I’ve been thinking about Destiny 2 and its larger focus on casual gameplay for a while now and having logged a fair number of hours into the game one thing is clear – hardcore players are getting the short end of the stick. While I do not hate the intention of making Destiny 2 friendly and relatively easier for casual players, it seems like it has been implemented rather poorly leaving the more dedicated Destiny crowd feeling unrewarded.
It is no secret to anyone who plays the game that endgame activities have reached an annoying place in their revolution. From Trials to Iron Banner and even the Leviathan Raid, gear is given, for the most part, in the form of Tokens, which can be traded in for an actual piece of gear. This is not a bad concept but the fact is, it takes a lot of Tokens to get a single Engram, which rewards a solitary piece of loot.
If we use the first Destiny 2 Iron Banner as an example, players had to grind for hours to get a couple Engrams, each of which dropped one single piece of Iron Banner loot and some standard Crucible loot if you were ‘lucky’. It didn’t even prevent duplicate items, which players, including me, got in droves.
Twenty Tokens = four wins or ten losses = one bit of loot.
Kind of crappy, especially when you compare it to Destiny 1 where loot was raining from the end of matches, bounties and from direct purchases. It is not all grey clouds with Iron Banner, however, as Bungie has announced that when Season 2 launches (presumably around the launch of the Osiris DLC) Iron Banner gear will be available for purchase with Tokens and Legendary shards. This is a better system, allowing for both hardcore and casual gamers to feel like their time is worth something in-game. It also shows that Bungie is listening to the community, at least with this issue.
Moving on to Trials of the Nine, where the Token system has also made an appearance, the changes are actually more in favour of the hardcore. Initially, that did not bother me as much but with some thought, it can really put off players not wanting to attempt Trials instead of trying to improve. For those unaware, Trials of the Nine is a weekly activity that pits teams of four against each other in intense matches to gain top-tier Trials loot and the prestige that goes with it. As you progress through your matches, you will earn Tokens each time you score a win. Earn a certain amount of wins and you get a special Trials Engram awarding you a piece of armour or a weapon from the activity. Side note they are awesome.
Let me get this out of the way, Trials is not meant to be easy in the slightest, it is meant to be a top-level challenge that rewards players for their skill (or the skill of the one person doing all the work). Despite being a Destiny player from the very first day it was out, I never once went Flawless and that is okay. Flawless is a lofty goal that awards a sense of achievement and excitement when earned and with the new social space in Destiny 2, that wonder has only been heightened. The problem with the Token system to get gear is that it requires a win or a challenge completion. You could spend twenty minutes to lose by a single round and end up with nothing, which can be extremely frustrating to any player. Repeat this a whole bunch of times and many Guardians may never enter Trials again, which shrinks the player base for the mode. Cross this with those teams that are unlucky and never win a game which will certainly lower morale.
Destiny 1 had bounties that you could work towards which would award awesome Trials gear each week. It made the game mode a little more accessible and a lot more rewarding for players. While there are challenges, these, at times, can take quite a while to complete and unlike bounties will not award an immediate piece of gear. Once again, I am not saying Trials should be made easier, as the Flawless run with its aura, emblem and floating head is an achievement coveted by many and earned by few but the main game mode should be made to feel more rewarding and less of a waste of time if you are one of the unlucky or less skilled teams.
Finally, I want to talk about the use of Tokens in the Leviathan Raid which, quite frankly has me baffled and annoyed. For most encounters in the Raid, after a successful completion, it will reward Tokens, in line with most other activities in the game. There is a small chance to earn a piece of Raid gear from certain encounters and that is where the problem begins. Raids are difficult PVE encounters that require great coordination and team communication to complete. In the past, some Raids I have been part of have taken half an hour to an hour for a single section. To not have gear drop from a challenging encounter is almost a slap in the face, a pat on the back for a job you should have been paid for.
This culminates in the fact that you need a grand total of 20 Emperor Calus Tokens to cash in for one reward, that you cannot even access until the Leviathan Raid is beaten. The delightful Sweeper Bot will not open his inventory to Guardians until the Raid in its entirety has been, well, swept clean. Imagine you are a player who has spent hours of your time inside the gilded palace of Calus and emerged with nothing but Tokens, a promise of a single piece of loot for all that work. Now I know many people would say it is just a matter of practice and getting better in order to complete the Raid but it is so much more than that. It is a fact of once again getting rewarded for your time, like the Raids of Destiny 1, for the most part, did.
The Token system and all its drawbacks in the end game come to bear with Challenge Mode announcement for the Raid. While this is not directly related to Tokens it links to my last point so bear with me. The Raid Challenge Modes are optional activities within the Raid encounters that in Destiny 1 awarded variations of loot or more powerful loot, as well as an Emblem. While the Emblem still remains a prominent reward in Destiny 2’s Challenge Modes (and they are cool to boot) that is basically all you get, except a guaranteed Raid drop. Seems like a big slap in the face to award a guaranteed drop when that is what they should have been getting in the first place.
The Token system for Destiny 2 is perfect for lower level activities, where loot comes pouring in, but seems to hit a few snags with regards to higher level content. Bungie has shown that they are willing to listen to the changes to Iron Banner, and hopefully, the Token system will be modified for other end game activities as well.