its lifespan, most players agreed that Destiny’s most persistent problem was a general lack of content. There just wasn’t enough to do between DLC expansions. The thing is, those expansions never actually helped all that much. It would only take a week or two for the hardcore crowd to start complaining about a lack of content again. Some would blame those players for spending too much time with the game and burning through that content too quickly, but it’s only natural that players would quickly burn through expansions when they often didn’t include many new features. I was cautiously optimistic that Destiny 2 would address the real issue at the heart of its forebear’s content woes, but this sadly hasn’t been the case. It’s added a few minor features in the form of the new director, a map, small activities in its explorable spaces, milestones and flashpoints, but that that’s it. Oh wait, scratch that. Milestones and flashpoints are just re-branded bounties, so they’re actually not new at all. So not only does it offer less content than Destiny’s final form, but it still hasn’t addressed the first game’s core problem.

Destiny’s sequel still has a stunning lack of features, of new things to do in and with its content. Where’s the variety of Crucible modes? Where are the custom lobbies? Where is Horde mode and strike scoring? What about customizable difficulty and gameplay modifiers? Why don’t we have any in-game systems we can use to challenge ourselves and our friends? If incentive is necessary, why not offer emblems for running strikes, story missions or even raids with certain modifiers turned on? How about a system to share or feature custom-made challenges and offer a small sum of Silver for popularity? Additional raids, strikes and explorable spaces are nice, but they don’t solve the problem. Features, things to do with that content, do solve the problem and Destiny 2 currently doesn’t even offer as many as its predecessor.

Upon release, one of the main criticisms hounding Destiny 2 was its conversion of shaders from permanent unlocks to single-use consumable items. In response, many were quick to point out that shaders in general were easy to come by and that players wouldn’t actually be hurting for them all that much. In general, this is true. Shaders as an item are indeed relatively easy to come by. However, most of the best shaders are only gained through opening “Bright Engrams”, items which are loot boxes in all but name. They’re obtainable through in-game means but only at a snail’s pace unless one decides to fork over some real cash. Players also have absolutely zero control over what they get out of them. So while those cool shaders are technically obtainable, there’s no guarantee that a player will ever get the one they want, much less more of it. So instead of encouraging players to enjoy Destiny 2’s new system that allows every piece of gear to be individually customized, the game instead pushes players to do the opposite and hoard what shaders they do get until they manage to obtain a piece of endgame gear that won’t be immediately scrapped. Armor and weapon mods suffer from a similar drawback too, though they can at least be bought with in-game currency. This problem isn’t just limited to consumables either. Thanks to Destiny 2’s deplorable token system, there’s been wholesale reduction of player control over the gear they earn. The system is probably meant to promote grind, but instead it does the opposite. Why should the game’s players bother with the grind loop if they can’t grind for the things they actually want?

Destiny 2 has even managed to mess up its core gameplay. While the developers’ hearts were surely in the right place when they chose to streamline the gameplay in the name of accessibility and PvP balance, in practice most of their changes have done more harm than good. One can tell that PvP was the major focus, because the changes work quite well for it. No longer do players have to endure the frustration of shotgun metas and constantly getting mapped by sniper rifles. Reduced access to abilities and power/special weapons allows for slower engagements. They’ve opened the door for an improved Crucible experience. The problem is that these changes are downright awful for the rest of the game. As it stands, Destiny 2’s gameplay mechanics encourage the hoarding of abilities and ammo rather than their enjoyment.

Placing all the powerful weapons in the same category has good potential for PvP, but it’s also a functional misstep in terms of PvE. Power weapon ammo drops more often in Destiny 2 than heavy weapon ammo in Destiny 1, but still not nearly as often as kinetic or energy weapon ammo. So right away there’s less incentive to use that ammo for any weapon other than a rocket or grenade launcher. Why waste that relatively rare and precious ammo on a sniper rifle when it could instead be spent on something much more powerful? It’s the same issue with abilities in that they’re all restricted by ridiculously-slow cooldowns. Instead of enjoying the ability to toss a grenade into a group of minor enemies, dodge around the battlefield at one’s leisure or even pop a super to take on a mid-boss, the game encourages players to bank them instead. To use one’s abilities in any situation other than the most desperate is to see them go to waste. Nobody wants to be caught staring at a cool-down meter when they’re stuck in a tight spot. These can at least be adjusted a bit with mods, but who wants to waste their mods on anything other than top-tier armor? The net result is gameplay that’s gone from fast-paced, fluid and fun, to something slow, limited and dull with no incentive whatsoever to make use of the game’s most enjoyable weapons and powers. If the developers truly felt that these changes were necessary to achieve a more fun and balanced Crucible, then perhaps it would have been better to just separate the Crucible from the rest of the game.

Destiny 2 did manage to fix a couple of small issues from the first game, but it’s otherwise taken several steps back. Its consumable cosmetics and loot box-style method of awarding gear encourages hoarding and disengagement from the end-game grind. Its failure to offer at least as many features as the original Destiny has unsurprisingly led to rapid onset of player boredom. Worst of all, its neutering of the PvE’s moment-to-moment gameplay has resulted in a sequel that just isn’t as much fun to play. Destiny 2 may indeed have a loot problem as so many are loudly pointing out, but that’s small potatoes compared to these major fundamental flaws.