Destiny 2 has an endgame problem

In making the game more accessible to casuals, Bungie may have lost sight of what kept fans of the first Destiny coming back.

I think I've reached the end of my time with Destiny 2.

At this point, I’ve played a little over 26 hours of the game and I feel I have accomplished all that I need to until the first expansion releases in December. While this sounds like a very reasonable way to feel about a game when put into the context that I played the original Destiny for over 436 hours, I can’t help but feel let down. After completing the campaign and my first Nightfall, it seems clear to me that what Destiny 2 lacks compared to its predecessor is a rewarding and substantial endgame.

For games like Destiny 2, a good endgame is crucial to the long-term retention of a community. Whether it is weekly events, themed events, or even just a rewarding and manageable way to earn gear, games that thrive off of an active community must use some form of a carrot on a stick to keep players coming back. Destiny 2, like the original Destiny, has highly difficult PvE and PvP weekly events in the form of a raid and Trials of the Nine, but clan rewards and the removal of random gear perk rolls undercut the value of doing these events.

Clan rewards are a new feature for Destiny 2 that were added to make being in a clan more worthwhile.  Each week clan members will receive legendary engrams as long as their clan has completed specific objectives for the week. Initially, players saw this as a great addition, because the objectives are relatively easy to achieve. But once Bungie added Trials of the Nine and the Raid to the game, issues began to arise.

If a player’s fellow clan members complete the Raid or Trials of the Nine, they receive an engram that will give them raid or Trials gear, whether or not the player participated directly in their clan’s objectives. To make matters worse, Destiny 2’s gear now drops with one specific set of perks, which is ultimately the main reason the game’s endgame is less worthwhile and rewarding.

In the original Destiny, one of the main reasons to keep returning to the game each week was to complete Trials of Osiris and the Raids, not just to receive specific gear but also grind for your desired set of perks. This element of randomness meant that there was a reason to be excited to receive another version of a weapon or piece of armor you liked because there was a chance it could be even better than your current set. In Destiny 2, there is no longer a reason to seek out a piece of gear you already own because it will always be the same.

It’s easy to understand why Bungie would want to make both these changes, because in theory they sound much nicer for players . It enables those who were too busy to raid a certain week to still reap the rewards and it reduces a lot of the potential frustration over duplicate gear.  Unfortunately, this also dramatically reduces any grinding and as a result, the time needed to play -- once you receive that Raid gear you wanted, there is no longer any reason to complete the raid each week.

It seems that Bungie may have overcorrected when reducing the grinding in Destiny 2. It makes sense to try and make the game less frustrating, but not if that also dramatically limits the reasons to keep playing the game. It would have been smarter for Bungie to find a middle ground between the amounts of variations that existed in the original Destiny and the current model in Destiny 2. The other, more difficult solution would have been to add a higher number of unique items to the game, but currently, there is just not enough gear to collect in Destiny 2.

Bungie could look to some of Destiny 2’s contemporaries for inspiration here. EA Sports’ most recent installment of its yearly FIFA series, for instance, adds a new Squad Battles feature to its Ultimate Team game mode. These Squad Battles allow players accumulate points by playing 37 single player matches over the course of the week, 4 per weekday, 8 per day on weekends, and one celebrity squad available all week. The points given for the matches depend on the difficulty of the match and whether you won or lost. EA then places you in a group based on your ranking on the leaderboard and you are rewarded depending on which group you end up. The best part about this mode is that every ranking rewards players with packs and coins that allow them to continue to improve their squad, and the high number of matches and possible points per match mean players can skip days if necessary.

The success of the original Destiny was entirely based on the passion and engagement of the community. These core players were the ones who came back each week to try and get that perfect weapon roll, pulled their friends in to fill out their Raid fireteam, and anxiously awaited each content update. In an attempt to make Destiny more accessible for casual fans, Bungie has only really managed to turn off its most devoted players. Nevertheless, Bungie has shown in the past that is willing and able to make systematic changes to Destiny. Hopefully Bungie can take similar measures with Destiny 2’s expansions before too many of its players have left.