It’s time to end the grind
As the consolidation of the games industry continues, Sony buying Bungie is the acquisition that might most directly affect me, someone who has played over 2000 hours of Destiny 2. Bungie have said things will continue as normal on all platforms. But beyond the usual issues with consolidation and platformholders buying studios, the concerns I have for Destiny 2’s future stem from the same old source: Bungie’s own decisions. The grind needs to end.
Sony announced yesterday that they plan to buy Bungie for $3.6 billion (£2.6b), citing their experience with multiplatform development and live service games as two of the reasons they want ’em. Bungie say they’ll keep full creative control and publishing independence for the Destiny universe, and that it’ll remain a multiplatform game with cross-platform play. But I’m less concerned about what Sony might do in the future than I am what Bungie are doing right now.
The fate of Destiny has always been at the mercy of Bungie’s bad decisions shoehorning bad MMO-lite progression elements into a game which is otherwise a phenomenal first-person shooter. With every addition and every change, they weigh the game down with tedious grind, every new feature an opportunity for a new treadmill. It makes Destiny hard to get into, and hard to return to. It’s not fun or challenging in any way, and it never has been. Bungie have demonstrated a striking lack of foresight around the problems of grind too.
The ‘Armour 2.0’ revamp was intended to make character customisation more flexible and interesting but it brought a phenomenal amount of grind. Getting good gear with good stats across three different elemental affinities took forever, plus extra for different builds. I still don’t have good armour for all of my characters, especially after the introduction of Stasis-aligned armour brought more to grind for. And then Bungie nerfed the Intelligence stat so all the Int-high gear I grinded for is now bad. End result, I just don’t care about it.
Still, that gear getting binned is nothing compared to the mess of ‘sunsetting’. When Season 11 started in June 2020, Bungie introduced Power level caps on weapons and armour, meaning eventually they’d become too low-level for endgame content. It also instantly made a load of older items outdated. While Bungie said this would shake up the meta, the problem weapons still dominated and it didn’t solve anything. The only thing that happened was players deleted loads of hard-earned weapons they liked. And it felt spiteful that Bungie simultaneously reissued some of the sunset weapons, making us grind again to regain rolls we already had. Bungie have since abandoned sunsetting but not restored the weapons it made obsolete. Exhausting.
As a Destiny fashionista, I had been stoked for the introduction of Transmogrification until it turned out to be a huge chuffing faff of a grind. Bungie eventually lowered the grind but why faff at all? I just want to play dress-up with my wizards.
Looking ahead to the next expansion, The Witch Queen will add weapon crafting, which should be exciting. But my immediate reaction wasn’t “Cool!”, it was “How much will I need to grind?” That was when I realised maybe I’m done with it.
The Witch Queen will also bring the typical big new grind to a new Power level cap. We’ll all start out at 1350 Power then every drop will take big steps towards the soft cap of 1500, after which we’ll need the rarer ‘Powerful’ drops to hit 1550, and finally the grind to 1560 will require the ‘Pinnacle’ rewards only offered in limited quantities by a select few activities (and which, frustratingly, often drop for a gear slot you don’t need boosted). Don’t forget that you’ll also want to grind bonus Power from the seasonal artifact for invaluable boosts in Grandmaster Nightfalls and the day-one raid. Even a grind which should be straightforward, simply to the level cap, is complicated.
Then there’s the grind for Enhancement Prisms and Ascendant Shards to masterwork items or change elemental affinities, the grind to focus Umbral Engrams, the grind to… it’s too much. Grind on grind on grind and none of it is fun, interesting, or satisfying.
Bungie fill Destiny with the sort of busywork I usually only see in those free-to-play games which try to push people into paying to skip grind. And sure, Destiny 2 offers a limited free-to-play version, but I’m paying £70 every year for the latest expansion and season pass (£88 this year, including the 30th Anniversary Pack) to feel like I’m being punished by a mercenary phone game.
I’m not opposed to a little grind. I genuinely quite like random rolls on weapons, the surprise of loot drops. I’d be cool with random armour if not for the grind of four separate elemental alignments. But so much of the grind could be stripped out. Why will Witch Queen have a whopping 210 Power levels to climb when, with how Power-gating works, only a small handful of these levels will actually impact anything? I’d be happy to see Power removed entirely from gear, having Power only only the seasonal artifact. Even that could be streamlined. Not to mention all the other arbitrary grinds. Everywhere you go and every menu you open leads to a miserable grind.
After 2000 hours of Destiny 2, I honestly don’t know if I’ll buy The Witch Queen. I can’t face another year of grinding. I’ve kept up with the grind so far because it’s mandatory for many of the endgame activities which are Destiny at its best, but if I don’t grind I won’t get to play those. So maybe I won’t play at all. Maybe I’m done with Destiny. And once I’m out, it’s unlikely I’ll return because I’d need to grind even more to catch up. Maybe I’m done.
So sure, Sony’s acquisition might doom Destiny one day, but right now it’s Bungie I’m worried about. Destiny 2 is a fantastic FPS dragged down by a rubbish MMORPG.